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By M. Churchman
In this post, we’ll list the most important 1954 mid century modern decor and DIY essentials you can add to your own kitchen to achieve an authentic look, including a paint color palette that is matched to currently available Prestige brand paint.
So, you want to Make Your Kitchen Look 1954 Mid Century Modern? That’s understandable. Afterall, 1954 was a great year for kitchens, they were becoming more convenient with open floor plans and exciting modern appliances. Although most major appliances were still white in 1954, new kitchens were often colorful. It was trendy to paint them in wonderful color combinations, like green with mustard yellow, red with white, pink with green, and blue with pink. Also. the marvelous Scandinavian movement was a big influence on kitchen design and decor, making the 1954 kitchen arguably a work of art. So, how can you get that wonderful 1954 look in your not 21st century kitchen? Well, don’t fret if you have a modern, plain kitchen. It’s still possible to get the 1950s, mid-century look and vibe by adding some of these authentic touches:
1. Authentic Colors:
Color played an important part in the mid-century modern kitchen. New home kitchen walls and cabinets were often painted to match or contrast with colored Formica and tiled countertops, sinks and kitchen furniture. For reference, we created this authentic 1954 Mid Mod Kitchen Paint Color Palette and matched it to currently available Prestige brand paint. We’ve included the hex code for each color. You can use the color hex code to create matching decor items on Zazzle, including towels, tablecloths and fabric for curtains.
Formica laminate is a composite material that was invented in 1912. It’s made from craft paper that is coated with melamine resin. Fantastic Formica was a relief for the 1950s homemaker since it was spill proof, mostly heat resistant (a very hot metal kettle can burn it, I found out the hard way), it needed no polishing and had no grout to clean, but it was much more than convenience, it was another opportunity to add color and pattern to the kitchen. Formica came in a large variety of colors and patterns in the 1950s. The patterns included iconic mid mod boomerangs, glitter, marble, pebbling, woodgrain and linen among others. Some of the many vintage Formica patterns are pictured below:
When I was little there were still 1950s era motels in California that had not been updated or torn down, many that offered rooms with kitchenettes. I have fond memories of the Formica countertops and breakfast tables kitchenettes, which always seemed to be yellow for some reason. I also have fond memories of my grandmother’s White Skylark Formica kitchen counter with it’s wonderful pink and grey boomerang design (the countertop that I burned with a hot kettle). Formica may not come in all those marvelous old patterns, but it is available in several colors and patterns that are pretty authentic. Amazon even sells grey boomerang Formica laminate which is incredibly close to the old Skylark design, as you can see below.
Formica installation requires a few handheld power tools, some special laminate tools, and a table saw (unless you buy it pre-cut) plus cabinet contact cement. If you don’t want to go the DIY route, adding a vintage Formica breakfast table is an easy and attractive, useful and fun way to get some Formica in your kitchen. Ebay is a good source to purchase one. New retro Formica breakfast tables and bistro sets are also available on the market today.
3.Rounded Counter End Shelves:
Rounded counter end shelves are classic mid-century modern. A small counter extension, half round cuts of 3/4″ plywood, topped in Formica and edged in chrome, and you have a major mid mod statement and a place to display your bowl of wax fruit and Toastmaster Super Deluxe toaster.
4.A Touch Of Copper:
America dug copper in the 1950s. Keeping copper pots and pans clean takes too much elbow grease for me to embrace, however the 1950s housewife was tough enough to tackle the job of battling the green copper scourge and black char with every use, afterwards proudly showing her shiny copper cookware on the kitchen walls where they hung on hooks, usually above the stove. Revereware with the copper clad bottom is still available and it hasn’t changed much, so this is an easy essential to add to the retro 1954 kitchen if you don’t mind the upkeep. I grew up with Revereware cookware. I love cooking with it (not cleaning it) because the heat is even and it gets hot quickly. Copper range hoods were also popular, and very handsome too. Then there was the classic copper Jello mold, not at all hard to clean, fun, pretty, useful and still readily available in classic shapes.
My grandmother had copper jello molds on her kitchen wall and my family inherited them. I hung those molds in our kitchen with great care. The borderline kitschy shaped copper molds gleamed when the afternoon sun shined on them through the kitchen window. It made the kitchen look more kitcheny and very retro. I’m almost a vegan so I don’t eat gelatin these days (I have fish now and then), but I do have fond memories of Jello and I have a collection of vintage Jello recipe booklets with truly horrible looking recipes, most that I never got around to trying, but my mother did make Jello aspic from an old recipe one Thanksgiving when I was around 12 years old. I was already fascinated by the strange-looking jello salad recipes in my vintage booklets, but the real thing was kind of astonishing. It was made with lemon Jello, had rings of pimento stuffed green olives that looked like monster eyes, bits of onion and other mysterious and disturbing looking things that were distributed like suspended confetti and of course it was made with tomato juice so it looked like blood Jello. Far more suitable for Halloween, if you asked me. I don’t think I had the nerve to try it, or if I did, I’ve blanked out the traumatic memory, but I do remember how being impressed by how perfectly molded it was. In fact, it was molded in the same shape as the image below. It was simultaneously ugly and quite beautiful. The Steve Buscemi of Jello dishes. The below recipe is a minimalist version called “Barbecue Salad”, but unmistakably aspic, a dish best suited for the brave and/or reckless. If you make it, please tell me in the comments below… I’d love to know how it actually tastes!
5.The Salad Bowl:
Take a close look at photos and illustrations of kitchens from 1954 (and throughout the 1950s) and you will frequently see a salad bowl on display, as much a piece of art as it is a container for lettuce and tomatoes. Whether it’s lucite, melamine, wooden or ceramic, a vintage or vintage looking salad bowl is a must.
A survey of photos and images of kitchens from the 1950s will quickly reveal what a staple linoleum was. Back then it was often installed in sheets that were cut to fit, but linoleum tiles were also used. As you can see from the images in this post, they could get pretty creative, using contrasting colors and cutting the linoleum into designs like stripes, fanciful pathways and checkerboard. The kitchen in the image above even has matching patterned linoleum on the door! It wasn’t always installed in fancy patterns. I’ve lived in old homes with their 1950s linoleum still intact and for some reason it was the same grey with multi-color specks design pattern in three of those homes. I think it must have been wildly popular and considering how long it lasted it must have been very high quality (probably asbestos!). There it is… the top right pattern on the Armstrong tile sample page below (left).
While it may be a challenge to find completely authentic 1950s looking flooring it’s possible to buy retro linoleum that’s very similar. For instance, I found this Armstrong multicolored tile on Amazon that would be highly satisfactory.
7.Kitchen Wall Clock
It wouldn’t be a mid-century modern kitchen without the mandatory wall clock. They came in a variety of styles and colors from round, white and utilitarian to stylish and colorful shapes.
It’s not hard to find vintage wall clocks on ebay, but there are also new retro ones that are nice and quite authentic looking. See the clock on the wall in the above image? I found a very similar one on Amazon:
Decorative Design Analog Wall Clock
PERFECT DÉCOR COMBINATION - The neutral yet elegant oak-wood color of the clock can easily blend in any kinds of decoration style. Regardless of whether you want to hang it on the wall in the living room to impress your guests or feel to put it in your bedroom to enjoy the beautiful piece on your own, the clock is surely what you are looking for.
PRECISION IN COMPLETE TRANQUILITY - The clock is equipped with the modern quartz movement which secures both of the high precision and high reliability of time tracking. Furthermore, the clock is absolute silent and won't make a sound. You can concentrate yourself on things that really matter without getting disturbed by the noisy ticking sound.
GLASS PROTECTOR: The flat glass front covers the clock face to protect from dust and debris. Easy to clean and maintain, this clock is made to last over the time.
And lastly, a mid-century modern classic, the breakfast nook was a popular feature of the 1950s kitchen. Simply put, it was an area of the kitchen that was separated in some fashion (such as the planter room divider in the above image), to form a cozy nook that held the family breakfast table (Formica, of course!) and built-in bench seats or chairs. The perfect place for the family to gather together and eat brand new Trix cereal in the morning. The breakfast nook can be accomplished in any number of ways, with creative dividers and placement. The nook in the pink kitchen below, is basically in the middle of the kitchen, yet the simple divider, the artwork, hanging lamp and the linoleum border all come together to create a separate and cozy space that is very much a breakfast nook.
The below breakfast nook, with it’s curved bench seating and built-in round table would be a major project to re-create but it does show another way to divide the room. In this case, the sink, counter and towel rack serve as the divider. Aren’t the colors wonderful?
But Wait, There’s More!
The Year That Was 1954:
Before I end this post, I thought it would be interesting to get to know 1954 a little bit more:
The year that saw the birth of Jackie Chan and John Travolta was more than a little interesting, certainly it was a year of shifting winds, endings and beginnings. The McCarthy era came to an end when Joseph McCarthy was censured in December. Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in U.S. public schools, launching the modern civil rights era. The man who would later (1961) warn the world about “the military-industrial complex”, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the second year of his presidency and Richard Nixon was his vice president. Marilyn Monroe married Joe DeMaggio, the awesome Chevy Bel Air was a popular car and The New York Giants won the World Series. Pablo Picasso painted “Jacqueline with flowers” and the classic and disturbing book, “Lord Of The Flies” by William Golding was published. Elvis cut his first commercial record on the Sun label, singing “That’s Alright Mama” and “Blue Moon Over Kentucky” and kids danced to Bill Haley’s “Shake Rattle And Roll”
While this was a historic year for rock and roll, Perry Como held a higher position on the 1954 year end Billboard singles chart. “Rear Window” and “White Christmas” were the top grossing movies of the year and the first Godzilla movie was released in October. Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel took a road trip to Hollywood (the Brown Derby/William Holden episode is a must-see).
Swanson TV dinners were born this year (Turkey) and Royal Crown Cola introduced soft drinks in a can. The average salary was $4,000, a loaf of bread cost about $.17 and gas cost $.29 a gallon. Before you sigh and dream of cheaper times, some things were surprisingly expensive, for instance, a new washing machine cost about $155 and RCA’s CT-100 color television sold for a whopping $1,000! Most homes would watch black and white television for years to come. And that is the world that was, in a nutshell.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it to be helpful. I also hope the post wasn’t too spammy. I actually just intended to include a couple of product links, but I kept finding authentic looking products to link to and thinking it might be helpful, I went ahead and listed them. Afterall you need help from Home cleaning services to clean the kitchen and make them look new. Please check out our retro mid-century modern decor web store at www.midmoddecor.com and please feel free to comment below.