Cooking in Style Flashback
Color changed the look of every cook's kitchen. With the help of Reminisce Magazine, take a look at colorful kitchens of the past. Design took center sage while advertising made sure we got the message.
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Frigidare Ad: Interfoto/ Alamy Stock Photo
Bursts of Color
As bright shades debuted in 1950s kitchens, cooks could now choose appliances in hues of yellow, pink, blue or copper for the family gathering spot.
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Cold cuts at eye level
Major appliance manufacturer General Electric launched a number of industry firsts in the mid-'50s while advertising its products' modern appeal. The GE Wonder Kitchen featured a built-in range, dishwasher, disposal, and washer and dryer under a single countertop. The sleek wall-mount, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, right, has the look of kitchen cabinetry.
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When Stephen Brittain bought his Fort Myers, FL, home, he gained a General Electric Wall Refrigerator-Freezer built in 1955—its turquoise finish matching the sink, cabinets and range. The unit had not operated in 31 years. Fortunately, a friend and refrigeration expert persuaded Stephen to let him try repairing it. With a new fan motor and starting relay, the unit fired up. “The refrigerator still runs quietly on the original Freon,” Stephen says. “It’s a great novelty.”
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Photo: Golden Shrimp/ Shutterstock
Appliances get a pretty palatte
General Electric introduced mix-and-match colors for appliances in 1955. Plus, learn how to make your vintage appliances last.
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Hotpoint, an early adapter
The Hotpoint Electric Heating Co. owes its enduring name to the lightweight electric iron, invented in 1903 by Earl Richardson and tweaked in 1905. The 1905 iron’s pointed tip heated to allow easy pressing of problem areas. After a merger with General Electric in 1918, the brand became a kitchen staple, introducing in ’24 the first all-white fully enamel electric range. Colored enamel washing machines, refrigerators, wall ovens and other appliances followed.
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Harkening back to when Color Was Queen
Two pale turquoise General Electric wall ovens from 1952 grace the Charlottesville, VA, home that Karen and Scott Knierim purchased in 1983. "I've always loved their color," Karen says. "In fact, we made over the whole kitchen to match." Scott handled it all, painting the cabinets a deep turquoise, and spraying the dishwasher and refrigerator with a matching shade of auto-body paint.
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My hairdresser, Terry, works out of her home. Being a close friend, I looked around before my appointment to see what was new. My jaw dropped when I spotted this old refrigerator. Terry had gone to a late friend’s estate sale and purchased the retro work of art she had admired from afar. She paid $90 (getting a chair as part of the deal, too). It works like a charm. — Denise Dragovich Mount Vernon, WA
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“Wow, that’s cool! Does it work?” That was all I could say about the harvest gold stove that I saw during a tour of my new neighbor’s farmhouse, which had sat empty for years after the original owners passed away. The neighbor, Avona, told me her house had been designed in the mid-1960s by a local architect. The cutting-edge design called for a center island with stove. But when the lady of the house went to pick out appliances, she fell in love with Frigidaire’s Custom Imperial Flair Range. The kitchen floor plan was modified during construction to incorporate this cool new appliance. Yes, the Flair still works beautifully today. And, until the home can be updated, this is what Avona uses for cooking and baking. I sure hope she incorporates this beauty into her new kitchen! — Denise Dragovich Mount Vernon, WA
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Photo: Courtesy of Everett Collection
New flair spawned bewitching kitchens
Frigidaire introduced the Flair, a built-in-look electric range, in the early 1960s. This trend-setting slide-in stove boasted a dual-oven option, a slide-out cooktop with cover, and bottom shelves for storage.
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Customize with color
Farewell, white. So long, stainless. If you’re ready to take your kitchen back to a bygone era with eye-catching impact, try adding a splash of color. Small countertop appliances such as coffee makers, toasters and juicers come in many vibrant hues. Also, try mixing and matching colors. Select a bright red, blue or yellow range as a focal point, in a kitchen filled with neutrals. Find a selection at bigchill.com.
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Research vintage appliances
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Lean, Green cooking machine
We bought our first home by flashlight, not knowing we had a green jewel in the kitchen. Our first question: How much for the house? Our second question: Do the appliances go with it? My pulse quickened when the Realtor said yes. “Didn’t they ever use it?” I asked about the stove. “Not really,” she said. Shaking my head, I muttered, “Well, it’s going to get used now!” Saying a prayer, I turned knobs and waited for all of 10 seconds before the element coils turned bright orange. There was still some life in the old Frigidaire. — Cher L. Tom
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Kitchens with style and sass
As appliance colors go, the avocado craze lasted for at least 10 years. Paired with its sunnier mate, harvest gold, the duo epitomized the typical 1970s kitchen. Other kitchen colors, such as flashy poppy red and the almost-ubiquitous almond, were introduced as accent colors or to spark an updated neutral palette. Nevertheless, earth tones accompanied by dark wood cabinetry and flooring became prized additions in the best cook’s kitchens throughout the era.
Originally Published: November 27, 2017