How to Decorate Your Kitchen in Retro Diner Style (Without Breaking the Bank)
Transform Your Kitchen into a Retro Diner
Having been born in the 1980s, I didn't witness the cool 1950s era. Yet I'm strangely sentimental about it. So I decided to decorate my kitchen retro-style. And why wouldn't I?
Retro kitchens are bright, nostalgic, and theatrical. It's quintessential Americana, yet fun and whimsical. Particularly reminiscent of the 1950s era is the diner.
Diner is a friendly place. It's a place you go to with your pals, or on a date. That's why retro diner style is so great for the kitchen. It's friendly and inviting, not to mention a great conversation starter!
If you, too, want to decorate your kitchen a-la retro diner, it's easy! You don't have to invest thousands of dollars in renovation. A few thoughtful details can create the diner atmosphere that will transport you to another time.
Retro Diner Floor
Perhaps the easiest way to create the American diner vibe is to put in a checkered floor.
Checkered tile floor is one of the most quintessential diner attributes. You can go classic—black and white tiles, or choose a brighter color palette, like maraschino red and buttercup yellow.
You can find these flooring tiles anywhere, and in different varieties—carpet, aluminum, linoleum, vinyl—and you can even install them yourself to save money, just find a peel-and-stick kind.
Another retro floor option is to go with a retro material, linoleum. Linoleum definitely has a nostalgic look and feel, but it's also very practical—inexpensive, super easy to clean, and it comes in a variety of fun colors.
Retro Kitchen Cabinets
Another inexpensive way to give your kitchen a cool retro look is to re-paint the cabinets. Pick a color that doesn't overwhelm the senses (mint green, buttercup yellow, light baby blue), or if you have plain wood cabinets, you can simply paint them white.
The task of painting the cabinets yourself may seem daunting, but fear not—it's all about prepping the surface. With a right degreaser, you can remove layers of sticky kitchen grime. Then you can sand it, prime it, and paint it with an oil-based or an acrylic paint.
And as long as you're updating your cabinets, why not change the knobs? You can't go wrong with vintage glass or ceramic knobs.
Retro Diner Art
Wall art is yet another fun and relatively inexpensive way to re-invent your kitchen diner-style.
The choices are numerous.
- Classic vintage posters advertising cars, cigarettes, soft drinks—you name it.
- Framed pictures of the 1950s era celebrities—Elvis Presley, Marylin Monroe, James Dean etc.
- Movie posters.
- Neon signs.
- Road signs.
- Vintage car license plates.
- Travel memorabilia.
- Vinyl records.
- Anything and everything funky and kitschy that can be put on a wall.
If you want 'authentic' vintage posters/signs, good places for that are vintage shops, vintage flea markets, and an occasional yard sale. A simpler (and cheaper) alternative to that is modern reproductions sold on Amazon, Ebay, Zazzle, and other sites for $10-$20.
If you've ever been to a retro diner (or any kind of diner), you know that Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable trademarks you'll see displayed everywhere: from huge neon signs to salt-n-pepper shakers.
What is it about Coca-Cola that made it such an iconic part of American culture? Is it the taste, the fizz, the rust-cleaning properties, the vague reference to cocaine?
All I can say is if it's good enough for the Santa Claus and the polar bears, it's good enough for me.
So what that most people can't tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke? Coca-Cola is Classic American, which makes it a must for any retro kitchen design.
Retro Diner Furniture
The center of any retro kitchen/dining room is the dining table.
Give your kitchen a splash of diner chic with a chrome-plated dining table and red (blue, yellow, black) leather chairs. I got my retro dining set from Amazon, put it together myself, and it looks retro-delicious!
If you want to really go diner-crazy, make it a booth or a corner nook. Or if you have a kitchen island, pick out some retro bar stools. Bar stools are informal and inviting; they're great for friendly gatherings, but also for enjoying a solitary morning cup of coffee.The possibilities are endless.
Retro Kitchen Appliances
Again—we're not trying to break the bank here. While you can go big and replace all your major kitchen appliances with retro lookalikes, the wiser (and cheaper) alternative is to add a few smaller more unusual appliances, like a pop-up hot dog toaster, a snow cone maker or a slushie machine.
And...instead of buying a retro-looking microwave oven, maybe get rid of the microwave altogether? You know it's not good for you.
Retro Diner Accessories
Still looking for more ideas on how to turn your kitchen into a blast-from-the-past-fabulous diner? Here are some additional suggestions:
- Vintage glass cookie jars.
- Vintage canisters.
- Drum (hanging) light fixtures.
- Fruit and vegetables print fabrics.
- Retro salt and pepper shakers.
- Coca-Cola place-mats.
- Retro-style clock.
- Retro straw dispenser.
- Melamine kitchenware.
- Vintage coffee mugs.
- A jukebox look-a-like (the real one is expensive, an iPod/CD player is not).
- A retro radio look-a-like CD player.
- A rotary-dial phone.
I hope you make a lot of great memories in your new kitchen!
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© 2014 Lana Adler