How to Give Your Kitchen/Diner a 1950s Vibe


Whether you are in the midst of setting up a 1950s retro diner or a kitchen in your home, there are a few essential elements which will give you that authentic appeal you are going for. This was a time when every restaurant had a jukebox and you could still play your favorite hits for a dime. As the record arm came down on the actual machine and picked up the 45 you selected, you watched in wonder as the black disk was placed on the turntable and the music began. The good news is, you don’t need a jukebox, but you will need to find a few specific elements to make that décor authentic.

Booths and Counters Are a Must

If you want to see what a diner looked like in the 1950s, just turn the TV to any old episode of Happy Days where the gang all met at the local diner/ice cream parlor. Do you see tables? Probably not! There may have been a few in the center of the diner, but the main action took place in the booths or at the counter. So then, whether for your home or your diner, one of the most important things to find would be a supplier of restaurant booths for sale. In the home, these were usually placed in what was referred to as a ‘breakfast nook,’ but counters with bar stools were often used as well.

Colors Are Important for Authenticity

Then you will notice that there were two main colors during this era for kitchens and diners. Most either used red or light green for their primary color. If you close your eyes for a moment and imagine those 360 degree counter stools sans the back, you’ll probably see red. However, in the home, green was more often the color of choice. While Formica tables with vinyl chairs were trendy, it was often the mint green vinyl on the chairs that captured the eye. Sometimes green trended more towards lime and other times it was more olive like the appliances of the time, but always some shade of red or green.

Curtains and Linens

Then there were those classic curtains with a fruit pattern; cherries and strawberries being the most common fruits. White curtains with a fruit border were huge at the time and any table linens, cloth napkins or placemats also had the matching fruit patterns as well. Don’t forget that everyone in a kitchen in the 1950s wore an apron, men and women alike. Simplicity and McCall’s still sell retro apron patterns so if you want to see what was typically worn in the day, check out this pattern on Etsy. If you are going to open a 1950s diner, those aprons are an absolute must to complete the look you are aiming for.

Yes, chrome was also huge in the day, so any counter stools, napkin holders, and table legs should be made with a highly polished and shiny chrome. Once you get a feel of what kitchens actually looked like in the era of Father Knows Best and Donna Reed, you’ll actually have loads of fun creating the look you are after. If you want the real deal Lucille, late night TV is the place to go for inspiration. From there, you’ll know what to do!