Antique and vintage pieces allow us to break free of the kitchen’s utilitarian confines. This hub of the home should reflect how we want to feel: relaxed and happy. Throw out the rulebook and use antique kitchen furniture and accents to create a bright, joyful space.
The kitchen is undoubtedly the hardest-working room in the home. Many of us learned this the hard way last year when we were plunged into lockdown for the first time. Not only are our kitchens the centre of cooking and eating, but they also serve - when required - as a makeshift home office, home school, or a space for new hobbies.
Our dependency on the kitchen for all this activity demands a design that can cope with the pressure. Indeed, it was the invention of new 'white goods' in the early 20th Century that led to the hassle-saving kitchen. When the dishwasher and the kitchen cooker arrived, so too emerged an emphasis on clean lines and efficiency. These practical kitchens were the precursor to the modern fitted kitchen.
However, the kitchen’s utilitarian focus can create a personality vacuum. What is it that makes so many kitchens today feel, well… the same? It’s the abundance of right-angles, uniform cabinetry, and neutral colour schemes. We tend to leave our self-expression to less-used rooms in our house. But if we spend so much time in this room, why not make it the most joyful place to be? The key to a new, more liberating design is to introduce a range of colours, textures and shapes. The best way to put some soul into your kitchen is through one-of-a-kind antique furniture and décor.
Antique kitchen cabinets
Domestic life has always demanded plenty of capable storage. From medieval trunks and chests, to the grand dressers in 18th Century interiors, to sleek Mid Century sideboards, we have a wide range of antique and vintage cabinetry at our disposal.
Kitchen revamps demand a major shift in mentality, particularly if you are avoiding the fitted cabinets route. For example, what is a kitchen island, actually? Could it not be an apothecary cabinet or a set of haberdashery drawers? Such storage furniture often provides ample drawers or cupboards, whilst bringing character and interest to a kitchen.
The usual constraint on any kitchen design is saving space. Antique storage keeps kitchen clutter out of sight and provides an interesting, decorative visual. A brightly painted folk art corner cupboard is a charming feature for any kitchen and won’t impose on the room. If you prefer a more polished look, mid-late 20th Century cabinetry was designed to improve our quality of life and be at once functional and aesthetic.
The antique and vintage cabinetry options are endless, and smart choices will allow you to combine utility and beauty.
Perhaps one of the more pleasant things to come out of lockdown has been the chance to sit down together for meals more often. A uniform set of chairs with a suitable table often works well, but uniformity doesn't have to mean mundanity. You can find wonderful antique and vintage dining sets that feel unique whilst serving your needs. Experiment with materials and think outside of the box.
The Mid Century and Mid Century Modern eras were all about improved living, and top designers in these years fused functionality with a stylish aesthetic. The wonderful vibrant orange polycarbonate and polished aluminium chairs by Kusch and Co featured in these images offer a lively yet practical option. Alternatively, there is nothing to stop you from combining a few styles around the table. Bring together benches and chairs that contrast yet complement one another for a welcoming dining space.
Antique kitchen lighting
Lighting is essential to a successful scheme in any room of the home and the kitchen is no different. Whether or not your kitchen is flooded with natural light, carefully placed lighting will make all the difference.
Levels are vital for creating a layered feel. You may have fitted spotlights, but a few noticeable light fittings are still important – not just for an additional light source, but for adding another layer to the decorative impact of the room. Industrial-style pendants over the dining table or kitchen counter are very on-trend, whilst a statement chandelier will make this busy heart of the home feel special.
Don’t save all of your most special antique and vintage lights for the living room – a well-lit kitchen will improve your daily living immensely. Pendant lights are always a wise choice for central spaces, but remember to draw attention to every corner with decorative floor lamps and wall lights.
Quirky antique and vintage décor
Because of the demands we place on our kitchen every day, valuables tend to be kept in safer areas. But, whilst we are championing bringing joy, it’s important to put your cherished things where you can see them.
When we interviewed Johnny Messum, founder of Messums Wiltshire, he emphasised the need to put artwork where it is truly appreciated. “Don’t put art in an obvious place, such as above the sofa – you will never see it. Put the work at a turning point, the wall in front of the door as you come in or the turn in the stairs. The bit by the fridge. These are the places you are more likely to look."
So, don’t shy away from styling your favourite set of prints in the kitchen – although perhaps place them far away from a temperamental blender. The same goes for decorative objects like glassware and collectibles. If small hands or paws are a concern, look above ground. Antique and vintage display furniture, such as shelves, baker’s racks and pedestals save space and draw attention to smaller treasures – without compromising the functionality of the kitchen.