The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

Frugal Café Philosophy
Save more.
Spend wisely.
Use resources responsibly.
Laugh often.
Kindle passion in life.
Give back.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ordinary Kitchens Have Magic... Cool Vintage and Retro Kitchens of Yesteryear

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

Recently, I was thumbing through a wondrous treasure box of vintage cookbooks that a colleague gave to me that had been his mother's. Tucked inside one of the cookbooks I found an old, ragged, stained newspaper clipping from 1971. It was a philosophical tribute to, of all things, kitchens.

Not fancy, hi-tech kitchens, either, but ordinary kitchens. Kitchens that millions of average families have lived in and prepared meals in for decades.

This lovely little article briefly explained how magical an ordinary kitchen can be in that it embraces simple traditions and rituals, and is one of the only rooms in a house that is expressly meant to create things. The essay also touted the spiritual side of bread making and the thrifty virtues of recycling food. This article's publication coincided with the launch of the first Earth Day.

Scroll below the image scan of the clipping (I just love the stain in the center) for the text of the article.

 

Charming 1971 newspaper essay, 'An Ordinary Kitchen Has a Certain Magic'
Charming 1971 newspaper article, 'An Ordinary Kitchen Has a Certain Magic' (click to enlarge)

 

An ordinary kitchen has a certain magic

By Susan Schwartz, Seattle newspaper (unknown), published April 18, 1971

 

It has been raining — typical Seattle gray. The sun and mountains did not even come out for sunset. An afternoon to sing praises, give thanks, to my kitchen.

Quite an ordinary old-Capitol-Hill-house kitchen. Yellow walls, a blue floor and a small back porch that looks at frowzy Lake Union and keeps the potted herbs from freezing on cold days.

What other room in the house is set up expressly to create things? It even has its own little library—international, full of centuries-old wisdom, combining art and science.

Oh, yes, dishes are washed in the kitchen. Grease must be cleaned out of the oven.

But today the room smells like lemon and sage. I have been making candies. A new jar of what will become apple wine bubbles plop, plop. Last summer's potpourri—lemon peel and lilac blossoms, salted to keep their scents—still sits in a freezer jar on a table. New herbs for spring are germinating on the porch.

A ROOM FOR MAKING useful and beautiful things. The kitchen demands creative imagination. Imagining something steaming and savory from the striped code of cookbooks takes something like the mental effort that goes into viewing a cubist painting.

At the same time, there is tradition, even ritual. There are strict rules for cutting Chinese vegetables, for making a simple tossed salad. (There are resonas for the rules, too.)

Baking bread, with its repretitive hand movements in kneading, makes me feel a kind of oneness with the millions of women who have baked bread for families for centuries.

One of the things that makes me feel a part of some reality larger than myself—some kind of oneness with others—is doing something many people have done for some basic reason for a long time. Bread making is one of those rituals.

THEN, TOO, a kitchen can be a pretty efficient recycling plant.

Surprisingly little seems to go out in the garbage. Little besides raw materials comes in. Bits of one thing go into the next: Towels decline slowly into rags. Bones go into soup. Even fruit peel, old coffee and tea, stale crumbs add flavor and texture.

Some high-school laboratory, when the white powder added to the beautiful purple liquid gave a sunshine-yellow deposit, chemistry has seemed to me much like wizardry.

There is that kind of magic, too, in the kitchen. The avocado turns brown if you mash it with a steel fork, but not if you use a silver one. The oil oil thickens if you beat it at room temperature—but not if it is cold.

A soothing kind of white magic, a kitchen, with a holy purpose—but not if it is cold.

We can all weave spells in an apron.

 

Chef foods divider

 

Some awesome vintage kitchens from yesteryear, where loving memories, laughter, and magic (and, of course, great food!) were created by and for families long since gone.

A culinary sanctuary, a meeting place, often the emotional center of the home, regardless of where it is located within the house. From pies to pot roasts, broken plates and broken hearts, neighborhood potlucks and Super Bowl buffets, the ordinary kitchen can bring a family together unlike any other room. It can indeed cast a certain kind of UN-ordinary magic.

Frugality and the magic of a loving kitchen haven't changed all that much since 1971, or 1951, or 1921, for that matter, although kitchen styles most definitely have changed. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Several of these vintage kitchen photos are from the fascinating blog Ugly House Photos — this fun, vintage home décor blog features many photographs of vintage and retro kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, and other rooms from a span of eras. Oft-times, some are downright ugly — what WERE they thinking?.

Also featured on Ugly House Photos are an assortment of before and after photos of houses and kitchens, some of the mind-boggling things people do to their homes, weird collections, and helpful suggestions on what not to do when you're trying to sell your home. Informative and fun site to spend some time on, so pop on over when you have a few minutes.

 

Vintage 1940s kitchen, with popular aqua/turquoise metal cabinets | Credit: Ugly House Photos
Vintage 1940s kitchen, with popular aqua/turquoise  metal cabinets  | Credit: Ugly House Photos

 

1955 kitchen, wood paneling and aqua/turquoise tiling | Credit: Ugly House Photos
1955 kitchen, wood paneling and aqua/turquoise  tiling  | Credit: Ugly House Photos

 

Woman in Kitchen, circa 1940s, National Archives, No original caption. [Woman cooking in a kitchen.], 1920 - 1954, ARC Identifier 513406 / Local Identifier 33-S-12790
Woman in Kitchen, circa 1940s, National Archives, No original caption. [Woman cooking in a kitchen.], 1920 - 1954, ARC Identifier 513406 / Local Identifier 33-S-12790

 

Stylish vintage 1950s kitchen | Credit: Ugly House Photos
Stylish vintage 1950s kitchen  | Credit: Ugly House Photos

 

1960s kitchen, complete with groovy wallpaper | Credit: Ugly House Photos
1960s kitchen, complete with groovy wallpaper | Credit: Ugly House Photos

 

Ladies who lunch... vintage 1965 kitchen, Grandma Gladys siting in center at table | Credit: prettywar stl, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Ladies who lunch... vintage 1965 kitchen, Grandma Gladys sitting in center at table | Credit: prettywar stl, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved width=

 

1960s pink & red kitchen with adjoining child's play area | Better Homes & Garden Decorating Ideas book, circa 1960
1960s pink & red kitchen with adjoining child's play area | Better Homes & Garden Decorating Ideas book, circa 1960

 

1974 kitchen, with Harvest Gold stove | Credit: Ugly House Photos
1974 kitchen, with Harvest Gold stove

 

1972 kitchen, with bright orange counter tops | Credit: Ugly House Photos
1972 kitchen, with bright orange counter tops | Credit: Ugly House Photos

 

Vintage kitchen from a 1954 Family Circle magazine ad | Credit: Gold Country Girls blog, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
>From a 1954 Family Circle magazine | Credit: Gold Country Girls blog, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

This Family Circle magazine ad of a 1954 kitchen (graphic above) is also posted on the Gold Country Girls blog — there are several other beautiful, classic kitchen images posted there, so pop over to check them out.

 

Mrs. Beuchert cooking biscuits at wood-burning stove in kitchen, 1917, National Archives, Library of Congress | Photograph taken in or near Washington, DC, by the National Photo Co., whose archive of thousands of negatives (mostly glass plates) and prints was donated by proprietor Herbert E. French to the Library of Congress in 1947
Mrs. Beuchert cooking biscuits at wood-burning stove in kitchen, 1917, National Archives, Library of Congress | Photograph taken in and near Washington, DC, by the National Photo Co., whose archive of thousands of negatives (mostly glass plates) and prints was donated by proprietor Herbert E. French to the Library of Congress in 1947

 

Vintage 1940s kitchen in Sweden with embroidered towel-rail cover, Frida Nyqvist, photo taken January 1, 1950 in Norberg, Västmanland, Sweden | Credit: Britt-Marie Sohlstrom, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Vintage 1940s kitchen in Sweden with embroidered towel-rail cover, Frida Nyqvist, photo taken January 1, 1950 in Norberg, Västmanland, Sweden | Credit: Britt-Marie Sohlstrom, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Modern kitchen in 1942, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Family of Portuguese house painter who live in low-income government housing project. Medium format negative by John Collier for the Resettlement Administration. Spring 1942.
Modern kitchen in 1942, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Family of Portuguese house painter who live in low-income government housing project. Medium format negative by John Collier for the Resettlement Administration. Spring 1942.

 

My Grandmother's Kitchen - doesn't everyone's grandma's kitchen look like this? | Credit: Wurlitzer Heart, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
My Grandmother's Kitchen - doesn't everyone's grandma's kitchen look like this? | Credit: Wurlitzer Heart, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Red & white 1951 vintage kitchen with pull-out cabinet chair | Credit: Craig Howell, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Red & white 1951 vintage kitchen with pull-out cabinet chair | Credit: Craig Howell, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Restored vintage O'Keefe & Merritt stove & Hotpoint refrigerator, retro kitchen | Credit: Jeff Wright, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Restored vintage O'Keefe & Merritt stove & Hotpoint refrigerator, retro kitchen | Credit: Jeff Wright, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Vintage 1950s kitchen, Grandma and Grandpa, Rock Island, Illinois | Credit: Kara Brugman, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Vintage 1950s kitchen, Grandma and Grandpa, Rock Island, Illinois | Credit: Kara Brugman, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Great Depression Era, Girl Making Dinner, 1936, Farm Security Administration: 'Suppertime' for the westward migration | Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Great Depression Era, Girl Making Dinner, 1936, Farm Security Administration: 'Suppertime' for the Westward Migration | Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

 

Vintage 1961 Hotpoint All Pink kitchen | Credit: Joe Wolf, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Vintage 1961 Hotpoint All Pink kitchen | Credit: Joe Wolf, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Vintage 1950s Geneva kitchen | Credit: SportsSuburban, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Vintage 1950s Geneva kitchen | Credit: SportsSuburban, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

Vintage 1930s 'Magic Chef' Patrician Art Deco gas range/kitchen stove print ad, modern kitchen with marble finish and ivory trim | Credit: eBay, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Vintage 1930s 'Magic Chef' Patrician Art Deco gas range/kitchen stove print ad, modern kitchen with marble finish and ivory trim

 

Vintage 1937 Westinghouse kitchen print ad, 'An Invitation to Happier Living' | Photo credit: eBay, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Vintage 1937 Westinghouse kitchen print ad, 'An Invitation to Happier Living' | Photo credit: eBay, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

 

1930s Kitchen | Credit: Library of Congress, no known restrictions
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Vintage 1920s/1930s Circa Kitchen | Credit: Library of Congress, no known restrictions
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William Gedney's acclaimed 1964 photo, 'Three Girls in Kitchen' | Credit: 1964 photo of Cornett Family, Kentucky; William Gedney Photographs and Writings, Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/ - negative number, 1209-12, item ID KY0008, box number 76
William Gedney's acclaimed 1964 photo, 'Three Girls in Kitchen' | Credit: 1964 photo of Cornett Family, Kentucky; William Gedney Photographs and Writings, Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/ - negative number, 1209-12, item ID KY0008, box number 76

 

Interior View of the White House Kitchen, 1904 | Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., no known restrictions, Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c31525, photographer Waldon Fawcett
Interior View of the White House Kitchen, 1904 | Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., no known restrictions, Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c31525, photographer Waldon Fawcett

 

Another Interior View of the White House Kitchen, 1904 | Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., no known restrictions, Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c31526, photographer Waldon Fawcett
Another Interior View of the White House Kitchen, 1904 | Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., no known restrictions, Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c31526, photographer Waldon Fawcett

 

Chef foods divider

 

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