Creating a Retro 50s Diner in Your Kitchen

Creating a Retro 50s Diner in Your Kitchen

When you are refitting your kitchen there are many choices for you to make. Do you want something really modern, are you after a country style kitchen or what about a retro 50s diner effect? Whichever one you choose you need to start from the basics, and if cost is a consideration the 50s diner will probably work out much cheaper than many other styles.

There is equipment we have in today’s kitchens that were just not around in the 1950s and it would be very difficult to find retro versions of them. Can you do without them, or do they need to be hidden away?

Start with The Floor

It is not being suggested here that the floor is laid before any other work is done. However, it was such an important part of the 1950s décor you at least need to know what color choices you are going for.

The floors were usually tiles, often in black and white, although of course, the choice of color is up to you. There were several reasons for this including the fact that tiles were a cheaper option and they were easier to keep clean. A quick sweep and mop with warm soapy water is all it takes to keep a retro kitchen floor looking as good as new.

Back then, adhesives were used to fix the tiles to the floor. Now they come with peel-and-stick backs making them a very easy job for you to install yourself.

Another alternative that was sometimes used was lino, for the same reasons as the tiles. You can buy it in an endless array of colors and patterns, and it will still have the feel of nostalgia about it.

Carpet was very rarely used on the floors of diners or kitchen because if there was a spillage the carpet could be ruined. Loose carpeting is also a problem anywhere that cooking food is taking place.

Kitchen Cabinets

When it comes to refitting your kitchen look closely at the cabinets. Often they do not need replacing at all and a makeover on them is enough. You can do this by repainting the doors, which might sound like a lot of work but it is really quite simple. The key is in the preparation, which should be the same for entrance and exit doors as well.

Firstly give them a good clean using a degreaser to get of the stubborn marks if necessary. Then the surface needs to be made slightly rough so the paint will adhere to it with ease. Run over the surface with some fine sandpaper, and then use a primer before the final coat of paint. Oil based or acrylic paints are best for kitchens, as they will cope with the inevitable moisture better.

At the same time, why not change the handles or drawer pulls? Glass or ceramic knobs were the order of the day and these are still readily available in most hardware stores.

Plates racks were very popular so why not take the doors off one of the wall cabinets and fix a plate rack inside.

Kitchen Equipment

Kitchen equipment now is nothing like it was in 1950. They did not have microwave ovens then, just as an example, and dishwashers were very scarce.

The microwave anyone can do without, it just takes a bit of extra planning for meals. It is best left out of any retro 50s looking kitchen, but if you really must have one keep it in a cupboard out of sight unless it is being used. When it is not so conveniently sitting on one of your work surfaces, you might just be surprised how well you cope without one.

Dishwashers are in the same vein, but there are other advantages of ditching this piece of equipment. If ever you have a problem with cockroaches, before calling in Allpest cockroach control again, take a look at your dishwasher as they provide a perfect breeding ground for them. Consider whether it is worth the risk of them returning at a later date.

Like the microwave ovens, dishwashers are not really retro. If you insist you cannot manage without one, then hide it behind one of your newly renovated kitchen cabinet doors.

Original cookers from the period would probably be considered unsafe by today’s standards, but there are many places that you can buy imitations without breaking the bank. If you do find an original cooker that appears up to scratch, have it checked out by professional gas engineers or an electrician,  depending on which fuel it is powered by, before using it.


The centerpiece of any retro 50s kitchen should be the dining table. The diners back then mostly used tables with stainless steel legs and the table would have a formica top. This meant the whole thing could very easily be washed and cleaned, especially between customers using them.

If you have the space and the budget you could create a booth or a corner space. Try to get the leather chairs in the same color as the table top for the overall effect of 50s diner furniture.

Stools were also very popular and adding a few can encourage social gatherings in an informal atmosphere.

Kitchen Accessories 50s DinerAccessories

The accessories were all important in a 50s kitchen. It was an era with new innovations for the woman of the house in her domain, the kitchen. Things such as a pop-up hot dog toaster, a snow cone maker and a slushie machine were all the sorts of things you would have been likely to see in the kitchen of many US homes.

Glass cookie jars, fruit and vegetable print fabrics, a retro style clock, melamine kitchenware vintage coffee mugs, and a retro straw dispenser will all add to the look of a 50s diner kitchen.

Pictures of the era on the walls will help, as will old shop signs, such as the ones for Coca Cola. If you can find a rotary dial phone that would be a brilliant touch to your new kitchen. Great if you find one that works, but even if it doesn’t it will be something that older people reminisce about and youngsters wonder how we managed with them.

Where To Buy For You New Kitchen

Before you go hunting for any accessories, ask older family members if they have kept anything from the period in their attic. You might be surprised how some people have an aversion to throwing things away, but store them because ‘they could be useful one day’. That day has arrived and to have original pieces not just from the 50s but also from your own family would be amazing.

Visit some antique markets. To be classified an antique an item must be more than 100 years old. At the markets you will find items that are nowhere near that age and they can be great places to pick up up a few bargains. Particularly look out for the signs advertising foods and drinks and the old canisters. They are often to be found at these sorts of events.

There are online stores that specialize in goods from different eras. Some of them are originals and others made to look like the age you are interested in.

Local thrift shops and others stores are also an option. If you are happy to spend the time browsing around the many places where you could find things for your retro 50s diner kitchen, you may be surprised at how many things you will come across that cost very little.

A Few Thoughtful Ideas

Before you do anything mentioned above you need to do some research. Unless you lived in the 50s you may have a picture in your head that could be totally wrong. There is an endless amount of information online about 50s diners, how they were decorated and what sort of food the served.

Changing your kitchen to a retro 50s diner need not cost a fortune at all. You do not need to spend thousands to get this look; a few thoughtful ideas will do the trick.

When it is finished, why not have a 50s party to let friends and family see what you have achieved? To look the part of the perfect 50s hostess you need to dress in the style of the era, and buy yourself a pinafore for when you are actually cooking. Women were never in the kitchens without this item of protective clothing, and often it was the first thing little girls were taught to make in their sewing classes at school.

Generally, and of course there are always exceptions, men only went into the kitchen to eat. It was not just the décor that was different then, the way men and women were perceived was hugely different from today. These days, even with a retro 50s diner kitchen the man of the house is just as likely to be making a meal. That is how it should be and hopefully they will enjoy your new kitchen as much as you do.

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