Appropriate Countertops for the 1950s Kitchen

A woman sits at at a 1950s formica table with chrome trim.
A woman sits at at a 1950s formica table with chrome trim. (Image: Ron Chapple Stock/Ron Chapple Studios/Getty Images)

Arguably more vibrant than the modern 21st-century kitchen, where stainless steel reigns, the signatures of 1950s kitchen countertops are bright colors and geometric patterns, along with materials and layout. Some modern designers have rediscovered the kitschy kitchens of the 1950s as inspiration for retro kitchen designs, including the countertops. Pay homage to the 1950s kitchen by honoring the fundamentals of the era's countertop designs.

Historic Inspiration

The post-war 1950s saw a resurgence in the kitchen as a gathering spot to celebrate the troops back on the home front. Optimism reigned and with it came color, technological advances (previously focused on military defense) and an economic surge leading to kitchen remodeling and modernized kitchen designs in new home constructions. In an effort to encourage their youth to spend time at home, 1950s kitchens were designed to mimic the favorite hangout of the time: the diner.

Vintage Layouts

During the 1950s, the kitchen truly became the heart of the home. As a result, kitchen layouts were “L” or “U” shaped, inviting people to be in and move around the kitchen even when preparation was underway. The kitchen “island,” desired by so many in modern kitchens, was born in the 1950s to add more counter space both for preparation and gathering. The “breakfast nook” – a domestic term for a diner booth – was also born during this time.

Retro Materials

Formica, the company that created the popular laminate material of the time, and chrome, reigned supreme in ideal 1950s countertops. Formica was known for its durability and easy cleaning, while the more industrial chrome was used as its trim. These features made the materials an ideal fit for high-traffic diners that were the 1950s teen hangouts, and soon carried over into the 1950s domestic kitchen. Easy to wipe down and match to fabric, Formica became the key material for 1950s countertops, and the chrome trim kept it and the cohesive design of chrome appliances in place.

Copacetic Colors and Patterns

In keeping with the post-war optimism of the 1950s, the domestic kitchen used vibrant and patriotic colors akin to the diner, as well as their low-key counterparts: the pastels. Often these colors were combined in “modern” geometric patterns; the traditional 1950s countertop utilized a “boomerang” design which juxtaposed vibrant colors against each other in a boomerang pattern. These colorful countertops were anchored by the other predominant material of the time, which had its own silvery color: chrome. Traditional 1950s kitchen countertops are trimmed with chrome, sometimes beveled and sometimes smooth, dependent upon the height of the countertop. Silver, as a result, is a predominant accent color for 1950s kitchen countertops.

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