How to Keep Your Kitchen’s Vintage Charm While Modernizing Its Use
There are many different styles you can apply to your kitchen, with few rules to follow other than to remodel it to look exactly like what fits your dreams. There are a couple of rules to follow, of course, like using glossy paint on the walls and having bright lights but beyond that, it’s entirely up to you. One trend that’s increasing in popularity is the vintage look, but in such a way that it looks modern and usable instead of like an old-fashioned pioneer kitchen. If you’re wondering how to modernize your kitchen while keeping that vintage charm intact, read on.


Your best bet is to go with either linoleum or polished hardwood, as both are tremendously economical and sturdy in a high-traffic area like the kitchen. Your kitchen, no matter what style it is, will see a lot of spills and wiping in it, so you want to get flooring that’s tough enough to handle anything. Depending on what kind of vintage look you’re after, that’ll affect the decision you make with flooring. Shiny hardwood is definitely a modern touch, and it’s not usually a material that’s commonly used in kitchens. It can get a little expensive (depending on what wood you choose), and will need to be re-varnished every several years. Linoleum, on the other hand, is much truer to vintage than hardwood, very affordable, and only has to be waxed. But if you go too vintage on the rest of your kitchen, linoleum can easily look old-fashioned.


Just as with flooring, there’s a very fine line between old-fashioned and modern-vintage when it comes to cabinetry. But when your main goal is to modernize a vintage-inspired kitchen, one of the best ways of doing that is to paint your cabinetry white. This clean look, combined with your hardwood floors, presents a pleasing contrast in terms of colors and materials. As we briefly mentioned in the intro, you’ll want to use glossy paint on your cabinets because they’ll be touched frequently, and glossy is fairly easy to keep clean. To add one last modern touch to your cabinets, make the handles button-styled, and match the color to your floor. It’s just one more way of tying everything together so there’s a continuous line running throughout your kitchen.


You’ve got plenty of charm with cozy hardwood floors and white cabinets, so feel free to play around with your backsplash without losing the vintage aesthetic. We personally like brick-style or tiled backsplash that’s a pleasing pastel hue, such as light green or blue. You can go with a warmer color scheme, of course, but one thing to keep in mind is to match it to everything else in your kitchen. Something else to remember is modern-vintage kitchens have a very clean, bright look to them, and keep a cool color scheme when it comes to your backsplash is one way of achieving that. As well, using tiles for the backsplash safeguards against your kitchen becoming old-fashioned, as opposing to using new styles for a charming vintage look.


By far, the most popular choice for a modern-vintage kitchen when it comes to sinks is the farmhouse sink, a big and square sink that may or may not be divided into two. Popular material choices are mostly ceramic or stainless steel. It’s very economical — you’ll be able to fit quite a bit in there, and the square shape makes it easy to wash dishes in — and you’ll be getting a true vintage look without going back in time too much.

Open Concept

Although we talked about painting your cabinetry white or another cool-hued color, you also have the option of removing the faces of them and going with an open concept design. If you think back to kitchens from the ‘40s and ‘50s, one of the first things that comes to mind is being able to see all the pots, pans, and dishes. If you’re uncomfortable with going with an entirely open concept design, then compromise by going halfway: have a couple of open shelves for things that hold some pots and pans, but keep your dishes and cups behind doors.


Last but not least, your countertops are the other major part of a kitchen essential for retaining a modern-vintage charm. Our two favorite choices are zinc or marble, with either working really well. Marble is fantastic because it’s very solid and will last you a number of years, while zinc provides that rustic look that’s so closely associated with older kitchens (without getting too old-fashioned). Plus, zinc changes its appearance over time to get that lovely weathered look, which marble can’t do.

Amy Wright
Amy Wright is the Lead Editor of Remodeling Central. When she isn't playing with her dogs she is trying to remodel a classic Chicago style brownstone with her husband.
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