Vintage kitchen ideas – 12 designs for character and charm

Give your kitchen a characterful update with these vintage kitchen ideas

Vintage kitchen ideas
(Image credit: Future)

Vintage kitchen ideas are in high-demand at the moment, and for good reason. Introducing vintage kitchen elements instantly imbues your space with a sense of personality that is impossible to replicate in off-the-shelf kitchen design. 

Of course, when it comes to kitchen ideas of any kind, there are plenty of things to consider, from cabinetry and storage, flooring and countertops right through to window dressings and soft furnishings. 

All of these vintage kitchen elements offer the opportunity to add a vintage flair to your kitchen. 

Vintage kitchen ideas

Vintage kitchen ideas combine the beauty of the past with the practicality of the present day. There are several ways to achieve this look, from introducing reclaimed freestanding furniture alongside your built-in cabinetry, through to accessorizing your traditional kitchen ideas with open-shelving displaying fleamarket finds.  

Vintage kitchen design requires a curated approach. A vital step to achieving the look ‘is realizing that style is about longevity, careful, wise choices, and time, soul and patience to see things evolving,’ says Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL.

Vintage kitchen design has seen a resurgence in recent years, not only for its charming aesthetic but also as a highly sustainable way to furnish your home. 

‘Buying pre-loved is crucially a more ethical way to buy, especially at a time when mass consumption is costing us the earth and driving small businesses under,’ says Period Living magazine's antiques expert Alice Roberton. 'An increased awareness of sustainability and production has fueled this decision and while people often come to vintage from a sustainable standpoint, they stay for the instantaneous burst of character that antique and reclaimed furniture and accessories bring into their home.'

Below, you'll find our favorite vintage kitchen ideas.

1. Use vintage kitchen accessories to give your space heritage flair

A white kitchen with fluted sink, brass taps, off-white shaker cabinets and shiplap walls, with wooden frame to large window

(Image credit: Devol)

A key tenant of vintage kitchen ideas is accessorizing. Keep the essential elements classic in style, understated Shaker cabinetry, fluted butler’s sink and aged brass hardware all work together to create an elegant backdrop against which your vintage finds can really shine. Here, a vintage cabinet, wallhanging, lace curtains and decorative details all work together to imbue this space with vintage charm.

‘Buy unusual pieces, try putting things in your kitchen that might be traditionally suited to a living room, or even your grandma’s home,’ suggests Helen Parker, ‘Mix up old with new and always try to source authentic and well-made pieces.’

2. Add floral wallpaper for a pretty hint of pattern

grey galley kitchen with teal wallpaper with blousy pink blooms. White framed window on far wall with white and russet linen blind

(Image credit: Sanderson)

While wallpaper might not seem like the natural choice for a kitchen, the right design can totally transform your space. There are plenty of country wallpaper ideas for kitchens that will give your room a splash of color and pattern. 

While such a bold print, like this heritage-inspired blooming teal Hykenham wallpaper from Sanderson, might seem overwhelming on the roll, the key to success is balance. The built-in cabinetry, window and floor-to-ceiling dresser all visually divide the space, providing a pared-back and elegant foil to the floral print. At the same time, the rich tones and floral motifs bring warmth, adding personality to the minimalist design. 

If wallpapering your kitchen, be sure to install an upstand attached to your countertop which will keep any spills off your walls. Marble makes for a luxurious finishing touch, though there are lots of kitchen countertop ideas that can also look great.

3. Repurpose antique furniture to create vintage kitchen cabinets

vintage kitchen with white painted brick walls, wooden cabinetry and worktops and a reclaimed shop counter serving as an additional workspace edit58 kitchen by British Standard by Plain English

(Image credit: British Standard by Plain English)

The beauty of creating a vintage kitchen is that you are not restricted by the parameters of contemporary kitchen design. In this kitchen, a vintage shop counter serves as additional workspace, bringing creativity and charm in equal measure, and is perfectly complemented by the cream and wooden tones of the British Standard by Plain English cabinetry. 

The lived-in aesthetic is further enhanced by the generous farmhouse table and chairs, a mainstay of any vintage kitchen design as it doubles as both a dining space and preparation area – acting in the same way kitchen islands do in modern kitchens. 

4. Illuminate your vintage kitchen with reclaimed lighting

vintage kitchen with cream walls marble splashback and vintage lighting

(Image credit: Lexi Ribar/Design Midland Architecture)

Kitchen lighting ideas are a key factor when designing a vintage kitchen.

A blend of wall lights that offer downward task lighting, and pretty pendants that provide broader illumination is the most efficient way to achieve this. T

here are lots of different vintage lighting designs available that will imbue your home with a heritage feel, however, if buying an antique, be sure to do so from a reputable company that restores reclaimed lights to modern day safety requirements. Skinflint, who provided the vintage Czech pendant light above the sink in this Midland Architecture kitchen design, is one such company. 

5. Mix freestanding furniture with modern cabinetry to for a sophisticated vintage look 

white kitchen with antique wooden dresser and warm parquet wood flooring

(Image credit: Neptune)

When curating your vintage kitchen, think about the tonality of materials. With solid floors and lots of cabinetry, the kitchen can feel quite cold, the antithesis of the welcoming ambience that a vintage scheme seeks to provide – which is where freestanding kitchens come in. 

‘Matching dark antique woods with light cabinetry is a great way to add depth to your kitchen color scheme, whereby those warm, richer accents contrast against cool neutral tones,’ advises George Miller, home designer at Neptune ‘A great example would be including an old vintage dresser or larder cabinet in a modern kitchen. This will create a stylish contemporary feel that draws on traditional country kitchen ideas.'

6. Use heritage-inspired fabric to bring warmth and character to your space

vintage kitchen sink with curtained cabinetry and floral roman blind over the window

(Image credit: Future/David Brittain)

Vintage kitchen ideas go hand in hand with cottage kitchen ideas and it's not surprise; both styles seek to embrace historical designs and evoke a cozy and welcoming ambience.

Chintzy florals are one of the defining features of both looks, however, they must be used wisely. Here, this neat roman blind offers a stylish take on the tradition adding rustic charm and color to this scheme. Coupled with a pared-back linen ticking curtain on the cupboard underneath, it works to give the kitchen a softer look than a block-patterned blind and traditional cabinetry doors would achieve. 

7. Opt for a soothing sage palette to add a relaxing touch to other vintage kitchen ideas

sage green kitchen cabientry and patterned wallpaper. Marble splashback and worktops with reclaimed vutchers block and open wooden shelves displaying pots and ceramics

(Image credit: Sandberg)

Creating a modern vintage look is all about balancing vintage kitchen ideas with newer details. Sleek, sage green cabinetry with a marble splash-back  and chrome hardware wouldn't look out of place in a more contemporary setting, however, when combined with a reclaimed wooden workspaces, along with the shiplap ceiling and aged wooden floor, they take on a more vintage look. 

‘An easy way to add vintage flair to your kitchen is adding an old butcher’s block,’ advise Jen and Mar, co-founders of Interior Fox, ‘Pair this with walls or shelves painted in a sage green or dusty champagne color which look lovely against wooden bowls or ceramic dishes. Display fresh herbs, greenery, mis-matched dishes and plant pots to help add a vintage charm to your kitchen'.

8.  Add warmth to your vintage kitchen ideas with a terracotta floor

white vintage kitchen with red terracotta tiled floor adn cream walls

(Image credit: Floors of Stone)

Kitchen flooring ideas for vintage kitchens need to have a touch of pre-loved heritage about them. Having been used as a floor covering for centuries, terracotta brings with it a rich color and warmth that is the perfect complement to other vintage kitchen ideas. Evoking old-world Mediterranean style, these tiles are crafted from clay and full of unique character. Opt for pieces that have hand finished edges as this will give them a slightly aged appearance. 

It's worth noting, however, that unfinished terracotta is very porous meaning it is vital that it is sealed before use in the kitchen. Select pre-sealed tiles or protect with an impregnating seal to ensure a hardwearing finish that is resistant to the inevitable staining and spills. 

9. Create a vintage inspired backsplash with handmade tiles

Vintage marble kitchen sink with four gold taps

(Image credit: deVOL)

Backsplash ideas for kitchens present the opportunity to add a subtle hint of character into your kitchen. While you may dream about decorating your kitchen with authentic antique tiles, the reality is that sourcing them is often time-consuming and costly. Thankfully, there are lots of nostalgic designs that are sure to give your kitchen a hint of history. 

These tiles from deVOL are made using its antique press, the clay forms are imprinted using vintage lace remnants and garments to unveil gorgeous reliefs of repeating patterns and trims. Available in three colors – Vintage Teal, Rose and Sepia – the tiles have been finished to replicate the delicately worn look of antique designs.

10. Create a welcoming heart to your home with a round table and lots of chairs

vintage kitchen with round table and four chairs in center. Open plan space is seperated by rustic beams and to the back of the picture is a white kitchen

(Image credit: Susie Watson Designs)

Vintage kitchen ideas all aim to create a space that is warm and welcoming. A large table with plenty of chairs dressed with cushions is a great way to achieve this. 

‘You want to create the impression that a room has evolved over time by mixing and matching fabrics, furnishings and tableware. This gives the impression of a collection built up over time rather than instantly created,’ suggests Rachel Rose,  head of interior design at Susie Watson Designs. ‘Also take into consideration the paint color chosen, a light shade with undertones of green is a great backdrop to compliment lots of pattern in the fabrics, it's neutral but warmer than any shade of white.’

11. No vintage kitchens are complete without a range

pantry filled with vintage tins and partly covered by a floral vintage curtain

(Image credit: Future/Polly Eltes)

A range cooker is an essential part of any vintage kitchen ideas and therefore must harmonise with the rest of the design. For the most part, vintage appliances are best avoided as they will be inefficient and potentially dangerous. Instead, you have two choices. 

First, consider a restored cooker, that has a vintage exterior but with modern electrics and safety certifications. These are likely to be cheaper than buying new and will imbue your home with that signature vintage look. 

The other option is to purchase a new design that has a heritage inspired design. There are lots of range cookers available that have the signature enamelled exterior and covered hot-plates and are undeniably vintage.

12. Embrace historical designs by adding a pantry

pantry filled with vintage tins and partly covered by a floral vintage curtain

(Image credit: Future/Kasia Fiszer)

Once a mainstay of traditional kitchen design, pantries fell out of favor in the 1960s following the invention of the refrigerator/freezer and the desire for spacious kitchens. However, there has been a recent resurgence in pantry ideas being reintroduced into kitchens, particularly as a vintage kitchen idea. There are several vintage kitchen ideas for incorporating a pantry depending on your tastes and the amount of space you have available.

A walk-in pantry is the dream. Build wall to wall shelves and dress with vintage tins, baskets and other retro finds. Why not add a printed curtain to add to the homely aesthetic while disguising the more practical tins and packages?

Alternatively, a generous free-standing dresser can serve the same purpose. Open-shelving at the top offers a space to display vintage treasures, while the cupboards beneath offer practical storage solutions. 

Whichever option you choose, be sure to research pantry organization ideas to keep your space looking sophisticated and channeling the vintage aesthetic.

What is vintage style kitchen?

A vintage style kitchen is one that combines the modern with the traditional. Think repurposed wooden furniture, floral fabrics and warming color palettes paired with classic, timeless cabinetry, brass hardware and butler's sink. If chosen correctly, vintage kitchen ideas are timeless and work in a wide variety of homes.

‘When designing a vintage kitchen, it's okay to embrace a little bit of kitsch but overall you want to keep it classically vintage. I advise my clients to not lean into the 'theme' of vintage but rather do a nod to vintage style.’ Jade Joyner, co-founder of interior's brand Metal + Petal.

How can I make my kitchen look vintage?

You can make your kitchen look vintage by incorporating antique pieces of furniture, fabric and chinaware into your kitchen design. Vintage style is characterised by evolution; celebrating the traditional against the backdrop of the present day. 

'One of the easiest ways to give your kitchen a vintage look is accessorizing your space with fun vintage finds such as old recycled glass bottles, vintage bread boards, and grain sack kitchen linens,' advises Jennifer Markowitz of JNR Designs, 'Also consider changing your cabinet hardware to a more traditional style, swapping in modern counter stools or chairs for vintage-inspired ones, changing any pendant light fixtures to antique ones you find at a salvage shop or that mimic the look of antique light fixtures.'

Holly Reaney
Content Editor and Sub-editor

Having graduated with a first class degree in English Literature, Holly started her career as a features writer and sub-editor at Period Living magazine, Homes & Gardens' sister title. Working on Period Living brought with it insight into the complexities of owning and caring for period homes, from interior decorating through to choosing the right windows and the challenges of extending. This has led to a passion for traditional interiors, particularly the country-look. Writing for the Homes & Gardens website as a content editor, alongside regular features for Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors magazines, has enabled her to broaden her writing to incorporate her interests in gardening, wildlife and nature.