After Finding This ’80s Photo of My Childhood Kitchen, Here’s How I’m “Retro-Vibing” My Own

published May 5, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Vintage photo of family in a kitchen
Credit: Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

In 2020, my husband and I accomplished a huge milestone — we bought our first home. Throughout our arduous search, friends who’d been through the process told me that when we found the right house, we’d walk inside and just know we were home. And everyone was right. 

The house we bought was last on a long list of failed prospects our realtor showed us. All the others had weird quirks — like a primary bedroom with no closets, or a layout so confusing that we couldn’t find two of the four bathrooms. But the last house? It was clear we’d found “the one” as soon we stepped into the kitchen. I saw myself prepping meals, working through elaborate recipes, and constantly entertaining. Truthfully, it wasn’t the big island, double oven, wine fridge, or butler’s pantry that did it — amazing bonuses, yes, but those perks certainly were not on our list of “must-haves.” 

There was something soothing and familiar about the kitchen’s dark wood cabinets, wooden blinds, and the tan and black marbled backsplash that brought me comfort. Our realtor immediately offered up suggestions to lighten things up — paint the cabinets white, change the countertops to brighter colors, take out the wood blinds. Three years later, I’m still on an eternal mission for the rest of the house to feel bright and airy, but I have not made a single change to the kitchen’s aesthetics. I couldn’t put my finger on why until I recently came across a very retro, very ‘80s childhood photo. 

Technically, my Wonder Woman Underoos should’ve been the most shocking part of this pic (alongside my mom’s feathered hair and high-waisted shorts), but in the background was a glimpse of the kitchen. That’s what really shook me to my core — I never realized how similar the kitchen from the first house I ever lived in was to the kitchen in my very own home. 

Images of my first childhood home are like Polaroid snapshots in my brain. I remember the paneled walls in the den framing the entrance to the kitchen. The yellow and white couch with a wicker frame in the living room. My frilly pink bedroom, complete with a Barbie townhouse. The kitchen, however, was the center of all activity. It was an eat-in kitchen. We had a tiny TV (with an antenna!) at the end of a round, laminate wood table where I did my homework, ate dinner, and fought with my brother. There was a yellow phone on the wall that was mission control for my mom. I can still see her twirling the cord, talking on the phone for hours. She would sit at our kitchen table in one of four chairs with black cushions and wicker backs. And, best of all, the wallpaper had brown squares with yellow flowers, plus, a framed rainbow print. I stared at the photo for a long time until it hit me — my current kitchen is a more modern, less chaotic version of the one I grew up in during the ‘80s!
And so, I’ve decided to embrace the retro vibes to spruce up my kitchen with some new decor. I found some fun items that blend together the old- and new-school vibes. Here are five of my favorites.

1 / 5

This yellow wall clock — complete with a thermometer and timer — is functional, fun, and definitely takes me back to my childhood. Everything in our house had a hint of yellow (until the early ‘90s when my mom became obsessed with the color mauve, of course).

2 / 5

I’m always looking for bins to keep things from piling up on my counter — coffee pods, loaves of bread, candy — which is why I was instantly drawn to this vintage bread box. The countertops of my youth were adorned with big tins with flower prints and bright colors.

3 / 5

These chairs, with the floating seat, black cushion, and mesh backing are best described as the “chic” version of the ones we had at my kitchen table growing up. But for a modern twist, I’m thinking of placing these around my island in place of stools. In my kitchen, all the action happens while my family and guests are gathered around the island.

4 / 5

We haven’t had a landline in years. I mean really, why would we when we have cell phones, tablets, and smart watches? But before I was old enough to beg for a phone in my room (and my own line, too), the wall phone in the kitchen was the house phone. It also did double duty as decor, whether we knew it or not. So, I decided we need one as it’ll not only blend in with the kitchen, but it’ll also be a great conversation piece. My 8-year-old daughter will have absolutely no idea what it is — but it’ll definitely look cool!

5 / 5

The mixture of dark prints with a burst of rainbow might not exactly be modern. In fact, it was absolutely jarring, even in the ‘80s. But perhaps we were ahead of our time? Today, wallpaper makes a statement while mixing patterns is no longer a faux pas. And besides, don’t rainbows instantly make you smile?

What are you adding to your kitchen for that touch of nostalgia?