10 Things from Your Grandparents’ Kitchen That Are Back to Being Cool Again

published Mar 6, 2020
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Credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom

What was once old is new again, and this time around, the interior design world is gathering inspiration from — wait for it — your grandparents’ kitchen. Retro kitchen elements have been slowly creeping back into the zeitgeist for years now — all you have to do is take a look at the cherry red Smeg toasters and rounded refrigerators inspired by bygone eras.

But now, unexpected elements that have long been labeled as “dated” are getting their second wind. Cafe curtains are bringing a homey touch to kitchen windows, checkered floors are once again seen as a bold design move, and shelf liners are no longer passé. Get your recipe boxes and butter dishes ready because 2020 kitchen design is going back in time, and we’re here for it. Here’s what’s cool again.

1. Shelf Liners

I still remember the avocado shelf liner with burnt orange flowers in my grandma’s kitchen. Opening her cabinets was always a sunny experience, thanks to her kitschy liner. So it’s no wonder it’s making a comeback. But you don’t need to go with glaring prints this time around; everything from chevron to soft florals to minimalist stripes is trending. You can get shelf liners anywhere from Amazon to the dollar store to T.J. Maxx, making it an affordable trend to try.

Buy: Con-Tac Enviroliner Lemon Grove Shelf and Drawer Liner, $8 per roll at The Home Depot

2. Cafe Curtains

Want a great way to add a retro touch to your kitchen without going full-on fifties diner style? Consider cafe curtains. The trick to pulling them off in 2020 is giving them a bit of an update. Rather than going for curtains with scalloped edges or ruffles, choose a simpler design. White cafe curtains always work in any space, or you can play with stripes in neutral tones or even a cheeky red-and-white gingham pattern. Mixed in with copper pots, a subway tile backsplash, and pretty pendants, the look is anything but old school.

Buy: Red and White Farmhouse Buffalo Check Valance, $22 at Etsy

Credit: Spoonflower

3. Tiny Flowers

Tiny flowers are popping up everywhere in contemporary kitchens. Backsplashes with retro flower tiles are a sweet way to add a vintage touch to your kitchen, wallpaper with tiny flowers can spruce up an empty wall by your mudroom door, and a vintage-look tablecloth with a petite floral print is a great way to play with the trend on a temporary basis.

Buy: Victoria Floral Round Tablecloth, from $89 at Spoonflower

4. Mint Green

Avocado green is slowly coming back into vogue, but before we’re ready to fully take the leap, we’re experimenting with mint green instead. More and more contemporary kitchens are playing with the shade, whether that’s through appliances like fridges or stand mixers, bar stools, or even kitchen cabinets.

Credit: Food 52

5. Matching Tupperware 

Vintage Tupperware has become so popular that it’s moved from just being plastic containers that store your leftover lasagna to being a retro kitchen display item. People who collect matching Tupperware now like to store it on open shelving as a decor accent, and there are certainly new brands in the game. We love this matte, two-toned blush set that goes from freezer to fridge to microwave to table — and back again.

Buy: Mepal Microwavable Nested Storage Bowls, $62 for a four-piece set at Food52

6. Breakfast Nooks

Booths are back, baby! Rather than eating your avocado toast over the sink or sitting on a stool by the island, more and more people are reverting back to the breakfast nooks of our grandparents’ kitchens. They’re super comfy and can be very space efficient, especially when you create one in a corner, built-in, or otherwise.

7. Tiered Storage Baskets

Small kitchen? No problem. Bring back this storage hack from your grandma’s kitchen and use tiered storage baskets that hang underneath cabinets or swing from the ceiling. They’re great for holding fruit, coffee, or even a plant or two.

Buy: Three Tier Hanging Basket, $39 at Urban Outfitters

8. Decorative Plates

It’s time to take a page out of your nana’s playbook and invest in some quirky plates. But rather than having fine china with corgis painted on it, you can subvert the old-fashioned look with bright, bold graphic styles as seen in this happy San Francisco home. Whether you hang your plates on a wall or use them when entertaining, you’ll think of your grandparents every time you see them.

Buy: Sissinghurst Castle Side Plates, $56 for four at Anthropologie

9. Checkered Floors

The black-and-white checkered floors of the ‘50s are back but with a twist. Rather than leaning into their retro origins, match the flooring with a more contemporary kitchen design and furnishings to make the tiles feel like they belong in the 21st century.

10. Laminate Countertops 

There was a reason why our grandparents had laminate countertops: They were budget-friendly, easy to clean, and came in a wide variety of styles. But rather than choosing bright colors like in the past (remember the tomato orange countertop trend?), you can get ones that look like granite, marble, and butcher block. Or you can consider with white laminate—you can’t wrong with it if you love a bright and airy look.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 10 Things from Your Grandparents’ Kitchen That Are Actually Cool Again