Looking through the kitchen color trends of the last century tells us a lot more than simply the most popular hues of the moment; they tell us about who we were as a culture and how we've evolved, including our values, historical priorities, and general sensibilities.
From the white-dominant, utilitarian function of the 1920s to the bold, psychedelic hues of the 1960s, to the earthy neutral minimalism of today, these kitchen color trends have a whole lot to say about who we are, and we're all ears (err … eyes).
Let's take a stroll through the last 100 years, shall we?
The 1920s kitchen was largely a reaction to the stylistic excess that was so characteristic of the 19th century. Over-the-top patterns and ornate details were out, with a pure white aesthetic taking their place, as seen in this image from Antique Home Style. The all-white color palette was a perfect representation of the utilitarian vibes of that time.
Another kitchen from Antique Home Style shows that '30s kitchens were a far cry from the white kitchens of the '20s, infused with colorful optimism to combat the darkness of the Great Depression. Greens, yellows, and browns reigned supreme as curvy shapes and more sheen creeped in.
With World War II underway, the United States' patriotism was in full swing, and while aesthetics were less of a priority in this resource-depleted time (even though the above kitchen via The Spruce would tell otherwise from the decade), displays of the patriotic colors of red, white, and blue became pervasive ways to express country pride.
The post-war 1950s were an optimistic time while being largely informed by old-school values. Suburban ranch houses were the norm, featuring the cheerful hues of mint green, turquoise, and soft yellow (this image shown here is from an old Sears Home). On the other end of that happy sock-hop look was darker, moodier rustic kitchens (but this is a story about color, so let's move on!).
The feeling of sexual freedom and spiritual liberation of the '60s most certainly made its way into kitchen colors, which were all about showing personality. Hem lines in fashion got shorter, and home decor became brighter! Psychedelic hues like neon green, punchy turquoise, and acid orange are now synonymous with this decade. (How boss is this kitchen from House Beautiful?)
Piggybacking off the bold color story of the '60s, 1970s kitchens were also colorfully potent but leaned more toward golds, greens, and browns (with lots of wood accents). Think: heavily grained wood cabinets and avocado green appliances (this ad from GE, found via GardenWeb is the perfect example!). Everything was just a little earthier (speaking both in terms of culture and design).
With visually stunning cultural influences like David Bowie and "Miami Vice" taking over, the 1980s were all about being flashy and bold and not the least bit subtle, except well, in the kitchen. Beige, brown, peach, and floral wallpaper could be found anywhere from the floor to the ceiling, all lit from spotlight-quality track lighting. Cabinet styles ranged widely, from glossy Euro-style modern fronts to the off-white Formica versions shown here from Mirror 80.
Although color and fashion trends from the previous decade trickled into the earlier part of the last 10 years of the 20th century, the 1990s kitchen was a little more country. Oak cabinetry was all the rage, paired with colored formica in hues like mint green. And you can't forget the vinyl flooring, can you? (This shot from House of Turquoise is actually the "before" of a much-needed makeover).
Prior to the 2008 recession, a ton of folks were capitalizing on the cheap and easy credit available during this time. Colors of decades' past gave way to extravagant materials and shiny surfaces, with granite, cherry-stained wood, glass tile backsplashes, and stainless steel everything completely taking over the kitchen design scene. Oh, and modern bar cabinet pulls like the ones seen here in a kitchen from Olde Towne Kitchens, were all the rage.
While this decade hasn't yet come to a close, it's safe to say that the rise of technology has inspired more of us to incorporate elements from nature into our aesthetics (call it a bit of a tech rebellion, if you will). Subway tiles and organic materials like marble and reclaimed wood have become kitchen staples (as have natural fibers like rattan via furnishings, as seen here in a space by Chango & Co.) And although it's a mixed bag of emotions, the all-white kitchen has had (or might still be having) its moment, proving that everything in design that has come around will likely come back again (it just might take nearly 100 years).
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 100 Years in the Kitchen: A Century of Kitchen Color Trends
Which style is your favorite?