Many new kitchen ideas were introduced in the 1940s, especially after the Second World War. As the manufacturing and supply of different materials and accessories were restored, new ideas took hold, and the kitchens were transformed.
The 1940s Kitchen designs focused on color, texture, themes, and accessories. Dark and vivid colors were trendy during the 1940s. And the kitchen designers got inspiration from these colors. Many kitchens of this era used tile on the countertops – one color for the main area and a second as the border and trim. Glass or acrylic knobs, colorful kitchen linens, enameled bread boxes, and canisters were popular in the 1940s. Window treatments were made with red cherries and many other different patterns. The dining table and chairs were mainly of sunny yellow or mist green colors.
The appliances of the 1940s were typically enameled. White was a popular color for ovens, but other colors like blue, red, and yellow were also popular. Here below are some fantastic American Kitchen styles from the 1940s
Shown in an American Home magazine, this classic red, light tan, and green scheme has lots of clean modern elements. As an ad for Nairn, one of the oldest flooring companies in the US, the linoleum was the featured element, but the tan walls and red linoleum counters make a nice counter point to the green-topped Aalto stools. Also seen regularly were the window walls under the cabinets. We should be so lucky to have more of those today!
Armstrong ran full color ads throughout the Depression and WWII advertising their various flooring, wall, and insulation products. Unlike many companies they had a dedicated staff responsible for coming up with new room ideas constantly. Though “high designers” like Raymond Lowey and Russell Wright influenced the direction of interior design, it was companies like Armstrong that appealed most directly to the primary decision maker ... the American housewife.
This kitchen is dark with the black and green prominently featured in the scheme. The white of the pantry and light floor serve to minimize the light absorbing qualities, but it’s the functionality of the pantry that steals the show. It’s fully functional for baking and other food prep chores. When not in use the doors close and the kitchen becomes neat and tidy.
Immediately after the war, the American Gas Association launched its New Freedom Gas Kitchen campaign. This image appeared in Ladies Home Journal as the “Picture Window Kitchen.” Most kitchens were named to reflect their primary characteristic. This apple green and melon-colored kitchen was bright and cheery.
This 1945 Congoleum ad was published in Ladies Home Journal and reflects the continuation of 1930s style. Unlike its main competitor, Armstrong, the Congoleum company was more erratic in its advertising style. This kitchen would be pretty easy to replicate today though with contemporary linoleum on the floors and counters right down to the gooseneck faucet on the sink. Red, green and white is a timeless color scheme.
This ad was published in Ladies Home Journal and featured one of the American Gas Association’s New Freedom kitchens. The color scheme of red, green, and yellow (or gold) has always been a popular combination. The counters and floor were probably both linoleum though in a few short years, plastics like Formica would begin to dominate the market.
This ad for a “Mixing Corner Kitchen” was published in American Home magazine. Red, green, yellow, and crisp white steel cabinetry was a classic color combo. The steel cabinetry was big during the post-War years as companies retooled to meet the needs for kitchen cabinets instead of machine gun turrets.
Intended to appeal to owners of older homes who may have wanted a kitchen update for their mid-1920s house, this ad by the American Gas Association was published in American Home. During the post-War years, they published a series of attractive color illustrations reflecting the current trends in kitchen design.
A variant on the popular red, white, and blue theme replaced the red with a maroon. This kitchen design shows all the amenities desired by the American homemaker after WWII including the stand mixer, built-in dishwasher, and a brand new gas range. We like the small breakfast booth.
This small brochure, published by American Standard, shows colors that were muted and toned down. The combinations ranged from odd (to our eye) to very sophisticated. This color scheme comes from the palette of colors in the brochure: Ivoire de Medici, Corallin, Clair de Lune Blue, and T'ang Red.
Keeping a small kitchen tidy, but functional, is as much a challenge today as it was in 1948 when this ad appeared in American Home magazine. In keeping with the post-War period, it is yet another example of the popular red, white, and blue color scheme that captivated many American homeowners.
If you like kitchens with scallops, this is the one for you. Here’s an interesting design, again in red, white, and blue, with lots of over the top scallops in the floor and trim. A lazy-susan corner cabinet shows how easy it is to design functional storage in a small foot print ... especially if hubby has a workshop in the basement.
Right after WWII, the lead designer at Armstrong seems to have been quite taken with the idea of a working pantry that could be closed off when not in use. This one features an accordion-style door on a track, which was quite a space saver. Everything is tidy and organized — a feature that wouldn't have been lost on many homemakers.
This modern style kitchen shows Armstrong linoleum off to good advantage. The cabinets have tambour doors, a post War design feature that appears in many publications of the period. Eat in kitchens were also desirable and many had both a booth or nook and a counter breakfast bar.
Advertising during the 1940s and ’50s was often cute and followed a theme. This image is from a Youngstown ad that touted the wonderousness of their steel cabinets. Each ad has some kind of happy family image that has since come to embody our understanding of the period. The kitchens depicted were modern, clean, and affordable ... all good reasons to buy them. Finding steel cabinets now has become somewhat challenging, but they work up really well in retro kitchen renovations. Some people sand them down and have them refinished by auto painters.
Shown in Ladies Home Journal, this Armstrong ad has the creative storage ideas as well as their latest linoleum pattern to entice home owners considering an update to their kitchen. Some of the ideas like the shallow wall storage and drop-leaf work space would maximize the functionality of many of today’s kitchens.
This ad for Bird linoleum is interesting both for its design, which is more typical of the pre-WWII period than the late 1940s and its relative rarity. Though Bird had been in business for decades it was never as large as the main flooring companies and advertisements like this one are unusual.
This image came from an article that ran in Ladies Home Journal. Another image showed the corner table and banquette seating. The pink is a modern departure from the more common color schemes with dark green, mint green, and white lightening it up. The wallpaper over the range with its giant cabbage rose wallpaper is used on the entire wall over the banquette.