How Do I Choose the Best Vintage Kitchen Accessories?

Elizabeth West

Whether your kitchen is decorated in 1940s World War II style, or with a mod look from the 1960s, the best vintage kitchen accessories are those that reflect a specific era. You can choose authentic dishes, linens and decoration and also modern reproductions of retro accessories. Flea markets and antique malls are good places to find the real thing. Many stores and online dealers carry new versions of some of the most popular mid-century styles. Be cautious, as some vintage items can be dangerous for use with food or modern electrical systems.

A red and white tea towel.
A red and white tea towel.

Flea markets and thrift stores are often good places to start looking for vintage kitchen accessories. Be aware that while the prices may be less, the items for sale may not be in pristine condition. Rust, dents and chips are common, so inspect vintage finds carefully before you buy. Antique malls may have better choices, but they will often cost more. Online retailers and auction sites are also options for finding unique vintage goods.

Thrift stores are a good place to search for vintage dishes.
Thrift stores are a good place to search for vintage dishes.

Old cookbooks are a popular way to add charm to a kitchen, and are usually plentiful at flea markets. You could frame color plates from the book to crate unique vintage decorations for your walls. Other popular vintage kitchen accessories include plates displayed in plate holders, character salt cellars and storage tins. You can still use old tablecloths and napkins in good condition, if you are careful about laundering them.

If you’re not interested in authentic kitchen items, there are plenty of retailers who carry retro-style ones. Reproductions of the most popular vintage kitchen accessories include canisters, tablecloths and towels, aprons and dishes. Some may like to make their own vintage-style linens. Tea towels embroidered with transfer patterns of fruits and vegetables are quite authentic and new retro-print fabric can be used to create café curtains and tablecloths.

Dishes with lead glazing or other risky materials, like red Fiestaware and Vaseline glass, may not be safe for anything but display. As decorations, these vintage kitchen accessories give the room a retro air even if they can’t be used. Popular colored aluminum tumblers and old cookware are generally considered safe to use if the surface is undamaged, and acidic foods aren’t left in them too long. Snack sets with tiny plates and cups from the 1950s and 1960s are simply pressed glass, and the majority are food-safe.

Toasters and other appliances from the 1940s to the 1960s are available to collectors and usually fetch a high price. Electrical vintage kitchen accessories can be dangerous because voltage and cords were once made differently. A new toaster with retro styling will be much safer, since replacing a cord does not guarantee compatibility with modern electrical systems. You can buy new stoves and refrigerators in styles from early to mid-twentieth century as well with colors and lots of chrome to evoke a bygone era.

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