These 9 Mid-Century Modern Kitchens Take Us Back to the Future
Proof that the era is practically timeless.
Published Sep 22, 2023 10:30 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
The 1950s and ‘60s were pivotal decades for kitchen design. Homeowners said goodbye to hidden-away galleys of the past and embraced layouts made for openness and togetherness. Cool new materials like Formica gave kitchens a futuristic vibe, and sleek, space-age appliances set the stage for the homes of tomorrow. What was so special about the mid-century modern movement was its seamless blend of nostalgia and futurism, and we still can’t get enough of it today. Warm teakwood tones and retro geometric tile patterns take us back in time, while the cutting-edge designs remind us of the promise of progress—a winning combo that keeps us charmed and inspired.
From an L.A. time capsule to a Hawaiian home that blends Frank Lloyd Wright with Japanese heritage, check out some of the best mid-century modern kitchens that take us back to the future.
The Japanese Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
Aside from a few upgraded appliances, little has changed about the kitchen in Ren MacDonald-Balasia’s childhood home. Originally built on a mountain slope in Oahu in 1960 by her grandparents, James and Tomi Kaizawa Knaefler, the house is a testament to Tomi’s admiration for Frank Lloyd Wright. Tomi enlisted architect Stephen Oyakawa, who had trained at Wright’s iconic home and school in Wisconsin, to create a space that was also a nod to the family’s Japanese heritage.
The Mid-Century Modern Kitchen With a Touch of Blue
This 1953-built home in Chicago proves that you don’t have to be fully committed to colorful cabinets. “We definitely went for a mid-century modern look to stay true to the home’s heritage, but wanted it to be fun and not too serious,” says Rebekah Zaveloff, cofounder and design director of KitchenLab Interiors. Dorothy Draper was cited as an inspiration for the home’s interiors, but Zaveloff also wanted that mid-century modern vibe, and in the middle of a teak kitchen, an island backed in blue adds a subtle punch.
The Barely There Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
The night before the demolition on their circa-1957 kitchen began, L.A. designer Natalie Myers’s clients thanked the old appliances and cabinetry for doing a good job all those years and said their goodbyes to all but one. They kept the buttercup yellow wall oven. Now situated within the island, it’s the only retro detail that remains from the original Cliff May–designed space, which had gone virtually untouched for 60 years.
The Craig Ellwood Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
Erin Starkweather moved to Los Angeles very suddenly and was stuck in an ultra-modern apartment daydreaming about mid-century design. Sliding into an architect’s DMs landed her in a building by Craig Ellwood where the small but stylish kitchen features flat-panel cabinets with alternating black and white fronts, tied together by an inky terrazzo backsplash.
The Mid-Century Modern Kitchen Down Under
When New Zealand–based architect Raimana Jones’s clients told him their Titirangi home would (hopefully) be their forever one, a list of boxes to tick followed—particularly for the 156-square-foot kitchen. What started off as a wall of pea green melamine cabinets evolved into a pasta-making haven with nods to the mid-century thanks to cube-patterned cabinetry, a muted color palette, and sleek stainless steel surfaces.
The Curved Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
Designer Leslie Bristow Mather wanted the kitchen in this Chicago condo to feel as though it had always been there, so she looked to the apartment’s original architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for inspiration. His Farnsworth House (1955) and Haus Lange (circa 1930) inspired the galley space’s retro feel, which can be credited to the allover square tiles and rounded cupboards.
The Original Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
Patrick O’Neill, owner of the Hailey Residence designed by modernist icon Richard Neutra, embarked on a mission to restore the mid-century home to its original glory. With an almost untouched design, O’Neill and his team rejuvenated the space by refreshing mahogany and redwood elements, incorporating glass panels, and, of course, refreshing the kitchen. The once-bright colors of the past 50 years gave way to a serene and inviting palette of warm neutrals.
The Mid-Century Modern Kitchen in New England
Built in 1968 by Vermont architect Carl L. Bausch Jr. and his family, this distinctive mid-century gem, now known as BauschausVT, showcases some of the era’s signature design elements. The kitchen is filled with homasote (a cellulose-based fiber wall board) and plywood—materials that are not only cost-effective but emblematic of the Design/Build movement of the ‘60s.
The Eichler-esque Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
Form + Field founder Christine Lin wanted to give her clients’ kitchen and breakfast nook a groovy, Eichler-inspired makeover. Color-blocked cabinetry, warm woods, and wired shelving set the foundation, while cherished treasures like a Paul McCobb cabinet, a Frank Gehry chair, and artwork from their friends layered on the fun.