What’s Old is New Again in the Kitchen

Clare Tattersall

Elmwood Sabrina Smelko Photography by Darby Magill

My family’s last trip before the pandemic included a visit to the Strong National Museum of Play. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the collections-based museum features 100,000 square feet of interactive space suitable for children and adults alike. The Toy Halls of Fame exhibit was the best (from a parent’s perspective), offering the opportunity to step back in time. All the beloved toys from my childhood were on display – She-Ra (He-Man’s twin sister), Rock’ Em Sock’ Em Robots, and that blathering bear, Teddy Ruxpin, to name a few. Unsurprisingly, some popular old-school toys like the Tamagotchi and Speak & Spell have made a major comeback (with a modern twist) for a new generation and ‘kidults’ – adults looking to their childhood for comfort and nostalgia during the pandemic. The emotional value attached to these retro toys is also behind the spate of recent movie remakes and reboots, the resurgence of high-waisted ‘mom’ jeans, and other trends that were too good to put to rest.

Kitchen design styles from a bygone era are also returning with a new, contemporary spin in the home. People look to incorporate simple comforts from the past into their humble abode to evoke an uplifting and welcoming ambiance.

Rounded Edges

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The kitchen’s classic hard surfaces are taking a softer, curvier turn. Rounded cabinet ends and islands that were a mainstay in the 1950s are back. Still, this time with added sophistication, often featuring a textural front like ribbed or reeded wood that’s either painted or left in its natural state. A curved island allows for better circulation around the space. And with no sharp edges or points, it’s a safer choice for parents with small children. Generally, an island with rounded corners is paired with flat-front 90-degree angled cabinetry (or vice versa) to create a focal point, provide contrast and not overdo the look. This also lends a mid-century flair to modern kitchens.

Newly Minted

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Green in its many guises is among the most popular kitchen colours this year, as it’s soothing and a great way to bring the outdoors inside, satisfying consumers’ cravings to be close to nature. While there is a shade to suit every style, mid-greens like olive and minty tones provide a fresh update on the avocado used in the ’70s.

The earthy hue is also employed more sparingly, either on the kitchen island for a pop of colour in an otherwise neutral space or on lower cabinetry only. When paired with white or cream on the ‘uppers,’ this creates a two-toned effect that caters to homeowners that covet a custom kitchen, not one that’s cookie-cutter.

Warm Wood

HempWood Cabinet

Wood is enjoying a revival thanks, in part, to it being a renewable building resource. While subtle-grained ash and paler than oak shelving and cabinetry are still in demand, mid-tone and even dark walnut are increasingly prized to impart instant luxury and offer a fresh take on the ’50s (and ‘60s) design. Oak, the cabinet material of choice from the ’70s to the ’90s, is also starting to edge into the kitchen again sans the honey spice stain. The appeal: it’s warm, has a rich grain, offers design flexibility, provides long-lasting life, and is eco-friendly. In particular, oak is often used to achieve a Scandinavian-style kitchen regaled for its sleek, simple lines and muted colour scheme.

Textured Surfaces

Long been used in every other room of the home to create dimension and visual interest, texture is now creeping back into the kitchen and in a much more pronounced way. As well as frame-fronted cabinets defined by a rim of slim raised edging that was all the rage decades ago, sleek vertical panelling on cabinetry, drawer fronts, islands, and walls is rising. This custom ‘fluting’ detailing moves away from the monotony of an entirely flush and flat expanse of cabinetry, adding geometric relief and richness to a kitchen design and a bit of an unexpected 3-D effect.

Clare Tattersall is an interior designer and decorator in Toronto and the editor of Canada’s floor covering magazine, Coverings.

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