The Return of the Luxurious Retro Kitchen

Stainless-steel countertops. Marble islands. For years, the tasteful kitchen look hewed toward a sleek homogeneity.

But some homeowners are shying away from the hyper-modern in favor of eclectic, retro-looking cooking spaces. At Jackson Design & Remodeling in San Diego, Calif., about 40% of kitchen projects are retro-influenced. Tatiana Machado-Rosas, a senior interior designer at the firm, says that this trend is shared by older and younger homeowners interested in authentic period-design styles.

Decorating kitchens that stay on the right side of the line separating whimsical from cheesy isn’t cheap. Owners of the four spaces featured below paid between $26,000 and $120,000 for their kitchen redesign.

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The owner of this Bay Area kitchen wanted the “essence of a 1920s English country kitchen.” To that end, designers at Canyon Design Build in Oakland settled on a white Wedgewood stove—from the 1950s. “One of the problems was that there was no ventilation in the home, so we mixed that with a contemporary hood made of stainless steel,” says Chris Avant, chief executive of the firm.

Other features include a checkerboard-yellow backsplash, and an alternating yellow and red palette for the rest of the kitchen. Another throwback touch was the surface-mounted lighting.

Cost: About $150,000 in today’s prices

More:Designing a Cozy and Chic Breakfast Room


Australian designer Gavin Hepper was commissioned to renovate the kitchen of a 1950s cottage in Wollongong, near Sydney. One of the bedrooms still had avocado-green wallpaper from the period, which the designer appropriated for a geometric backsplash.

The centerpiece is the roughly 13½-foot island, which has timber laminate and lime-green accents. Lights attached underneath the unit cast shadows onto the floor. According to Mr. Hepper, the statement piece is what gives the space sophistication. “Otherwise, it’s just a funny green kitchen,” he says

Cost: About $44,000

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The homeowner in this San Diego condo gave designer Rosella Gonzalez, at Jackson Design & Remodeling, a simple plan: yellow and retro. “She knew the feel she wanted, but had no clue beyond that,” says Ms. Gonzalez.

The first step was to find colorful period appliances. The owner loved the yellow Elmira stove Ms. Gonzalez found. The designer then suggested a countertop, and backsplash, of yellow ceramic tiles with black trim made by American Olean. Yellow-and-white linoleum on the floor finish the look. Simpler touches like soft-edge Carrara marble countertops are used as contrast elsewhere.

Cost: $95,000

More:Designing a Tasteful—and Fun—At-Home Bar


The young owners of this kitchen in a cottage on England’s Cornish coast hired George Robinson of George Robinson Kitchens to create a room inspired by their orange period fridge. Mr. Robinson picked shelving that alternated between apricot and neutral colors. The drawers are made of birch plywood commonly used in the 1970s, instead of the solid wood typical today. Chunky cast-iron handles add to a “built-in look with a 70s vibe to it,” says Mr. Robinson. He also put in a Silestone quartz worktop that resembles Formica laminate.

Cost: About $26,000


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