50s fitted kitchen
The fitted kitchen from the 50s was bright, colourful and modern. The influence in the design was mainly from contemporary American ideals of domesticity and good living. The styling also took a cue from 50s American cars.
After the War, materials were in short supply, rationing was still in place and the Government's Utility scheme controlled the furniture trade. Timber was in short supply and mainly went to firms making Utility furniture. English Rose kitchens were far from Utility, so an alternative material was needed. Aircraft manufacture during the War had perfected the techniques of bending aluminium into any shape. So the classic English Rose kitchen of the 50s was made of Aluminium.
English Rose kitchens were luxury items in the 50s. They were finished in bright colours in tune with the contemporary liking for brightness everywhere in the house. After the War people wanted were fed up with drab greys and browns and wanted their homes to be full of colour.
Wipe clean materials, such as Formica, also helped to transform the modern home and reduce the amount of labour needed to prepare food. Formica could be supplied in a multitude of different colours to suite the look of the kitchen. English Rose offered a variety of Formica finishes. The work surfaces of the kitchen, above could be topped with 'Softglow' Formica in Scarlet Red, Steel Blue or Amulet Green.
Formica continued to be popular throughout the 60s. Formica was finally ousted by a return to the country cottage style, which gained momentum in the 70s.
Another feature of kitchens of the 1950s were the rounded shelves seen on the end of the units. These provided extra storage space for items such as coffee pots, or a bakelite radio, still a bulky item in the early 50s.
Hygena introduced their first fitted kitchen in the 50s, the BU range. This kitchen was available in sizes and colours governed by British Standards. The colours were hardly exciting - cream or cream and green. Launched in the mid 50s Hygena's F range was the company's first fully prefabricated kitchen. The F range combined wall units with sliding doors, built-in sinks and larders with clear plastic storage bins. The Hygena F range was available in a huge range of different colour combinations, the most popular choice was red tops, blue doors and white draws. Other colour schemes included lime greens, lilacs and bright yellows.
This kitchen, left, is a picture of domestic bliss, 50s style. Daughter helps mother in a well equipped 50s kitchen. The appliances, a bid American style fridge and an electric mixer were in short supply in the early 50s, but were much more attainable in the boom years of the late 50s.
In the early 50s there were plenty of books describing how a good kitchen should be laid out for efficient working Design was all important. Most people, though, could not afford a fitted kitchen in the 50s and had to make do with whatever the house builder put in, or with adding a few modern appliances to an older kitchen.
The 50s kitchen was simply a place where food was prepared, rather than a living room. The American idea of the kitchen diner did not catch on in the UK until much later. A common feature of 50s and 60s houses was a hatch between kitchen and dining room. The housewife could pass food through to the dining room on the other side, without having to carry plates and bowls full of hot food. In the 70s the hostess trolley made this idea redundant.
More on retro kitchens
Your guide to vintage and retro