Retro Kitchen Chairs

Hearken back to a midcentury look by choosing from a variety of styles and colors.
Kitchen With Rich Hardwood Floors and Dark Cabinets

Kitchen With Rich Hardwood Floors and Dark Cabinets

A large kitchen island with a marble countertop that extends beyond the island itself fills a kitchen which is next to a dining area with a round table and four white chairs.

A large kitchen island with a marble countertop that extends beyond the island itself fills a kitchen which is next to a dining area with a round table and four white chairs.

By: Gina Hannah

Retro kitchen chairs. When you think of them, what probably comes to mind is a look with splash—with the shiny chrome and bright colors of the mid 20th century. But even within that era, you'll find an endless variety of styles, colors, prints and patterns.

Give Your Kitchen Character With Flea Market Finds

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Don't Be Afraid to Dig

Some of the best pieces are found in dark corners of junk shops. This stepback cupboard, probably more than 100 years old, boasts original hardware and leaded glass doors. It was filthy and a piece of trim needed to be reattached, but it was otherwise in great condition. After a good scrub and some minimal repair, it was ready to be filled with ironstone, linens and cookbooks.

Shop Like a Pro

Flea markets and antique fairs can be overwhelming, so it's a good idea to show up prepared. Make a wish list with measurements for any furniture or rugs before the event, bring cash, prepare for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. When shopping for furniture, bring a tape measure so you'll be sure that it will fit in your space. Also, have a plan for transporting the furniture home, since most vendors will expect you to take it with you that day. Most prices at markets and fairs are negotiable, but be polite when asking for a better price; a vendor is not going to give a bargain if he or she feels insulted.

Built to Last

Farm tables and chairs are an excellent way to bring a sense of history into a modern kitchen. The patina of worn wood or the charm of mismatched chairs and plank benches can become the focal point of a boring kitchen. Look for pieces that are sturdy and practical for everyday use. Furniture that wobbles, shows signs of poor repair or has suffered extensive water damage should be avoided.

Space Savers

A kitchen can never have too much storage. Utilize wire market baskets, wooden crates, tool caddies and antique jars with zinc lids as stylish organizers. They're great for displaying pretty linens, family cookbooks, serving platters, flatware, produce and dry goods. Look for pieces that are in sturdy, usable condition and scaled right for the space. For instance, an oversize dough bowl would be fabulous on a huge island, but it would overwhelm a small galley kitchen.

Beyond Kitchen Basics

Sneak some unexpected accessories onto the kitchen counter to keep things interesting. A trophy won at a 1905 relay race houses wooden spoons and utensils, keeping them on hand next to the stove. Use a small wooden card catalog to organize recipe cards, large silver trays and platters can be hung over counters to act as a backsplash, and office file baskets can store plates, napkins and flatware. Look at pieces for how they can be used, not just how they were made to be used.

Scale Is Key

Antique and vintage scales are another great way to add character to the countertop. Not only do they look great when filled with seasonal produce or a stack of linens, but accurate ones can also be used to weigh dry ingredients for baking or portion sizes for meals. Don't limit your search to kitchen scales alone. Keep an eye out for postal scales, scientific balances and hanging grocery scales.

Set the Table

Dishes, flatware and linens are some of the easiest things to find at flea markets, estate sales and thrift stores, plus they're usually inexpensive (sometimes just a few cents each). Store pretty plates in a drying rack, open cabinetry or just stacked in a basket, readily available for everyday use. Feel free to mix flatware patterns and styles. Keep them handy in mustard crocks, canning jars or ironstone creamers. Linen napkins, tea towels and runners are economical and environmentally friendly, not to mention beautiful. Skip the ironing for casual everyday meals or bring out the starch for a crisp look on special occasions.

Safety First

Vintage and antique kitchen gear can look great, but it might not always be practical or safe for everyday use. Some glazes used on antique pottery contain lead or the wiring on a great vintage toaster might not meet modern safety standards. Make sure to research what is safe to use and what's best enjoyed for its decorative value. Whether put on display or used every day, pieces found at flea markets and antique sales will fill any kitchen with personality and style.

One of the most popular retro kitchen chair designs is a simple chair with metal legs and a vinyl seat and back. Within this style alone there is a wide range of variations. You can choose either brushed, polished or painted metal, and pick from a rainbow of colors for the cushion and back. You can find cushions in solids or in prints that include flowers, stripes or geometric shapes. The shape of the seat cushion and back can vary. You can also find this style of chair made of wood; these chairs often have wooden backs as well and just a seat cushion.

Another chair style that many modern design enthusiasts like is molded plastic. If you're lucky, you may be able to find original vintage pieces at antique stores or estate sales, or by searching the Internet. Several furniture manufacturers also make these retro chairs. The legs of molded plastic chairs are typically metal, but wood is sometimes used. An updated take on this style is an "S" shaped chair of plastic, available in a wide range of colors.

Although wire mesh chairs are something you typically see on an outdoor deck or patio, they can be used in a kitchen to help build your retro look. You can add a cushion if you like; it will add a touch of color and comfort.

Many homeowners like a midcentury modern look for their bar stools. Styles vary, from stools that look like enlarged funnels to simple curved plastic seats. A bar stool with heavy chrome legs and a thick, round vinyl seat—like those found in old soda shops and diners—is both retro and timeless. Some of these bar stools come with a cushioned seat back as well. The seat portion of both of these styles of bar stools can be found in a wide range of colors.

When you choose your chairs, consider not only giving your kitchen a color pop, but also mixing colors. Even a mix of different earthy tones in a retro kitchen chair can give your kitchen a unique and unforgettable look. Or contrast black and white cabinets, counters and flooring with chairs giving a splash of red, purple, yellow or cobalt blue.

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