Friday, September 10, 2010

10 September 1956 “Kitchen Ideas and is Less More?”

I thought today it would be fun to see some of the great kitchen idea’s found here in the 1950’s. This is definitely a time of DIY and renovation. Post War America not only had the money and the increased production due to the war, but now had the burgeoning middle class. And they were building houses by the thousands and re-doing older homes to fit their new ‘modern’ lifestyle.
Since my 1955 project my esthetic has changed drastically and I know find myself drooling over linoleum flooring and laminate chrome trimmed counter tops. My own very old home needs not only a kitchen renovation but to be completely gutted. We have found that the sills/joist under the kitchen ell are rotting and it needs to be brought down to the very bare bones. This will have to wait until next year and I am going to try and do as much of the labor as I can to save on costs.
But, with the idea of a new kitchen in my future, I am always planning and thinking of new ways to do it. I had originally had plans for a large mudroom and a separate pantry, most likely hold over ideas from the 21st century. Now, the more I study the smaller homes and house plans of the era, the less I realize I need or Want! Less space means you must be more efficient which means running your home like a tight ship. It also means LESS TO CLEAN and less space to store things, therefore we are left to de-clutter our life even more. All of these seem good to me.
Now, onto the fun ideas in the magazines. Click on these photos to see them full size.
kitchenideas1I LOVE this idea of the dual purpose counter. The increased counter space is not simply dead static storage, no, it opens to a griddle! I must tell you gals, I use my griddle every day. I have an old Jenn Air stove that has a griddle attachment for two burners. I just leave this on and only have two burners to use. I have not missed the other two burners that are stored away so that the griddle may be out all the time.
kitchenideas2 What a clever use for extra fabric from you curtains. I like the idea of the divider between the mess of the kitchen and the breakfast table being a continuation of your curtain fabric. It looks lovely above the cabinets on the soffit as well, don’t you think?
kitchenideas5I really like this divider between the dining and kitchen. You can see how the wall opens up to serve as a pass through, thus no sideboard is needed, and also extra storage is available. Yet, a simple closing of those doors and the wall separates the mess of the kitchen for you to enjoy dining. kitchenideas6Here is the kitchen side of that same set up. The pass through and the depth allotted by these cabinets are wonderful for storage, don’t you think? I like the ‘Early American’ look of the wallpaper.
 kitchenideas3 Again, we see a divider. Here they cleverly used frosted glass. The telephone and mail is a nice idea, and it also shows that little bits of the modern world starting to encroach on the beginning of the day. Though, this is a far cry from the multiple texting and internet surfing done at table or the kitchen computer of 2010.
kitchenideas4 I LOVE my marble and use it for all my pastry. It keeps it cold and helps to make a wonderful baked good. I love how here it is imbedded into the counter and I would like a vintage laminate counter (chrome edged) with such inlays of both the marble and the chopping block. And I assume they lift out for easy cleaning.
I have found, lately, that I think more and more of living with less and more simply. It might seem odd, a middle-class homemaker in the middle of 1950’s thinking thus, but I think there is an historical precedent. When I consider my age now, I would obviously have been a War bride. My early marriage would have involved my husband being in the military and my suddenly having to do with much less. It might have been a shock, but over the years one gets used to it.
Using less, having less clothing and things because of the war effort and the scarcity of items and their high cost, would have made it a  necessity to live frugal. So, in some sense, I feel the 1956 me, which is so many ways is really the only me at this point, is simply recalling a time when one needed less. It is lovely to have matching kitchen items and new floors. A home full of furniture and fine things can often seem the ultimate goal here in 1956, but a part of me would recall those war years.
Perhaps in the garden, I might be digging potatoes and stop and remember when all my flower beds and lush lawn were given over to vegetables. There may be moments when I am wrapping up leftovers for the icebox and see the full shelves in the freezer and recall the almost empty larder and smile. The camp coffee, or smoking  your cigarette until it was the smallest nib, adding water to old coffee grounds or using that tea in the pot just once more to make it stretch. And in all the careful planning and doing without, I might recall, standing there in the middle of my living room, art on the walls, shelves full of books and china, cupboards full of Holiday dishes and stacks of linen, that when I had less, when life was simple it some how had a truer almost brighter shine to it.
As if the cold on a winter’s day is more memorable for having bit you to the bone before you went coasting on the old wooden crate, because the metal from your old sled was given to the war effort. The hot chocolate afterwards was recalled more sweet as you huddled in front of the fire, the only source of heat, while the rest of the house was so cold to step on the floor in the frosty morning sent knives through your feet. Now, there standing in the centrally heated and cooled room with plates of thermal glass and thick carpet from wall to wall, it might seem more unreal or cold than that spartan past.
Of course, I haven’t any carpeting but old wood floors, and my windows are single pane deadlies constructed in the 19th century, but I was just considering my 1956 me in my modern sleek temperature controlled home. There must have been moments like that for my older 50’s counterparts who recalled the simpler times and wondered if maybe, just maybe, all the new things out there for sale may not be what we really need to be happy. To be hungry and scared is not good, but to become bloated and spoiled is equally as bad.
There must be a balance, surely. One does not want to live without and to only have the bare necessities is almost not human. Even in the Depression in a cold tar paper shack, I am sure there were family photos or dried flowers tacked to the wall. We need decor, we need to nest and make our living space a home. I just want to strike the balance and not be too far one way or the other. That is the trick of it and I will strive to meet it somehow.
What do you think, for you, is the best balance between less un-cluttered simplicity and homey acquisition of things? It must be different for each of us, but it must be at least considered. We should want our home to feel homey and not that we are possessed by our possessions. How do you strike the perfect balance?
Until tomorrow, Happy Homemaking.


  1. When you figure it out, let me know! I am a natural pack-rat and have WAY too much stuff, which is getting to be a pain to take care of, but much of my stuff has sentimental value.

    I also have a hard time, when going to yard sales, thrift shops, or free clothing give-aways, not scooping up all the dresses, skirts, frilly blouses, high-heels, and purses. They are so cheap (or free) and all I can think is that they are going to get thrown out, in all probability, if people don't want to be bothered donating them to the Salvation Army after the yard sale or give-away, so guess who goes home with more than I need?

    I have found some awesome stuff, though. How about an industrial-strength thermos from the 50's? Vintage aprons? Those flowing flowered dresses from the 80's? Oh, man! A treasure-trove!

  2. TWUS-I know what you mean and I have the 'pack rat' tendency. When 1955 began for me it was almost an excuse to find an entire new range of things to acuqire and keep. But, after our last move (we have moved so many times, mostly from the same houses to the city and back again)we had far too many things for our small home and most of it ended up in our barn building. Now it is a deterrent to my creative space and needs to go. I have been pecking away at it here and there.
    But the more I have come to appreciate the smaller homes of the 40s/50s the more I really want less things. So, when I have that special vintage vase or cute little figurine it seems special. Even now in our home, our antique and collectible items (many inherited) are about but not cluttered. Things have a 'home' and it makes for a calmer day and life to walk into a room to clean and know if anything is askew where it belongs and it can easily be put away. I want this more for more life overall.
    So, when the time comes for the kitchen, it's small 50's footprint will probably remain with me just reorganizing cabinets and maybe moving a door to a new spot. I am finding I want less space to fill, clean and even to prepare my food. It is all a process.
    I think if you like to save these things but don't need them all, maybe you should find others who would love and care for them. I wish we could make a 'swap it' page on the new site (which I am doing it all myself and though my knowledge is growing have no idea how we could make such a page)to swap things. Maybe I will make a page where we can just post our names, the item and if anyone wants it they can contact that person via their email given and we could have a big 'free swap' or something. I will consider that. This is why I love our comments, it always keeps me thinking and gleaning new ways to do things.

  3. I'm amazed at the McMansions of today, with nobody in them. Homes of the 40's and 50' were much smaller, many of them anyway, and there just was not as much stuff available TO buy: it hadn't been invented yet. People with six children found a 3-bedroom ranch with one bathroom and a kitchen with a dinette and a one-car garage quite sufficient, palacial even.

    The swap sounds like a cool idea.

    Back when we were a military family, we had a weight allowance when the government moved us, according to the military memeber's rank. You got charged $1 per pound for every pound that you went over, which could be quite expensive if, for instance, you were 1,000 pounds over your weight limit.

    This motivated us to get rid of stuff (yard sales on military bases are awesome: stuff from all over the world, people motivated to get rid of it cheap). But, since we have become civilians again, oh, man. We have not moved in 11 years and have accumulated a lot of stuff. Most of it, I can't even give away, since every other American is in the same boat! Perhaps we should send it all back to China, but what would those people do with it, lol?

    Also, I have two grown sons who refuse to let me get rid of anything they have ever owned (can't wait till they get their own places). They had bad experiences in the past giving away beloved toys, only to watch them ripped apart and trashed before their very eyes by the neighbor's kids we had given the stuff to. Now, they make me keep everything. lol

  4. I can understand the contemporary woman longing for a "more simple time" when there were manners and etiquette and women dressed and men wore ties. However, for those of us who really did live through the depression and were war brides, there was no looking back on our salad days with a smile. Those were truly tough time. We lived poorly not because we wanted to, because we had to. It is hard not to laugh when I hear the current economic state being compared to the great depression and then I see all of the sports arenas (Fenway, Foxboro Stadium, the Garden) being sold-out.

    I digress. I love your blog, but sometimes I think that what you are trying to express is a return to "civility", to the social norms of the first half of the 20th century, rather than to the specific decade of the 1950s. Your homesteading and self-sufficiency seems to be more pre-war than post. After the war we truly did want to forget our home front struggles, just as our men who served rarely spoke of their war front activities.

  5. Anon-that is an interesting point. I do wonder sometimes if that is the case. Although, I know my own 'romantic' temperament, and I have a strong feeling that, though I would be glad to be in the modern 50's world, I (me personally because of my personality) would still look back on my Depression youth with warm Nostalgia. In fact, my parents are quite old (they in fact were 1950's married couple) often talked of the fun the Depression was for some children. They didn't really understand the hard times because they were the first to eat and to them the early war years were also a time of fun and more freedom (less men and father's around etc) So, really I suppose the memories of the earlier times probably hit us all differently. I do know that some people in the 50's did long for the simpler days of less traffic and noise (just from older people I have spoken with) but perhaps that is just their ideas now.
    And I obviously WANT to have the choice of how to live and not be FORCED into a system. But, I want those of us now who do want to take advantage of this choice to realize we do NOT have to choose the popular modern way of overspending and overconsumption and too much noise and chaos. Because we are given the OPPORTUNITY to choose, I just would like us to choose wisely.
    And, who knows, In 1956 I might have thought, "Hmmm, I think I will live in 1830's" as Tasha Tudor did. She was alive in the 1950's and chose to ignore the radical changes of the world and live the simplicity of 1830's. I probably would have been 'that crazy lady in the old womens dresses' even back then, who can say?

  6. Interesting, anon.

    My father, born in 1915, lived through the depression. He remembers having to quit school in the 7th grade and sell apples on the street corners, losing his teeth by 17, having their furniture put out on the sidewalk like in the pictures in history books, having to take care of his widowed mother by becoming a "squatter" building a shack on stilts that hung over Sheepshead Bay with used lumber that he scrounged. They lived in Brooklyn, N.Y.C. So, I suppose it depends on where you lived.

    I know others who were not quite so poor; some lived in the country where they had a garden and a cow. Everybody would have different memories of this time depending on where they lived and what their families did for a living. I know others who made out quite well with little hardship. According to my father, though, it affected just about everybody.

    For some farm families, in the midwest, it was The Dirty Thirties and "Grapes of Wrath" living.

    When I was a kid, my father, yes, wanting to forget those days, bought us everything he could, the best food, turned the heat up, the whole nine yards. He remembered being cold and hungry and didn't want his children to live that way. We could snack any time we wanted. He used to have a fit when I'd dunk the stale Italian bread in my tea (yummmmm), and order me to eat the fresh bread. He remembered when there was nothing to eat but stale bread. His memories were quite bitter.

    He did say, though, that people were more caring. What you had, you shared. He did miss that.

    I remember my father in law telling of a neighbor boy who went to school wearing his widowed mother's old dresses tied with a belt (!) and high-buttoned shoes, because he'd outgrown his boy clothing and they had nothing else. Nobody else had anything to give them, either. Bacon grease sandwiches for lunch (fine if you like 'em, but that was all some families had). This was rural Long Island.

    I really don't think we who were born after that time have any idea.

  7. Those are amazing stories. I know so many people were so poor and there was little in the way of 'help' for them. We now have our welfare state because of that and in some ways that has been corrupt. It seems balance is the hardest thing of all for any of us.
    I remember when I was young in school (before I was home schooled)I had to write a report about the Depression. I was the only one whose parents were as old as they were (other's grandparents were that age). I remember my mother telling me proudly that despite the Depression, her father still bought a new car each year, but that they did not lord it over others in their town. She recalled going with her father to buy cartons (wood in those days) of oranges and other fruits and groceries and going out give them to various people in the town. She remembered (she being just a young girl) the various rag-a-muffin children laughing and in their joy hopping onto the running board of the car as they went into the town to pass out the food. She said there were many evenings that their big dining room table was filled with local 'friends' so that the poorer starving children could eat and not feel to their families as if they were recieving hand outs. It was rather something people did not like in those days, though that is hard to believe today with all our lawsuits and government money, there is no shame in 'hand outs' today. But, then there was and my mother was proud of the various ways her family 'helped without taking away others dignity'.
    My father lived in the city and he recalled people selling apples. His favorite food was pancakes rolled up with sugar, as the did not waste any leftovers, so the cold pancakes from breakfast would be there lunch smeared with some form of fat, I assumed butter, and sugar.
    I suppose for everyone it was different. One cannot help where they come from but anyone who has more should want to share and make it better for those who have less, especially in such a time as that. Today, however, if we really did have such a Depression again, I worry about that feeling of 'sharing' and wonder how much it would be wild animals scratching their way to get the last crumb, stepping on their neighbor to get it.

  8. I miss your posts of recipes and menus and cleaning tips, and all of the other homemaking advice you had in 1956, before your blog became some political.

  9. anon-I am sorry, I try to include tips and what I do as well as 'politics'. I have tried to cater to various commenters but then find I am not being myself. I must speak as I find and some days I am brimming with recipes and tips and other days I like to talk about houses and some days I just feel like a good ole' soap box talk. I think my blog is like me, multi-dimensional. I can't just list recipes and tips and I feel like there are already hundreds of such blogs, which do a good job of that, but for me, this is MY LIFE. So, some days I am political other days just a cleaning cookin fiend. I guess, when it seems political just skip it but come back because of course there will be more recipes. Also I am making my website over so there will be recipes and such available all the time and not just dependent upon what I write in my daily blog. I am sorry you do not like it, but I am not sorry that I write how and what I feel for that day.
    Also, how is talking about decorating a kitchen political?

  10. Also, why are bad comments always Anonymous?

  11. I think your blog is great as it is, 50's Gal. I think your comments about whatever is what makes it personal and special. It is why I always go to your blog, even though I rarely to the other retro blogs any more. It is your blog, and appropriate to say what you want. Your comments prompt other comments that have good insight.

    I hope you don't mind me commenting so much, and adding my input.

  12. TWUS-I am honored that you take the time to give your thoughtful and insightful comments. Even those comments that sometimes 'hurt my pride' I still enjoy. Every time I consider monitoring comments I always change my mind. How can I really experience this blog without advice and comments good and bad from others. Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings, I do appreciate it.

  13. Thanks. I hope I have not made any comments that have hurt your pride. At first, when I first started commenting on your blog, I was confused because much of what you show was now what I remember about the 50's, however, as you have show, social class (middle class, which you present, vs. working class, which I was), financial situation, and where you lived back then would make a big difference. Now that I understand that, I have apologized for anything I said that detracted from your work and insight.

    Anyhow, your blog is an inspiration even to one older, such as I am. I remember so much good about those days, and see that there are some things we can bring back -- things like women being interested first and foremost in their homes and families (whether they work outside the home or not), manners, nice dressing, more home-prepared meals, and things like that.

    Yes, there was bad, too. The Bible says, "Don't ask why the old days were better than this, because such questions are not wise!" (my paraphrase) And yes, each era had its own wrongs and problems. Nobody likes to remember how minorities were treated during the 50's and before, for instance, or things like true abuse of women and children being swept under the rug. It is heartbreaking.

    However, the Bible also says that in the last days perilous times will be upon us, and things will "wax worse" (again, my paraphrase of a couple of verses), and we certainly do see things getting worse in almost every way year by year.

    We can and should try to bring back what was good about the 50's, leaving behind what was bad, knowing that things are getting worse (socially, etc.) and we need to do whatever we can, whenever possible, to see that things don't get worse in our own personal lives.

  14. The kitchen pass thru is similar to the one we had in my house as a child. This was in the 70's but the house was a 50's ranch with the original adorable yellow tiled bathroom for us. The master bath had been updated but all of the built in storage was left.

    When we lived in another home in the early 80's my mother had a piece of marble set into the Formica as in the photo. It worked incredibly well for baking. The only downside was to deep clean it you had to lift it out which was a challenge because it was hard to grasp and was quite heavy.

    What cracks me up about all the McMansions is that even with huge kitchens and mudrooms there is still clutter and no one can remember where anything is put. It seems that instead of having a place for, say, the hammer multiple hammers are bought and stored in multiple locations. The real irony is most of the "multiple hammer" families I know hire someone to do any work that would require the use of a hammer.


  15. TWUS-Oh, not I didn't mean YOU had hurt my pride. I mean over the past year and a half every so often I might get a comment that makes me feel bad, but I usually try to address and to so if, indeed, I can learn from what they say. For, they may be wiser or more knowledgable than I. I certainly don't claim to 'know it all' and everyday I think, "Well, let's see, if I approach the day like a child with wonder but also knowing I don't know everything and want to ask questions, let's see what I have learned by the end of the day.
    Sarah-I bet that yellow tile bathroom was darling. I would love a pass through such as that.
    So true about the multiple hammers. We seem to get more, have bigger space, do less, and care less. Not sure why, but it does sometimes seem that way.
    That is the drawback to the marble, I suppose. Right now the marble counter in my kitchen is an old victorian dresser from a bedroom, Eastlake style, whitewashed with three drawers (lined to hold baking dishes, extra linens and the like) with its original marble top, with nice curved edges. It was never meant for a kitchen, but it serves my purpose now. I might, if I do redo my kitchen, have one counter made from marble and trimmed in the edged chrome to match the laminate counters, if I do that. It would be practical and pretty, I think.

  16. Donna, the marble was only deep cleaned a couple of times a year, so don't let my experience put you off. After each use it was cleaned as any counter would and I or my mother would run a butter knife along the edges to lift out the baking remnants. Your dresser sounds beautiful in a kitchen!

  17. People then were very creative I admit. It's true nowadays apartments on the market are getting smaller. Good side, less to clean and stimulatio of creative.


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