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Cooking in Style Flashback

Color changed the look of every cook's kitchen. With the help of Reminisce Magazine, take a look at colorful kitchens of the past. Design took center sage while advertising made sure we got the message.

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Bursts of Color

Bursts of Color

As bright shades debuted in 1950s kitchens, cooks could now choose appliances in hues of yellow, pink, blue or copper for the family gathering spot.

Frigidare Ad: Interfoto/ Alamy Stock Photo

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Cold cuts at eye levelPhoto: Courtesy of Everett Collection

Cold cuts at eye level

Major appliance manufacturer General Electric launched a number of industry firsts in the mid-'50s while advertising its products' modern appeal. The GE Wonder Kitchen featured a built-in range, dishwasher, disposal, and washer and  dryer under a single countertop. The sleek wall-mount, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, right, has the look of kitchen cabinetry.

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Wall-hung wonder

Wall-hung wonder

When Stephen Brittain bought his Fort Myers, FL, home, he gained a General Electric Wall Refrigerator-Freezer built in 1955—its turquoise finish matching the sink, cabinets and range. The unit had not operated in 31 years. Fortunately, a friend and refrigeration expert persuaded Stephen to let him try repairing it. With a new fan motor and starting relay, the unit fired up. “The refrigerator still runs quietly on the original Freon,” Stephen says. “It’s a great novelty.”

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Appliances get a pretty palattePhoto: Golden Shrimp/ Shutterstock

Appliances get a pretty palatte

General Electric introduced mix-and-match colors for appliances in 1955. Plus, learn how to make your vintage appliances last.

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Hotpoint, an early adapter

Hotpoint, an early adapter

The Hotpoint Electric Heating Co. owes its enduring name to the lightweight electric iron, invented in 1903 by Earl Richardson and tweaked in 1905. The 1905 iron’s pointed tip heated to allow easy pressing of problem areas. After a merger with General Electric in 1918, the brand became a kitchen staple, introducing in ’24 the first all-white fully enamel electric range. Colored enamel washing machines, refrigerators, wall ovens and other appliances followed.

Photo: Courtesy of Reminisce

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Harkening back to when Color Was Queen

Harkening back to when Color Was Queen

Two pale turquoise General Electric wall ovens from 1952 grace the Charlottesville, VA, home that Karen and Scott Knierim purchased in 1983. "I've always loved their color," Karen says. "In fact, we made over the whole kitchen to match." Scott handled it all, painting the cabinets a deep turquoise, and spraying the dishwasher and refrigerator with a matching shade of auto-body paint.

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Tag-sale treasure

Tag-sale treasure

My hairdresser, Terry, works out of her home. Being a close friend, I looked around before my appointment to see what was new. My jaw dropped when I spotted this old refrigerator. Terry had gone to a late friend’s estate sale and purchased the retro work of art she had admired from afar. She paid $90 (getting a chair as part of the deal, too). It works like a charm.

— Denise Dragovich Mount Vernon, WA

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Buy a Robin's Egg Blue Fridge

Buy a Robin's Egg Blue Fridge

You can buy this fridge right now! And color and capacity combine in this Robin’s Egg Blue Northstar refrigerator.

Photo: Courtesy of Elmira Stove Works

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Gold standard

Gold standard

“Wow, that’s cool! Does it work?” That was all I could say about the harvest gold stove that I saw during a tour of my new neighbor’s farmhouse, which had sat empty for years after the original owners passed away.

The neighbor, Avona, told me her house had been designed in the mid-1960s by a local architect. The cutting-edge design called for a center island with stove. But when the lady of the house went to pick out appliances, she fell in love with Frigidaire’s Custom Imperial Flair Range. The kitchen floor plan was modified during construction to incorporate this cool new appliance.

Yes, the Flair still works beautifully today. And, until the home can be updated, this is what Avona uses for cooking and baking. I sure hope she incorporates this beauty into her new kitchen!

— Denise Dragovich Mount Vernon, WA

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New flair spawned bewitching kitchens

New flair spawned bewitching kitchens

Frigidaire introduced the Flair, a built-in-look electric range, in the early 1960s. This trend-setting slide-in stove boasted a dual-oven option, a slide-out cooktop with cover, and bottom shelves for storage.

Photo: Courtesy of Everett Collection

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Customize with color

Customize with color

Farewell, white. So long, stainless. If you’re ready to take your kitchen back to a bygone era with eye-catching impact, try adding a splash of color. Small countertop appliances such as coffee makers, toasters and juicers come in many vibrant hues.

Also, try mixing and matching colors. Select a bright red, blue or yellow range as a focal point, in a kitchen filled with neutrals. Find a selection at bigchill.com. Photo: Courtesy of Big Chill

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Research vintage appliances

Research vintage appliances

Built like tanks, many older appliances can be refurbished to run like new. Find help at antiqueappliances.com.

Also, to update your appliances try swapping out their knobs. Or, consider a fully customizable range. See examples at bluestarcooking.com. Photo: Courtesy of Aga Marvel

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Lean, Green cooking machine

Lean, Green cooking machine

We bought our first home by flashlight, not knowing we had a green jewel in the kitchen. Our first question: How much for the house? Our second question: Do the appliances go with it? My pulse quickened when the Realtor said yes. “Didn’t they ever use it?” I asked about the stove. “Not really,” she said. Shaking my head, I muttered, “Well, it’s going to get used now!” Saying a prayer, I turned knobs and waited for all of 10 seconds before the element coils turned bright orange. There was still some life in the old Frigidaire. — Cher L. Tom

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Kitchens with style and sass

Kitchens with style and sass

As appliance colors go, the avocado craze lasted for at least 10 years. Paired with its sunnier mate, harvest gold, the duo epitomized the typical 1970s kitchen. Other kitchen colors, such as flashy poppy red and the almost-ubiquitous almond, were introduced as accent colors or to spark an updated neutral palette. Nevertheless, earth tones accompanied by dark wood cabinetry and flooring became prized additions in the best cook’s kitchens throughout the era.

Photo: Courtesy of Reminisce

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Earth tones got hot in the '70sPhoto: Golden Shrimp/ Shutterstock

Earth tones got hot in the '70s

After the color explosion of the ’60s, the 1970s ushered in a more earthy palette of warm hues. Think avocado, gold, burnt orange and coppery tones.

This story originally appeared in Reminisce