Wait – Are These Kitchen Trends from 1921…or 2021?

Vintage Kitchen Photos

The year’s 1921, and the world is grappling with the aftermath of the 1918 flu pandemic. 

This pandemic advances in the medical world. Doctors began to understand germs and how illness was spread. Before this, sickness was blamed as a result of poor living conditions and genetic makeup rather than microorganisms carrying disease.  

As a result, hospitals became more sanitary than ever before. Wooden hospital beds were switched out for metal beds that could be easily cleaned between patients. Hospital rooms were cleaned before and after treatment to prevent further spread of illness. 

But this new understanding of disease in the wake of a pandemic didn’t just change the medical community- it also created major design changes in housing. The most remarkable of these design changes were found in the American kitchen. 

This focus on cleanliness paired with the extra time spent in the home revolutionized kitchen trends

Fast forward a hundred years to 2021 and you’ll see that this year’s biggest kitchen trends look remarkably similar to the last time we weathered a pandemic in the United States. 


First- families are spending more together- that means rethinking the way we use our kitchens. 

And secondly- with a need for cleanliness means we also want easy organization and traffic flow. 

Just like Americans did in 1921. Does history repeat itself? Well, when it comes to design, let’s just say we like looking to the past.

Ready to be inspired by five updated kitchen trends that got their starts in the 1920’s? 

Read on. 

A Classic Beauty: The All White Kitchen 

White Kitchen

The all white kitchen trend of the 1920s was less of a design choice and more of a design constraint. At the time, kitchen appliances were only offered in one color- white. 

Folks in the wake of the flu of 1918 wanted a modern solution to keeping things sanitary and associated white surfaces with cleanliness. Reasoning that it was better to see that something was dirty and be able to clean it (than not being able to detect dirt in the first place), the white kitchen has remained a classic ever since…dooming every household with toddlers to a perpetual siege against spaghetti-os…

Just kidding. Well, sort of. As I write, our own two tornados are doing a number on our countertop on the Martin household so- if you have littles in a white kitchen- I feel you. 

White kitchens are also a versatile style option. Yes, when you think “white” you might envision a condo in a city high rise- but I’ve seen great white kitchens that cross into shabby chic territory, too. 

Plus, white kitchens are truly…. 

    1. Easier to Clean. Yes, you read that right. Stainless steel appliances retain fingerprints and streaks but white stays clean longer.
    2. A Design to Make Your Space Seem Bigger. White reflects light and natural light is the best way to make any space feel bigger. When talking about mimicking an open concept feel without the hazards, we discussed the effect a lighter paint color has on opening up a space. Go for an all-white kitchen and see that effect multiplied tenfold.
    3. A Way to Increase Your Home’s Value. A kitchen renovation is one of the most powerful remodels to make when selling your home. But did you know that 42% of millennial homebuyers prefer an all white kitchen? 

Back to styling. What do we mean when we talk about the all white kitchen trend? 

Modern or Vintage White Kitchen? 

Question: What’s the hardest part about shifting to an all white kitchen? 

Answer: Deciding how to style it. 

Do you stay true to the era with a 1920’s inspired kitchen trend? Or embrace a more modern approach? 

If you’re a fan of the vintage style, check out how these homeowners decorated their all white kitchen: 

1920's styled kitchen
The all white appliances and cabinets? The fun tile pattern? I feel like I just walked into a kitchen from the 1920’s. Those pops of color feel energizing, don’t they?

When styling your vintage kitchen, minor details matter. These homeowners choose stools and decor that are time accurate but made modern upgrades, too. There’s a nice balance of dedication to the classic 20’s style and modern conveniences that make this work.

Looking for more of a modern approach?  Check out this upgraded beauty:

Modern All White Kitchen

The kitchen looks spacious enough to host a ballroom dance class. The dark hardwood floors and benches are the perfect break up in color so the white doesn’t become too “clinical”.

Side note: Need help deciding the finished look of your kitchen? Let me know. Our team loves taking your Pinterest boards, magazine clippings, and wild dreams and fitting them perfectly into your space. Kitchen remodels are our favorite here at Martin.

Out of the Subway, Into the Kitchen 

Subway Tile in Kitchen

First designed for use in the subways these tiles became one of the top kitchen trends as a result of the 1918 flu. 

I mentioned how people were beginning to understand germs and how diseases spread. Hospitals began installing white subway tiles as a way of spotting dirt and grime as soon as possible. 

Shortly after, restaurants began installing the tiles to mimic the sterile and clean feel of a hospital- and encourage customer confidence. It was the easiest way to ensure restaurant goers that they were dining in the safest fashion possible. 

And, in the same way that white kitchen appliances were a sign of cleanliness, homeowners adopted the tiles, too. 

This style rose again in popularity a few years ago- and is still going strong. 

Subway tiles are: 

Let’s talk about versatility because color isn’t the only factor. Check out this kitchen’s blue and angled subway tile backsplash: 

Absolutely gorgeous. 

Or this floor to ceiling subway tile: 

Floor to ceiling subway tile

No matter the angle or color, subway tile compliments every kitchen. Real ceramic or porcelain tile makes a kitchen feel quality However, you never want to choose a style that will look dated too soon for an application this large- because it’s expensive to tear out and update.

With subway tile- history is on your side. It’s a classic choice that’s here to stay. 

Your Kitchen: A Work of Art

Art Deco in the Kitchen

With Victorianism art coming to a halt in the 1920’s, art deco quickly took its place. 

Characterized by rich colors and geometric shapes, this style of art is the perfect representation of the roaring 20’s. 

And although art deco has fallen out of popularity, there’s something to be said for the importance of art in interior design. Everyone has art in their home. But this year? It’s become one of the top kitchen trends. 

What’s caused that shift? 

This past year we’ve all spent more time in the house than ever before. We’re rethinking the way we use spaces. The kitchen has morphed from a place to cook to a sanctuary for creativity. 

From sourdough starters and failed Great British Baking Show inspired pavlovas, to evenings spent together at the kitchen table, Americans have spent the last year getting reacquainted with a love of hands-on cooking. 

Want to add a little more personality to your kitchen? Art is a great start.

The first step to this kitchen trend? Get inspired. 

Walk through your local art museum. Stock up on your favorite home improvement magazines. Sort through your kitchen Pinterest board. Go to a local art fair and support someone you know.

Once you’ve determined the artwork and aesthetic you’re going for, it’s time to start decorating! 

How to Add Art to Your Kitchen

Change the way you think about your kitchen. These homeowners saw their walls as blank canvases and I love the way they chose to decorate it:

Framed artwork

The selected pieces look beautiful together. They remind me of prints from “old masters” that I’ve seen hanging at my elderly neighbor’s house and out on garage sales. I would have never thought about it, but pairing them with a white modern kitchen completely transforms this space. 

Instead of a blank wall- you create a focal point that encourages the eye to land and roam around to discover the other great details of the space.

These homeowners installed a shelf for extra counter space and to display their favorite artwork: 

Art on kitchen shelf

Another old-world art choice paired with a modern look here. 

Homeowners in the 20’s knew the importance of wallpaper and that kitchen trend is back in. Except now we’ve gone from this: 

1920's wallpaper

To this: 

Modern wallpaper

When it comes to wallpaper, you don’t have to transform your whole kitchen into a funky pattern. Try styling just one wall with it as an accent piece. 

Or if you have shelving, you can fill in the blank space with wallpaper, like these homeowners did: 

Wallpaper on kitchen shelf

The great thing about a busy wallpaper pattern? It hides the inevitable kitchen splashes. And when you choose a vinyl wallpaper- it can be wiped down, too!

All of this to say: Your kitchen doesn’t have to be a work zone where you act as a short order chef for the family before school. Transform it into your own personal statement piece with artwork that you love and make it your own.

Gardening Year Round

Potted plants

Imagine this. 

You’ve spent all of spring and summer in the garden. Your plants are in bloom, your yard a cascade of color and life. 

But as fall approaches, the days grow dark earlier, and your plants have gone dormant for the year. 

Now, what if I told you there’s a way to enjoy your garden year round? 

Let me introduce you to the garden window insert. 

Garden window insert

These inserts offer a customizable space to your home, and allow you to grow your indoor garden year round. 

We’ve talked about garden window inserts in past articles, but here’s a quick refresh: 

These windows are designed for enjoying flowers year round. They’re a beautiful kitchen addition, adding a touch of life to your home. 

Traditionally, they’re installed over the sink, but these vinyl windows are easy to install anywhere in your kitchen. 

Our supplier, Simonton, offers these beautiful windows, but aesthetics isn’t the only feature they boast. Garden window inserts are designed with extra insulation to help keep your house warm year round. The vinyl windows are also low maintenance and designed to last for decades. 

Kitchen Garden window

Although garden window inserts are a new kitchen trend, 1920’s homeowners knew the importance of indoor gardening. 

In 1926, Monrovia nursery in California became the first nursery in the United States to sell potted plants. From there, the popularity of indoor plants continued to grow. 

Popular potted plants in the 1920’s include: 

    • Jasmine
    • Potted citrus trees
    • Ferns

We’ll leave the gardening up to you, but if you need help with window installation, we’re here to help. 

The Secret to Making A Small Kitchen Feel Big

If there’s one thing all homeowners agree on it’s this:  the more kitchen counter space, the better. 

Modern kitchens follow the 3×4 rule. This means that you need at least three separate kitchen counters and they should all be four feet long. 

But in the 1920’s, counter space was not a necessity. Most kitchen appliances were standing, including the pantry. These pantries, called hoosiers, were a huge upgrade in the 1920’s. 

1920's kitchen hoosier

Because it could store food and kitchen appliances, it meant less things on the limited counter space. The invention of the hoosier meant the beginning of hiding appliances and creating more space in the kitchen. 

Now, we have walk-in pantries, kitchen islands, and generally, loads of counter space. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t always looking for ways to maximize what we have. 

A great rule of thumb when it comes to maximizing kitchen space? If it can be hung up, display it! 

Hanging pots and pans in the kitchen gets them off the counter, and clears cabinet space for other kitchen necessities that aren’t as pretty to look at. 

Hanging pots and pans

Installing shelves along the kitchen is another great way to get things off the counter. Plus, shelves are another great way to decorate and show off your favorite kitchen items. 

Kitchen shelves

2021: The Year for Your Dream Kitchen

Kitchen trends come and go. But when something stays in style? You know it’s for a good reason. The best part about renovating a kitchen in 2021 is that today’s trends are rooted in timelessness. That means it’s a perfect time to find the widest range of classic materials to make your dream kitchen gorgeous for decades to come. 

Whether it be easier maintenance, or a fresh and updated look, we’re so glad these trends have stuck around. 

Fallen in love with one of these kitchen trends? Ready to update your kitchen? We can help! 

Whether it be new cabinets, tiling, or window installation, our team at Martin can make your dream come true. During the winter, we love keeping our crew busy with interior renovations. Could a new kitchen be the perfect Christmas present for your family?

If you’re ready to get started on designing, or still have questions, we’d love to talk! Give Vern a call at 570-345-0406 and get started on your project.