How to Add Some Old-Timey Charm to Your Home Without Breaking the Bank

Capture the feel of the Fabulous Fifties with these easy-to-add retro accents.

By Kate De Palma


A beautiful, modern home doesn’t need to be short on old-time charm. Just because we seem to be on a push to modernize and update houses with bigger closets and open floor plans, that doesn’t mean we need to completely let go of the past. If you look at photos of the 1950s kitchen or watch any TV show set in the decade of suburbia and rock & roll, you’ll see plenty of decorative elements (vinyl and all) turning that house into a charming home.


Capture the homey feel and charming look of the nifty fifties — without sacrificing modern appeal — using a few of my favorite retro accents. Whether you opt for vintage finds or modern takes on the classics, these touches are sure to add a hint of retro to your space in no time. Before you know it, you’ll be sipping a milkshake and singing along to  "Jailhouse Rock."


Polka Dots

Nothing says retro like some good old-fashioned polka dots — especially in red, white, black, yellow, and pale turquoise. How not to go overboard? Be selective with your use of this pattern that can be busy and overwhelming if used over too large of areas. Keep it simple with accents here and there, like a polka-dot teapot sitting on the stove, a valance over your kitchen window, or seat cushion covers at your dining room table. Together, the colors and patterns will serve to brighten up the room with a little bit of old-timey cheer.




Stand Mixer

In case you are prone to baking — or even if you’re not — a stand mixer is something no kitchen should be without. While the iconic stand mixer technically dates back to 1919, it tends to evoke images of the 1950s kitchen, at least for me. There’s just something about it as a symbol of at-home baking, and as a nostalgic reminder of grandma’s cookies on a Sunday afternoon. Summon up that same comforting feel with a mixer that does it all, including acting as a showpiece for your kitchen. Selecting a model that fits in the 50s color scheme mentioned earlier (i.e., yellow, red, white, pale turquoise) will intensify the retro feel of this kitchen necessity.




Old-Fashioned Telephone

Sadly, pretty much any landline could be called old-fashioned nowadays. So, if you’re going to bother having one at all, why not choose an adorable retro model (rotary is a must) to add both charm and function to your side table? Hey, you don’t even need to have it in service if you don’t want. I won’t tell if you won’t.




Pin-Up Girls

While the pin-up girl trend became popular during World War II, it’s hard to think of the 1950s without landing at some point on the ubiquitous pin-up girl. Whether you go sassy or classy, tin sign or framed poster, you can quickly add a light-hearted touch to your kitchen, den, or bedroom while paying homage to the girls that got America through some rough times.




Popcorn Machine

Having been to one too many carnivals as a kid, I’ll admit to really wanting a full-sized one of these. Neither my budget nor my square footage would allow for that, however, so I opted for a mini popcorn machine for my sideboard that is both adorable and makes perfect air-popped popcorn. Go ahead! Add a dash of salt or seasoning and start streaming your favorite “I Love Lucy” episode.




With these easy-on-your-wallet decorative accents, you’re well on your way to a house full of retro charm. If you’re loving it and ready to go all-out, check out this House Tip on really revving up the retro.


Images used with permission, courtesy of Kate De Palma

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