Properly applied, vintage means roughly authentic to a given year, period, or style. Thus, a vintage-style kitchen can have stainless steel appliances, recessed lighting, high ceilings, bamboo flooring, and plenty of open space, if the period it's angling for is the contemporary urban style of 2005. Obviously, most vintage-style kitchens are designed with an older period in mind. Yet, it's important point to make as many homeowners hear the phrase vintage-style kitchen and mistakenly belief there's one set of guidelines or rules that will make their kitchen authentic.
Indeed, rather than seeking out the single standard for a vintage-style remodel, the best route is to research the decorating motifs of different periods to find one that speaks to your sensibilities. With the new realities of today's housing market, it's never been clearer that your top remodeling priority should be to find something to shows your individual taste, rather than keeping up with the Joneses. And modern advances in kitchen remodeling and materials are helping out more than you realize. Today's laminate countertops are available in tougher, reinforced laminate, allowing you to appropriate the look of 30, 40 years ago without the shortened life expectancy. That said, there are limits to your decorating license. Please, no avocado shag carpet...in the kitchen or anywhere else. Otherwise, all you need to do is find your style and then stay consistent: After all, decorating cohesion and unity are universal to any time period.
1950's Vintage-Style Kitchen
Now, that you have a general sense of how a vintage-style kitchen might be designed, it's necessary to see how a general concept will play itself out in a particular kitchen remodel. Take at a look at this Q&A from one of the clients of Darius Baker from D&J Kitchens & Baths.
(If, on the other hand, you're looking for a wide range of kitchen decorating options, each of which speak to a different vintage, we suggest you check out this article Decorating Trends through the Decades.)
Q: I am trying to remodel my kitchen into a vintage 1950's style. Our upper cabinets are a red oak. I stripped the bottom cabinets, which were painted white and my husband wants them left wood tone. They are pine. He also wants wood floors, but I wonder how three wood tones would look in an otherwise white kitchen?
A: I would not design a kitchen with that many wood types in the permanently installed cabinets. I might install an island made from a different wood or painted, but oak uppers over pine base units will not work well. Another less expensive alternative to replacing cabinets if you don't want painted cabinets, would be to reface one set of cabinets to match the other.
Adding a wood floor to this would make the whole picture very busy, especially oak flooring. Perhaps a maple floor would look okay, but it should have a light finish because you are probably going to have to stain the stripped cabinets a little dark to cover the fact that they have once been painted. Quite frankly, if you really want the 50's concept, staying with the pine would be more realistic for the cabinets and installing a nice retro pattern vinyl floor would be more correct.