|By C. Dianne Zweig
Kitschy kitchens decorated with vintage kitchen-wares and furnishings are captivating not only baby boomers, who remember many of these items sitting in grandma’s kitchen , but younger collectors as well. Whether you prefer the bold primary colors of the post war years, the softer cottage palettes of the mid to late 1950s, or the earth tones of the 1970s , there are plenty of affordable kitchen collectibles and textiles to choose from.
Among bona fide kitchen and home décor enthusiasts, there are definite differences in their collecting styles. A buyer may not only be drawn to shapes, color, or patterns of a certain time period, but also may favor kitchenwares, figurines, planters textiles, advertising, etc. associated with a loved one or cherished time in his or her life. For example, one collector began accumulating kitchen items after her grandmoter died. She collected kitchen-wares that reminded her of her grandmother’s red and yellow kitchen in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Kitchen gadgets, appliances, ceramics, bowls, tins, canisters, textiles in colors of red, yellow, green or blue are by far the most popular colors sought after by collectors. Next you will find a smaller group of buyers, predominately found in areas closer to large metropolitan centers, seeking items in the mid-century colors of pink and turquoise. While the funkier colors of the atomic age just mentioned attract a small but loyal group, this time period was also known for home accessories produced in softer pastel colors, a palette very popular today among cottage style collectors. Last are the younger collectors who become as sentimental over greens, rusts and browns of the 1970s.
If you are a collectible’s dealer, keep this in mind the next time you pass up a drab green bowl at a flea market — the population that will adore that “muddy green bowl” are quickly becoming today’s collectors.
While the 1940s, ’50s and ’70s colors and styles attract attention, there don’t seem to be nearly as many people jumping on the band wagon to buy orange and pink flowered kitchen canisters and other kitchen relics from the 1960s. Yes you will see these kitchen items on eBay and other online auctions, but they are not really popular in most shops and antique malls. If you are really into the “Shaggy Sixties” take a visit to thrift shops such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries, where you may have some luck bumping into a few of these “flower power” leftovers.
As you can imagine, color is a big factor for kitchen collectors, but so is unusual style. Today there is a renewed interest in collectibles of the Art Deco period so keep your eyes open for appliances, accessories and furnishings that have characteristic Deco design . Even paper collectibles such as recipe booklets with a Deco motif are of interest to collectors. While the pricier pottery associated with the Arts & Crafts movement isn’t generally thought of as a “kitchen collectible,” styles from this time period are making their way into today’s kitchen . There is indeed a new generation of “ art inspired kitchen collectibles” for the collector with a big budget.
But what about everyday kitchen collectibles, what is hot and what is not among the average collector? The answer depends on who you ask. If you do an online search about this topic you will find “popularity” defined by how often a particular collectible is either searched on the Internet or sold on a specific auction site. Cookie jars are one of those collectibles which is consistently listed as a top ten kitchen collectible. But, what is hot online may not be what is selling at brick and mortar shops.
Besides unique items, people like collectibles that they can use , which is why Pyrex sells so well. Pam Kaplan, who owns Preservecottage.com, said the pink Gooseberry pattern has been her best seller and Pyrex in all colors does well. Vintage egg beaters and rolling pins are also popular housewares because these older models work better than the newer products. Tin canister sets and bread boxes that are colorful. in excellent condition and priced reasonably are always appreciated by kitchen collectors. On the other hand, if an object can’t go into the dishwasher or microwave or is too hard to care for it is going to be a slower mover. This is why sets of older dishes sit so long on the shelves of many shops.
Renovation and salvage items (antique stoves, door knobs, architectural trim, windows) are very “in” right now as collectors and homeowners are mixing older looks with newer kitchens or creating new twists on old themes such as “Cottage Style” or “Country Victorian.” “Country Victorian,” also referred to as “Romantic Country,” emphasizes the softer more feminine elements of the Victorian era and eliminates the heavy, darker components.
There has definitely been a trend to “re-purpose” collectibles and furnishings and to incorporate vintage style into contemporary homes. For example, a stylish painted Hoosier cabinet can add charm to a kitchen with the addition of a computer monitor sitting on the pull out baking surface, not batter bowls. A collection of white ironstone pitchers artfully arranged can add just the right touch to an urban chic kitchen condo. A 1940s bookcase painted white can be hung on the kitchen wall to hold your favorite collection.
Hot Kitchen Collectibles to Keep an Eye On
Painted kitchen cottage tables, chairs and cupboards, open wall shelves
Art Deco “everything”
Advertising tins (coffee, tea, spices) .
French and European enamelware, American enamelware with decorative flair
Vintage stoves and appliances
Very fine country items including Farm tables, crocks.
Pastel pottery vases, ironstone, art pottery.
China items including decorative plates
Funky items i.e. bowls with polka dots
Tea pots, bowls, spice jars, range sets, salt and pepper shakers.
Colorful linens i.e. tablecloths, dish towels, aprons, whimsical pot holders
Bread boxes, canister sets, recipe boxes, match holders
Tools with red or green handles, rolling pins.
What’s Not Hot in Kitchen Collectibles
Thermal plastic beverage and ice cream cups
Colonial style housewares
C. Dianne Zweig is the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s, (Collectorbooks.com ) and has just completed Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes, which will be released this fall, also by Collectorbooks.com. Dianne’s collections are sold at The Plantsville General Store Antique Center in Plantsville, Connecticut, and The Clinton Antique Center, Clinton, Conn.