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1950s Pink Kitchen

Pink kitchen with General Electric appliances and custom built cabinets from a Waukesha, Wisconsin ranch home, c. 1958.
(Museum object #2006.82)

This pink kitchen, with nearly all of its original components, comes from a suburban Waukesha, Wisconsin home and represents the explosion in the demand and consumption of decorative domestic products in the decade from 1955-1965. The kitchen components were installed in the 1958-1959 ranch home built for Everett and Ione Stats in the Seitz Estates, a housing development in southeastern Waukesha.

The Stats’ kitchen consisted of a pink General Electric oven, range and hood, and refrigerator, a pink porcelain sink, as well as custom built cabinets installed on site from plywood, particle board, manufactured drawers, and Formica wood-grain laminate made by Cyanamid. The countertop, with its pink Formica laminate , linoleum floor, pink tile backsplash, and decorative wallpaper completed the kitchen.

In the decade following World War II, a growing American middle class enjoyed both peace and prosperity and took the opportunity to purchase new products for the home after decades of economic depression and war shortages. The following decade saw an even greater economic abundance allowing families to spend money on goods previously considered luxuries. Americans sought a higher quality of life through the consumption of better quality material goods such as decorative kitchens, sleek chrome toasters, and cars with stylish tail fins. Never before had so many Americans possessed the means to acquire such a wide choice of consumer goods.

By the late 1950s, designers began to apply color and styling to everyday, functional items, and American kitchens exhibited rich colors compared to previous appliances. The influx of color was a reaction to the antiseptic white of the previous decades, and it allowed homeowners to coordinate the kitchen with other rooms as well. General Electric first made colored appliances in 1954, and competing manufacturers introduced other colors to American homes such as fern green, buttercup yellow, and lagoon blue. In 1958, the year of the Stats home’s construction, the home appliance journal Electrical Merchandising summed up the demand for pink appliances -- “If forced to pick one color as leading this year, most industry men say pink is tops.”

The form and shape of appliances also saw a remarkable change in the decade from 1955-1965. Kitchens were designed as an integrated unit which was, in theory, more appealing to the homemaker. The sleek appearance, flat surfaces, and right angles of the appliances and cabinets gave the impression of a clean, efficient laboratory. Coupled with the increased capabilities and efficiencies of the new appliances, homemakers could enjoy spending large amounts of time in the kitchen tending to family and guests.

The Stats’ affinity for pink décor extended throughout the house. All three bathrooms were finished in a pink palette. The exterior woodwork and garage interior were painted pink. Heather and Jeffrey Hein, who purchased the home from the Stats family in 1994, remodeled the kitchen and bath in 2006. Being historic preservationists, they kept much of the home’s original 1950s stylings in place, and they offered the discarded elements the Wisconsin Historical Society.

As the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement, everyday objects from the 1950s and 1960s are seen in a different and sometimes nostalgic light, and items - such as a once common pink kitchen – end up in a museum.

[Sources: Hine, Thomas. Populuxe (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1989).]

JEK


Posted on December 14, 2006

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  • House & Home
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