Friday, January 22, 2010

Let's Go Retro: A Spitfire in the Kitchen

Here's a dilemma - imagine you're the owner of an engineering firm in England just after the war. During the war you made nose-cones for Spitfires and now you're left with surplus aircraft-grade aluminum and no market for it. What should you do?

As you might guess, this is not a hypothetical question - it's the position in which CSA Industries found itself. And it made a clever move. It turned its attention to the kitchen and engineered the first flexible kitchen system - cabinets made of the left-over aluminum that could be fastened together in endless combinations. They were marketed under the name 'English Rose' and were very popular - and very up-market.

Think how much fun it would have been to have the cheery kitchen shown in this advertisement - especially after the dreary war years.

The survival rate of the English Rose kitchens is a testament to their quality. Despite a decline in popularity from the mid-60s to recent years, many of these kitchens remained in use. And, now they're highly sought after, and one look at the kitchen below shows why. I first saw this kitchen in BBC Homes & Antiques - isn't it dreamy?

This lucky homeowner located original cabinets and look how beautifully they 'clean up'. I love the curved drawers - was there a reason for this shape?

Below is another kitchen that's been retro-fitted with originals (from Flickr). The English Rose cabinets mix perfectly with more modern elements.

If you'd prefer new cabinets with the retro look, John Lewis offers these replicas. They have great colors and they're ready to install - no cleaning, painting, etc.

And for those of us on this side of the Atlantic, check out these American Steel cabinets from the early 1950s. While not iconic like the English Rose, they look similar and there are a few for sale on the web. Perhaps someone out there has a beautiful kitchen full of refurbished ones?

As a side note, look at her dishwasher - is that Fiesta Ware? What's retro in your kitchen? Fiesta Ware? Thanks for joining me on this quick tour of vintage kitchens and happy Friday!

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