Retro Appliances – Everything old is new again!

Hearken back with me, if you will, to my grandmother’s kitchen.  Nana Anne, all 4’6” of her on a good day, strutting around in her immaculate but small kitchen comprised of a drop-in electric cooktop, double ovens, dishwasher, and refrigerator…all in Coppertone.

Coppertone Kitchen
This is an almost exact representation of Nana Anne’s kitchen, aside from the horrible wallpaper.

Making her favorite grandchild his favorite breakfast of Egg & Butter toast with cream cheese and jelly (Harrison’s Bakery in Seaside, Oregon, if you’re wondering). Making dinners for the whole family. Rushing, rushing, rushing.

Jim and Nanna Anne
Jim and Nana Anne

The refrigerator was of note in that it had a lever she could step on to open the refrigerator door. Everything was in her reach, unless it was in the freezer, since that 4’6” frame (giving her the benefit of the doubt) needed every inch just to get to the top shelf.  Usually it was the call for my grandfather to reach, or for myself to climb on the inside shelves of the refrigerator just to reach something on the higher shelves…those units were really built back then.  Sometimes she used… “The Claw”, a thingamajig with a pincher on one end and a scissor-grip on the other, that she could grab far-off things with, including my arm from time to time, sending me screaming from the room in child-like glee.

Pink Cellar Fridge

Her downstairs refrigerator in “the cellar”, sported interior shelves that one could push a button in the middle, and the entire metal shelf would “lazy-Susan” out for complete access.  That ‘fridge was in a beautiful pink with lots of chrome accents.

Colors in the “Good Ol’ Days” ranged from Cherry Red, Canary Yellow, Turquoise Green, Petal Pink and Woodtone Brown in the 1950’s, Avocado, Coppertone, Harvest Gold (everyone’s favorite), pale yellow and pastel pink in the 1960s and in the 1970s we see the addition of Poppy Red and Orange. Not only were these appliances colorful, but they were built to last and last.

Ah, we think, the “Good Ol’ Days!”, as we look around us and see an ocean of stainless steel.  We are seeing some new trends emerge recently like Matte Slate, Matte Black, Black Stainless Steel and Sunset Bronze, but really nothing holds a candle to those bright, stand out colors of yesterday. Remember the title of this blog post, though?  Everything old IS new again!

Color Palates
Here we see representations of the popular kitchen colors in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
RAL Color Wheel

Back are the Pink Lemonade, the Jadite Green, the Beach Blue, the Buttercup Yellow, the Cherry Red, and much more (not Harvest Gold or Avocado, thank goodness)!   If you don’t like their color options, some manufacturers will paint their products for you to your liking.  If you have cabinets, or flooring, or even hand towels that are just the right color for you, Big Chill, for instance, will let you choose from a RAL color chart and paint it, bringing back yet another Retro term, “Have it Your Way”.

Now we are getting to the good stuff!  Here are the brands that are producing these amazing appliances and some that are even literal works of art!

Big Chill

Big Chill, is the first and foremost brand that people think of when we talk about modern retro appliances. Big Chill is based out of Boulder, Colorado and started out as a favor to a family member. The founders knew that they had something special when a passerby noticed their proto-type fridge on their front porch and came back with a checkbook to purchase it on the spot. Once they were noticed, and really, who wouldn’t notice them, celebrities like Rachel Ray, Scarlett Johansson, Miranda Lambert and Drew Barrymore clamored to have them in their own kitchens.

Miranda Lambert Big Chill

Big Chill, as we mentioned above, is big on customization. In addition to the aforementioned RAL color wheel selection of colors to choose from, they will also paint the doors two different colors, for an almost ’57 Chevy appearance. Keep in mind as well that Big Chill offers may more than refrigerators in this style, they do the whole kitchen suite! How cute and retro is that? With these all being modern appliances, you don’t even have to chip the ice out of the freezer! Contact us for ordering information.

Big Chill Kitchen Suite


Italian brand SMEG has been around for decades in Italy and has made the jump across the pond in the last few years. Originally started in 1948 in Northern Italy as a family of Blacksmiths, in the 1950’s the company was focused on enameling of metals. In the late 1950s the Bertazzoni family began making gas ranges and then expanded into laundry and dishwashers in the 1960’s. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until the 1990s that they began producing the Retro 50’s refrigerators that made them so desirable in kitchens from the 2000’s on. The company is still family owned and they keep the memory of their start in their name. “Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla,” or the “Guastalla Emilia Enamel Works.”

SMEG Kitchen

They offer an array of colors in their refrigerators and dishwashers. They also recently teamed up with Italian design house Dolce & Gabbana and offered hand painted originals of their Retro 50’s appliances. The refrigerators, shown below, are serious works of art and go for upwards of $20,000.

Chambers Appliances

Chambers Stoves

Meanwhile, back in North America, there is a company that was so famous in it’s day, that a range was named after it. Chambers Appliances. The Chambers Corporation originally drew its fame from the Chambers Stove that they manufactured. This gas range was so well insulated, that they published a cookbook to teach people how to bake in it, as it did not lose its heat when it was turned off.

Chambers Retro Appliances

Like many companies in the 20th century, Chambers was purchased and re-purchased and acquired so many times, eventually the company stopped manufacturing. Recently the Chambers brand was purchased and was reborn as a retro appliance company. The first offering from them is their Retro Fridge! Classic retro looks with the updated and smart interior to make your food last longer and taste better.

MA Big Chill

You know how you just stop and stare when a ’56 T-Bird rolls down the street in that beautiful beach blue with the sun glinting off the chrome finish?  It is the same for me when I see these appliances.  The colors are beautiful, the accents are invigorating, the curves are luscious, and the finish is spot on.  I’d love to tell you that the quality is as good as the old days, where you’d get 20-30 years out of that refrigerator or range, but realistically there are very few appliances out there that can give you that type of range. What I can tell you is that the products are well built by major manufacturers, and should give you years of quality service, not to mention that look, that amazingly suave look.  You can’t have my grandmother’s treasured recipes, you know, the ones that she’d give everyone with one ingredient omitted so that only hers tasted right, but you sure can deck your kitchen out with appliances that would make my, and most likely your, grandma proud.

Come visit yesteryear at Metropolitan Appliance, and we’ll bring today’s version of yesterday’s appliances to your home, all with the expert sales and service that you’d expect from the dealer that cares, just like the old days.

Jim FreedmanJim Freedman is President of Metropolitan Appliance and an appliance wizard. He can tell you about BTU, measurements, installation processes and more. Just ask! Click here to send him a message!

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