My latest enamel pin in the Vintage Pin Club is based on the 1940s classic scales and mixing bowl; something that most fans of vintage have and use! I remember growing up with my grandma using the mixing bowls and they fill me with a sense of nostalgia and fondness for her as she is no longer with us. I thought I would share a bit more about these classic items as well as other key pieces from a late 1930s, early 1940s kitchen to take you back in time and to get the look!
The 1940s kitchen in most homes looked the same as the 1930s one, with free-standing units, enamel storage, large Belfast sink and a tiled floor. With rationing and women working outside the home, the kitchen was purely a functional room. Many had even given up their saucepans in the 1940s “Saucepans for Spitfires” campaign and wouldn’t own a new set until they got married at the end of the decade.
In the late 1940s fitted kitchens were installed in the new homes built after the war. These were basic compared to the 1950s version although the heavy ceramic sink was replaced by a stainless steel one. Leading the way, American kitchens were designed with brightly coloured cabinets such as in red or yellow, often with glass knobs. This look would be embraced a decade later in the UK.
Vintage Mixing Bowls
All cakes and bread would have been made in a ceramic mixing bowl by T.G Green or Masons. They followed a classic style in a glossy oatmeal colour with a cream inner. The most practical was the Gripstand; a bowl with one straight side at the base rather than being circular. This enabled the cook in more affluent homes or the housewife to mix the mixture thoroughly without risk of the bowl slipping. They came in various sizes and would be out on display for ease of access.
Many of these bowl’s inner bases have become porous over time and can easily chip. When buying ensure there are no chips inside as you don’t want to lose some ceramic into your cake mixture!
Vintage Measuring Scales
Salter Housewares are best known for their measuring scales, began in 1760, in the UK village of Bilston, where they first produced fisherman scales, similar to the ones used today. Their range further developed from 1825 onwards, when the founder’s nephew George took over the company, renaming it George Salter & Co. They moved to West Bromwich where they designed the kitchen and bathroom scales and went on to become the leading measures brand throughout the 20th century. However, most of their scales were for commercial use such as the large Post Office and green grocer’s scales, but due to the trend of new gadgets and interesting designs in the 1920s and 30s, Salter designed smaller scales in coloured enamel to match the bread bins and casserole pots.
From the enamel 1930s scales with heavy weights to the bright orange 1970s mixing bowls that sit on a black plastic stand, to red wall hung scales with a folding down square tray, Salter have designed a look that works in every kitchen.
Vintage linen had been made earlier than the 1940s but this was the era for hand embroidering tablecloths, napkins and tray covers. Crisp cream linen was embroidered with pastel flowers and crinoline skirted ladies to brighten up a plain cloth. Ornate patterns weren’t produced at this time so making it yourself was the theme of the day. Alongside these, lacy doilies were made to use on the table, as tray cloths or even to hang on the back of your sofa. Add hand painted china tea sets for the perfect vintage tea party accessory.
Handwash your vintage linen in warm water. To remove tea stains, treat the mark as soon as possible. Modern stain remover will work fine on vintage linen. Hang to dry then iron while damp to remove creases although a starch spray can also be used. It is best not to store folded as the creases can break down the fibres over time, so roll the cloths around acid free tissue paper
Enamel kitchenware has been around since the 1700s but it wasn’t until the 1930s that it actually became fashionable. The inter war housewife loved it for it’s easy to clean, non-porous finish as well as its chic new look. As it came in a variety of bright colours such as terracotta, green, blue and white and always with an alternative coloured edging, she could really start to co-ordinate her kitchen for the first time. However, its popularity declined in the 1950s when melamine was introduced which was easier to clean.
Bread bins in light green enamel with black handles and BREAD written across the front adorned every kitchen worktop. To coordinate with this, families had flour jars and smaller matching tea, coffee and sugar canisters.
Cookware also matched; with casserole tins and baking trays in cream and green. Colanders, ladels, milk jugs, deep saucepots, measuring jugs, kettles, buckets…the list is endless. The white versions became the norm in the 1940s but this period definitely favoured green.
They can still be used in the way they were intended even though they now will all have enamel loss and slight rusting. Remember they have survived a world war and have bags of character so they now deserve to be proudly displayed on your worktop.
The 1940s housewife would have worn her apron or pinny for most of the day so it needed to be hard wearing and practical. So she wore a full length apron, handmade from off cuts from other sewing projects. More of an overall, it would often be patchworked. These ones are modern but with a vintage style.
Skyline produced cooking utensils in the 1940s that had wooden handles. These were then painted in bright colours such as blue and red with cream stripes. They originally came as a set with a metal row of hooks to attach to the wall.
These were so successful that later versions were produced in the 1960s in orange, but by that time the handles were made from plastic.
In the 1940s china production in the UK continued but anything ornate was exported abroad. If anyone bought these styles they were usually factory seconds. Utility tableware was plain, nicely glazed, came in pretty pastel colours and was the choice of millions of Brits. Woods Ware made the classic pale green Beryl which was the most popular, even used in schools and hospitals. They also made the lemon yellow Jasmine and pale blue Iris. Meakin made the pretty pink Glamour Rosa and Johnson Bros made the grey/blue Grey Dawn. They were practical, durable and can be easily found today.
The blue and white stripes of T.G. Green’s Cornish Ware are not only are a must have for any 1930s modern vintage kitchen but have come to represent true Britishness for any kitchen, new or old.
The range was first designed in 1926 in Derbyshire, UK and was applauded for the way it was manufactured. When made, stripes of blue glaze are removed to reveal the white pottery underneath. This makes the shiny blue stripe simply pop off the jar as it is raised. The name allegedly derived from someone’s vision of the Cornish sea with its blue and white waves. It was so successful it was produced until recently with only a slight design change in the 1960s. The storage jars are probably the most collected but they also produced rolling pins, plates as well as bowls and jugs. A yellow version appeared later aimed at the American market who preferred the sunshine hue rather than the cold blue.
Advertising tins were made as early as 1810, however with the consumer boom of the 1920s they became hugely popular and are still collectable today. Families bought new, exciting food products that often came in a tin which could be reused or displayed in the kitchen. Oxo, Lyon’s tea and McVities & Price’s biscuits were just some of the brands enjoyed.
Willow weaving was popular at this time as baskets were used on grocery shopping trips rather than using paper bags. Willow has been cut and used for thousands of years and used all over the world to make shelters as well as the humble basket. A willow tree is cut back heavily to encourage shoots to grow which are then cut and woven into different shapes. In the 1930s, nine thousand acres were grown on the Somerset Levels, UK, alone. This has been in decline ever since with the introduction of the carrier bag and the shopping trolley. Pull along trolleys were also loved for their convenience.
Home images by Simon Whitmore for my book Style Your Modern Vintage Home