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The Kitschen - Quirky Kitchen Design

Lately everyone seems to be talking about 'kitschen' style. It's a fun kitchen design trend very much on the rise in response to sleek, modern minimalism, tapping into a desire to create a more personalised, authentic home feel.

What Exactly is Kitschen Design?

The word 'Kitschen' expresses the ideas of kitschy kitchen design. So a kitschen approach celebrates the kitsch aesthetic, with a touch of retro style thrown in, feeling vintage and/or nostalgic, yet often with a contemporary twist.

The kitschen trend leans heavily on retro elements, mixing bright colours, playful patterns and eclectic accessories to create a kitchen space that's more of an outward expression of your personality. 

Kitsch kitchen - turquoise Smeg fridge - Coca-Cola bar stools

Image Credit: Decoist

Kitschen vs. Minimalism & Maximalism

Unlike minimalist or sleek modern kitchen styles with an emphasis on space and understated colour palettes, the kitschen look is full of idiosyncratic elements, encouraging creativity, with accessories and contrasting designs and bold colour for a lighter-hearted approach to cooking and dining.

Although kitschen shares some maximalist traits, unlike maximalism kitschen style is less busy and more subtle about its eclectic sensibility, maintaining an air of simplicity in amongst the more interesting stuff.

Colourful kitchen cabinets in a loft kitchen - eccentric kitchen colours - bright orange Smeg fridge - Belfast sink and other vintage appliences

Image Credit: Cambridge Dictionary Blog

Quirky Ideas for Kitschen Style

Let's talk about ways you can incorporate eclectic kitchen decor into your kitchen space for a quirkier, unique feel. And remember, you can give your kitchen a kitschen makeover, or just cherry pick a few appealing kitsch elements to punctuate your existing kitchen's design. The choice is yours.

Bold Colours and Patterns

Bold colours are a main element of kitschen style. Popular colour palette choices include vibrant reds reminiscent of 1950s diner booths, sunny yellows and retro pink that evoke the optimism of the 1960s, and fresh, coastal blues.

For an earthy yet lively touch, green kitchen paint can be a refreshing option, adding both vitality and a retro style vibe, with muted oranges and browns offering a later, 70s feel.

Graphic of wavy kitsch colours - coastal blues, pale yelow, orange and deep orange

Patterns are essential to the kitschen aesthetic. Think of polka dots that add a fun, retro twist. Floral motifs are another favourite, adding a touch of whimsy and softness. For a true kitschen feel, don't shy away from mixing and matching these patterns.

For example, simple gingham or garishly patterned oil cloths and fabrics, cushions and patterned cabinet liner paper provide an inexpensive way to give your kitchen space a kitschy feel.

kitsch kitchens - gingham fabric - orange, red and blue

Clashing Colours

Mix clashing colours and patterns to make a bold statement for an unexpected visual jolt, or to create a less obvious, quirky detail. The image below shows clashing green and blue cabinets, with purposely non-matching pendant lights with quirky, colourful shades.

Large kitchen with large island - bright green and blue cabinetry- neutral colours on the walls - statement lighting in a messy pendant style with non-matching coloured glass shades

Image Credit: The Times

Vintage Appliances

We can't talk about kitschen style without mentioning vintage appliances. The obvious two are the retro style cooker and the mid-century American fridge. They are usually in a single, retro or bold colour either as part of a full kitschen look, or as a single kitschy focal point.

Kitschen - quirky kitchen design - vintage appliances - country kitsch furnishings

Retro Lighting

Using statement lighting in your kitchen helps create a kitsch look. Go for pendant lights in modern geometric shapes. Consider coloured glass with a retro vibe.

Stained glass pendant lighting - flat, wavy petal design in thick glass - three lighs - translucent pink, bark green and orange

Image Credit: Etsy

Lamps can work too for kitchen dining spaces, particularly mid-century modern patterned shades.

Three retro lamps - all with kitschy shades with gaudy geometric and floral paterns - browns, burnt oranges, pale reds and greens

Adding Personal Touches

One of the main attractions of the kitschen trend is the emphasis on personalisation. It enables you to express your personality more than more formal kitchen styles, especially modern minimalism.

Adding eccentric touches to your kitchen will help create a cooking and dining space that reflects your tastes, sense of humour, and style, for a more authentic feel.

Choose vintage ornaments, even if they don't match. Unusual juxtaposition is a key element of kitschen style.

Retro kitsch accessories are ideal. A set of items as a statement works well, such as storage jars, bowls or condiment shakers. See the red and white polka dot caddy set pictured below.

Thrift store tea caddy set in bright red with white polka dots

Look out for quirky individual vintage accessories too. From teapots to lemon squeezers, to jugs and coffee makers. As single pieces they will have their own kitsch appeal, and combined will help develop an overall kitschen vibe.

A lot of kitschen items and ornaments can be found in your local charity shop and thrift stores – they can be a real treasure trove for kitsch lovers.

Thrifted finds - mid-century kitchen utensils, stove coffee maker, light blue tea pot - clss lemon squeezer, and cullender a si

Kitschen Cabinet Handle Ideas

A great way to add a kitsch feel is by upgrading your cabinet knobs and handles to something with a bit more personality. Giving your cupboard doors and drawer fronts some kitschen appeal can help create cooking and dining spaces that are more you.

Let's take a look at some kitchen cabinet knobs and handles to help inspire you. And bear in mind, replacing cabinet knobs and handles is a straightforward DIY job. First, here are some examples of coloured ceramic knobs that could easily be part of a kitsch kitchen.

Two ceramic cabinet knobs - pale pink and retro yellow

The single coloured ceramic knobs pictured above offer a really simple way in to kitschen style, available in a variety of cool colours. Here in retro green and pink they really capture the kitsch kitchen look.

Two ceramic cabinet knobs - white with bright blue polka dots, and sea foam green with white polka dots

Vintage kitchen cabinets in the Shaker style or traditional in-frame design can get a kitschen vibe with ceramic polka dot knobs. Ceramic material with a polka dot design is doubly kitsch.

Two cabinet cup pull handles - one matte black, the other polished chrome

If you have brightly coloured kitchen cabinets and don't want to go with the colour-clash look, polished chrome and matte black finishes can work well. Above are traditional cup-pulls, with black working better with bold primary colours and the chrome better suited to lighter retro shades.

Coloured glassware cabinet knobs

As we've seen above with lighting, glass can be a great way to create the kitschen look, and this applies to cabinet knobs too. Pictured above are a selection of glass cabinet knobs. As you can see, there's coloured 'cut' glass in black and blue, a fun 'bubble globe' look, and a very retro chunky square glass knob.

Kitschy flower style cabinet knobs

Another common motif in kitsch kitchens is nature, or flowers in particular. These can be in a variety of designs and materials. Pictured you'll see a retro green ceramic, loud pink petals in rubber, and metal flower design in a bright chrome finish – very kitschy.

Bumble bee cabinet knob and black dog head knob

Keeping with the nature theme, animals fit very well into the kitsch aesthetic. Take the cabinet knob examples above. The bright, polished brass bumble bee knob used across a whole kitchen could be very kitschy. But used as an 'Easter egg' on a single cupboard door or drawer would work equally well.

The dog, or 'Milo' design is very kitsch, reminiscent of Jeff Koons, an artist known for his super-kitsch style.

An Antidote to Generic Contemporary Kitchen Design

As mentioned earlier, rather than going for a kitschen look for an entire renovation, it's much easier (and fun) to kitschify your existing kitchen. And it doesn't matter what type of kitchen you have, minimalist, modern or traditional, you can create your own kitsch kitchen look. Here's a couple of examples adding some kitsch fun to more generic kitchen designs:

Below is a modern, quite minimalist looking kitchen, with handleless cabinetry. To add a bit of quirkiness, the cupboards and drawer fronts are painted milkshake pink.

Add to that the whistling kettle, vintage backsplash tiling, and random pot plants and you can see how this is giving a definite kitschen vibe. The opposing juxtaposition of sleek modern and kitsch works really well.

Retro pink kitchen - modern handleless design with Victorian tiling and large pot plant

There’s a different take on kitschen style pictured below. This cool kitchen is small but loud. Notice the bright red, glossy cabinets that give an immediate pop. And that contrasted with the black and white chequer tiling, with large, chrome pendant spots gives a kitschy American diner vibe. But it still has a modern twist with long T-bar cabinet handles and a steel extractor hood.

Small kitchen with brigh red cabinets, large black and white chequered tiling - large pendant spot liting in chrome

Final Thoughts

As we've seen, kitschen is a flexible, personalised interior design style that can make your kitchen a more idiosyncratic and playful space. And according to Pinterest Predicts data, the kitschen trend is gaining momentum.

So now is the time to inject a bit of fun into your kitchen, choosing the kitsch elements that will help your cooking and dining space become a more authentic reflection of your style and creative flare.

For more home and garden DIY inspiration, visit the Hiatt Hardware Blog. Get interior design articles and a range of helpful how-to guides. For the full catalogue of cabinet knobs and handles in a range of high quality finishes, visit Hiatt Hardware.