Friday, June 28, 2013

Shopping for Period Style Kitchen Items

I have spent literally hours trying to find period style items for my kitchen. It is surprising how difficult it is to find modern kitchen items that resemble those I found in the period photos. I really thought it would be easier; after all, how much would canisters and crocks change?

These were the containers I really liked.
I spent hours and hours trying to find modern reproductions with no luck. I finally had some success with finding similar canisters when I tried ebay and etsy. If you want to search ebay or etsy, I suggest using the search terms "german porcelain canisters" or "mepoco german" or "block canisters" or other variants. (There are actually some beautiful sets on eBay right now, but they'll be gone too quickly to make it worth preserving the links here.) It is especially difficult to find a good set that still has all the pieces and all the lids and when you do, they're not inexpensive.

Since I never found a set that coordinated with my kitchen—most sets with an acceptable pattern were delft blue which really didn't work for me—I finally compromised on a modern good-enough-for-now round copper set and I continue to keep my eye out for a nice antique or reproduction set. (The copper set is already showing signs of wear after less than 2 years of use.)

I have to admit I gave up on the drainer. Rubbermaid does carry a large chrome dish drainer but the reviews for it complain that it starts to rust almost immediately. It is also possible to find quite a few vintage wire dish racks, but again, I imagine they'll all suffer the same rusting fate. So, for now, I content myself with a plastic-coated rubbermaid dish rack. I am on the look out for a decent looking option in stainless steel and when I find one, I'll update this post and buy it.

Fortunately wire bale jars are very easy to find. They're literally carried all over; here is a 12 pack at Amazon. The lids for mason jars look to have gotten smaller, but they're also period as well. They're carried everywhere, especially at your neighborhood garage sales which is the most affordable way I've found to pick up quite a few of them.

One great place to shop for old style kitchen gear is Lehman's. (No, I'm not being paid for the endorsement in anyway; I'm just a happy customer.) They cater to amish and other folks off the grid and they carry non-electric versions of a whole lot of kitchen gadgets. And especially of note, if you need those little rubber rings for your old bale close jars, they carry them. They also currently have a beautiful set of heritage blue stripe stoneware that would be tempting if my kitchen cabinets were not already bulging.

I did manage to score a 1914 toaster off eBay that didn't cost a fortune.

In examining the old pictures, there seemed to be a lot of enamel-coated bowls and cooking pots in the photos. You can still buy those too, but they are NOT cheap. A reputable brand, Le Creuset, is having a sale right now—their 11-piece set is $1000! And while you can find less expensive alternatives at places like Target, I have no idea how they would hold up to regular use.

In concluding this post, when I first started shopping for our kitchen, I actually expected I would be able to find more period-style items, but it was disappointingly difficult. With our current disposable everything-made-in-China culture, I guess we have moved on. The good stuff made to last is too expensive and the cheap stuff just doesn't look like the traditional items anymore. There is just so much stuff made from plastic now.


  1. I would think estate sales could be a good source of some of this? It's hard to hit just the right estate sale. Auctions might also be a source, but I knew a good auction house where I used to live and don't know about the ones in Portland. I like stainless steel cookware myself,and Vollrath pans, and saw some on ebay but they were rather expensive.

    1. Estate sales probably would be good, but my luck has not been good at finding the kinds of items I'm looking for. I have found good deals that I invariably bring home with me and then later regret because I end up filling my house with too much stuff. That's why I pretty much stopped going to estate sales.

  2. While brands like "Le Creuset" are top quality, there are also a large number of other brands that make equally good enamelled pots for a fraction of the cost.

    When it comes to vintage/repro accessories, I find that old ones (original antiques) are almost always better than new. I tend to scour second hand stores, flea markets, and pawn shops for these types of items, but for really specific and hard-to-find items, I love eBay and Etsy.

    A perfect example is my Victorian nickel-plated toilet paper holder. Some of these sell for as much as 100-175$ in salvage stores/websites, but I found mine on Etsy for 10$ (a VERY lucky find, however).

    1. I'd welcome any information you have about what other brands are good quality. I've never owned any and I've read some pretty mixed reviews about how some of them perform.

      I haven't figured out the flea markets and auctions in Portland because I almost always bring home a bunch of stuff I don't really need which then clutters up my already too full house. So I tend to focus my search online where I'm less tempted to buy stuff not on the list.

      I scored my brand new repro brass toilet holder on clearance for $15! It was also a lucky find.