Start with the obvious: Both vintage and repro dish towels and table linens cover style periods from Art Nouveau to Jetsons Modern. Or whip up your own table runners and curtains with vintage reproduction fabrics or kits (see below).
Café-style curtains—a half curtain that leaves the top of the window open to the light—are a kitchen classic, says Dianne Ayres of Arts & Crafts Period Textiles. Save the embroidered curtains for the dining room and keep it simple. “Especially near the sink, you want something that’s easily washable,” she says. If the curtains will be closed and opened frequently, use small brass rings along the top.
Another good place to splash color is on the floor. Depending on the age and style of your house and the look you want to achieve, hand-braided, -hooked, and –woven rugs are all colorful and durable options. Woven rag rugs and braided mats probably predate colonial times, but the fancier hooked rug only began to appear about the 1840s.
Hand-painted floorcloths are another period-friendly method of covering a floor with color, especially for early American homes. They’re made by coating a canvas sheet with multiple coats of paint, topped with a sealer. The patterns can be anything you can imagine, from an authentic period design to a design right out of your head. The best will last for years, giving your kitchen “makeover” longevity that last year’s retrofits can only dream of.
Make It Yourself
Embroider new kitchen linens including napkins, runners, and table scarves yourself from kits that include patterned fabric, thread, needles, and instructions. If you sew, whip up a pair of simple curtains or a valance, says Dianne Ayres of Arts & Crafts Period Textiles. Use about 1 1/2 times as much fabric as the width of the window opening. (In other words, if you’re planning a pair of curtains for a 36” wide opening, each panel should be about 27” wide.) Cut the selvedge off before you measure, and allow enough fabric to fold under twice for a double hem, plus more material for a pocket rod at the top. “If you leave it as least twice as big as the diameter of the rod, it will slide easily,” Ayres says.