Retro and vintage appliances and fixtures marry great design with twenty-first-century know-how

The current availability of retro and vintage appliances for the kitchen and bath is sure to gladden the hearts of design purists, the environmentally conscious consumer and those inclined to nostalgia. Whether you want original pieces, reproductions or the ability to integrate modern convenience in a period home, the industry has got you covered.

“There are more options than ever,” says Sue Booth of Vintage Kitchens in Concord. “I like the design tension of milk-painted cabinets with new appliances, and I really get excited if someone wants to use restored appliances. But it’s also easy to integrate a new dishwasher in a period home by paneling the front, making it invisible to the untrained eye. And you can do that at many price points.”

Walter K. Parker, a plumber who collects old plumbing components and restores period baths with Old School Plumbing in Massachusetts, says the golden age of plumbing was 1908. Part picker, part artist, Parker has a gift for discovering rare pieces-he recently found a brass elbow for a soapstone sink in a dirt pile. He works all over New England, on projects as small as a third-floor bath in an Arts and Crafts home, to re-doing ten bathrooms in a Newport, Rhode Island, mansion.

Reproduction appliances circa 1890 have been around for many years, but a recent addition is the “new antique”: appliances from the 1950s. “They appeal especially to consumers who are between thirty and fifty years old, who want a little piece of simplicity,” says Tony Dowling of Elmira Stove Works in Ontario, Canada.

Two years ago, Elmira launched a new product: a wood-burning cook stove, based on an 1865 design. “It appeals to people who want to reduce their carbon footprint. Reproductions in general are for people who like to make a statement. These appliances are conversation pieces, as well as high-functioning tools.”

Brian Ellis, manager of Baron’s Major Brands showrooms in Concord and Manchester, says the store carries some Elmira ranges. “Their sister company, Northstar, makes a great line of retro fridges and stoves, and customers can choose them in any color from the Dupont color chart,” Ellis says. “And Baron’s is happy to do the installation.”