Breaking down the Mad Men kitchen


Today, we’re going to look at the kitchen design in the popular television show, Madmen.

In Don and Betty’s kitchen, the layout isn’t really that bad at all. They have a solid work triangle—that triangle between the sink, your cooktop, and the refrigerator—which is the main thing. It might be a little better if the fridge was a little further away, but overall, it’s pretty good.

What’s Good About the Madmen Kitchen

In that triangle, there’s functional countertop space, an ample landing zone for groceries, or whatever you’ve got coming out of the oven. On either side of the sink, next to the refrigerator, there’s the countertop. Even though the surface is shared with the sink, it still counts. There is counter space on either side of the cooktop, and then also by the oven. When you take something out of the oven, you’ve got that whole countertop to set stuff down.

While it’s not a huge kitchen space—not counting this eat-in area—it does seem like there’s a decent amount of cabinets for storage. There’s a couple of good-sized uppers for dishes, some base cabinets for linens and silverware, and more for pots and pans. I assume there’s probably at least one or two cabinets on this side of this peninsula by your cooktop.

As far as function goes, it’s not half bad. Of course, the materials and some of the colors and are kind of dated. Overall, however, the bones of it are good. A lot of people would want something similar to this now.

Today, though, you’d probably turn this peninsula into more of a floating island, get rid of the wall cabinets to open it up to the eat-in space beyond the peninsula – and you’ll have a modern kitchen layout that we see quite often.

Peninsula vs. Island

Image from – Design by Murphy Co.

Sometimes, an island will work better with the space, as opposed to a peninsula. Both will give you more function, more countertop space, more storage, and it’s where most people would have decorative pendant lights. If there is a cooktop or a range in the island, you might have a decorative hood above it, something that’s not quite as large as the cooktop.

Formica Countertops

Image from

Most likely, they’ve got Formica countertops. You can still get those, and they come in lots of different color choices. Though they’re pretty retro, they are still relevant in today’s kitchens, and they’re budget-friendly.

The cabinets are a simple slab door, that’s still pretty popular. We don’t see too much knotty wood like that anymore. Some of the decorative stuff is passé. For example – the valance over the sink. Even if we were doing a mid-century kitchen, that’s the kind of thing that we wouldn’t do. Most people want streamlined, clean-lined features without a whole lot of decorative elements.

The wood tones and more of the natural materials, though, that still works.

What Would We Change?

Image by Kim Hildenbrand

Flooring would be the main thing we would be looking to change. The floor here looks like it’s linoleum or vinyl.

These days, we don’t see too much of those colors they have in the border – meaning the wallpaper that kind of wraps the room. Make no mistake, wallpaper is coming back, but we see much less of it used throughout the room. Patterned wallpaper is usually more of like an accent, like big florals and geometric shapes, stuff like that. We’ll use it as an accent on one of the walls, say over in the eating area, but definitely in a place where you’re not cooking and splashing water and grease.

On the countertops, we still do laminates, just generally not in these colors. Here, you’ve got blue with a metal trim. Today, we’d see designs that closely mimic stone and wood, patterns that look like other kinds of countertops. You can still get Formica (and other materials) in funky colors, but these days, we very rarely see the metal trim around it.

All this extra-frilly stuff—like the stuff over the range, over the window, all of that extra stuff— takes away from the clean lines of the door and the curving shape of the peninsula. Those things stand out without all the extras, giving us what we kind of think of now as mid-century modern design.

Does mid-century modern design speak to you? If you’re thinking about a kitchen remodel and love this look, we can help make it happen. Reach out today, and let’s talk about it!

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