Let’s take a field trip through time – and examine the evolution of the “heart of the home” – the kitchen, over the past century (plus!). As it turns out, almost exactly 100 years ago in 1920, the modern kitchen as we know it was born. In that amount of time there have been many advances, both architectural and technological, that have brought us to where we are today.
1837-1901: The Victorian Kitchen
During the reign of Queen Victoria in England the so-called Victorian Kitchen was relegated to the back of the house, where many women worked together, completely out of sight. The hallmarks of the Victorian Kitchen were:
• They were large and meant for constant use.
• They were oriented inwards, with a large workspace in the center of the room.
• No quartz countertops here! Cabinets and appliances were treated as furniture which matched the style of the rest of the house, rather than being fixed.
The legacy of the Victorian Era and its namesake kitchen would last well into the 20th Century.
1920’s: The Frankfurt Kitchen
The 1920’s marked the “most dramatic overhaul” of the Victorian Kitchen.
Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, an Austrian architect, created a post WWI kitchen (originally intended to rebuild German cities) which was practical, efficient, and compact. Her revolutionary kitchen, known as the Frankfurt Kitchen, is now considered the prototype for modern-day fitted kitchens.
Main Features of The Frankfurt Kitchen
• Since it was compact, everything was in arms reach, saving time.
• It gave birth to the concept of the “Golden Triangle,” in which the cooker, refrigerator (or at that time, icebox), and sink are ideally placed for maximum efficiency.
Staple of the 1920’s kitchen: The Hoosier Cabinet
The Hoosier Cabinet sped meal delivery with metal-lined flour bins, cookbook holders, a calendar, a grocery list wheel, and a flour sifter, plus handy nutritional charts. It was a must-have for worker-bee wives and mothers.
Legacy of The Hoosier Cabinet
This popular piece of 1920’s furniture lives on in modern cabinets with blind-corner pullouts, built-in spice racks, and Tupperware organizers!
1940’s: The Integrated Kitchen
Starting in the 1940’s, Integrated kitchens significantly altered the look and feel of the space. No more free-standing sinks and Hoosier Cabinets; welcome home fully fitted cupboards, work surfaces, and appliances. In the 40’s, bright colors and decorative glass knobs were in vogue.
Main Features of the Integrated Kitchen
• Cabinets, walls, and countertops in cheery, vivid, contrasting colors — a departure from the all-white cabinets and counters of the sanitation-obsessed 20’s.
• Countertops and backdrops in decorative tile, with strong graphic patterns and ‘pops’ of color.
• The emergence of enamel metal appliances, often featuring bold colors.
Kitchen Appliances in the 1940’s
In the 1940’s, new technology made appliances more reliable and easier to use. Of special note is the introduction of the refrigerator to replace the icebox. Kitchens also featured stoves, broilers, ovens, and small appliances to make cooking and tasks easier.
1950’s: The English Rose Kitchen
While the earlier half of the 20th century was focused on ergonomics and sanitation, the latter half focused on aesthetics. Further, after years of being relegated to “the back of the house,” the English Rose Kitchen brought the space front and center. In the 1950s the English Rose Kitchen became the pinnacle of interior fashion.
Main Features of the English Rose Kitchen
• Sleek Cabinetry
• Built-in appliances
• Streamlined style
• “Matchy-matchy” color scheme. Although in the 1950’s they did not have the luxury of quartz countertops like we do today, homeowners had fun with decorating and chose lively, colorful motifs.
• A hefty price tag, which made it all the more desirable
Today, the English Rose Kitchen “is hailed as an iconic design of its time.” It’s design elements lasted through the end of the century.
Legacy of the English Rose Kitchen
Kitchen islands, double ovens, and separate cooktops.
21st Century and Beyond
Today, the kitchen is truly the heart of the home. It is a gathering place for friends and family who cook and eat together in its wide-open space. “Homeowners want their kitchens to be spacious, light, practical and stylish, with space for cooking, eating, relaxing and working.”
Main Features of the Modern Kitchen
• Ultra-modern appliances
• Simple and unadorned cabinetry
• Modern quartz countertops
• Kitchen wall tiles
• Bright, optimistic colors
• Recessed lighting
The Future of Kitchen Design
The 1920’s are about to have a major moment: Think smaller kitchens with practical elements. This time around, they will be packed with high-grade, chef-level equipment.
Gadgets like self-cleaning ovens, boiling water taps, and instant ice machines are already common. What could possibly be next? Even more high-tech devices, of course! There will be things like refrigerators that re-order your milk when it can sense you’re running low, and forks that send you a signal to eat more slowly. The “internet of things,” or IoT, is just around the corner!
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