The Heart of Your Home: A History of the Kitchen

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How things came to be is often a just a passing thought for most of us. We use different appliances, electronics, and other inventions without much consideration as to their origin or development.

The evolution of our homes is no exception. The history of the kitchen has vastly changed since the early 20th century, leading to greater appliances, more convenience, and better living. Read on to learn how the heart of your home has transformed over the years.

Early 20th Century

The history of the kitchen has progressed tremendously; consider that the kitchen used to be a dark, hidden room found at the back of the home. Early 20th century kitchens primarily served as the working room for the women of the household, usually containing sewing machines and laundry, as well. While the modern living room often includes the fireplace, kitchens in the 1900s were the hotspot thanks to wood stoves. And while refrigerators were unheard of at this point in time (ice boxes were used for cooling purposes), cooking stoves were fairly common.

- History of the Kitchen Old -

Unlike high-tech modern stoves with gas and electric ranges, hearths needed constant attention. Adjusting the stoves and dampers and adding fuel and water were just some of the chores these old-fashioned appliances needed. However, going into the 1910s, nearly every kitchen had the addition of heavy cast-iron stoves, sinks, and iceboxes. The stoves were especially important since they served as the primary appliance for cooking, heating water for bathing and washing, and providing heat for the home. This was the decade that the basic forms of ranges, refrigerators, and waffle irons were coming into shape.

1920s to Mid-20th Century

The history of the kitchen greatly changed during the ‘20s and onward. No longer seen as strictly the workroom hidden away in the back of the home, the kitchen began to take on a lighter, more inviting feel, incorporating colorful paints for the cabinets and bright designs scattered throughout in rugs, curtains, and dinnerware. During this time, the “Shelvadore” refrigerator was born. Its convenient shelves-in-the-door storage was obviously brilliant as it continues to be the go-to design for today’s refrigerators.

- History of the Kitchen Midcentury -

It’s safe to say that kitchens were becoming more vibrant and welcoming during this time period, likely in part as a type of reaction to the ongoing war. People wanted to incorporate more colors, as well as convenience and comfort, into their kitchens. Two-toned colors splashed the walls, while the infamous black and white checkered pattern became widely popular as floor tiles. More commonalities included built-in cabinets and more accessible refrigerators for the lower and middle class.

The ’50s officially said goodbye to the all-white kitchens, and said hello to colors of blue, green, pink, and yellow. Patterns of flowers and bold designs were also extremely common for wallpapers. What’s more, the kitchen now began to be connected to the living room, making the dark and dreary design and location of the kitchen a thing of the past. Advancements in refrigerators and electric stoves made these appliances a common sight in nearly every home.  The emergence of toaster ovens, hand-held mixers, and stand mixers proved to be popular too,  as they added convenience and ease to baking and cooking.

- Pink Kitchen -

1960s to Late 20th Century

As the feminist movement began, more women were joining the workforce, and therefore looking for more time-saving and convenient cooking and cleaning appliances. Dishwashers, garbage disposals, and refrigerators with freezers were gaining popularity, as well as the brand new ultimate time-saver, the microwave, which quickly became a staple in every home. Mustard and orange colors were found in nearly every aspect of kitchens, from the countertops to the wallpaper. We have the ’70s to thank for kitchen islands and raised bars, which have both continued to be a staple in modern day kitchens everywhere.

- 70s Kitchen -

The ’80s and the ’90s are monumental in the history of the kitchen, as the phrase “the heart of the home” was established. Tasteful matching in terms of cabinets, flooring, and countertops became trendy, with warmer colors, oak cabinets, and wooden furniture making their way into the kitchen. Displays were especially popular during these years, with cookbook shelves, wine and pot racks, and pegboards allowing people to show off their accessories when not using them.

It’s little wonder that kitchens began to take on such a different approach at this time, when the introduction of celebrity cooks on TV began to take off. The “open floor plan” was extremely popular, as it influenced more social gatherings within the kitchen, as well as allowing room for kitchen islands to become a staple. Appliances no longer appear in ivory only, but instead show off white and black coloring until the emergence of the now perennial stainless steel at the end of the century.

The 21st Century

It’s no secret that stainless steel has continued to be a commonality among kitchens since their arrival in the early 2000s. Granite countertops have also continued to be a favorite in the modern day kitchen. While colors have become more selective based on the homeowner, simple, uncluttered décor is often a common practice in terms of design. Luckily, nearly every appliance one could ever need is now available. From vegetable steamers to sparkling beverage makers, the options are endless and the kitchen is thriving.

While the design of the kitchen varies greatly depending on the homeowner, it has undoubtedly become the heart and center of the home. In fact, TVs have now become a common addition to them as well, proving entertainment is consistently a main role for this part of the home. Generous lighting, spacious room, and plenty of storage, seating, and countertop space are necessities in the modern kitchen. Once dark and hidden, the history of the kitchen has luckily transformed this space into one that is a winning combination of a welcoming atmosphere and an aesthetically pleasing appearance.



What designs will be popular in the future? Will stainless steel ever be a thing of the past? All we can do is wait and see what the future of the kitchen will bring. For now, we’ll take notes from the history of the kitchen and let it continue to inspire us. For even more kitchen inspiration, visit your local Monark showroom today.

Vintage photo sources: The ‘50s kitchen is an Armstrong kitchens ad published in Better Homes & Gardens in 1956 and the ‘70s kitchen was featured in the Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book in 1975. Header photo source: Barnes Vanze Architects Instagram.

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