Kitchens of the Twentieth Century - Part I

KITCHENS OF THE 1910's, 20s, & 30s

With spending all this extra time in the kitchen with the holidays I began to think about how the kitchen has changed over the years.  I decided to look back over the 20th Century and how things have evolved.

In this first of a 3 part series, we will be looking at kitchens from 1900 thru the 1930s. Part 2 will be focused on kitchens from the 1940s thru the 60's with Part 3 featuring kitchens from the 70's to the end of the century.

1906 kitchenIt seems that at the beginning of the century the kitchen was filled with individual components such as cabinets, shelves, appliances, etc. As a general rule the pieces did not coordinate together nor fit together. It was a utilitarian room focused on its function, not its fashion.

Remember, it was not until the 1920s in the United States when electric stoves became more mainstream. Prior to that, availability of electricity, poor temperature regulation and the short life of the heating elements. Thus most homes in the first two decades has a coal and wood burning stove.

1920s all in one cabinetThis all in one cabinet was a hot commodity in the early 20s because it combined many of the things used on a daily basis in one place. It combined the countertop with cabinets above and below.  Certainly a forerunner to what we now have in our kitchens.

We often look at old kitchens with nostalgia but take a quick look at the top could not open a door unless the counter was clear.  

As just a thought, maybe this basic early design is the reasoning for taking everything out of the cupboards before starting to bake. This was the rule of thumb - gather everything. 100 years ago you would not be working on that counter and then needing something in the cupboard.  Pre-planning was necessary.

1924 kitchen maid cabinetsThis is from an ad in 1924 featuring an integrated cabinet and counter system. It seems they had the same idea as the all in one of earlier years. They combined ice box, ironing board, counter, spice storage and more.

Early kitchen included a table but that table originally was to work on, not to eat at. Thus the sideboard counters were small with very little work space.

By the 1930s, things began to seriously modernize. Although it appeared that 'coordinating' your kitchen components began, it was in the 30's that the push was on. Design now became important to this room that began as nothing more than a workroom for preparing meals.

1930s kitchen cabinetryNotice that all of a sudden cabinets are no longer free-standing but integrated. There is no longer a mish mash of components but everything is coming together with 'installed' cabinets both above and below more ample counter space.

Notice also that the 'clutter' is gone.  Everything had a place and everything was put in its place.  

Kitchens were fast becoming light and airy places and new to the 40s was a coordinated seating area and countertop space all of a sudden was huge in comparison to the previous decades.

1930s kitchenThe other very noticeable comparison to previous decades was the fact that these rooms were decorated.  Drapes were on the windows and color was added to walls and cupboards. The whole look of the kitchen was becoming coordinated.  

In this 1930s kitchen we can see again there is a place to eat in the kitchen, the stove and sink are incorporated right into the counter and there are top cabinets. 

The kitchen was fast becoming a social place where family gathered and ate their meals. The dining room had become a place for dinner while the more informal feel of the kitchen offered a place for the other meals of the day.

Do you have a early 20th century kitchen? What do you love about it and what drives you a bit batty?

Next week we will focus on kitchens from the 1940s thru the 1960s. Read Part II →

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Daye is an avid collector and researcher of all things vintage.

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