Interior Design Education

American Kitchen Design Through the Decades

There are countless ways a kitchen is used at this day in age.  The kitchen is a central gathering space for families to share a meal together or socialize during a party.  Perhaps it even becomes an at-home office and homework center from time to time.  Sometimes it's more for show, and sometimes every square inch of space is used to create that one perfect dish.  The way a kitchen is utilized depends on a variety of factors such as layout, functionality, and your personality. 

We learn best through examples in history.  Whether it be the most positive and groundbreaking peaks or the most devastating and iconic disasters, we find value in past examples.  Kitchen design is a prime example of how humans have become more and more in touch with the functionality and ergonomics of their living environment.  We're going to take our readers on a little journey through time addressing certain times in history that once had the most innovative kitchen.  It's pretty amazing to see how far the design industry has come in just one hundred years.

1910's/20's - Freestanding furniture pieces were a staple of this era.  The 'hoosier cabinet' (furniture piece pictured on the right) was a cabinet that created an efficient work space, having flour-lined bins and other organization tools.  Kitchens were often very neutral in color tone, as the kitchen was strictly a place to work and cook.  During this time, all walls were closed off from the gathering spaces with a separate entry door, as the host would never want their guests to see the food preparation areas where the house staff worked.

1930's - As the great depression begins, the art deco era begins to become prominent in middle-high class families.  Housewives would select bright and cheery colors to decorate their homes.  We begin to see more interest in functionality, noticing the different drawer sizes used for utensils, towels, etc.. Built in cabinets also become more popular in this era, while freestanding cabinets and hutches start to feel impractical and outdated.  Another important part of kitchen design becomes highly utilized and coveted in the 30's...electronic appliances!

1940's - Bolder primary colors and two-toned themes were a big hit of this era.  Aluminum countertops and cabinets were desirable because of the clean-ability factor, as the nation was still very concerned with sanitation since diseases were still floating around.  Wallpaper and window treatments finish off the space, as crisp white cabinets create a clean contrast.

1950s - The Mid-Century Modern era is known for the smaller home footprint with the introduction of the open floor plan.  The kitchen was considered the heart of the home, where fun pastels were complemented by a bold pop or two of color.  Interior design grew to be more efficient and focused on the functionality of how a human would use the space.  Frank Lloyd Wright is undoubtedly one of the most known architects and designers of this era.

1960's - Still very reminiscent of the 50's Mid Century Modern style, the 60's became even more clean-lined.  Minimalist furniture and accessories were all the rage, while more subdued colors made an impact on the finish materials on the time.  A big push in this era was to move more toward a 'warm' aesthetic, often times by implementing wood or white cabinetry.

1970's - Again, an even more modern approach was sought after in this time period.  Many changes in self-awareness and other political issues caused Americans to start thinking in a more progressive manor.  Many odd colors such as brown, orange, and shades of yellow made a strong appearance, and sometimes a bold floral print was seen as an accent wall in a kitchen. A well known interior designer of this era is David Hicks.

1980's - Pastels, pale colors, and floral prints were undeniably major trends from the 80's.  While some homes were strictly shades of pale pastels and having a shabby chic appearance, others could have been funky, abstract, and bold.  A lot of variety started showing through in the aesthetics seen in homes, but heavy, chunky furniture was almost always seen.  Needless to say, the 80's was an awfully unattractive period of time for the interior design world.

1990's - Can you say brass fixtures? McMansions became the norm to middle and high class families around this time.  The bigger the house, the better.  Kitchens really started to expand in size, as many floor plans started providing an open plan combining the kitchen with the adjacent hearth room.  Granite countertops became increasingly more popular, and stainless steel appliances were really taking off.  White kitchens were also a huge hit in the 90's, and we're definitely seeing that come back around now.

2000's - A more casual aesthetic became popular at the turn of the century.  The focus was on a more minimal approach, as the kitchen was the heart of the home.  Maple cabinets and granite countertops with a lot of speckling were common, as were quartz countertops.  Stainless steel and oil-rubbed bronze were definitely the two finish choices when it came to metal finishes.

Present Day - Needless to say, A LOT has happened in the interior design world since the last major design period, the early 2000's.  It's already been 17 years since the turn of the century.  If that doesn't make you feel older, I'm not sure what would!  HGTV, Pinterest, and Houzz have become increasingly more popular for home owners as they attempt DIY renovation projects and such.  Major nods to this era include element such as shiplap, open shelving, and shades of white and gray.  While some of these elements will potentially stand the test of time, there has definitely been a huge push toward a cleaner, fresh, home-y feel.  There are so many clever and ergonomically friendly organization systems in kitchens now, from pull-out spice racks to built-in tray dividers.  At the end of the day, people want their kitchen to be unique and stand out.

Hopefully this little journey through time has educated our readers a bit on the history of American kitchen design.  I think we can all agree that we've come a long way from the first kitchen image from the 1910's/20's.  We're anxious to see new design elements continue to grow in this decade, and would love to hear of any additional comments from our readers about today's kitchen design or past eras!