A Brief History of the Kitchen

Changes in kitchen design often reflected economic and societal changes.

The history of the kitchen is fascinating. The kitchen we know today is an indispensable component to contemporary life. Today’s kitchen is often open to the family and dining rooms and it’s the natural gathering place when entertaining. Instead of welcoming guests into the living room, the kitchen is the place we gather friends or conduct business. Homeowners today are demanding large kitchen plans with plenty of space for baking, cooking and hosting. Double islands, walk-in pantries, and specialty appliances keep kitchen remodelers busy. Considering how important the “trophy” kitchen is for today’s homeowners, it’s amazing to think that not long ago, kitchens were one of the least desirable rooms in the home. It’s obvious that the kitchen has undergone many technological and social changes over the decades. But what might not be so obvious is why these changes occurred, or what created the kitchen we know and love today.

Historically, kitchens weren’t luxurious and unlike today’s kitchen, they were not rooms where people wanted to spend time in. They definitely weren’t rooms meant for hosting guests or entertaining. They were dark and prone to catching fire; they were filled with noises, messes and smells. They were extremely busy spaces and could be hot and uncomfortable. For these reasons, kitchens tended to be situated as far away as possible from the social or private rooms in a home. The upper class even celebrated a disconnection from food and food preparation by situating their dining rooms far away from the kitchen, going so far as to mask the smell of food. Even the lower classes placed the kitchen away from the center of the home by moving them to the back of the house, next to the outdoor work areas. So how did it come to be that the kitchen of today serves as the hub for nearly every aspect of home life? What events transpired to allow us the luxury of the kitchen we know today?

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