“Kitchen No. 7,” from the trade catalogue “Kitchen Hints,”1947. The Kitchen Maid Corporation, Andrews, Ind., publisher. Collection of Historic New England. Used on this site with their permission.
“Kitchen No. 7,” from the trade catalogue “Kitchen Hints,” 1947. The Kitchen Maid Corporation, Andrews, Ind., publisher. Collection of Historic New England. Used on this site with their permission.

THE 20th CENTURY WAS A TIME OF RADICAL CHANGE in kitchen design. As Nancy Carlisle and Melinda Nasardinov describe in America’s Kitchens, a focus on efficiency in the early part of the century transformed kitchens into compact units, with matching cabinets and built-in appliances topped with spans of countertop. Efficient kitchens were meant to reduce workloads, but their small size and usual location in the back of the house also distanced cooks from their families and guests. The open floor plans of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s were a reaction against that isolation. As Nasardinov frames it, they “transformed kitchens from service spaces into social spaces” by blurring the boundaries between cooking, eating, and living areas.

Erica Donnis is an independent historian and museum consultant based in Burlington, Vermont.  This is the second installment of her week-long look at America’s Kitchens — both the book and the national traveling exhibition.

  1. nina462 says:

    Is that a ‘dutch door’? When I ordered a new front door this year, I almost went with a dutch door (they split in half). I live in a very much Dutch community (SW Michigan)–so at least the guy knew what I was talking about.
    Maybe 10 years from now, I’ll replace it with a dutch door –

  2. Virginia says:

    I love that color combination. Yellow and bluey-grey, a classic through the decades! I have been trying to find a late 1940’s kitchen color combo that I really liked, and I think this is it. Thanks!

  3. SilentCal says:

    I just had to share this… I have original 1950 knotty pine kitchen cabinets/drawers with wrought iron hardware. They were handmade with great skill by members of my family. This past weekend, I asked for advice at the Home Depot kitchen design center about choosing a new laminate countertop color to go with the honey gold wood–and got totally snubbed.
    Wow. The designer barely looked up from his desk and said that “most people” paint over the knotty pine. He gave me no suggestions and didn’t ask questions to see if I was thinking about renovating. Wow–treated shabbily just for wanting to keep my vintage look. ~:(

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