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Kitchens Through The Decades

By Sophie Hardy, 22nd July, 2016

Over the years the kitchen has adapted to economic and societal changes, embracing advancements in technology, style trends, and family life. Once seen as a service area away from the social rooms of the house, it has since become a versatile space for families to enjoy together. Here we will take you through the decades to see how kitchen design has developed over the last century.

Kitchens Then And Now

The War Years - 1920's - 1940's

During the early 1900’s, it was rare to see anyone other than the women of the house in the kitchen. It was considered a functional room, so space was limited and appearance was mostly utilitarian. The introduction of rationing throughout the war intensified the no-frills look as the kitchen was only used to try and fuel the family with very little food.


1920 to 1940 Kitchen Appliances


Industrialisation meant that factories were developing in terms of saving time in production, and this was then carried into kitchen design with the idea of labour-saving layouts and inventions. For example, refrigerators were introduced into the kitchen in the 1930’s, and electric cookers started to replace gas.


Kitchen From The War Years


The furniture was mostly free standing, with a simple wooden table, an oven, and a farmhouse sink fixed to the wall. The first step towards the fitted kitchen came with the Hoosier Cabinet, this was a separate cabinet that provided housewives with both kitchen storage and a workspace. With a pull out work surface, spice racks, and flour sifters, all food prep could be done in one place making it a great development in efficiency in the kitchen.

The Fabulous Fifties

Thanks to post-war manufacturing advancements throughout the 50’s, bespoke fitted cabinets were introduced along with an array of new materials. Fibreglass, aluminium, and stainless steel were common and Formica worktops and tables featured in most homes. These synthetic materials are easier to maintain, which was important as the kitchen became more about appearance.


Kitchen Appliances From The Fifties


As with other rooms in the 1950’s household, there was an increase of technology and electrical equipment in the kitchen. Convenience and efficiency were key so electric mixers, toasters, and coffee machines became readily available appliances, freezers went into mass production for the home, and automatic washing machines were also making an appearance.


Typical Fifties Kitchen


Towards the end of the decade the kitchen was being revitalised with new equipment, and the décor became more colourful too. Influenced by the Americans, the use of bold red and pastel blues and pinks were favoured colour schemes, along with the infamous retro linoleum checkerboard flooring – what we now know as American Diner style. Thinking of creating your own retro 50’s kitchen? Our Java Diner Stool is a great choice for this style!

The Swinging Sixties

By the 60’s, the idea of the perfect housewife was fading as more women got jobs and spent less time in the kitchen, so time saving layouts and appliances were necessary. Dishwashers were introduced and frozen food became a staple to reduce the time spent preparing meals. Not only that, kitchens started to grow in size again with larger fridges and space for a small dining table.


Kitchen Appliances From The Sixties


Built-in and fitted cabinets were now a fundamental feature and the basic design was much like the kitchen we know today. However, the décor was far from it, as classic 60’s style embraced vibrant patterns and vivid colours. Psychedelic patterned tiles, wallpaper, and vinyl flooring were in fashion, with mustard yellows, oranges, reds, and greens creating some truly garish colour schemes.


Typical Sixties Kitchen


Space age style was also a leading trend thanks to rapid scientific advancements throughout the decade, and of course the Space Race. Futuristic shapes and abstract designs were all the rage in furniture and décor, along with metallic accents like stainless steel countertops, chrome appliances, and copper pendant lighting.

The Disco Years - 1970's & 1980's

After the bold colours of the sixties, the 1970’s toned it down with dark and earthy colour schemes - not helped by poor fluorescent lighting. Muted yellows, browns, and avocado greens were common, even in the appliances, along with dark wooden cabinets and wall panelling. The dark wood theme was also evident in the furniture, often in wooden dining chairs placed around a small kitchen table. Wallpaper and linoleum floors were still fashionable, particularly with geometric or floral patterns influenced by the dominant disco culture.


1970 to 1980 Kitchen Appliances


The countertop microwave oven was readily available for domestic use by the late 70’s, and its arrival reinvented the idea of convenience in the kitchen. One and a half ovens were also popular, as were separate counter top hobs. These extra appliances created a need for adequate workspace, often producing an overcrowded room with as many fitted cabinets as possible. However, the 80’s introduced cabinets without handles that led the way to the much-loved seamless design of today.


Kitchen From The Seventies


Bright and neutral kitchens were embraced in the 80’s with white appliances and a trend for white cabinets with a wooden trim. The light and airy look was enhanced by the adoption of open plan living. Thanks to the perfection of the extractor hood, living and kitchen space could be integrated without the lingering smell of food. This meant the kitchen started to become a social space and a place of entertainment.

The Modern Millennium - 1990's & 2000's

The 90’s went back to basics and brought us simple, rustic kitchens with detailed light wood cabinets and pine or light oak furniture. Minimalist style was also popular after the overcrowded look of the previous years. Neutral or white colour schemes, white appliances, and a taste for affordable flat pack and pared down furniture had developed, similar to the widespread Scandi style of today. With a whole new range of appliances available, integrated design meant that they could be hidden behind cabinet doors for an uncompromised aesthetic.


1990 to 2000 Kitchen Appliances


As more people were opting for bigger and more sociable layouts, the kitchen island grew in popularity and with it came the rise of bar stools in the home. Simple and pastoral wooden designs were the preferred choice, with faux leather and chrome making an appearance later on.


Grasmere Bar Stools In Typical Modern Kitchen


With the arrival of digital television in the 90’s, and of course the Internet, the turn of the millennium saw kitchens decked out with an array of technology, including televisions. Induction hobs were becoming the preferred choice for safer and more efficient cooking, and also added to the streamline aesthetic of the modern kitchen. Colour schemes were often white with bold pops of colour, and the introduction of LED lights meant that you could illuminate your kickboards and drawers in a rainbow of colours.

Today & The Future

The kitchen today has elements taken from each decade of the past century, plus there is a fashion for adopting and revamping styles from previous years. We now have extremely multipurpose kitchens and many people are removing the dining room to make way for an open plan kitchen. So extra seating areas like breakfast bars, kitchen tables, funky feature chairs, and workspaces with computers, are a must.

Now the heart of the home, the kitchen is seen as a space to live in, rather than a functional room or a trophy kitchen to impress guests. Style is still important but we now favour comforting colour schemes and furniture that we can relax in. The latest designs combine unlikely materials like chrome, wood, and faux leather, as seen in the Jive Bar Stool, and painted finishes with luxurious velvets are in vogue, as our Ascot Bar Stool demonstrates.


Futuristic Kitchen Design

As we head towards 2020, the kitchen can be seen as a hub for new technology and gadgets. Touchscreens are everywhere so it can’t be long before the kitchen is inundated with them, maybe even with interactive screens built into the worktop surfaces. The future could see our appliances being interconnected, and we’ll be able to control them from our phones - so you could get updates from the fridge or turn on the oven to start cooking dinner on your way home.


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