Kitchen First – How the Kitchen became the focal point of the modern home
A brief history
Until the 18th and into the 19th century food was cooked over an open fire. The advent of plumbing and the invention of the stove were necessary for the kitchen to become a primary room in the home. In early colonial America, the kitchen was often a separate room with a fireplace and chimney off the back of the house allowing for easy access to a well for water. The first stoves, known as a Franklin stove, appeared in 1740 and were designed primarily for heating the home rather than cooking. These stoves fired by wood and coal were very large initially but were refined, becoming more energy efficient and smaller over the course of the next 100 years. While gas was used for street lamps in the US as early as 1820, and the first patent issued for a gas stove was in 1825, the use of gas for lighting and cooking was still years away. It wasn’t until the early part of the twentieth century that the infrastructure to support the modern kitchen really came into being. Standing in today’s sumptuous kitchens, it’s virtually impossible to imagine life before gas, electricity, running water and refrigeration.
The Space Age Kitchen
The standardization of the kitchen as we know it today was in large part a result of manufacturing techniques developed during WWII. While so called “unit” or “fitted” kitchens had been developed by the Germans and the Swedish earlier in an effort to improve efficiency in the home, the basic layout of the kitchen with stove, refrigerator, cabinets for storage and surfaces for food preparation as we know it today didn’t solidify in US home design until the 1940’s and 50’s. Here we have the “space age” kitchen which came in one of a number of standard designs and layout featuring all the conveniences necessary to improve the life of the modern homemaker. Toasters, blenders and later microwave ovens would become standard fixtures.
It was in the 1980’s when the open kitchen concept that is so prevalent today first appeared.
Today’s kitchen generally features a block or island at its center and is large enough to “eat in”. They have more than ample cabinets and storage space with lots of surfaces for both food preparation and serving. On the high end, these open design kitchen’s feature “top of the line” appliances and marble or granite countertops. Such a large kitchens allows for, even promotes, entertaining.
Don’t be intimidated. If you have an older house and are looking to invest and add to the value of your home, the kitchen is by far the best place to start. The good news is that there are so many solutions and such a wide variety of materials and products available today to choose from. So when it comes to kitchen remodeling, you’re sure to find something to suit your style and taste at a price you can afford.