kitchen old vintage american

Through The Decades: American Kitchen Designs

real estate

| LAST UPDATE 08/03/2022

By Sara Maxwell

For decades, the kitchen has been seen as the center of the home. From the housewife kitchen to the monochromatic style, let’s take a trip down memory lane to see how far kitchens have come since the 1910s.

1913: No Cabinets

For years, families have gathered in their kitchens to enjoy meals together. From breakfast, lunch, and dinner, many hours of the day are spent in this important room, often seen as the center of the home.

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Kirn Vintage Stock / Contributor via Getty Images

Back in the early ’90s, things were no different, except for maybe one major thing. The kitchen back then didn't have cabinets! Instead, the design plan was to have a lot of counter space to store things like everyday spices, plates, utensils, and more. Yet, one similarity they did have to modern kitchens is many family photos.

1915: The Boxcar

Even way back when there were constantly many new inventive ideas when it came to designing a kitchen floor plan. In 1915, it seemed like these ideas had gone above and beyond because this family's cooking room was located inside a boxcar, aka an enclosed railroad car.

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Archive Farms / Contributor via Getty Images

They used the old vehicle to make a home for themselves, and of course, in every home comes a kitchen. All the way towards the corner of the boxcar was their creative design. Filled with counter space, a kettle, pots and pans, and everything else needed to make a home-cooked meal. 

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1922: Practical Amenities

In 1922, there weren't as many restaurant options as there are today, which meant most meals were typically homemade. Common dishes at this time included meatloaf, roast chicken, and pork chops with a side salad or vegetables. If families were lucky they even got a slice of pie for dessert. 

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Minnesota Historical Society / Contributor via Getty Images

So with all the cooking going on, the kitchens needed to be top tier. In the 20th century that meant practicality and efficiency. That's why the cooking rooms often had things like a large stove for making multiple dishes and a big kettle to make tea for everyone after dinner. 

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1924: The Fridge

At first glance, our eyes immediately notice the very popular marcel wave hairstyle that many women in 1924 were rocking. But that wasn't the only thing women were obsessed with back then. There was a whole new kitchen appliance on the market that was taking over.

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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock / Contributor via Getty Images

The ‘20s was the first time that the world was introduced to the icebox. This appliance allowed chefs everywhere to have a place to store, freeze, or recycle food. It was a major new addition that was brought into kitchens that would soon become a household necessity.

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1928: Large Sink

American kitchens have gone through many makeovers throughout the years. Some inventions ended up sticking around till today, while others never made it far. The freestanding sink fits into the second category since it took space away from the countertops where most people prepared food.

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Underwood Archives / Contributor via Getty Images

This old-styled sink wasn't the only new addition seen in kitchens in 1928. That year the monarch electric stove began to make its way into nearly every cooking station in the nation. It was popular since it made cooking many dishes more convenient, especially for families.

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1931: The “Ideal” Design

Between 1920 to 1930, there were countless design shifts in kitchens. But that wasn't the only thing that had significant differences in the new decade. When the stock market crashed in 1929 many families were struggling. Luckily there was one place where they could come together with family to enjoy their time.

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GraphicaArtis / Contributor via Getty Images

Since people spent so much of their day eating meals in the kitchen, it was normal to have a bright-colored room. In fact, the “ideal” design was to have many colors, a very organized cabinet space, and also a breakfast nook where families could start their day off on the right foot!

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1933: Trousseau Set

During this decade it was typically the wife who did most of the cooking in the household. This mentality led to the invention of the kitchen trousseau, aka a set of household items and kitchen appliances often given to new brides. The kit included everything a housewife needed to cook many meals.

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PhotoQuest / Contributor via Getty Images

In the '30s, many individuals were focused on getting through the Great Depression, so when it came to kitchenware, practicality came first. This is why so many of the things that were given to newlyweds were basic items such as a strainer, cups, pans, measuring spoons, and more.

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1935: Art Deco Design

By 1935, everyone seemed to be tired of the same old boring kitchen designs. That's when a new type of kitchen style became popular. The art deco architectural concept was focused on a sleek look and geometric lines. The funkiness even included a unique wallpaper, alongside an open stove nook and plenty of storage space.

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Douglas Miller / Stringer via Getty Images

The concept was heavily influenced by the art deco architecture that relies on visual arts. This explains why the kitchens were very vibrant and eye-catching. This major shift was also when more counter space was introduced into kitchens all over America. It was something that many women found themselves in need of. 

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1940: Modern Electric Kitchen

The kitchen style that took over the 1940s was the modern electric design. Since the Great Depression was towards its end, more and more people could begin to afford higher-end, electric appliances such as the toaster oven, microwave, and refrigerator.  

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Chicago History Museum / Contributor via Getty Images

The above photo shows off a kitchen model that was displayed in Marshall Field & Company magazine, and advertised as "the kitchen of tomorrow." The name was probably inspired by the many positive changes that were happening in society after the financial recession. The new design plan got families eager for what was to come.

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1947: Post-War America

When World War II ended, people's patriotism and love for America increased. The post-war mentality heavily impacted how kitchens and homes were designed. It was common for families to use red, white, and blue colors to decorate their cooking room. But that wasn't the only difference the war had brought about. 

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Chicago History Museum / Contributor via Getty Images

Husbands and wives all around the country started to get busy and before they knew it, there was a baby boom! We guess the end of violence and hostility led to people realizing how important family was. But an increase in children meant that kitchens needed to be way bigger. Thus, a new style plan was created.

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1955: A Housewife’s Dream

The ’50s are often recognized as a time when the majority of women stayed home to do the housework, while the man went off to work. A housewife was commonly known to be in charge of all the household duties like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids. Obviously, this meant most of their time was spent in the kitchen.

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Hulton Archive / Stringer via Getty Images

Not only did the cooking get done in this room, but so did other chores. Like in the above picture, it was normal for the ironing board to be stored in the kitchen to make things more efficient for the housewife. Also, checkboard floors were all the rage in the '50s. Clearly, society influenced kitchen styles over the years.

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1956: A Livable Kitchen

Despite the one-year difference, there was a major shift in kitchen design from 1955 to 1956. After being seen as the room to get all house chores done, the kitchen turned into a place where families often found themselves hanging out. This led to the more colorful wallpapers and fun furniture to make it a more livable space. 

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Apic / Contributor via Getty Images

The above picture depicts a magazine ad that was in Glendura, that showed women that they too could be just as happy as the woman in the picture just by changing up the patterns and shapes in their kitchen. Even the checkered linoleum floor was being promoted as something anyone with a “dream kitchen" had to have.  

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1958: A Classic ‘50s Kitchen

The kitchen had relatively stayed the same throughout the late ‘50s. The room had implemented many various trends that were seen throughout the whole decade. A great example of how a 1958 kitchen looked could be spotted in the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which follows a housewife with two kids living in Manhattan. 

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IMDB-The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017) via Amazon Prime Video

Although the show was filmed in 2017, the design teamed perfectly depicted how a kitchen would have looked back in the day. From the all-white cabinets, the checkered linoleum floor, and even the hints of red everywhere, this is definitely how a traditional ‘50s kitchen looked. 

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1960: Home Economics

The rise of the housewife led to another phenomenon in society. The 1960s welcomed home economics: a course taught in school to young girls and boys where they learned everything from nutrition, housing and equipment, clothing, family economics, home management, family development, and more. 

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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock / Contributor via Getty Images

In the picture above, high school girls can be seen working on their assignments and learning various household tasks. But although they are in a mock kitchen, this design resembles the popular one often seen in many homes in the ‘60s. By this point, it was popular for the kitchen to be functional for hosting and cooking. 

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1965: Dutch-Style

Having friends and family over for a meal became way more popular and way easier in 1965 when kitchen designers started implementing this in their ideas. Innovation took over as the cooking room turned into a multi-functional area where people could make an entire dinner while also keeping everything organized and clean.

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F. Roy Kemp / Stringer via Getty Images

The Dutch-style kitchen incorporated many new technological advanced for the time that helped an otherwise boring, normal kitchen look more cozy and practical for hosting guests. The design arguably resembles the kitchens we see today with a quilt-like design and a dishwasher.

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1969: A Different Direction

The end of the ‘60s saw a rise in afros and bell bottoms. But the fashion style wasn't the only thing getting a major makeover; kitchens all over the country began to change too. In 1969, more families started to incorporate wooden appliances into their cooking areas. This major difference opened the doors to new ideas.

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Chaloner Woods / Stringer via Getty Images

Large windows and an open kitchen plan was the preferred style for families at this time, especially when it came to hosting others. And the colors often used were more earthy-toned,  which comes as no surprise since this decade also welcomed the hippie lifestyle.

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1970s: Groovy Vibes

The ‘70s represented a time for people to deep dive into their creative space as more and more people began joining the intense social movements that pushed for freedom of expression and community. This decade marked a major time for technological advancements, new music (disco), and of course good, groovy vibes.

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Smith Collection/Gado / Contributor via Getty Images

The societal changes obviously affected kitchen designs. Experimenting with new things didn't just happen outside of the home, but also inside, Families started to incorporate unique patterns, colors, and furniture pieces! Like in the above photo, distinctive patterns like florals were normal for a typical ‘70s kitchen. 

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1976: That ‘70s Kitchen

While That ‘70s Show was a hit series during the 1990s, it was spot on when it came to depicting what life was like in the ‘70s. The show followed a group of friends as they dealt with the many experiences of being a teenager at the time. And many of the iconic scenes took place in the Forman's household kitchen.

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IMDB-That '70s Show (1998) via Fox

The sitcom’s designers added dusty tones throughout the set, clashing patterns like orange and muted green. It wasn't just the style of the kitchen that represented the 1976 kitchen so well, it was also how much time they spent there, showing just how important the dining table was to families. 

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1976: Wooden Takeover

There are certain trends that last a short period of time, but there are others that people love so much that they can last throughout an entire decade. Wooden countertops, cabinets, drawers, and other kitchen items were all the rage in the late ‘60s, and the style continued all the way into the late ‘70s.

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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock / Contributor via Getty Images

The brown material expanded so much that families tried to turn anything they could in their cooking area into wood! This type of style allowed the room to feel more cozy and earthy, while also opening up the room. This year represented the switch from linoleum floors to wooden everything.

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1980: Pastels, Pastels, & More Pastels

There was a major shift from the ’70s to the ’80s when people said goodbye to earthy tones and wooden planks and welcomes pastel colorful tones. The vibe for kitchens was to basically look like the inside of Barbie's house, but don't fret, not every person went all out like the below picture. 

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Frederic Lewis / Staff via Getty Images

Although this was a completely new design to anything that the world had ever seen done before in kitchens there were a few key things that stuck around from the past. The plaid wallpaper from the ‘60s was still used, and even the ‘70s theme of clashing colors was still popular, except this time it was with “dusty pastels.”

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1980: Hello Islands

Many people in '80 were jumping on the pastel bandwagon, while others ran in the complete other direction. Some houses looked like Barbies dream, and others had a more traditional family-oriented style. That included an open floor plan, big windows to give the space an airy feeling, and of course a  very mellow chill vibe.  

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Frederic Lewis / Staff via Getty Images

There was also a new addition incorporated into the cooking area. To have more counter space, more and more families started adding an island in the middle of their kitchen. Many of them were made out of a Formica countertop, that wasn't just great for cooking, but also for sitting around the island to enjoy a meal.

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1985: “Golden” Kitchen

The infamous sitcom The Golden Girls represented a classic ‘80s kitchen perfectly! The series followed four women who had all been divorced/widowed and were now all living together in Miami. Since many of the scenes were filmed in the house that meant the women were constantly hanging out in the kitchen. 

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Touchstone Tv/Whitt-Thomas-Harris Prod/Kobal via Shutterstock

The cooking area was filled with various trends from the past decades. They had wooden cabinets, but the women's kitchen also had various tones of pastels all around. Also, how could we forget the patterned wallpaper and colorful floral patterns everywhere?

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1989: Monochromatic Look

It’s no surprise that every few years the major trends are completely changed, but 1989 probably saw the biggest shift thus far. With more and more cutting-edge technology making its way into people's lives, the Information Age was just starting, and it heavily influenced different aspects of people's lives. 

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Paul Harris / Contributor via Getty Images

People started to steer clear of pastels and clashing colors and instead opted for a more monochromatic style kitchen. The sleek and sophisticated design gave families a sense of home and comfort in their cooking area. Similar to today, the kitchens had white cabinets and stainless steel appliances. 

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1990’s: A Rustic Comeback

Despite its popularity, the monochromatic kitchen didn't last too long before families decided they wanted the wooden design back. The classic ’70s kitchen had made a comeback (just like many trends do) except this time it had a more rustic look to it.

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Bob Thomas via Getty Images

The type of wood used in the ‘90s gave off a cozy vibe since it was similar to what cabins had. There were pine cabinets, antique dishes, and a few hints of color. A major aspect of getting the “cabin” vibe was to add fruit in some way, from fruit bowls, fake fruit, or even painted onto the wall tiles, it added a pop of fun!

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1990s: The Rise of the TVs

The television was first indeed in the 1930s but the brand new technological advancement wasn't so easily accessible for many people. It wasn't until the 1950's that the TV started being bought by more and more Americans. And by the '90s it was a necessity in most homes.

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Ed Bock via Getty Images

Since so much of the day was spent in the kitchen, it became popular to actually place the TV set in the eating room rather than in the living area. Just like seen in the above picture, the '90s were all about modern mechanics, wooden countertops, and fake plants.

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1993: Geometric Shapes

For anyone who has ever seen the '90s sitcom, the below picture probably looks very similar, because it is basically the exact model that most kitchens had at the time. It especially looks like the cooking area that was seen on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

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ClassicStock / Contributor via Getty Images

The long countertops that wrapped around into geometric shapes were a go-to for families designing their kitchens in the 90s. It was also extremely common to fill the area up with fake greenery and of course, many bowls filled with fruit to brighten the room. By 1991 the "shabby chic" vibe had started to be incorporated as well.

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1994: The Friends Kitchen

It seems like a great way to get a representation of what kitchens looked like in a certain decade is to watch the Tv shows filmed at the time. For example, Friends, which was filmed in the '90s perfectly depicted how cooking areas were styled back then.

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Getty Images / Handout via Getty Images

It gave off a total "shabby chic" atmosphere, with the vintage furniture (that we're gonna guess was probably thrifted), and the mismatched decor. From various types of chairs to blue cabinets, the vibe in Monica's apartment felt totally homey and very '90s!

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2000: Traditional Kitchen

The rise of the 21st century welcomes a more suburban and traditional kitchen design that was often preferred by parents. While there were various types of styles that kitchens had at this time, most of them followed an open floor plan that included an island for extra space.

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Portland Press Herald / Contributor via Getty Images

The islands were typically installed with granite countertops to match the light-colored tones these rooms had. The large table in the middle of the room was used as more than just an extra place to cut up fruits and veggies, it was where families had breakfast, and many kids finished up their school work. Talk about versatility!

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2002: Open Floor Design

Because the island was being used for so many activities, the idea for an open floor plan originated. This design focused on the idea of making combining the kitchen with the living room and dining room area. This was the best way to entertain guests, just enhancing the idea that the kitchen i the focal point of the home.

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Polka Dot Images via Getty Images

The new millennium brought in many new ideas, but this one was definetly a major one that homeowners were insisting on having. Especially those who had kids, since this way the family could spend a lot more quality time with one another because the center of the house was intertwined.

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2004: Technological Advancements

The early 1990s welcomed TVs into the kitchen, but the early 2000s took that idea one step further. With so many technological advances being made in 2004, it was just a matter of time before families had included a refrigerator with a built-in Tv in their homes.

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Glenn Asakawa / Contributor via Getty Images

Each year new gadgets were being released and they grabbed the attention of many homeowners. The handy appliances were also being sold in stainless steel, a trend that was making its way back around since it added an even more futuristic element to the kitchen. Who knows how much farther our ideas will go...

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