Mid-Century Modern homes were designed for an evolving society, one with unique needs. During the mid 1900s kitchen design changed overwhelmingly as a result of society’s progression. The culinary space became the heart of the home, a venue for new technology, and a place not for toil but for fun. Kitchen efficiency was now a vital requirement in home design.
Post-war U.S. was a time of great change in the American household. The improving economy encouraged people to spend more freely, enjoying indulgences that had been largely a privilege of the rich, such as eating out at restaurants and hosting parties. Families had new needs as society evolved.
Women now had other responsibilities than to maintain the home and labor in the kitchen, such as a job, social events, children’s activities, etc. Companies began focusing on easing housewives’ cooking responsibilities and cleaning woes by pitching their products as revolutionary time-savers. Advertisements in print and on television targeted women, convincing them that they could indeed be a perfect hostess and a true whizz in the kitchen with all the latest kitchen gadgets. Housewives bought into the “kitchen of the future,” where pure culinary magic happened, instead of the former drudgery involved in food prep, by way of ingenious new products and foods.
Although The RCA Whirlpool Miracle Kitchen, a concept where pushing a button summoned robots of all sorts to handle every aspect of cooking, was a complete sham, women bought into the allure of kitchen technology and were eager to get as close as possible to the real thing. The kitchen now became another space to entertain in and show off one’s gadgets and expertise.
Architects and designers observed these trends and designed homes around them. Many Mid-Century Modern homebuilders maintained kitchen efficiency as a central goal in their designs.
Groundbreaking appliances were constantly emerging, big and small. Larger newcomers were the dishwasher and clothes washing machine, often placed in the kitchen at that time. Space saving built-in kitchen appliances, such as the coveted wall oven, came into vogue. Architects had to act quickly to provide space for these larger pieces.
The changing times transformed the kitchen into a place of excitement and luxury. The space grew in size and moved into the center of the home. Larger, more open kitchens could accommodate a table and chairs as another place to entertain and eat or prep meals. The open floor plan became popular as it put the state-of-the-art, glamorous kitchen on display for guests.
New layout design concepts that maximized kitchen efficiency were introduced during the mid 1900s, including peninsulas, islands with cabinets, the kitchen work triangle and suspended upper cabinets. Smaller practical items like lazy Susans, roll out garbage cans, breakfast nooks, pull out hostess/cocktail trolleys, and electric griddles built into stoves boosted kitchen efficiency by maximizing space and providing new utility.
Standardization in kitchens was gradually adopted in the 1950s starting with standard cooktop sizes, established by Thermador, and counter height standards. Kitchen layouts and design evolved to accommodate these standards and the latest and greatest in kitchen innovations.
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