Kitchens Design Through The Decades: 1920's - 1950's

September 22, 2015
Kitchens Design Through The Decades: 1920's - 1950's

Ever since we first learnt to cook and build shelters, the Kitchen has been an important and stable part of our human domestic lives. It's easy to forget that such a common gathering space has adjusted and changed greatly since the humble beginnings of our existence. As part of a series, House of Home brings you a comprehensive look at kitchen design throughout the decades. Discussing the highs and lows of kitchen disign, what worked and what didn't, as well as learning about styles and trends that still resonate within kitchens of the modern day.


1920s - 1930's - The Streamline


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The modern movement was just beginning in the 1920’s, with the Art Nouveau style becoming less fashionable, Art Deco architecture greatly influenced interior design aesthetics. The style empathized on geometric patterns, chevrons, sunbursts, symmetry. Repeating patterns, contrasting and striking colour schemes were also a central motif in most 1920’s Kitchens.

With the Great Depression in full swing across the globe, the 1930’s Kitchen centered on function and practicality. Although the 30's were a time of hardship for many everyday people, the kitchen remained a central place in their lives. It place of gathering, it had to be practical but also inviting, and was one of the most frequented room in the house.

By the 1930's, apartments were small, so kitchens had to pack a variety of objects and produce into a very limited space. Storage space was an absolute necessity, cupboards and cabinets were a common feature and were filled to the brim, as most people couldn’t afford to dine out at all during that time.

Towards the end of the century kitchen appliances were starting to make an entrance into people’s homes, for those who could afford these luxury items, appliances added a level of sophistication and purpose. The appliances changed everything, fridges, iceboxes, gas stoves and small appliances were amongst the first to hit homes in the 1920's and 1930’s, often being made from modern materials such as chrome, enamel, Bakelite, aluminum, plastics and steel.

Key Features:

  • Geometric and repeating patterns

  • Contrasting or vivid colour palettes

  • Coloured Glass- Rose, orange, blues and Greens

  • Plentiful storage space

  • Streamlined appliances


1940s - The Jam Jar Factory


rsz 1948 kitchen design

(Image credit: www.galleryhip.com)

Towards the end of the 1930's and the beginnings of the 1940's, the second world war took hold of the lives of nearly everyone in existence. Homemakers and housewives swapped their aprons for machinery and hand tools and everyone had to make sacrifices. Kitchen design was still very much centered on function, concentrating on traditional kitchen form. A flow on effect from the war meant that Kitchen interiors were slightly more conservative, everyone was busy doing their bit for the war effort to worry about interior design aesthetics. The vivid colours schemes from the 1930’s were replaced with plain coloured walls. Cupboards, bench-tops and flooring added much needed ‘pops’ of colour to the space, cheerful shades such as: apple green, melon, orange, pink, yellow and mint. In some cases wallpaper was also a feature in the kitchens of the 1940’s, with prints centering on wildlife, tropical prints and flora patterns, almost as if a distraction from the harsh realities of the time. During this time counters and flooring were usually made from linoleum.

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(Image Credit: http://retrorenovation.com)

In some cases, because of the absence of a husband due to the war, cupboards sometimes had built in steps to assist women reaching the top shelves of kitchens!

Homemakers spent even more time in the kitchen in order to save money, also sending baked goods and treats to their loved ones fighting in the war, kitchen thus became little preserve and bakery factories.

Simplicity was key! Women didn’t have the time or money to spend on expensive kitchen furnishing, everything went towards the war effort.

Key Features:

  • Lino flooring

  • Stainless steel pots and pans

  • Perserves Jar (Mason Jars)

  • Floral patterned curtains and cushions

  • Crochette napkins


1950s - Kitchens Of The Future


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(Image Credit: http://www.digitaltrends.com)

Post WW2 Kitchens welcomed vibrant dramatic colours, shapes and form. The years after war brought forth a decade which pushed the boundaries of interior design like never before. This was the era that ushered in the Kitchens of the future! Due to the advances in travel quickly brought forward from the war, Globaliations was beginning, this would introduce European design motifs into every home. Midcentury Modern designers and architects were focusing on modern materials to produce their products, this meant Kitchen interior design focused on affordability and simplicity. Architects such as, Frank Lloyd Wright, Félix Candela and furniture designers such as: Ero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson directly influenced interior design.

rsz 1950s kitchen design inspiration

(Image Credit: http://www.ultraswank.net)

The kitchens of the 1950’s now incorporated modern lines, curved counter tops and odd angles made from Vinyl or new plastics. They also incorporated timber, lacquered paints and enamel finishes. Wallpaper was a cheap way for people to create colour in their kitchens; flora and fauna, vibrant repeating prints were huge, were sometimes used to cover the ceiling, skirting as well as the walls. Kitchen design in the 1950’s was vivid and flashy, a total contrast to those of the 1940's, this was definitively the age of consumers.

Key Features:

  • Bold Bright colours: Acid green, canary yellow, burnt orange, pink and bright red.

  • Floral or multicolored wallpaper

  • Appliances! – Double ovens, Fridges, Freezers, Toasters and Kettles

  • Kitchen Islands benches

  • Plastics, PVC, rubber and Vinyls

  • Furniture Designers: George Nelson, Ero Saarinen, Arne Jacobsen and Charles and Ray Eames

Keep in touch next week for our second portion of Kitchen Design Through the decades, 1960's to 1980's.

(Top Image Credit: http://www.racked.com)