Evolution of Kitchen Design – P. Jain & W. Liu


A kitchen is defined as a room used for food preparation and cooking purposes. The development of kitchen was originally focused on stove and supply of water in the room. However, gradually the focus shifted to convenience for the housewives and family dining.

Kitchens came into existence with the birth of humans. Over time kitchens have evolved from an open fire kitchen during the Flintstones period, to a dedicated room in the house for cooking and social events in the present times to the technologically advanced, unimaginable future kitchens of Jetsons age.

Until 18th century, the only purpose of the kitchen was to cook food which was done over an open fire. Water was not directly available in the house so it was brought for cooking and other purposes from sources such as wells, lakes, and springs. In the early 19th century, in America, kitchens were planned behind the parlor room or in the basement for easy access to the drainage located in the back of the houses. Kitchen hearths were used to cook food along with a table for preparation. In wealthier homes, servants prepared and had their meals on the same kitchen table while the owners dined in the dining room.

The simple kitchens from 1900 through the ‘teens were mainly a workroom and relatively small, everything was at fingers’ ends. There was typically a sink with a counter or drain board on either side, a wood burning or gas range, and table. Some cabinetry might have been built in, but not always. Shelving was often open and free-standing cupboards were common.1 Houses also had a small room between kitchen and dining room known as butler’s pantry which was used for storing buffer between meals and to keep the heat away from kitchen to the dining room. Iceboxes were a common site on the porch or hallways and were used for refrigeration. Buff yellow was a popular color during this period. It was cleverly used to reflect light in the kitchen which made the blue and white china stand out.

Everything at fingers’ ends, 1900-1919 kitchen

1920’s was a period of elegant kitchens that focused on being modern, clean and efficient. The kitchen was designed to cut excess walking and to increase the housewives productivity and comfort.2 New electrical tools were introduced in kitchens due to the advent of electricity. Vacuum cleaners, toasters, electric stoves, and fans were few appliances that added comfort to the housewives and saved them time. By the end of 1929, refrigerators became indispensible and replaced iceboxes.

1930’s depression brought a huge change in the kitchen design for later generation. In 1940’s, a small room kitchen was turned into a multipurpose room, including laundry, and dining. Kitchen walls were taken down to incorporate open plan with breakfast bars. Technology at this time was playing a big role in kitchens, dishwashers and wall ovens became popular. Built-in units with storage were a part of every small kitchen design. In 1950’s ‘U’ shaped kitchen came into existence which aimed at maximum convenience for the homemaker. It included comfortable work heights, handy storage, easy flow of light and air, electrical equipment centers, mixing centers, planning centers and serving centers. This type of kitchen addressed to every need of the person working in it.

Kitchen of 1950’s

Easy access to everything in the kitchen and maximum convenience for the housewives became a focus for the kitchen design from 1950’s. Industrial revolution played a major role in evolution of kitchen design leading to changes in the aesthetics. With the invention of electricity, there was no stopping of technological advancements.



The kitchen design and layout comprise of different elements. Kitchen size is dependent on family type, family size, user habits, and functions; the kitchen layout is dependent on purpose, demand, food, and appliances.

Starting in the 1980s, the perfection of the extractor hood allowed an open kitchen, integrated more or less with the living room without causing the whole apartment or house to smell, so, the open kitchens lead the trend from 1980s until now. Increasingly, cooking was seen as a creative and sometimes social act instead of work. Many families also appreciated the trend towards open kitchens, as it made it easier for the parents to supervise the children while cooking and clear up spills.


Kitchen work triangle  formalized: the three main functions in a kitchen are storage, preparation, and cooking. A natural arrangement is a triangle, with the refrigerator, the sink, and the stove at a vertex each. This observation led to a few common kitchen forms as following:

(1) Single-file kitchen (or one-way galley): it has all of these along one wall; the work triangle degenerates to a line. This may be common in an attic space that is being converted into a living space, or a studio apartment.

(2) Double-file kitchen (or two-way galley): it has two rows of cabinets at opposite walls, one containing the stove and the sink, the other the refrigerator. This is the classical work kitchen.

(3) L-kitchen: the cabinets occupy two adjacent walls, and there may even be space for an additional table at a third wall.

(4) U-kitchen: it has cabinets along three walls, typically with the sink at the base of the “U”.

(5) The block kitchen (or island): is a more recent development, typically found in open kitchens. in an open kitchen, it makes the stove accessible from all sides such that two persons can cook together, and allows for contact with guests or the rest of the family, since the cook does not face the wall anymore. Additionally, the kitchen island’s countertop can function as an overflow-surface for serving buffet style meals or sitting down to eat breakfast and snacks.

In the 1980s, Johnny Grey introduced “Unfitted Kitchen” which installing a mix of work surfaces and free standing furniture that against industrial kitchen planning.

The current trend in kitchen design focuses on creating a space that is as functional and efficient as possible, yet provides a welcoming area for the homeowner and guests. Over the past 20 years, the number of appliances have increased multifold. In the past, standard equipments in kitchen included hot and cold water on tap, a kitchen sink, an electric or gas stove and oven, refrigerator, toaster, and later also microwave ovens. Some specialty appliances that appeared recently are also in demand such as espresso machines, built in coffee makers, warming drawers, under counter beverage centers and wine storage units. Presently, kitchen design is dominated by electrical appliances and kitchen islands.



In the Jetsons age, kitchen will be a big improvement on present day kitchen. The basis of the kitchen layout and design will not only depend on convenience but also appliances, their designs and technology. Due to the gradual changes in lifestyle of people, kitchen design will focus hugely on interaction, socializing and entertainment. Kitchen will not only be open but compact and will be able to be combined with other rooms of the house for better approach.

Appliances will be wireless, movable, compact, eco-friendly and will have their own understanding to perform the task. For example, Bio Tank dishwasher is a fish tank with sensor fishes; put your dirty dishes in the tank and the fishes will carry the dirty stuff to a hole at the bottom of the tank. It will also be sustainable as it won’t require electricity to charge itself but the dirty stuff from the dishes will provide it energy and it will recharge itself there. Food waste will become the biofuel for the dishwasher.  Similarly, Eco cleaner dishwasher will be available with a standby option. It will clean all the dishes and will turn the dirt into compost for plants. This capsule shaped appliance will be compact and movable which will make meals easier to cook. 

Changes in lifestyle of people have led them back to traditional ways of cooking with the use of fresh vegetables and fruits to carry on healthy living instead of continuing eating packaged and processed foods. Kitchens of the future will have indoor Nano vegetable gardens. These gardens will survive on its own with the help of technology. It will use hydroponics, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil1, so the users don’t have to worry about pesticides or fertilizers. The appropriate amount of light, water, supply of nutrients and speed of growth will be controlled by in-built technology.  Also, there will be loops which will provide compost to the loop and it will grow plant and use the same to provide gas and electricity to the other appliances. 

The kitchen design will be hugely impacted by technology of the future. The kitchen will have elevator cabinets or “parking lots”. These elevator cabinets will sort out the dried utensils directly provided by the dishwasher, in their appropriate place. With one touch of a button, utensils will be washed, dried and placed into the cabinets.  The design of the kitchen will become compact for small apartments. One wall will serve as entire kitchen and when not in use can be tucked away or hidden.  For slightly bigger apartments, there will be a magic wall. All you need for preparation of food will be dispensed from that wall. Put the bowl will the ingredients in it and punch in the recipe name and number of people to be served, out comes the appropriate amount of salt, pepper or other required ingredients.

The layout of the kitchen can be anywhere or nowhere. Design of kitchen appliances and advances in technology will dictate the future of the ‘Future Kitchen design’ with sensors and artificial intelligence . These elements will not only make the kitchen user friendly but will provide a path for healthier living and support the ever changing lifestyle of the people.



1. http://www.antiquehomestyle.com

2. http://www.midcenturyhomestyle.com



1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchen

2. http://www.midcenturyhomestyle.com/inside/kitchen/index.htm

3. http://www.antiquehomestyle.com/inside/kitchen/1900-20/index.htm

4. Planning Kitchen Work Zones http://www.forresidentialpros.com/article/10349357/planning-kitchen-work-zones

5. Boris and the civilising effects of the unfitted kitchen http://www.johnnygrey.com/greymatters/2009/10/28/boris-and-the-civilising-effects-of-the-unfitted-kitchen/

6. Current Trends in Residential Kitchen Design

7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroponics

Future Images (in order of appearance): 

  1. http://www.yankodesign.com/2010/06/14/the-top-25-entries-of-electrolux-design-lab-2010/
  2. http://www.yankodesign.com/2010/06/14/the-top-25-entries-of-electrolux-design-lab-2010/
  3. http://www.ikeafans.com/home/kitchens-of-the-future-2040/
  4. http://www.designboom.com/contest/slideshow.php?contest_pk=11&item_pk=7792&p=1
  5. http://theluxhome.com/the-futuristic-kitchen-recycling-by-valcucine/
  6. http://www.designboom.com/contest/slideshow.php?contest_pk=11&item_pk=7711&p=1
  7. http://www.interiorholic.com/rooms/kitchens/futuristic-i-food-not-just-a-kitchen-design/
  8. http://www.zath.co.uk/hi-tech-smart-kitchen-of-the-future-unveiled-by-ikea/