By Melissa Colabella and Riddhi Jhala

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To discuss historical kitchen design is an elaborate feat and the topic deserves a research paper on its own.  It is hard to believe that less than 100 years ago, the Bauhaus was experimenting with domestic kitchen on principles of scientific management, credited with creating one of the first kitchen counter tops. (Apartment Therapy)

As little as fifty years ago, it was quite common for a woman to stay at home and assume the primary role of taking care of her family. Over time, this societal role became more and more obsolete as society became more comfortable accepting women’s aspiration to maintain their own careers. As of 2009, the US Census states (Census) that 43% of wage earners in our work force are women which undoubtedly contributed to a consumerist boom of convenience targeted appliances, prepared foods, and technologies, created to answer the question – what’s for dinner?  Our focus is to discuss the trending changes in society that make past kitchens obsolete for modern lifestyle and therefore adjusting kitchen designing.



As the stay-at-home mom population began to dwindle, prepared foods began to enter into the market place. Technology allowed for fillers to amplify our foods so that we could access them faster, better and cheaper. Fast food franchises popped up all over the country to provide convenience where convenience was needed. All of this “innovation” left us, quoting the Joe Cross film, “fat, sick, and nearly dead,” leading to autoimmune diseases, obesity, hormone failure, metabolic syndromes, and possibly cancer. “The evidence for this is strong: Each year, about 585,720 Americans die of cancer; around one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight.” (

The digital age has thankfully provided us with enough information that even the under-informed know the benefits of broccoli vs. cheeseburgers, creating an entirely new billion dollar industry geared towards health and wellness.  What was once considered a tomato is now considered an “organic tomato” as our food system had become toxic and polluted.

This knowledge started a trend in cooking at home again. What was once a chore for the oppressed female became a liberating task for the wellness minded.  Women (and men) are back to chopping their own vegetables and roasting their own chickens. However, today we do it with a little help.

Modern technology allows us to puree and juice in seconds, defrost in minutes, and create one pot meals while we are away at work. Convenience is paramount as we now live amongst all types of family arrangements with the common need to eat. Our topic explores the changing trends in designing for the equipped kitchens of the conscious, modern individual(s) who, quite frankly, have a lot of stuff.

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Older kitchens had layouts designated for conventional basics such as task areas, an oven, a sink, a stove-top, a refrigerator, and if you were lucky, a dishwasher. The modern individual has so much more. We may have two sinks and two ovens, soda-streams to reduce bottle waste, high frequency blenders to create fresh juices, smoothies and soups, various kinds of Tupperware so that we can take our organic meals “on the go”, food processors, crock-pots, Panini-presses, Foreman grills, protein shakers, supplement cabinets, mandolins, coffee and espresso makers, etc. We also need a place to place all the resulting waste, and as the conscious, modern person recycles, we must assign a designated space for that as well. 



Traditionally, a great amount of shelving space was used to display objects such as formal stemware and wedding china. Today, kitchen design must be focused on efficiency. A designer must use every corner judiciously. Older kitchens were confined to a stereotypical design plan and layout which may have been attributed to the booming modular trends.

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A recent article in Dwell magazine featured a home designed for two chefs who incorporated several alcoves for non-perishables and pull-out storage.  It is an idealcase study for the direction of where kitchens are headed. As we know, our lifestyle affects our design needs, and in this case, storage was the solution to not only maintaining fresh foods and preparation equipment, but also addressing the desire to entertain in the same room “without interrupting the party with clean-up.” (Jeff King & Company)


The Future

We predict that the future of kitchen design is going to focus on clever and innovative storage solutions that are tailored to the client. Another prediction is that designers will less likely be consulted in picking finishes and other decorating tasks as the internet has provided the client with a multitude of ideas. Our value, therein, will lie in space planning and creating a kitchen that functions like a machine, reduces clutter and adds a convenience element that will improve our client’s quality of life. How will we do this? The first step is to take inventory of everything that the client owns and uses in a kitchen.

One goal is to get the clutter off of the counter and well organized behind cabinet doors. This can be done by varying pull out drawers and cabinet heights to conceal food and kitchen items that we use every day. Another goal is to increase counter space. We can do this by building pull out counter space tucked underneath the existing one.


Sketch by Riddhi Jhala

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It can also be done by using extra mechanisms like hinges for swing out pantry compartments, tip out bins, divider compartments, and organizers that would be located within cabinets instead of traditional shelving.  In fact, if we are diligent about creating a place for each item that the client owns, there will be little shelving in the remainder of the space.

Lazy Susans can be designed to incorporate all of the recycling and garbage needs that were once visible now that cookware is better compartmentalized within cabinet walls.


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Another changing role for designers will be the point at which our design ends. Traditionally, we set up a functional space plan and left the residents to devise their own organizational system. In the future, it will be up to us to consult with the client and decide which products to use to make the most of their space, and in essence, our role would shift towards lifestyle designing.

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Future kitchens will incorporate new technologies. We predict many individuals begin to grow their own food and soon, we will be able to do that in abundance indoors. This technology will be very popular amongst the concious modern person who gives thought to where their food came from and how it was harvested.

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Ideally, our goal is to increase space, conceal clutter and add to the client’s quality of life through these practices. The idea of clever storage is not new, but with the help of new technologies and the spread of ideas with the internet, it will evolve. Our job is to be on top of the latest organizational accessories and well versed with possibilities.



  1. Apartment Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Census, U. (n.d.). Women in the workforce. Retrieved from
  3. Jeff King & Company. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  4. (n.d.). Retrieved from