The Evolution of the American Kitchen:
From Galley to Gathering Space
The evolution of the American kitchen shows that the heart of the home’s design, materials, appliances, storage, food prep space, and overall use cater to today’s busy multitasking families while retaining elements of the past.
In many ways, the kitchen’s technological and architectural changes mirror that of familial roles. Once a dark, messy space used mostly for food preparation, today the kitchen is a family hub and multipurpose room containing high-tech appliances, gadgets and space to do everything from homework to running a business.
Kitchens rank as the most expensive room to renovate. Since they can also add the most value to a home, construction and layout are central to a kitchen’s appeal and efficiency. Looking at design elements, construction, layout, and materials through the centuries shows us how kitchens changed functionally and aesthetically with the times.
During the early 19th and 20th centuries, women spent entire days in the kitchen.
In the 1800s, kitchens also doubled as laundry rooms and sewing spaces. Lack of running water and electricity made the kitchen the space where mom cooked up stew in a cauldron over a fireplace and where water was heated for baths. Cooking and cleanup, however, was a dirty, messy, smoke-filled and soot-stained affair, according to Old House online. In winter, everyone gathered around the kitchen fireplace for warmth and comfort. The minimal shelf space consisted of a few wood planks that held plates, bowls, utensils, and pots. A single wood table was used to prep and eat food under strict mealtime etiquette.