THEN AND NOW: Here's how US kitchens have evolved throughout the years

Bettmann/ GettyKitchens have evolved drastically throughout the years.
  • Kitchens have changed dramatically since the 1900s.
  • Stoves and ovens started as bulky and ornate but turned into sleek, discrete kitchen appliances.
  • Refrigerators began as ice boxes but quickly became reliant on electricity.

Some say the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s the place where many cook for their families, and it’s the place people entertain guests and serve them home cooked meals.

This has been true for over a hundred years, but the kitchens themselves have changed dramatically. From styling and decor to electricity and appliances, kitchens have evolved from under-designed and bulky to modern and chic.

Here’s how US kitchens evolved over the 20th century.


Kitchens in the early 20th century were elaborately decorated and had ornate, detailed appliances.

PhotoQuest/ GettyKitchen in the early 1900s.

According to Architect Magazine, prior to the 20th century, kitchens were removed from the living space. When electricity and modern plumbing came into the picture, however, the kitchen slowly evolved to what we see in homes today.


In the early 1900s, ovens began to shift from using coals to gas.

Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection/ GettyKitchen in 1900.

Here, the large stove is a coal-burner, and the smaller oven to the right is a gas range. The large hood over both ovens would trap heat and smoke coming from both.


As for the refrigerator, the first of its kind was the ice box.

Bettmann/ GettyIce box in the ’20s.

Before mechanical refrigeration was an option, people had to keep their food cool using ice and snow. With the ice box, ice sat inside the box to keep everything cold, but eventually, it would melt into a drip tray, which had to be emptied often.


Eventually, refrigerators went electric in the ’20s and ’30s.

Sherman Clark/ GettyElectric refrigerator.

Electric cooling units were introduced in the ’20s and ’30s, but they were too expensive to be mass produced.


As for toasters, the first pop-up one was created in 1919.

Tara Walton/ GettyToastmaster.

The pop-up toaster was guaranteed to toast your bread perfectly every time – without burning.


By the ’20s, the gas cabinet range, a new type of stove, became popular.

ullstein bild Dtl. / GettyStove from 1920s.

The gas cabinet range had multiple burners with cabinets for baking and broiling. It was advertised as being extremely easy to clean and durable for large households.


And it became a popular trend to blend your stove in with the rest of the kitchen in the ’30s.

Chicago History Museum/ GettyCan you find the stove in this 1930s kitchen?

In the ’30s, kitchen manufacturers made metal sheets to place atop the stove so that it could blend in with the rest of the kitchen as if it was a countertop. Here, you can see the metal covering in the left foreground.


By the 1940s, kitchens became more user-friendly.

Bettmann/ GettyA woman in the kitchen in the ’40s.

Appliances quickly became less bulky, more convenient, and easier to use as the 20th century progressed.


During the ’40s, for instance, inventors conceived of a toaster that was built into the countertop.

Nina Leen/ GettyBuilt-in toaster in the ’40s.

Like the camouflaged stove of the ’30s, this toaster was meant to blend in with the rest of the counter.


Surprisingly, microwave ovens were invented in 1946 but didn’t enter homes until the late ’60s.

Paul Popper/Popperfoto/ GettyMicrowave oven in 1946.

In 1946, engineer Percy LeBaron Spencer invented the microwave oven, revolutionising cooking forever. But it didn’t become popular right away. The expensive costs and fear of radiation pushed many buyers away. Nearly a decade later, the microwave trickled into households all over the US.


By the 1950s, almost every home in America had an electric refrigerator.

Lambert/ GettyRefrigerator in 1955.

When most homes in the US bought an electric refrigerator, it set a standard for food storage and food safety.


In the ’50s, they had unusual cleaning habits to get the crumbs out of toasters.

Bettmann/ GettyWoman vacuums toaster in 1955.

Today, there are crumb trays, which make cleaning easier. Sticking your hand or anything inside a toaster is considered dangerous.


Style-wise, kitchens evolved to be cleaner, simpler, and more reliant on electricity.

Bettmann/ GettyKitchen in 1952.

By 1950, steel, colourful – but simple – cabinets became popular in most US kitchens. Built-in, electrical appliances were also popular for this time period.


By the ’60s, stoves and ovens were typically separated into separate appliances.

Kirn Vintage Stock/ GettyOven in the ’60s.

Wall ovens became popular in the ’60s, taking up less floor space in the kitchen.


Slowly, the kitchen became a place for the family to come together.

Ralph Crane/ GettyKitchen table in the 1970s.

In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of adolescents who eat dinner with their families during the week.


Today, ovens and stoves come in all shapes and sizes.

Bravo/ GettyModern oven and stove.

Today, people typically opt for the stove and oven combination appliance. It can either be electric or gas operated, but stainless steel is the most popular choice. Microwaves are also a very common staple in most kitchens today.


Refrigerators come in every colour, shape, and size.

The Washington Post/ GettyRefrigerator in a modern kitchen.

Today’s refrigerators also come attached with a freezer, ice maker, and drinkable water.


And toasters have evolved into miniature ovens.

Andrew Aitchison/ GettyModern toaster oven.

Today, toaster ovens cost anywhere from $US20 to $US400.


Over time, each appliance evolved to become what we know today as the modern kitchen.

View Pictures/ GettyModern kitchen.

Today, people spend around $US12,594 to $US33,118 to remodel the kitchens in their homes. But, that number varies widely based on size, style, and appliances.

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