Thursday, July 28, 2011

28 July 1957 “The Efficiency of a Small 1950’s Kitchen”

Since I have been dealing with Real Estate agents (after trying to decide if we should use an agency rather than sell our home ourselves) I have begun to appreciate the smaller kitchen more. The current trend is a large kitchen which is rather ironic when one considers how little cooking actually goes on in there. It is a sort of ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ sort of room, I suppose.

Our kitchen is very tiny. It was redone sometime in the 1950s in an add-on or ‘ell’ (as we call them here in New England) that was added on sometime at the end of the 1800’s. The room is a tiny square that serves as laundry room, kitchen, mudroom, pantry and scullery all in one. I do quite a bit of cooking. All of the food is prepared here, as is our laundry done and food and extra items stored. So, I appreciate a well organized and thought out small kitchen.

victoriankitchen Before the 1950’s and at the end of the Victorian age, Kitchens were larger. Homes, for the most part, were larger as well. This was because there had to be room for extended family (Grandmother and unmarried aunts filled attic rooms where servants once slept) and of course that had to be room for the live in, as they were more a staple of middle class homes then. There needed to be room to cook and feed large families (Often breakfast being eat in the kitchen). Even farmhouses needed their large kitchens to feed big families and various farm hands.

50shouse When the 1950’s post war building boom began in the USA, small homes just made sense. Old farm land was converted to ‘neighborhoods’ and endless little homes popped up with one bath 2-3 bedrooms and a small square little kitchen. This served families of up to 5 children quite comfortably. And, without the added help of servants and extended family, all the cooking fell to the homemaker. So, she needed as much efficiency as possible. Luckily she had all the new gadgets her ancestors did not have, dishwashers, laundry machines, mixers and blenders, electric stoves and griddles. Of course, she was now utterly alone in there as great aunt Ermintrude, whom never married, and Grandma weren’t there to help peel the potatoes, wash the pots and pans and generally ‘help out’.

Thus, small was the norm and efficiency had to be born out of basic builder’s ideas of how a kitchen should be made up. Builders were, for the most part, men. And for the most part in the 1950’s men saw very little of the kitchen, so you can imagine the homemaker often had to ‘tut tut’ her new found kitchen and set about making it more workable.

I have shared these ideas and re-dos of old smaller 50’s kitchens before. I really liked this one. I thought it ingenious how they slanted a counter into the space to give more working area.


kitchenremodel1 Here is the synopsis of what they did.

kitchenremodel3 The before lay out, again a builder’s square kitchen. kitchenremodel4 And the wonderful redo, which makes so much sense and really almost adds a fifth wall by slanting the counter with the sink.kitchenremodel5 I also love the color scheme. We have talked before how the pale blue, or pale green, butter yellow or canary yellow and pinks with reds were the primary colors of 1950’s decorating schemes. Here we see the three used in harmony to the point that the curtains are a representation of these colors in three solid swaths of material. A great way to tie it all in.

kitchenremodel6 Here are various ingenious storage solutions. I also love the small separate ice box and freezer, so much smarter than these monstrosities foisted upon us today in the guise of a refrigerator.kitchenremodel7 A place for everything…kitchenremodel8 and everything in its place.

This article also includes wonderful detailed building instructions that I would like to share on tomorrows post. Would you like to see that? How do you feel about smaller kitchens? If you are in an apartment or small home and haven’t the room for larger, these are wonderful solutions. And remember, bigger is not always better, in many respects.

Happy Homemaking.

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