Kitchens began with cooking fresh killed meat over open fires in ancient times. Egyptians constructed clay ovens to cook food. Wealthy Greeks built a kitchen structure separate from the house. Romans borrowed the Greek tradition of a separate kitchen and their city kitchens had space for storing the bounty from their country house gardens.

During the Middle Ages, pots over open fires were used to cook food and cooks endured the smoke and soot until the 16th century when chimneys became prevalent in homes. It is difficult to imagine that the first wood-burning stove wasn’t invented in Europe until the 1500’s but it took another 200 years more for the stove to become commonplace!

Rooms to support cooking evolved into a pantry (for storing bread and other shelf stable foods), the larder (an underground cellar that took advantage of the constant 55 degree temperature of the earth); the buttery for beer; the wine cellar and the root cellar for storing vegetables and canned goods. The smokehouse was usually an outbuilding to store meat and fish.

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A Colonial American kitchen’s focal point was the oversized fireplace fitted with a horizontal metal pole with hooks for pots and kettles. Since there was no indoor plumbing, water had to be collected manually from a nearby water source, such as a stream.

downtown abbey kitchen

Victorian kitchens benefited from inventions and technology of indoor plumbing, the stove and the icebox. A table in the center of the kitchen was the primary work surface that allowed the busy cook opportunities to sit for some tasks-(think Mrs. Patmore of Downtown Abbey.) The kitchen’s perimeter walls were lined with hutches for storage, the stove and the sink. It is amazing to believe that it took Victorian cooks 44 person-hours a week to prepare, serve and clean up after each day’s meals!

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Kitchen design soon began to change. An early kitchen designer was an American Woman, Catharine Beecher. In 1843, she wrote a book called A Treatise on Domestic Economy For the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School. Her book was illustrated with plans for kitchens, loosely based upon ergonomics and wellbeing, including windows for light, same height worksurfaces and specific spaces for the most frequently used items.

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Built-in cabinets did not become components of kitchen design until the 1920’s so the Hoosier Company came to the rescue with its 1890’s design of a free-standing kitchen workstation with storage and a slide out countertop between top and bottom storage. The cook could complete the food prep without moving until it was time to transfer pots to the stove.

5 Grete the Frankfurt kitchen

Another pioneering kitchen designer was Grete Schutte-Lihotzky, the first Austrian woman to become an architect. At the end of WWII, Ms. Schutte-Lihotzky created what became known as the “Frankfurt Kitchen” that was incorporated into new housing units. Her design incorporated an understanding of efficiency, hygiene and flow of work, based upon her time-motion studies and her interviews with housewives.

Her kitchen design amenities included a gas stove, built-in storage, a fold-down ironing board, adjustable pendant lighting and a garbage drawer that could be easily removed for disposal of garbage. The layout also included aluminum storage bins for storage of sugar and rice and oak flour containers. The legacy of the Frankfurt Kitchen is its efficient size and the work triangle of refrigerator, sink, and stove that is still relevant today.

6 Mamie pink kitchen

Partly in response to the Great Depression, 1930’s kitchens were inviting and bright as a modern look for kitchens began to emerge. Built-in cabinets replaced freestanding cupboards and furniture. The post WWII housing market boomed and steel factories that had previously supported the war now turned to peacetime production of steel cabinets. Kitchens were painted in softer colors, even in First Lady Mamie Eisenhower’s favorite pink!

7 julia childs kitchen

In the 1960’s, American housewives were inspired by Julia Child’s live TV show and the design of her kitchen with its center table for both food prep and meals, and her wall of pegboard that displayed her collection of copper cookware. Julia’s kitchen is now immortalized at the Smithsonian.

Over the years, kitchen layouts have consolidated into six standard designs: the galley kitchen, the island kitchen, the “L” shaped kitchen, the one-wall kitchen, the peninsula kitchen and the “U” shaped kitchen. Kitchens have come a long way from pits in the ground or buildings separate from the main house. More than any other room in a house, kitchen design responds to consumers’ changing tastes, technology and trends. Today’s open-concept design of the kitchen area, informal dining and family room with a fireplace and TV in one space is clearly the heart of the home. Here are a few of our favorite kitchen designs for past and current clients:

Which one is your favorite? Send an email with the kitchen number to and we will post the winning kitchen!