For as long as we’ve prepared food, we’ve needed a place in which to do it. Now commonly known as the kitchen, the room has gone through a surprising number of changes over the years. The majority of these changes coincide with the advent of key technological advances such as running water and the invention of the stove and cooker. Let’s take some time to chart this evolution, and discover how the modern kitchen has become what it is.
The Ancient world and the Middle Ages
Back in Ancient Greece, and even earlier, people would use large ventilated areas surrounding a central fire on which they would cook. Water was often brought by hand from sources such as rivers and lakes. And, believe it or not, members of the Roman Empire didn’t have their own kitchens; rather they would take turns to use a large public kitchen. Throughout the Middle Ages, kitchens remained largely the same – due mainly to the fact that open fire was still the only way to cook food properly. This meant that kitchens during these periods were very smoky, dark, places which were not very pleasant to be in. Wealthier families in Medieval Europe would very occasionally have a separate building which they used as a kitchen – but this was reserved for the very rich.
The invention of cooking appliances
In around 1750, early versions of the furnace started to appear in homes across the Western world. However, because of the limitations of their design (and what they were designed for), these were used primarily for heating and not cooking. Stoves for cooking started to appear in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until the middle of that century that stoves became small enough to be fitted to kitchens. Into the 20th century, gas pipes started to be built in to homes, and with that came the ability to install gas stoves and cookers into all homes. With this, the kitchen as we now know it was born.
Early modern kitchens
Throughout the 20th century, kitchen design went through a number of changes, due mainly to the evolving needs of the people who use them. The way we cooked changed, what we cooked changed, and the products on the shelves changed. Our kitchens naturally evolved to meet these demands. In the early 1940s, electrical appliances started to appear in the United States. This meant that toasters, electric ovens, blenders and microwaves started to become commonplace. At the time, having all of these appliances in one kitchen would have been a right reserved for the wealthy, but they quickly became standard in all kitchens. Ventilation was still a problem at this time, so kitchens often got hot and greasy quite quickly. It wasn’t until 1980 that the extractor fan became a common addition to home design, meaning that the kitchen was no longer limited to just cooking, and could be used a ‘real’ living space.
So where are we today? Well, the core appliances of a kitchen remain broadly the same: cooker, microwave, refrigerator, and so on. However, kitchens today have become far more sleek, good-looking, and well-designed. With the technology more-or-less mastered, kitchen designers can focus far more on the way the room looks. People looking to have a kitchen installed can now choose from a huge range of layouts, sizes, colors, finishes, and much more. We now enjoy more freedom and choice when it comes to our kitchens than ever; and it’s no surprise that many people take pride in the way that their kitchens look.
Where are we going?
As our needs grow and evolve, so too will the kitchens we have in our homes. The design and appliances in our kitchens also respond to the changing tastes of the public, as well as new types of products. For example, you can now buy refrigerators with soda pop can holders, egg holders, and more. All of these tweaks to existing designs are implemented to meet our ever-growing needs. It’s a great feeling to know that we have so much freedom in the way our kitchen looks, and how it works. So, the only real question that’s left to ask is, what do you want your kitchen to look like?