In 2012 most people take kitchen cupboards for granted. However this cooking area or place where food was prepared has undergone many changes, particularly over the last two centuries.
As a business involved in designing and building built in kitchens, I decided to share some insight into the origins of a “kitchen” as we know it today.
This is not intended to be an historical presentation or research, rather to show how closely it has evolved as a direct result of man’s propensity for comfort. It is really only in the last 50 years that kitchen started their journey to visual appeal and total functionality.
Wikipedia provides some valuable insight.
They start off with defining a kitchen as a room or part of a room used for cooking and food preparation.
In the West, a modern residential kitchen is typically equipped with a stove, a sink with hot and cold running water, a refrigerator and kitchen cabinets arranged according to a modular design. Many households have a microwave oven, a dishwasher and other electric appliances. The main function of a kitchen is cooking or preparing food but it may also be used for dining and entertaining.
Now add to this the fact that apart from just a cooking energy source, tables and chairs, functional storage space for perishable and non perishable food started to increase, hence more kitchen cupboards.
The evolution of the kitchen is linked to the invention of the cooking range or stove and the development of water infrastructure capable of supplying water to private homes. Until the 18th century, food was cooked over an open fire.
Technical advances in heating food in the 18th and 19th centuries, changed the architecture of the kitchen. Before the advent of modern pipes, water was brought from an outdoor source such as wells, pumps or springs.
The houses in Ancient Greece were commonly of the atrium-type: the rooms were arranged around a central courtyard for women. In many such homes, a covered but otherwise open patio served as the kitchen.
Homes of the wealthy had the kitchen as a separate room, usually next to a bathroom (so that both rooms could be heated by the kitchen fire), both rooms being accessible from the court. In such houses, there was often a separate small storage room in the back of the kitchen used for storing food and kitchen utensils.
The development and designs of South African Kitchens and kitchen cupboards have been influenced by both North American as well as English kitchen designs.
A trend began in the 1940s in the United States to equip the kitchen with electrified small and large kitchen appliances such as blenders, toasters, and later also microwave ovens. Following the end of World War II, massive demand in Europe for low-price, high-tech consumer goods led to Western European kitchens being designed to accommodate new appliances such as refrigerators and electric/gas cookers.
Parallel to this development in tenement buildings was the evolution of the kitchen in homeowner's houses. There, the kitchens usually were somewhat larger, suitable for everyday use as a dining room, but otherwise the ongoing technicalization was the same, and the use of unit furniture also became a standard in this market sector.
Starting in the 1980s, the perfection of the extractor hood allowed an open kitchen again, integrated more or less with the living room without causing the whole apartment or house to smell. Before that, only a few earlier experiments, typically in newly built upper middle class family homes, had open kitchens. Examples are Frank Lloyd Wright's House Willey (1934) and House Jacobs (1936). Both had open kitchens, with high ceilings (up to the roof) and were aired by skylights. The extractor hood made it possible to build open kitchens in apartments, too, where both high ceilings and skylights were not possible.
The re-integration of the kitchen and the living area went hand in hand with a change in the perception of cooking: increasingly, cooking was seen as a creative and sometimes social act instead of work.
And there was a rejection by younger home-owners of the standard suburban model of separate kitchens and dining rooms found in most 1900-1950 houses. Many families also appreciated the trend towards open kitchens, as it made it easier for the parents to supervise the children while cooking and clear up spills. The enhanced status of cooking also made the kitchen a prestige object for showing off one's wealth or cooking professionalism. Some architects have capitalized on this "object" aspect of the kitchen by designing freestanding "kitchen objects".
However, like their precursor, Colani's "kitchen satellite", such futuristic designs are exceptions.
Another reason for the trend back to open kitchens (and a foundation of the "kitchen object" philosophy) is changes in how food is prepared. Whereas prior to the 1950s most cooking started out with raw ingredients and a meal had to be prepared from scratch, the advent of frozen meals and pre-prepared convenience food changed the cooking habits of many people, who consequently used the kitchen less and less. For others, who followed the "cooking as a social act" trend, the open kitchen had the advantage that they could be with their guests while cooking, and for the "creative cooks" it might even become a stage for their cooking performance. The "Trophy Kitchen" is highly equipped with very expensive and sophisticated appliances which are used primarily to impress visitors and to project social status, rather than for actual cooking.
Like so many other aspects in life, we are so consumed by our daily activities, that we take many things around us for granted.
Technological advances and large scale production has made many appliances more affordable and easier to incorporate into our kitchen designs and build our kitchen cupboards to ensure total functionality. Modern materials also make it possible to build kitchen cupboards to suite our every need and family requirement
When you want to design your dream kitchen cupboards and incorporate all the modern “mod cons” to make your kitchen area more functional, beautiful and add value to your daily cooking enjoyment, give us a call