In The Design Studio: The Short and Long History of the Kitchen, Part 1

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This is a sponsored post by Anna Gibson, owner of AKG Design Studio and an award-winning, certified kitchen and bathroom designer. AKG Design Studio is a boutique design firm specializing in kitchen, bathroom designs and cabinetry sales. Contact her at 571-989-2541 or [email protected], and follow her work on HouzzPinterestFacebook and Twitter.

After a fun conversion last night at the Lake Anne Brew HouseI decided to write today’s post about the history of the kitchen!

Why the kitchen? Because everyone always ends up in the kitchen.

These days, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we cook together, host guests and conduct plenty of other activities. Our kitchens are now super kitchens, with multi-functions that flow in and out the rest of the house.

This was not always the case. Historically, kitchens were not the space where people gathered, unless they worked there. The rich didn’t spend their money to make it attractive since they didn’t bring guests into the kitchen. Kitchens were places of utilitarian work — people came into the kitchen to cook or to patch something from the cook. They were small spaces, busy, most days too hot, smelly, noisy and very smoky.

Kitchens in the Middle Ages

Cooking was essentially done over an open fire within a one-room home or within the great hall of a larger structure. All manner of life revolved around the cooking area, which was the primary source of heat, light and safety.

With the invention of the chimney around 1185 AD, homes started to divide into additional rooms — still getting heat from the kitchen’s fireplace, but with less soot and smoke issues. The location of the kitchen in the house was based on economical possibilities. The upper class, who could afford fireplaces, would situate the kitchen as far away from the dining room as possible to avoid all the commotion. The middle to lower class would have the kitchen in the middle of the house to provide a source of heat.

Kitchens in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Economic and political changes had a major influence on the design and function of the kitchen.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw an influence of the French style of cooking, with elaborate dishes, formal table settings and strict etiquette. Explorers traveled the world and brought home exotic foods and spices.

Now there was a need for more servants to cook and clean all those dishes. Now the kitchen grew larger to accommodate all the necessary food, prep area and extreme amount of dishes! Yes, they did have big tables in the kitchen, but those were use as a prep area and for the servants’ meals.

End of the 19th Century — Progress

The industrial revolution impacted the world, including the kitchen. It brought the use of coal, then gas; the invention of cast iron; electricity; and plumbed water adding to the functionality of the kitchen, changing the look of the kitchen with it.

According to Old House Online, “the growth of American coal and iron mining in the 1820s made cast iron the wonder material of the 19th century and led to a prolific industry in making stoves for cooking as well as heating.”

However, kitchens were still away from the center of the house — in basements and the back of the house.

Make sure to check back in two weeks for Part 2 of the history of the kitchen.

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