What did we do before soft-close cabinets and custom pullouts? What did we do before cabinets, for that matter? Chances are, we probably haven’t given it a lot of thought. Whether large or small, most of today’s kitchens consist of some sort of cabinet configuration, allowing for discreet storage and increased counter space. But this hasn’t always been the case.
Back in the Middle Ages, pantries were the norm in almost every household. Typically separate rooms off the kitchen, simple wooden-plank shelving was used to store everything from bread and cleaning supplies to freshly caught hare or game. At the very least, planks of wood could be seen by the hearth, hung by rope from the ceiling or attached to walls, where pots, food and daily-use utensils were kept. By the 16th century, chimneys added kitchen functionality. Eliminating smoke in the home meant larger cooking fires could now be built in the hearth.
By the early 20th century, a more creative and organized approach to cabinetry was taking shape. Multi-purpose shelving units, like the highly-innovative Hoosier cabinet, were becoming increasingly popular between 1900-1930, providing much-needed storage and extra workspace. This was a huge step forward for homemakers, who could now have everything they needed at their fingertips. However, with continuing advancements in kitchen design, not to mention the effect The Great Depression had on sales, stand-alone cabinets were falling by the wayside by 1935 in favor of a more built-in look.
Kitchens remained largely open and utilitarian over the next several years, with a worktable, sink and stove as the focal point. Gradually, workspaces began to transform in to what was referred to as the ‘fitted kitchen’, where appliances were more integrated with cabinetry, creating improved workflow. Worktables, stoves and sinks, however, were still free-standing, and it wouldn’t be until post-World War II that the built-in look we’re familiar with today would emerge. By this time, manufacturing advancements and innovations in kitchen technology were booming. Homeowners were falling in love with their kitchens.
With a renewed interest in home cooking and entertaining, kitchen design over the next four decades would see rapid change. Large, open spaces were trending by the 1980s and ’90s, but now with designer appliances and cookware on display. Choices were endless, and kitchens were truly reflecting the homeowner’s individuality.
Kitchens have come a long way since the days of open hearths, wood-plank shelves, free-standing worktables, wall-mounted sinks and stoves on tall, slender legs. Today, with demand for quality and functionality on the rise, homeowners are using a critical eye when considering the options for their kitchens; particularly, their kitchen cabinets. Whether minimalist in design or an enviable array that would impress any professional chef, kitchen cabinets continue to play an important role in the modern-day kitchen.
Throughout history, kitchen cabinets, and kitchens in general, have steadily evolved with homeowners’ ever-changing needs. But one thing’s for certain: No matter what the future advancements in kitchen design, the kitchen will remain the heart of the home where families continue to gather.
Guest Author Bio
Laura Stevenson is a seasoned freelance writer with notable writing projects under her belt. She’s a wordsmith to just about anything related to interior and design, lifestyle and travel. When Laura is not busy making ends meet, she binge-watch her favorite TV series on Netflix.