The Kitchen: Heart of the Home, Soul of the Family
The holidays are upon us — Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and the New Year. This time of year tends to move quickly, and when you get to the New Year and look back, we hope it feels like a six-week long party in which food was the main event and the kitchen was center stage: the gathering place for family and loved ones.
But the kitchen as we now know it hasn't always been the celebrated centerpiece of home life. Its fame as the source for your first appetizer and drink at a holiday party only emerged over the past few decades. Significant changes in culture and technology brought the modern day kitchen to this point. Let's look at a few, beginning five centuries ago, in year 1517.
As far back as civilization recounts, the open fire dominated daily life. The chimney innovated open-fire cooking and drastically improving air quality in homes. The earliest example appeared in ancient Rome, but the chimney formally evolved in England around the turn of the first millennium and became commonplace about five hundred years later. By the 16th century, while most homes in colder climates featured fireplaces, the modern day kitchen still did not exist: meal preparation and cooking centered simply around fireplace.
Cast Iron Stoves
The 18th century saw the invention and rapid modernization of the cast iron stove. The concept was conceived in 1728 in Hamburg, Germany, and by 1740, Benjamin Franklin had already improved upon the design. A version that we would recognize today was born by the 1760s. The industrial revolution brought increased trade across the continents and was an amazing contributor in its advancement.
The Early Cabinet Transitions into the First Integrated Kitchens
The streamlined convenience of the Industrial Revolution and the increasing availability of running water and electricity led to the development of the Frankfurt Kitchen. The first of its time, the design of this kitchen was based on a 1920’s study into the ergonomics of cooking. The Frankfurt Kitchen introduced the early cabinet — built to keep the utensils and ingredients organized — while simultaneously providing a surface upon which to mix, cut, and prepare food. This gave way to the beginning of the integrated kitchen, in which the sink and other appliances were included in the structural design of cabinets.
Kitchens as a Source of Pride
By the 1930s, the kitchen was becoming part of the home and its design was integrated with the other living spaces. Post-World War II, advancements made in technology found an outlet in people’s everyday lives. This included ventilation hoods, shiny ovens with matching refrigerators, dishwashers and custom-designed countertops, inspiring homeowners to transform their once utilitarian kitchen into a modern, quiet, clean, organized and beautiful space in which to cook. By the end of the 1950’s, the kitchen was becoming a source of pride, and ultimately, a place for family life and even entertaining.
A renewed interest in home cooking emerged in the 1960s, resulting in a new kitchen revolution. Design began to assert itself as kitchen utensils and cabinetry became more decorative, dramatic and creative. The kitchen became a place to hone culinary crafts and as the hub for social activity in the home. By the 1980’s, the open kitchen concept gave way to the "trophy kitchen," featuring designer appliances and bold accents.
The technological advancements in appliances have only continued to accelerate: built-in coffee and espresso makers, steam ovens, column refrigerators and, of course, "smart home" integrations. The spectrum of design for cabinets, countertops, floors and walls in the kitchen environment is ever-expanding. And, of course, the kitchen itself has become larger.
In essence, today’s kitchen is made up of hundreds of moving parts. What we’ve seen over the last 500 years has been the evolution of these parts and the idea that they can all come together perfectly — when designed well.
The kitchen stands proud at the heart of the home and those who pass through it enjoy the process of preparing food and memorable aromas that fill the air when you get a recipe just right.
On that note, Happy Holidays!
We hope that they are filled with joy, friends. family and special memories.