How Kitchen Design Has Changed Over The Years

Every home has a heart and for most families, it is undoubtedly The Kitchen; a place filled with warmth and life; a place that nourishes not just our tummies but also our souls.

A kitchen plays many roles in our lives, and while it is the backdrop of many fond memories, the hearth is primarily a functional space and the design of the kitchen, since its inception, has prioritised the work that takes place in it.

Naturally, over the years, the kitchen has transformed many times to accommodate changing tastes and encroaching technology. Let’s peep into the past to see the evolution of kitchens over the last 100 years.

1920s & 30s: The Modern Kitchen is Born

As modern electric stoves and refrigerators became an expected fixture in homes, the kitchen design evolved to accommodate them. The art deco aesthetic with its geometric shapes and clean lines, entered the kitchen too. The clean, minimalist look was reflected in the extensive tiling of the kitchen and the built-in cabinetry and workspaces for improved organization.

Breakfast nooks made an appearance and began the transformation of kitchens from a woman’s place of work into a place of leisure where families gathered together.

1930s & 40s: Functionality Rules the Kitchen

The echoes of the Great Depression and the Second World War were made tangible in the compact and space-saving kitchen designs of these decades. Time and efficiency were prioritised and the “work triangle” concept for optimal workflow made an appearance. While simply decorated – sometimes with metal and chrome accents – kitchens sported refrigerators and other functional gadgetry.

The 40s moved away from the avant-garde, Art Deco style and focused on cheery colours and traditional natural motifs, like florals, animals, etc.

1950s & 60s:  Mid-century Transformation

The mid-century, post-war look was full of colour and emphasised convenience and style. It was all very much steel and the newly developed Formica, and the lines remained utilitarian and sleek. However, the bubble-shaped, pastel-coloured appliances softened the look considerably.

The 60s, of course, were more free-spirited and kitchens became social spaces with open-concept living with breakfast bars and islands. The material also shifted from steel to more natural light wood. Don’t forget these were the heady days of the space age. Man was going to the Moon and some of those motifs made their way into the kitchen. Technology and appliances took pride of place and sat on countertops.

1970s & 80s: Opened up!

The 70s were dominated by earthy tones: avocado green and harvest gold emerged as popular colour choices for kitchen appliances and décor. Focus was on saving time and convenience and more and more gadgets were added to the kitchen. Overall, the room turned into a warm inviting place for family and friends to come together and relax.

The 80s kitchen expanded to accommodate larger groups of people, families embraced the open plan concept. As kitchens merged with living rooms and patios, the décor became more neutral to accommodate these changes. Kitchens became larger and served as multifunctional areas that doubled – sometimes tripled – as a dining room and an entertainment area.

1990s: Shabby Chic

A 90s kitchen seemed stuck in time, without a clear identity of its own. The colour palette remained neutral, but the design motif shifted from simple to ornate. Wood panelling and cabinets remained in vogue but there was plenty of granite to be seen. Bright walls with popular painting techniques like the sponge effect somewhat balanced the boring palette.

2000s & 2010s: New Millennium, New Look

The Y2K kitchen broke away from the old millennium’s aesthetic and dropped the neutral palette. Wood –  but of a more warm-toned and natural hue – remained popular but with high-contrast colours. The kitchen appliances – and there were many of them – were all steel and shiny and provided another contrast to the honey-hued wood.

Energy-efficient appliances and eco-friendly materials started getting noticed in the 2000s and by the next decade, sustainability of resources became a must-have feature for all homeowners. Smart technology aka automatic coffee makers, smart ovens and refrigerators continued to replace dated technology.

All throughout, the open-concept living help sway and remained a central part of kitchen design. Big islands and integrated dining areas served as central gathering spots all throughout the day.

The 2020s: My Kitchen, My Style!

It’s 2023 and we can’t put our fingers on a particular style that defines the decade (there is plenty of time for some trend to take over). So far, we have kept the best from the past: big airy kitchens, open-plan spaces, and a love for warm wooden cabinets. But apart from these design concepts, it’s a free for all!

Contemporary kitchens cater to individual tastes. There are no rules; people are merrily blending various styles, from traditional to industrial. There is a decided preference to use brighter colours though and homeowners are experimenting with colour palettes and placements according to their own styles. Décor is personalised and almost like an individual’s artistic expression. On one hand, we see monochromatic A3 frames with black and white kitchen cabinets and on the other, cosy Knick knacks clutter nooks.

Needless to say, sustainability remains top of the mind and almost all current kitchens are big on energy-saving gadgets, water-smart fixtures and eco-friendly materials.


This look back on kitchen design reminded us that kitchens reflect the people who use them. The design trends, through us, reflect the world around us. The transformative events happening around us, our personal needs and changing technological advancements all trickle down to our kitchens, shaping them into the perfect tool to make our lives more pleasant.

Written by Steven

Steven is a young student from San Francisco who is obsessed with computers.

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