The kitchen has gone from a utility room sealed off from the rest of the home to an open plan social hub for the entire house. A place to convene throughout the day while celebrating food. Along with the social development of the kitchen, the equipment, design, materials and look have evolved with our changing needs.
It’s safe to say that Australia has been going through a food renaissance in recent years. From the arrival of Asian immigrants during the gold rush to the mass immigration of Continental Europeans in the 1950s to women moving into the workforce in the 1960s and 1970s, to the dine-out trend beginning in the 1980s leading to a “convenience” marketing trend that exists in droves today.
Along for the ride of this century-long food, revolution has been the humble household kitchen. What was once a hot utility room sealed off from the rest of the house is literally central to modern, open-plan home designs.
Dishwashers make their first appearance but struggle to find a foothold. Marketing campaigns target men by introducing the idea of “happy wife, happy life”. Electric appliances also started to emerge for the more affluent and are such a novelty they are encouraged to be placed on the table to use while eating. The electric cooking stove begins to replace gas and wood-fired stoves. Built-in cupboards emerge, moving from standalone cabinets and benches to all in ones. Playfulness with colour emerges.
The happy wife, happy life mantra continues to evolve with easy clean kitchens becoming the latest trend. Linoleum floors, stainless steel counters, metal cabinets begin to gain a foothold along with styling cues using clean lines and art deco amongst many others. Compact kitchen design also became a sign of trend.
Compact washing machines emerge in the kitchen, highlighting the still current utilitarian nature of kitchens. Later in the decade, built-in casual eating areas develop to the point of being comfortable and cosy.
Electric refrigerators take over from the humble ice box. Daily shopping excursions are now a thing of the past as modern convenience begins to emerge. Electric stove/oven combinations are now very much a common sign of modernity. Early “open plan” kitchens begin to emerge, while still separate from the formal areas of the house, they begin to become a casual meeting point. Post war developments unfold as innovations for innovation’s sake. There is an electric gadget boom and kitchens have become a status symbol. Cooking takes on a hobby status thanks to popular chefs like Julia Child.
“Earth tones” emerge, colours such as avocado, brown and orange take centre stage and hang on tight all the way through to the 80’s. Bold prints are also prominent. Telephones are installed to further the social hub notion of the kitchen and work to connect the stay-at-home ladies of the house.
The ’60s ushered in daring design and the ’70s took it up to a very experimental place. Hidden appliances. Browns and greens inspired by nature. Electric colours. The fridge evolves to include water and ice dispensers.
Kitchen islands emerge. Appliances lose their colourful exteriors of the past to adopt the mainstream black and white.
Just as the convenience trend of the ’50s led to cooking becoming a hobby, the ’90s experienced a shift towards home gourmet kitchens. The main difference: The ’90s gourmet kitchen took its cues from restaurants, with professional ranges, counter space galore and big refrigerators.
The early “naughties” had the scandinavian influence flow into compact kitchens, clever use of space was a key function of style. Meanwhile, the late “naughties” saw the combining of the last 100 years to become the fully developed emergence of the show stopping, “social space”, status symbol kitchen that we know and love today.
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