A ramble through domestic history in the 20th Century
Probably more than any other era in the 1940s we have a big divide between the illustrated ideal kitchens and what people really had. For the first five years of the decade the Second World War meant that not only were new kitchens unlikely – there wasn’t even much of an opportunity to fantasise. However, once the war ended there was plenty of good advice out there for anyone planning a new home – or just hoping they might get one. The rush to build decent homes lead to lots of experimentation in pre-fabricated materials for building houses – which extended into the prefabrication of kitchen units as part of the build of the house – particularly seen in the classic post-war prefab. For the majority of people the 1940s kitchen would have been identical to what they had in the 1930s – at best. As with so much at this time design ideals were moving on, but the British people would have to wait until the 1950s to start seeing the new styles and designs in their homes. Along with ideas about efficiency and kitchen design comes new ideas in home layouts and at this time you start to see kitchens growing and increasingly the “dining kitchen” is a recommended feature in new-builds.
The colours and design of the kitchen increasingly matters. With the increase in attention to the look of the kitchen you increasingly see tiled, glass, plastic or enamel splashbacks rather than utilitarian unplastered walls.
Utility furniture for a kitchen – note the style of the room is basic, pretty old-fashioned and unfitted. Utility furniture couldn’t spare materials for fitted details.
Described as a “popular and widely discussed plan for a post-war kitchen”. This image is about the illustration of ideas that could be introduced in a new modern world and so includes such treats as a refrigerator, a gas cooker with hotplates “raised to a convenient height” and a folding wringer near the stainless steel sink with wash boiler unit.
A more country house style, harking back to the traditional designs of furniture, while still moving towards fitted units.
A Feature page from The Small House Of Today And Tomorrow showing three electric kitchens. The comments at the side show how these recommended kitchens are as much about the recommended efficient modern layouts as about the electrical gadgets themselves.
From Modern Homes Illustrated. It’s noted that “however good the modern equipment may be, unless it is placed in the room to allow easy working, and a minimum of running about, a part of its usefulness is destroyed and there is the danger of over-equipping the kitchen.” You have been warned.
Furniture advert showing enamel topped tables, units etc which combine into an easily cleaned, practical kitchen.
Gas advert showing how new-style built-in units can even be used in “restricted spaces and old-fashioned conversions.”
Another picture from Modern Homes Illustrated showing the new ideas about combined dining kitchens. Pre-existing houses did not have the space and layouts for this type of thing, but as we moved into the 50s there were more houses being built with this kind of design in mind.