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donaleen

Why do we need bigger kitchens today?

Donaleen Kohn
10 years ago

I've been watching the Victorian Kitchen series as well as the Kitchen in Wartime series. It's got me thinking. In earlier days, they cooked at home more than we do and they had fewer convenience foods. They also generally had larger households. So I would say they spent more time in the kitchen cooking than we do.

I live in a 1920's house that has had its kitchen expanded to fill what used to be two rooms. And yet, though I have a bigger kitchen than before, my house had a lot more people living in it then than it does now. Old kitchens never seem to be big enough for us these days. Why is that?

I've been giving it some thought. Some of it is fashion, I think. Some of it is that we cook more differing cuisines and so we need more kinds of ingredients and special equipment. What else?

When I was young my mother had certain things on certain days. On wash day, we had bean soup (clothes washing was a big deal with a ringer washer that had to be pulled out, along with its rinse tubs and then there was dragging everything out to the clothes line. Etc, etc). On Sundays we almost always had fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. I know we had pot roast pretty frequently. I don't remember what else. The point here is that it took less thought and less equipment to cook, I think. Though not less time.

What do you think?

Comments (90)

  • writersblock (9b/10a)
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    >Thomas Jefferson was notorious for extended family staying at Monticello at all times. Six cords of wood per day used minimum. His pregnant sister in law brought four family members to his home while her husband was overseas, and indeed gave birth while there.

    Yes, but he was also an extremely wealthy man, and that was the pattern for all upper class families at that time, especially since travel was so onerous that you didn't go visiting for just a weekend.

    I don't think the depression had so much to do with kitchens getting smaller (people just didn't buy houses, period). I think it was more the Motion Study let's-all-be-as-efficient-as-a-factory movement.

    And I don't think we need bigger kitchens today. We want them, which is not the same thing at all, for all that our culture has made us believe that the words are synonyms.

  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Remember the Waltons and their kitchen? I think of that as a fairly accurate picture of a country family kitchen in thirties and forties. Not the living room part. Just the kitchen and kitchen table. I think the kitchen table was a general work table and had a good bit of space around it. It was used for working on pretty much anything from homework to canning to sewing. It was a sturdy work table. But it could also be moved out of the way (not like my island). Sigh.

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  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    About to get Dusty... I didn't know your kitchen was done. Have you posted pictures? I'd love to see them. The last photo I remember was the one you posted for me of your Whitehaven sink with the measurements.

  • juliekcmo
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Interesting. I just returned from spending the weekend with my parents.

    They live in the home I grew up in, a ranch house with a standard L kitchen and kitchen table in the corner. Not a lot of counter space or storage space, but the kitchen is in proportion to the overall home.

    I can say that this is a fine kitchen for 1 cook, and a frustrating/dangerous kitchen for more than 1 cook. There is simply not ample room for 2 adults to be working with sharp knives, liquids, open oven doors, and such.

    Since my parents really don't cook together, this poses no problem for them. But last night as I tried to fix dinner for 5 people, it was a good thing I had all my skills and my powers at hand.

    So I think the answer to the question is that we need bigger kitchens because they make our lives easier. To go from not big enough to big enough is a good thing.

    Bigger and Fancier.....this may be some function and some aspirational. But layout and size, in particular if you want space for 2 cooks. This usually requires a bigger space.

  • bmorepanic
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Monticello actually has a pretty nice, fairly large kitchen for its day - its split across several rooms for storage and a single larger room for final prep-cook. It even has raised waist high wood-coal powered burners (a french innovation) that form a linear cooktop of sorts appearing on the left wall. Notice the island and the single layered shelves. The room behind the fireplace wall is also kitchen.

  • mrspete
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Several thoughts:

    I agree that the gotta-have-a-large-gourmet-kitchen concept is Aspirational. Whether we cook in those kitchens or not, we like to look as if we have an ideal family home (which equals an ideal family life). We as a society have an idea that if we have the right stuff (whether that's clothes, cars, or kitchens), we're successful and upwardly mobile.

    Speaking of the Aspirational crowd, it's not only size -- it's also luxury finishes. Don't we all watch HGTV and laugh when we see the just-out-of-college girls demand, "But I must have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors! ARE THESE granite countertops?" Come on, if you can't identify it, you don't need it all that much. And since you've been out of school about 20 minutes, you really ought to consider that starter house that made you say, "Ewwwww." But top-of-the-line finishes have become the ultimate goal (screw good craftsmanship and solid mechanics -- we want those creamy white cabinets!).

    I also agree with the concept of Dreamers vs. Users; however, I think the Dreamers tend to lie to themselves a bit. They tell themselves, "If I had a nicer kitchen, I'd cook all the time!" Also, the Dreamers -- because they don't have kitchen experience -- tend to make choices that aren't particularly well thought out. These are the people who think that bigger = better. These are the people who don't stop to think that dividing the refrigerator from the rest of the kitchen with a big, lovely island is a mistake. These are the people who put their dishwasher into the corner so that they can't reach the cabinets while the dishwasher's open. The problem is that Dreaming isn't Knowing.

    Also, something that no one has mentioned yet: Today it's expected /acceptable to borrow money. So, whereas in the past people were limited to a small kitchen with linoleum and kept their old 'fridge -- because that's the money they had -- today we can splurge on the larger space, the granite countertops, the professional Viking range. Why not? We're going to pay it off over time anyway, so we might as well have the best. Anyway, isn't it a good investment?

    As for me, I currently have a large kitchen. It is approximately 100 miles x 50 miles. We have a golf cart for trips to the pantry. No, seriously, it's a galley approximately 20 foot x 8 foot. I hate it. It's so large that replacing anything costs a fortune, and although I have so much space, it's laid out so poorly. For example, why do I have a desk smack-dab in the middle of the kitchen?

    In the house we're building, we're going to have a 10x14 kitchen - actually, the cabinet area will be 10x10, and the rest will be an entryway from the garage /doorway to the living room. So 10x10 working space. I can't wait. It's going to be more efficient than my current kitchen. And I may be looking forward to the walk-in pantry/mudroom more than the kitchen itself.

  • mrspete
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    About To Get Dusty,

    Oh, my! You and I have come to the same conclusion! I don't think it's particularly a popular line of thought, and I had believed I was somewhat alone in this idea.

    We are planning a small house for our retirement: 1888 sf. We are building what we need for ourselves every day, but we are building a large patio outside. Also a covered outdoor eating area w/ fireplace, nice outdoor grilling area, and pool. We're planning a door through the laundry room that'll lead to a half-bath without dripping through the rest of my house with pool-wet hair.

    Since we're in the South, this'll be perfect good for most holidays. We have -- some years -- had Thanksgiving out on the porch.

    Indoors, we're planning an eating area that'll be set up for six everyday . . . and it'll be able to stretch to feed 10-12, if everyone sits close. If push comes to shove and we find ourselves required to host Christmas, we can always put up tables and chairs in the garage. We have been known to do that at other family member's houses.

    I'm sure this is the right choice for us. Building /maintaining a large entertaining space that'll be used maybe once a month isn't a wise use of our resources.

  • SparklingWater
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks for the photo, bmorepanic. It was a grand kitchen for it's time, no doubt.

    The Depression of 1819-1821 influenced large estate and farm owners greatly, including Jefferson who was against bank loans, preferring dealing in specie (gold, silver, perhaps barter).

    While true that Thomas Jefferson inherited 3000 pristine acres from his father, and wealth through his work product and political stature, history shows he lived most of his adult life in debt. "Thomas Jefferson bore the burden of substantial monetary debt throughout his life." (see link below if interested).

    I'm content with our galley and pantry; even content with the walls and doors that enclose it separate from the rest of the house. It certainly isn't large, but it's good enough and I like the idea of a space where cooking odors and effluents are contained. Perhaps the "open kitchen concept" will be forever popular, perhaps not. When I finally upgrade, my range burner type, ventilation and MUA might be a little easier to consider. I used a six burner Vulcan in a sorority yesterday. It was a very likable open burner beast and baked very evenly too.

    Here is a link that might be useful: The Jefferson Monticello

  • ginny20
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Great thread. I'm not typical, because I like my little kitchen.

    My galley is 15 x (almost) 8. Honestly, I neither need nor crave a much bigger kitchen, although a bit of a butler's pantry would be nice so I could move all the less-used serving pieces (like the antique fish platter) and small appliances (like the pizzelle maker) out of the basement. But all in all, it works just fine for me. Fortunately, buyers don't expect huge kitchens in my neighborhood.

    I don't really want the kitchen to be an entertaining space. When I'm coordinating the completion of four courses for a dinner party, I need to pay attention to what I'm doing. I don't mind one person visiting with me, but if it were the place for everyone to congregate, it would be very distracting. The dining room is right off the kitchen, so when DD needed help with homework, she could work at the table and still talk to me in the kitchen.

    We don't need an eat-in kitchen. We eat in the dining room every night, making efficient use of that space. Eating in the dining room also gives a certain panache to everyday dinners.

    Mainly, really big kitchens just look to me like a lot more to clean, and I'd rather clean less. When I used to go to Homearama new home shows in the '80s or early '90s, I'd always look at the huge kitchens and think "gee, that's a lot of floor to wash!"

  • writersblock (9b/10a)
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    >While true that Thomas Jefferson inherited 3000 pristine acres from his father, and wealth through his work product and political stature, history shows he lived most of his adult life in debt. "Thomas Jefferson bore the burden of substantial monetary debt throughout his life." (see link below if interested).

    Very true, but a lot of wealthy people are also in debt, at any period in history. It's one thing not to want to have to realize your assets, so you borrow money for current projects/needs/wants. That's a totally different thing from not having any assets you could realize at need.

    MrsPete, I know just the kind of kitchen you have. I was looking at the floor plan for the kitchen for a proposed development down the street from me and it was an 18 ft walk from the fridge to the sink.

  • beaglesdoitbetter1
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've heard numerous times that "kitchens and baths sell houses." I think, to a large extent, that is true and that is a big part of the bigger kitchen phenomenon. There are really only so many ways you can make any other room in the house a "wow" room. Windows, fireplaces, room sizes can all help to make other rooms more special, but the difference between an OK living room and a great living room is not going to get the same kind of "wow" that the difference between an OK kitchen and a great kitchen will. I know that when I visit a house, usually the room I remember most is the kitchen and I also know that it was the first room that we designed when we were doing our house, even though I don't cook, just because there was so much more fun stuff I could do with it to make it look pretty (and I don't think it was aspirational or because I dreamed of cooking there some day or because I cared to impress anyone; I just love to sit on my couch in my nook and drink tea and be in a pretty space and I had a vision for what I wanted that space to be!)

  • cawaps
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My mother's kitchen is small. It's an irregular shape, but the main part is about 8ft wide by 7 ft long, and then it narrows to about 6 ft wide for another 3 feet. The narrow part houses the refrigerator, across from the back door. The range, sink and all the cabs and counters are in the 8x7 space.

    But as someone mentioned earlier, she makes use of space elsewhere in the house. Canned goods are in the mud room, and when I was a kid, the freezer and all my mom's canning were in the basement. Potatoes were usually in a bag in the mud room. Fetching stuff from the basement was a chore for the kids.

    Do we have more stuff? To some extent, yes. Microwaves and dishwashers didn't suck up space in homes in the early 20th century.

  • shannonaz
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I am not sure how this fits into the conversation but it influenced me a lot. I couple of summers ago I had the pleasure of spending some time in a custom home in Germany. The couple who had the house built are in their 80s; the house was built in the mid-70s. Anyway, I was pretty impressed by the the efficiency and tidiness of the house. The kitchen was closed and pretty cramped but very tidy and seemed to work well. The cool thing was the basement...it held the work rooms of the house. A large laundry room with storage, a work room with ample counter space and a center work table and a pantry room that held dishes, canning equipment and other kitchen stuff. That is how the main part of the house was so tidy. That setup may not be specific to Northern Europe but it was my first experience with that layout. (We don't have a lot of basements in Arizona :)

    DH and I are project people. We have way more stuff than we need on one hand, but it is all useful and we do use it from time to time. I have a lot of kitchen stuff that I don't use on a regular basis but that I do want to keep and I do pull out that pressure-cooker once in a while :)

    Anyway, the part of my kitchen that I actually use for food prep and cooking is quite small. The rest of it is storage with counters on top :) Also, seating and entertaining area. I could have a pretty small kitchen if I stored most of my stuff in another room and didn't entertain in there...

    Could it be that larger kitchens partly reflect the re-allocating of space in some instances rather than simply an overall increase? Could kitchens be holding stuff that was held in large cellars, pantries and dining room china hutches?

    The kitchen I am currently planning might be on the small side for the house. I would need to measure the plans to know the square footage :) Anyway, I am planning spaces outside of my kitchen to hold some of the stuff I currently keep in my kitchen and I am planning space in my new kitchen to hold stuff that I currently keep in my dining room because the new dining room won't have any storage space...

  • AboutToGetDusty
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    MrsPete, sounds great! Maybe it's because DH and I lived in many a 600sqft apartment in big cities...1800 sqft is our family, 95% of the time :-)
    Donaleen, we were are done and moved in (but still disorganized and trying to figure out what to put where for a few cabs!) Here's the link to the kitchen before and after pics - enjoy! Loving my Whitehaven sink although I'm concerned after reading the recent post about a GWer's crazing Kohler experience.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Dusty's kitchen

  • heidia
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have lived in two very old homes with tiny kitchens, and they both had shelving in the basement, tons of it, with old bar mason jars...seems like they had very large 'pantries,' just not in the kitchen. I have visited historic homes that had an entire cabin, off the main house, devoted to the kitchen. I think they had the same space issues but partitioned it elsewhere.

    For us, it is not about style but survival. lol We have 5 boys. We hardly ever eat out. I like to cook fresh. So I cook alot...and I make enough to feed an army. Will also be canning a ton with food we grow(11 acres). It makes sense to have a large pantry and plenty of space to work. :) It is a total bonus that we can make the kitchen look nice and be a seamless room with the dinning room/living room. :)

    I have lived in tiny kitchens. I have cooked with ONLY two pans(a stock put and an iron skillet). Sure, I can make brownies in the skillet. I can make any kitchen work. But, it is so much easier having the proper pan for the job. So much easier having counter space to work. Saves me time. Allows me to actually have kids in the kitchen to help me as well, which is important to me as I have to teach them how to cook.

    Big kitchens are beautiful and functional...I love them.

  • Circus Peanut
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Do we have more stuff? To some extent, yes. Microwaves and dishwashers didn't suck up space in homes in the early 20th century.

    I'm not completely sure about this -- we forget about the large water heater tank off the stove, the huge everpresent stockpot(s), castiron stove lid handles, meat grinder, iron & ironing board, breadbox, coffee mill, flour bin & sifter, food scales, soap shaker, milk cans, lard jar, etc etc; all the things it took to really cook food from scratch and run all the household electrical appliances. And stoves were not always the large luxury models we imagine they had; most regular households had smaller cookstoves.

    1910's:

    1911:

    c. 1912:

  • kai615
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    circuspeanut brings up a very good point. We may think we have more stuff, but what we have is more gadgets that are in general more compact and well designed. They are made to be stored and packed away.

    I have what I consider a "large" kitchen. 10x 15 feet with 6' 9" ceilings. My house is 300 years old. I was just trying to explain to my mother why we were custom building cabinets to store my canning equipment - pressure canner, very large stock pots, 400 or so glass jars. I agree there was root cellars in the old days, but there was also more food held in pantries and in kitchen through winter and spring once the harvest came in. They didn't go to market every week (or every few days) like most do now.

    Considering modern kitchen use cabinets stacked to the ceiling with shelves and cabinets, using the space way more efficiently than any kitchen of the past could claim, there is really no excuse for the additional space that I can see except that people want it. I think that square footage has become a sign of wealth and status and people are willing to borrow, go into debt, and live well beyond their means to obtain it.

    Part of what I think has brought this about is that modern building has become more and more "pre-fab". As look a like housing developments pop up all over the country, they just keep increasing the square footage to keep everyone impressed. I think then people get used to seeing it, used to having it, then want bigger. We are a consumer society and we just keep consuming.

    I personally love my little (big for me) kitchen. It is not done yet, but when it is I will not have any upper cabinets (ceiling is way too short). It will still be large enough to store my entire stock of food canned from the garden for winter and spring, all my equipment, plus all the "normal" stuff a kitchen needs to hold. I guess it is really a matter of what you have to work with and what you are used to.

  • marcolo
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If you've come up with an answer to the OP's question that sounds flattering, then it's the wrong answer.

    It's not because "we" cook so much more sophisticated food.

    "We" barely cook at all.

    The GW population is not representative of the population as a whole, and is not the driver of larger kitchens.

    Fewer than a third of American households make meals from scratch. Half of all meals eaten at home are take out or prepared from supermarkets. An avalanche of survey data shows that parents no longer teach children how to cook and majorities of adults do not know how long to boil a three-minute egg or how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. Around half of American families don't even regularly eat dinner together, though this is improving a little (they're toobusysobusytoobusyyouhavenoideahowbusytoobusysobusy).

    Room size expectations are generally set by new construction. Bigger kitchens are made to be sold, not lived in. They're flashy. They have more built-in features to brag about (stainless! granite!). They sell houses, as beagles said. That's the main reason they got bigger.

    Of course, now that people no longer know how to cook, they have begun using kitchens for other purposes, as a utility room or homework room. They also serve as a facade presenting the image of the homeowners as great entertainers, even if they never entertain. They serve as a showy backdrop for the occasional experiment or, more often, the take-out feast.

    In any case, kitchens certainly did not get bigger to accommodate people who needed them to cook more. That's just a fact, not a viewpoint.

    BTW kitchens originally got smaller because technology enabled them to. Gas stoves replaced huge hulking smelly dangerous coal stoves, and so you needed less space to avoid being seared or choked. Kitchens were regarded as workrooms because at the time people actually worked in them.

  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    This has been very interesting. I've really enjoyed reading all the responses.

    I myself do cook. We both do, from scratch. Not generally all that fancy, but from scratch. Saturday we had roasted root vegetables and grilled halibut (the right time of year for both and they were so good). Yesterday we made Chinese roast pork buns, the baked kind, because we can't get great ones here in Portland. I also baked some cream scones yesterday. Tonight I think DH is going cook pork verde or maybe Chinese style beef and broccoli. I plan to make chicken pot pie this week. Just to give you an idea of what I mean by from scratch but on the simple side.

    I started cooking at my mother's side. I remember my first jobs were greasing the baking pan (didn't like that job) and learning to peel potatoes with a knife. By the time I was about 10, I occasionally cooked dinner when my mother was gone. My dad was great and praised the undercooked potatoes and overcooked meat even though I was disappointed in both. I also baked as a child and longed for an Easy Bake oven, which I couldn't have since we had our own generator and my dad wasn't willing to rewire the easy bake oven. I loved all those little boxes things came in.

    I do find it odd that when I ask for a pint of something people don't always know what that even means. That is in keeping with what Marcolo said.

    Part of the reason I asked the question is because **I** really wanted to shrink my kitchen a bit. To make it more like it used to be. My DH didn't feel that way at all and it would be much more expensive to change the layout.

    I think that the early farm kitchen I grew up in (which my mother did NOT like) had a big impact on what I do like. The upper cabinets had glass. The countertops were metal (we called it tin, but I don't think it was). The ceiling was bead board. It was a creamy off white color. The floor was an old linoleum with a pattern. It had a pullout cutting board. And a metal lined tip out flour bin. My dad's dad built that farm house in the twenties. I lived in that house in the fifties. The kitchen was the biggest room, though not that big.

  • PRO
    Tom Carter
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    great topic!
    a couple of random thoughts
    - I think jumbo sized houses need to have something to fill up all that space...
    - open concept creates the feeling of more space as kitchen, eating area, living room all bleed together and what counts as "kitchen" grows

    - it is much cheaper and faster to create 'wow' or 'bling' in a new house by installing fancy appliances and countertops than by building with real wood trim, wainscotting, coffered ceilings, wide plank, finished in place floors - appliances instead of craftmanship - this creates bigger/fancier kitchens

    - the trend of islands and island/bar seating necessitates larger kitchens. It creates an addional work space and an additional seating place.
    caspian

  • kai615
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "If you've come up with an answer to the OP's question that sounds flattering, then it's the wrong answer."

    Well said Marcolo! That basically says what I was thinking reading every post.

    And Donaleen, I also cook just about everything in our house from scratch also. Even our "quick meals in a fix" is from scratch that I have frozen. With the garden and canning, I go to the grocery store about once a month if that, with the exception of running out for milk once in a while. I would even rather bake a loaf of bread than run to a store for some.

    And even though my 10x15 kitchen is not done yet, I am working with a old kitchen table as my ONLY work surface (and have been for the past year as we remodel the entire house). I have cooked almost every meal at home from scratch and canned for the winter everything that came out of our garden. I have no counter, no cabinets, just a utility sink, range, a pantry closet that was the first thing built and some plastic shelving to hold a few dishes and most used pots. The shear amount and quality of food I can turn out of my little (and sparse) kitchen does amaze me at times, but it also makes me wonder about some of the posts I see on this forum about "have to have" "absolute necessity", or advice about not being able to cook if your isles aren't a minimum of blah, blah, blah.... Really when you strip it all done, none of it actually has anything to do with actually cooking.

  • Alex House
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Check out the insulation in the walls and roof of circuspeanut's 2nd photo.

  • mrspete
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    So many right answers here! I think the real answer is that NO ONE THING has led to our preference for larger kitchens these days; rather, it's a combination of things:

    The ability to build bigger
    The ability to borrow money so that more people can afford to build bigger
    Seeing the house as an investment
    Valuing the kitchen as a status or aspirational item rather than simply something useful
    Dreamers who want a beautiful kitchen, but who don't know how to make it efficient -- they can only grasp big
    The availability of more appliances and more cookware
    The popularity of Open Floorplans
    The desire to have company while cooking
    The popularity of islands, which don't fit into small kitchens
    The increase in foods available to us, which require storage
    The increase in our body size
    The fact that we do our own cooking rather than using servants
    The entrance of men into the world of cooking
    Women earning money /demanding nicer kitchens

    Whew, what'd I leave out? It's quite a list, and likely people who "build big" buy into 2-3 of these items.

    The one recent note that's got me thinking, however, is from Shannonaz. She commented that people probably used to have just as much kitchen -- but it was kind of spread out. I think there's some truth in that. As I think back to an elderly relative whom I visited frequently as a child, I remember that she had a TINY kitchen (probably 8x8), but she also had a massive walk-in pantry . . . and a huge screened in porch where she sat to shell beans or chop things to be canned (she lived on that screen porch -- and who'd have wanted to stay indoors to do all that canning?) . . . and an entire outbuilding full of canned goods for the winter . . . and a root celler for her potatoes, etc . . . and a chicken house full of poultry and eggs . . . and a ciderhouse full of hard apple cider and homebrewed beer. If you consider all the places she stored food, she probably had well over 1000 square feet -- and that's a massive kitchen by anyone's standards.

  • GreenDesigns
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    A lot of it is confusing wants with needs. All any kitchen really needs is 3-4 functional burners, an oven, a double sink, and about 24"(tight)-48" in between the two for the primary prep space. The refrigerator can be some distance from that area, and in my grandmother's kitchen, it was on the enclosed back porch, not in the kitchen proper. Notice that I didn't include a DW, or an island, or a secondary sink or even aisle space. You can do it all with a single wall, if it's laid out right. My grandmother made meals for 12 regularly in just such a space, with a separate pantry cabinet on the screen porch and a couple of outbuildings worth of home canned goods.

    However, once you start to store more than just a couple of meal's worth of ingredients in the kitchen, or to have more than one cook working there, that space needs to expand to accommodate those stored ingredients and extra butt(s). You can still do all of that work in a 10x10 galley space without a DW or prep sink. With other layouts than a galley that opt to include an island, you do start to need allocate more room for occupants, and thus aisle space and elbow space comes into play if the space is still to be efficient.

    And then start to factor in convenience items that have become necessities, like a DW, microwave and coffee maker. You've got to have more counter space for counter top appliances that make our lives easier. I know I don't want to go back to the days of percolated coffee on the stovetop!

    At some point though, the need for space for modern conveniences becomes confused with wanting more space for modern conveniences. And wanting more space for other reasons as well. Bigger is NOT always better. Some of the most dysfunctional kitchen that I have ever been in were large spaces (usually designed by architects who don't cook) that were designed to be impressive visually rather than be efficient work rooms for the production of sustenance. Again, you can regularly feed a family of 12 from a pretty tiny kitchen, so really think VERY hard about that 16 foot hike from the fridge to the range with the island in the way. Even if you're just doing box mac and cheese as the ultimate cooking effort and not cooking 7 grain bread from scratch and churning your own butter, too much space in the wrong areas doesn't make a better kitchen. It's still a PIA to grab that takeout container from the fridge and walk 12 feet to the MW every time you want to eat something. If you try, you can probably make yourself a more convenient layout for the way you use the kitchen that will still appeal to someone who cooks. All it would take in my hypothetical example is a MW close to the fridge with the china storage and cleanup zone not too far away and a prep sink on the island to serve the range for the cook who wants to buy the house at resale time.

  • segbrown
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I don't know that I'd always use the word "confuse" when talking about needs and wants. I think most people know that they don't "need" a dishwasher or even a microwave, much less the three dishwashers I now have in my house. I know I don't need them. But I love them.

  • writersblock (9b/10a)
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    >All any kitchen really needs is 3-4 functional burners, an oven, a double sink,

    I'd say even this is listing what is desirable rather than what is necessary. What is necessary is a way to make things hot (along with fuel, vessels, and so on) and a way to make things clean. Beyond that, it's all fancy fixin's. :)

  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    That three dishwasher comment somehow made me think of a friend who had six bathrooms in her house (I think it was six) but only two people lived there so she had to make a point of flushing all the toilets regularly to make sure the U in the drain part didn't dry out.

  • marcolo
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Even some "ideal" GW kitchen layouts are too spread out. It's great to get a cleanup area out of the way of the prep and cooking zones--until you're stirring and want a fork, or want to take something out of a pan and need a plate.

    I have to admit though, that for sheer morbid obesity, kitchens can't hold a muffin top to new build master bathrooms, which are now often larger than children's rooms, living rooms and even kitchens. If you need a quarter of the square footage of your entire house dedicated to excretion, eat a vegetable.

  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oh, Marcolo, I am still laughing out loud.

  • segbrown
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Man, I agree about the master baths. Even mine is way too big (IMO) and it was built in 78. At least people congregate in the kitchen ... god help us if that many people are congregating in the bath. To each his own, though, I gues...

  • gaonmymind
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Don't care if I "need" it. I want it. I am coming from a 6x7 condo kitchen. Sure I made great meals and hosted dinner parties from it, but in the house we are building now I have a 17ft island and an 11x8 pantry. So could I work with smaller..of course. I worked in the smallest kitchen probably in the history of GW.

    But I am over the moon about my new, as someone called it on here, "Kitchen Stadium". Cooking is my hobby so that term flattered me.

  • gaonmymind
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Also my master bath is actually smaller than most new homes, because I prefer that area to be more intimate as there is usually only one person using it at a time. I like baths to feel cozy...go figure.

  • bmorepanic
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Marcolo - that's why I have 4 forks, 4 tsp and 4 place spoons over in the prep area. They are a completely different pattern and don't creep back into the silverware drawer.

    The plates are a different matter, but it's been fairly trivial so far.

    I was struck by the kitchen in this tv show - the first half of the first episode is linked below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Little Paris Kitchen

  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    What a fun cooking show! I think she has an Easy Bake Oven and a camp stove. Food looks great.

  • sanjuk61
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think the kitchen has become the gathering place. A change I welcome from the family gathering around the television. I am already seeing how my larger kitchen is changing the way I interact with my kids and their friends.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen Renovations Melbourne

  • marcolo
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    In other words, larger kitchens are preferred by spammers.

    Like we said.

  • eleena
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "Some of the most dysfunctional kitchen that I have ever been in were large spaces (usually designed by architects who don't cook) that were designed to be impressive visually rather than be efficient work rooms for the production of sustenance."

    A friend of mine had such a kitchen (in a $1M+ house, of course, where else?) FTR, she did not buy the house, her DH already had it when they got married.

    Oh, boy, that was one dysfunctional kitchen!

    With all that counter space, the sink was shoved into a corner, the cooktop was on the island a mile away from the sink and the fridge was two miles away in the corner on the diagonal from the sink. Can you imagine cooking there?

    She had two small children, cooked from scratch, and cleaned the kitchen by herself after dinner (though she had a helper in the morning). The kitchen was always "pristinely" clean. No wonder she was always so tired, LOL.

    I would shoot myself if I had to cook there.

  • lavender_lass
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Have you seen the closets in older homes? LOL

    Kitchens, bathrooms, closets, living/family rooms...everything is bigger. The key seems to be to find what works with your tastes, style and budget. And...know ahead of time if you can afford a full time maid! :)

  • cawaps
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have a closet in my house that isn't deep enough for clothes hangers to hang straight. But really old homes didn't even have closets. That's what wardrobes are for.

  • lizzie_nh
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Very interesting topic and I haven't read every response, so I hope I'm not duplicating. I agree with pretty much everything I've read so far. I think much of why modern kitchens are larger has to do with the kitchen as gathering place, but also, the loss (in most cases) of the use of free-standing furniture, outdoor storage, and an increase in modern appliances and plumbing. Many people also no longer have separate parlors or dining rooms and eat in the kitchen. I'm not sure if it has to do with different cuisines - many traditional American dishes, while perhaps not including a million ingredients, would have been made from scratch - pie crusts need to be rolled out, bread needs to be kneaded, there needed to be room for canning (very space-hogging), etc..

    I'm in my mid-30s so my mother was a "modern" mother and cooked pretty much what we cook today. But, we lived in an old (Victorian era, 1800s) house in New England which had for the most part NOT been renovated to accommodate modern lifestyles (and still hasn't been.) It has three closets now - one is under the main staircase, and is original. One is just an alcove off a bedroom, filling a space under the eaves, and one is a modern sliding-door closet which was finally built in a bedroom when we were teenagers. When the house was built, it didn't have running water or electricity. It had no bathroom. A bedroom was cut in two upstairs to make room for a bathroom, but that was all we had - one (sort of weird-looking) bathroom. The kitchen (and every room) had an opening to a central chimney, and food would have been cooked on a wood-burning stove.

    We had and have almost no built-in cabinets. There is one hutch-style piece which is permanently built-in, but it is not like the cabinets of today. There would probably have been a wash basin instead of a sink and cabinets - there is now a sink with lower and upper cabinets, but this unit, while built-in, is not in any way attached to the other hutch-type cabinet piece. It's on a different wall. Until recently, there were no other cabinets, but my mother finally had a row of bead-board cabinets installed along one wall - they are short and actually run above the windows, which dominate one wall.

    The modern stove/oven is also just free-standing, not flanked by counters. Let's say it takes up about as much space as the wood-burning stove of yesteryear. But, next to it, there is a normal modern refrigerator - which would NOT have been there before. Perishables would have been kept in an out-building or root cellar. There is virtually no counter space, which makes the kitchen seem cramped and poorly-functioning by today's standards. We use a round table for preparation, which seems abnormal, but is what people would have done in the past. A problem comes in when we want both a place to sit and eat AND plenty of prep space. The house has a room which would have been used as a dining room, despite the fact that the house is more "farmhouse" than grand Victorian mansion. Eating was just not done in the kitchen, even in a simple house.

    If you think of this kitchen, which is remarkably preserved, and imagine the removal of the fridge, which is easy to do since it's just standing there, and imagine a stand with a wash basin, and a table for food prep.... in short, imagine it without modern plumbing/appliances and purely as a work space, it's big enough. If you want a gathering space, it's tiny.

    I now live in a new house with the typical built-in everything, and a kitchen open to the living room. I have to say that I actually really miss the cramped little farmhouse kitchen, which I consider cozy. One of my goals, being a life-long New Englander, is to buy an old house. I look at listings and I am so horrified by what people have done. It's incredibly rare to find a house which has not been dramatically modernized in one way or another. The rare house has done it well - it has modern conveniences but created in an old-fashioned style. Many homeowners have just stripped out the old, added drop-ceilings and installed the typical "L" formation of builder-grade oak cabinets which look completely out of place.

    My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a seventies ranch house with a very open floor plan. (It reminds me of the house the Brady Bunch lived in.) We differ on our views of individual and small rooms. Personally I don't WANT a wide open space and it feels weird and I feel like it actually makes the house look smaller because you can see from one exterior wall to the other. But, I think it's all about what you're used to. If I bought an old house which had had a builder-grade "modern" kitchen installed, I would immediately rip it out and try to get back to basics.

    The only thing I LOVE about my new house is that we have at least one outlet on every wall. Growing up, we had ONE outlet per room, and had to buy adapters to plug in grounded ("three-hole") plugs!

  • lizzie_nh
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'll also echo the housekeeper thing of an earlier poster... my mothers family was upper-class, and had a live-in nanny and a separate live-in housekeeper (in the 50s/60s.) My father's family did not have these things, but HIS parents' generation, early-twentieth century, did have a live-in housekeeper. It was just something "respectable" middle-class people had.

    (That said, I really don't think anyone who lived in the house in which I grew up would have had a housekeeper. Nevertheless, while the kitchen was probably not the domain of the housekeeper, it would have been the domain of the wife. It was a place where work took place, out of sight.)

  • lizzie_nh
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sorry, I should have included every comment in one post...

    One other thought (partly inspired by the historic photos shown above) is that now, we want everything out of sight. I think this is true of pretty much every space in the house, but perhaps especially true of public spaces. The kitchen is now a public gathering space, which not only means that we need SPACE in which to gather, but we don't want to see all the STUFF. We want it to be all streamlined. If it were okay to just have everything out there, there'd be less need of space-hogging built-ins. Also, when it was merely a work space, nobody cared about "flow." Proper "flow" can, while sometimes allowing most efficient use of small space, perhaps more often take up MORE space.

  • marcolo
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    we don't want to see all the STUFF. We want it to be all streamlined.

    Except the dining room is fully of huge, hideous plastic children's toys, in quantities quadruple what we had.

    And often, the kitchen is full of stuff, too--bills, catalogs, computers, random bags, piles of paper. It just seems to be cooking stuff that we don't want to see. Maybe it makes some people feel guilty.

  • Cloud Swift
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I wasn't going to respond to this thread because there is so much negativity on it (people want bigger kitchens because they think they will use them but don't, people are too fat, etc), but I can't help myself so here goes.

    First off, I reject the premise that kitchens are much bigger today. There are many large kitchens on this forum but I don't think that they are at all typical. I grew up in the LA area with houses built in the 50's and 60's. Most of the houses in my current Sacramento area neighborhood were built between the 60's and early 80's with infill and replacement houses built since 2000.

    There may be regional differences - I've only once seen a house in either area with a basement and these are suburban houses without out-buildings so any storage is in the house or sometimes in the garage and perhaps that led to the average kitchen being a bit bigger around here.

    The kitchens I see in the new builds are in the same size ranges as the kitchens I recall from growing up and the older kitchens around here. Many of my friends have remodeled their kitchens but most did it within the same footprint of the existing kitchen. I think one expanded significantly. We kept pretty much to the same footprint except for going a few more inches on one leg of the L.

    What has changed over the years is house size in general. In the LA area, there were neighborhoods of small houses - typically 2 br, 1 bath with a den that could be a third bedroom at around ~1100 square feet. I don't see any single houses being built now that size. (I guess condos fill that niche now.) A house over 2000 sq ft was considered large. Now someone above classed their planned 1888 sq ft as small and it seems a house has to be around 3000 sq ft or bigger to be large.

    When I considered a job move to Orange County in 2005, we looked at houses there (all pretty recent construction, some brand new). The kitchens were often in big rooms (family room and breakfast/eat-in area) but the actual kitchen area footprints were almost always small, tending to be smaller than around here in the same size houses. It was hard to find any with double ovens. Perhaps a regional variation due to lots of dining out, take out and grocery store prepared food?

    Our son's house built just before the real estate bubble burst in the East Bay Area also has a relatively small kitchen footprint - only about 8 linear feet of counter space.

    Secondly, while a lot of people do some take out and prepared foods, most also do some home cooking. I can and did make good food from scratch with smaller kitchens in previous homes and even from my make-shift temporary kitchen while remodeling but it is easier and more fun to cook in my larger one. It is particularly nice when we have 2 or 3 or more working on food prep at the same time.

    As far as efficiency and larger kitchens - am I the only one who finds standing in one place for a long time to be more stressful than if I sometimes take a few steps. I've got an ankle that sometimes flares up with tendonitis and standing for long periods seems to be what sets it off, not walking. So I don't mind if once or twice during preparation of something I need to go 8 feet to a cabinet on the other side of our L or off to the pantry to fetch what I need. It keeps my ankle happy and adds little or nothing to prep time.

  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My DH and I made turnovers the other day (recipe in link). I was filling them and pinching them shut and he was brushing them with egg and poking holes in them. We were working in close quarters but we weren't feeling crowded. I asked myself why was that? It was because even though we were close to each other we were on either side of an outside corner. I decided that outside corners in a work space are a tremendous advantage for working together. Two cheers for tables and islands.

    Here is a link that might be useful: pear leek and gruyers turnovers

  • estercita
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We all know exceptions to the rule, but data from the Census Bureau & Natl. Assoc. of Home Builders show that kitchens are, in fact, bigger than they used to be: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Moms/story?id=1445039#.UHHX767Z1lM

    'The compact 9-by-10 kitchens of the 1950s have given way to the current 285 square foot average, according to the NAHB [Natl. Assoc. of Home Builders].' http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/24/real_estate/home_stretching/index.htm

    Here is a link that might be useful: news story

  • Donaleen Kohn
    Original Author
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My DH and I both cook. There are nice things and not so nice things about that. It's nice to share the work and it's great to eat his delicious food. But, sometimes I wish I had my own kitchen, set up the way I want. Maybe that's the next trend: dual kitchens.

    Just joking...

  • kaismom
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The last 10 people that came into my house for the first time only sat by my kitchen island. I can't think of the last person that went into the LR and sat on the couch. (except my brother who always takes a nap on the couch) When I go into someone's home for the first time for a 'short' time, it is rare that I move out of the kitchen. This is where we receive people now. This is the gathering place. This is where the kids do homework. This is where I feed my kids friends. This is where I have coffee when friends come. Need I say more.

  • aliris19
    10 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I thought the done thing these days for young professional couples was to be unmarried, with adjoining condos or houses -- amounts to the same thing. Friends of mine just built a huge gorgeous house (he built and designed it all over ten+ years) with separate bedroom suites -- kind of like from days of yore with boudoirs, no? It has to be said, though, that this is all his fantasy -- she looks at it and says "dust bunnies -- who's going to clean all this"???

    The duplication in my kitchen I am loving (thank you GW) is the sink. Only complaint is that both of them aren't bigger. But the central location on an island edge even close to the second, clean-up one is brilliant. Hard to say whether this constitutes "bigger" or an innovation as butler's pantries with sinks were certainly common once upon a time, long before the efficient 40/50/60s kitchens got cranking (cf that Victorian Kitchen of the OP). Incorporating that utility has required a larger kitchen; which leads to which I dunno.