Design Around This #3: 1920s Kitchens and All That Jazz

November 13, 2011

Welcome to this week's episode of "Design Around this." The challenge:

Design a 1920s kitchen in a way that is usable today. Show all major design elements on a mood board. You can tell us about the house first and even describe your "clients" if you want.
Important: Do not post the One True Kitchen in any form. We debated whether to even allow white cabinets at all, but some suggested they would be OK as long as color was used on permanent features and fixtures -- not accessories. However if you have the cheek to "design" a kitchen with white cabinets plus white subways plus marble or soapstone counters, we will have no mercy on you.


During the 1920s, kitchens evolved from the all-white sanitary style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries into something new. No longer purely functional rooms occupied by the chef and scullery maid, they became the domain of a new breed of housewife--in Julia Child's words, the "servantless American cook." And this cook wanted something pretty.

Enter color. Style. New European influences brought home by doughboys coming back down to the farm after they'd seen Paree. An exuberant mishmash of historical styles revived and redefined, including Tudor manors,

storybook cottages,

French farmhouses, Swiss chalets, English parsonages, and Dutch, Spanish and American colonial revival styles.

There was also a new influence on the scene, ushered in by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderns--Art Deco. But it was a small influence so far, and inspired more by the fluid forms of natural movement rather than the blinding speed of machinery. Only at the end of the decade did we see the big sweeping metallic curves of the Chrysler building.

Whatever its style, the 1920s kitchen was pretty--and by pretty, I mean feminine. Stoves, like the furniture of the time, perched on delicate cabriole legs.

Nooks were popular, in every color.

Do not rely only on these few pictures for inspiration. Your required (but highly enjoyable) homework: Visit both galleries (1 & 2) in this fantastic site of 1920s kitchen images and get inspired. Also poke through American Vintage Home's albums on flickr. (Note that a lot of these images are linoleum ads, but you can use another flooring material if you wish.)


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