05 Nov Historical Kitchens: The 1950s
The 1950s were a time of great exuberance in the United States. World War II had just ended, and the optimism brought about by the Allied success and the new technologies that were created during combat brought a sense of unity and progress to the nation. New materials were revolutionizing home decor and design, and the soldiers who came home were settling comfortably in newly built single story post-war houses. New features like built-in appliances were the vogue, and the 1950s kitchen was a beautiful mix of convenience and futurism.
During this period, electricity consumption skyrocketed, largely as a result of technological advances. Gas and coal, popular ways of heating the home in the pre-war period, were abandoned in favour of electric powered appliances. Fridges, microwaves, stoves, and dishwashers used to be strewn about in a kitchen, when they were in a homeowner’s possession at all. New homes were designed with a space for each of these appliances, to create a cohesive kitchen; this trend prevails today.
The kitchens of the 50s were all about the two Ls; linoleum and laminate. These materials were quite inexpensive to acquire, so the lower-cost, quickly built suburban homes soldiers bought after the war had linoleum floors and laminate countertops. These materials were appreciated because they could be made with a variety of colours and patterns; the kitchens of the 50s were incredibly bright and colourful. The materials are also quite easy to clean, making life for the stereotypical 1950s housewife a little bit easier. Custom designed kitchen countertops and floors gave these kitchens a touch of exuberance, a reflection of the era’s positivity.
Think of all the steel you would need to conduct a successful war; this gives you an idea of the abundance of steel there was in the post-war era, as industry doesn’t simply die down. High supply means lower prices, so kitchens were stocked with stunning steel appliances and cabinetry; easy to clean, full of colour (teal, yellow and orange coloured steel were common), inexpensive and durable, steel was the go-to material for many facets of the kitchen.
The small size of the houses built in this era had a significant impact on kitchen design. Most of these houses had a single floor, and a full family could be expected to use them. As a result, the kitchen was designed for eating-in; there were often tables in the space, if not an island the family could sit around. Additionally, these kitchens usually had an L-shaped floor plan, with a door leading outside and a space leading to the living room. The cabinets would often feature pull out garbage bins, and lazy Susans were common on tables, all in an effort to save space and create convenience.