Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Fitted Kitchen

The 1920s and 30s saw architects, including women, design kitchens that would reduce housework, accommodate modern appliances and create a "nerve centre" for the small family. No longer a large bare room at the back of the house, the kitchen was positioned at the side or towards the front and preferably next to the dining room, to which it could be linked by a small servery or hatch.

In America, "efficiency experts" had found that a circular work area in the kitchen reduced the number of steps a woman took while making a shortcake from 281 to 45 (Adelaide Mail, 9 August 1930). The circular work area places the stove, cupboards and refrigerator in one corner, with a "service table on wheels" that can be moved around the kitchen as needed. And quietly. It has rubber tyres.

This circular work area is in a relatively large kitchen, designed by an American woman, with an expensive "electric dish washer" next to the sink and a "planning desk" in the corner that houses a box of recipes, drawers for paid and unpaid bills, a telephone and a shelf for recipe books and "the loud speaker of a wireless set". The table, bottom right, seats four for breakfast and the children for lunch.

In Australia, "planning desks" and electric dish washers were less in demand, but work areas were similarly designed for efficiency.  

The really efficient factory-like Australian kitchen probably reached its apotheosis in an article by an architect using the nom-de-plume Best Overend, A.R.I.B.A., AR.A.I.A. Published in the Argusin 1934 under the title: "Small-House Kitchen - Rounded Corners, Flush Surfaces - Why Not Hose It Out?" the writer suggested that with no open shelves, a linoleum floor and a tiled wall, "there seems no reason why the modern kitchen should not be cleaned out and freshened with a hose - and what a relief that might prove to overwrought feelings!" The breakfast nook was redundant too, with "easy and direct access of the dining alcove" (26 July 1934, p.13).

By 1938 the Argus observed that the kitchen "is generally becoming smaller because it has been found that by carefully planning the position of the stove, sink and drainer, food and crockery cupboards, and workbench, less floor space is required". 

In the smaller kitchen, the pantry disappeared, replaced by "cupboards placed in convenient positions around the walls. Fitted with flush panel doors these cupboards present an unbroken surface which does not collect dust. They are designed for the storage of foodstuffs or kitchen equipment. Cupboards for perishables are now ventilated from below the floor, with an outlet in the ceiling... The position of these cupboards is important for the convenient working of the kitchen. The grocery cupboard should be close to the back door, and the cabinets for the storage of china, glass, silver, and table linen should be convenient to the dining-room. The position of the cupboards, however, is governed by the shape of the room." (Argus, 19 August 1937)

Like the pantry, the breakfast nook was redundant. Best Overend suggested a dresser be built in "between the dining space and the kitchen, and this will incorporate a servery hatch with direct connection with the preparation table". Rather than having a large table in the middle of the kitchen "round which Cook wended her way to and from the stove and the sink", food would be prepared on a flap projecting from the wall making the "preparation of meals... more comparable with the assembling line of motor-car plant than a series of isolated operations" ( Argus, 11 October 1934, p. 7)

1 comment:

  1. Great Idea for a pre-made kitchens people will be interested in changing their kitchen when they saw this article!