How Modern Kitchens Have Evolved Over the Decades

May 1, 2023 | All

Before the modern kitchen designs in 2022 became the norm in kitchens all across the country, there was a long evolution process for what the modern kitchen could look like. Through innovative designs, social changes, and the rise of cooking being seen as an art form, kitchens have transformed from places of service and necessity to areas of inspiration, artistic expression, and social interaction.

Kitchens have become optimal areas for social gatherings, as guests can enjoy beverages or snacks while the host prepares a meal. Often, the guests now take an active role in the cooking. This is much different from the trends of earlier kitchens seen even just 50 years ago, where kitchens were a separate operation altogether. In this blog, we’re going to look at how and why kitchen trends have changed over the decades into the integral spaces they are now.

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The Early 1900s

In this age of kitchens, the refrigerator was a humble ice box, kept cool by the use of natural elements like ice and snow. Additionally, stoves were operated by either coal or gas. As time progressed, coal was more outdated and gas stoves became the norm. This was a time when kitchens were solely used for food preparation and hardly anything else.

In fact, contrary to how kitchens are now the epicenter of most homes, kitchens prior to the 20th century were removed from the living space entirely. They certainly weren’t a hub for gathering or hosting guests. At this time, kitchens were often used to cook or prepare food—nothing more— and were operated only by servants or a member of the immediate family.

Gas stoves became more popular as they could be put together quicker, needed less equipment, and produced less heat. But often, families had both as they made the slow transition to only using gas.

The Electric 20s and 30s

Refrigerators became eclectic in the 1920s and 1930s but weren’t yet mass produced as they were expensive and only available to a select few. Inventions like the first pop-up toaster of 1919 changed how the average family could easily toast bread consistently, and is now the most common household kitchen appliance. Stoves continued to move towards a gas-powered approach and the gas cabinet range stove was introduced. This popular design had cabinets attached to a multiple stovetop for convenience and was advertised as perfect for households with kids or larger families.

By the 1930s, design became an area of focus for kitchens as manufacturers deliberately designed stove tops to match the surrounding countertops. This trend is still prominent today in many modern kitchens as design has emerged as a foundational pillar of kitchen construction.

A Shift Towards A User-Friendly Approach

Kitchen manufacturers shifted their design strategies to a more user-friendly layout at the onset of the 1940s and as the 20th century progressed. Big bulky appliances were scaled down to easy-to-use tools, such as smaller stovetops and innovative designs like the microwave, which wouldn’t become popular on a mass scale until the 1960s.

But overall, kitchens became a larger area of focus for architects as they were simplified and optimized for family use. They were made to be cleaner, easier to use and navigate, and more reliant on electricity. The image of the 1950s/1960s homemaker became iconic with the view of a neat and tidy kitchen for home cooked meals.

By the 1950s, most American households had an electric refrigerator, as it set the standard for both safety and convenience in food storage. Appliances were increasingly built into the original kitchen design and kitchens saw an increase in color and style.

Space was saved by transforming appliances into built-in applications, like a wall oven, to increase the area to work in and move about the kitchen. This increased during the 1960s and allowed for dining room tables to be introduced to the kitchen.

Brown wood dominated the cabinets and design. Stove tops and ovens were merged into one appliance to save space. Dishwashers were introduced. This saw a shift towards more family gatherings and the kitchen as a designated area to spend time in. Open space became more of a focus, which is a dominant feature of modern kitchens today.

Modern Makings

Modern kitchens see a continuation of these trends listed above, as kitchen design has become simpler, more innovative, and more design-focused. The kitchen is increasingly seen as the center point of a family home.

The 1970s saw the age of the common microwave dominate kitchens. Refrigerators introduced water and ice dispensers. People increasingly had more gourmet cookware tools. Kitchens were decorated and personalized.

The 80s became places of hangout, with the introduction of kitchen islands, nooks for eating, and streamlined appliances for even more space.

The 1990s heavily focused on the kitchen arriving as the official centerpiece of the home. Granite countertops were paired with stainless steel and became all the rage. The turn of the century saw more sleek, polished countertops that carried over from the 90s, and HGTV (Home and Garden Television) became popular which steered a lot of the design trends in the 2000s.

A Timeline of Decade Design Trends

Below is a breakdown of design elements specific to the decades listed above, as detailed by The Boston Globe, to where kitchen design stands today.


  • Earth-toned color palettes
  • Laminate and particle board cabinets
  • L and U-shaped layouts
  • Multiple-burner stovetops


  • Patterned wallpaper
  • Convenient, up-to-date appliances
  • Dark earth tones, bright accents


  • Introduction of open layouts
  • Off-white cabinetry with oak trim
  • Streamlined, functional appliances
  • Pale pinks, whites, and blues


  • Granite countertops
  • Integrated, pro-style appliances
  • Stainless steel
  • Bright, cool color palette


  • Warm, contrasting color palettes
  • Wood cabinets
  • Wood-paneled refrigeration suites


  • Quartz countertops
  • Sleek, functional appliances
  • Reclaimed wood features
  • Bold accent colors


  • Open shelving and cabinets
  • Brass hardware and fixtures
  • Statement lighting
  • Custom range hoods
  • Natural materials and colors

Conclusion – How Modern Kitchens Have Evolved Over the Decades

Kitchens have largely become the hearts of the home, moving from areas of food prep and a necessity to spaces for social gathering, personalized design, and open space concepts for cooking and hosting. These days, modern kitchens are sleek, functional, practical, and stylish.

Kitchens today are bigger and take a more dominant role in architecture and house design. They’re meeting places for family meals and gatherings, parties and special occasions, and more. Appliances are evolving as well, as air fryers and other inventions are changing how Americans cook food on a daily basis. Technology is rapidly changing and determining the look of modern kitchens, and thus, they are constantly evolving.

For all your kitchen designer needs and questions, contact us today to see how our professionals at Kitchen Distributors can bring your specific vision to life. Give us a call at (303) 795-0665 or email us at [email protected] to learn how we can begin building your dream kitchen today.

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