Then & Now: Rare Photos of American Kitchens Throughout the Years


| LAST UPDATE 07/07/2022

By Veronica Anderson

The kitchen is the heart of the home for most folks worldwide. And with each decade comes new styles, trends, and gadgets! Here's a look back at rare photos of American kitchens from as early as the 1910s...

1913: No Cabinets, No Problem

Through the centuries, sitting down and enjoying a big meal has always been an essential part of the day! These two young boys are sitting down enjoying a large breakfast in the center of the home: the kitchen.

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Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images

It looks like this kitchen, however, didn't have any cabinets! The kitchen had shelves made to store everyday kitchen items and ingredients. Besides the open-kitchen plan, it looks like this family filled the most important room in the house with tons of photos, just like a modern kitchen does!

1915: Boxcar Kitchen

Look at this kitchen! Talk about creativity and DIY; this is taking it to new levels! The mid-1915s was all above inventiveness, which is seemingly displayed with this at-home kitchen. The tiny kitchen is actually inside an abandoned boxcar in 1915.

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Burton Holmes/Archive Farms via Getty Images

This family's home was an abandoned boxcar, a railroad car that was once used to carry freight, most likely. This inventive family created their kitchen in the back corner of the box car turned home, with a freestanding stove and small countertop beside it.

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1922: Cooking Practically in the Kitchen

Back in the 1920s, traditionally, a meal would include a meatloaf, roast chicken, pork chops, with a salad, vegetables and maybe even a slice of pie! It was common to also drink fresh milk or a nice cup of warm tea or coffee beside any meal of the day.

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Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

With a functional kitchen like this, we can only imagine the meals she was able to make and what was brewing in that large kettle! In the '20s, it was all about practicality and functionality before decor - though it looks like the stove was beautifully and carefully made.

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1924: Inside the Fridge

Something about this woman's hair and the milk carton is screaming 1920s! This black and white photo from 1924 is showing the woman placing an order to her grocer as she stares into the refrigerator. We're wondering what the standard go-to grocery order was back then?

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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock via Getty Images

The '20s were all about the icebox, where food could be stored, frozen, and recycled. What a game-changer for households back then! It looks like she has all the major necessities in the fridge at the moment; milk, eggs, cake, some vegetables, and of course, (what appears to be) a bottle of wine!

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1928: Freestanding Sink

This kitchen is looking quite different from most that we've seen so far! A popular trend in the 1920s was the freestanding sink, and with the freestanding sink came the lack of a worktop space. It looks like the sink took up almost half of the kitchen!

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Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Besides the freestanding sink and lack of workspace, the Monarch electric stove made its way into American kitchens in the '20s. The Monarch electric stove was a significant addition to family kitchens during this time period, giving them a completely new way to prepare meals.

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1931: "Ideal" Kitchen

There was a dramatic shift from a 1920s kitchen layout to what the kitchens in the '30s looked like. The '30s were a tough time for people after the stock market crashed in '29, and people were left with nothing. Still, the kitchen would remain a place where families could gather together.

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GraphicaArtis via Getty Images

However, with such a market crash, people were left dreaming of what their kitchens would look like, more than what was attainable at the time. The "ideal" American kitchen at the time was full of bright colors, organized cabinet space, and even a breakfast nook for the family to enjoy the most important meal of the day!

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1933: "Kitchen Trousseau"

This 1930s setup shows two women, one a bride-to-be, standing next to a typical kitchen trousseau. The kitchen trousseau was a collected group of household items for a bride before her marriage, and in this case, everything she needed to be the ideal chef in the kitchen!

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PhotoQuest via Getty Images

During the Great Depression in the '30s, families were using only the basics and thinking in practicality mode over anything else. The girls in the photo were set up with a sign below reading, "A Home Science Club Girl and Her Practical Kitchen Trousseau." Looks like they were very prepared!

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1935: Art Deco Kitchen

Art deco was a huge architectural style of the '20s and '30s, identifiable by its sleek design and geometric form. And during the mid-'30s, people were looking for innovative ways to change things up! This kitchen featured spunky wallpaper mixed with an open stove nook and ample storage space.

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Douglas Miller/Topical Press Agency via Getty Images

During this period, kitchens also started to gain more countertop space, which was crucial for a large household where a lot of food was being made! Kitchens were developing a personal style influenced by art deco architecture, resembling the modern kitchen. It's ironic how everything comes back into style...

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1940: "Modern" Electric Kitchen

The modern electric kitchen really defined the style behind the kitchen in the 1940s. Families during this time were able to invest more in electric kitchen appliances, like the toaster oven, microwave and refrigerators as we see them today!

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Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum via Getty Images

This photo displays a model kitchen from Marshall Field & Company, which displayed "the kitchen of tomorrow" to the American people who were looking to embrace all that was positive in the future, especially following The Great Depression. This kitchen structure was new and exciting for families during this time.

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1947: Post-War Kitchen

Kitchens had really developed during post-war America. World War II had finished, and people's patriotism had increased, evoking a new kind of America and a new type of household. Kitchens were dripped in red, white, and blue appliances, and people were re-designing their kitchens.

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Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum via Getty Images

Although this might not be considered the "modern" kitchen, it indeed showed what a post-war American patriotic kitchen looked like. The size of the kitchen kept in mind the baby-boomer families who sprouted post World War II and needed more space for a few more people!

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1955: A Housewife's Kitchen

Traditionally a '50s housewife was in charge of all the cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the household while watching after the kids and preparing for the following day. So naturally, during this time period, the kitchen was a major center point for a family to gather, but also where many chores were done!

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Hulton Archive via Getty Images

In this photo, the woman is ironing in the corner of her kitchen while maintaining a very tidy kitchen! Everything is organized and color-coordinated, from the salt and pepper shakers to the drying rack. Black and white checkered floors also made a huge appearance during this time!

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1956: Kitchen Meets Living

Around this time, kitchens moved from just functionality to also somewhere a family can truly relax and enjoy! Families in the '50s started designing their kitchens with fun colors, designs, mixed shapes, and patterns, giving the house a whole different vibe and feel.

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Apic via Getty Images

In this 1956 magazine ad for Glendura, we can see the happiness exuding from this woman's face after incorporating color and design into a mixed kitchen and living space! The checkered linoleum floor was also trendy during this time and was frequently a part of the "dream kitchen" space.

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1958: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel perfectly encompasses the life of a family during the 1950s - but with a Hollywood twist, of course. The popular series follows Mrs. Maisel, a housewife with a husband, two kids, and a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, until she finds a secret talent of hers she wishes to explore.

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IMDB-The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017) via Amazon Prime Video

The designers on the show showcased a traditional 1950's kitchen with the defining all-white cabinets and countertop, tied in with a checkered linoleum floor and pops of red featured throughout the kitchen. We bet Midge Maisel's kitchen would have been considered very trendy at the time and a great place to enjoy meals!

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1960: Home Economics

Home economics was a part of the school curriculum during the '60s. It was intended for girls at the time to learn more about nutrition, housing and equipment, clothing, family economics, home management, family development, and more. In 1970, the course was mandatory for both men and women.

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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock via Getty Images

Although this photo is a mock kitchen, we can see girls in the early '60s during a home economics class setting up the table and working in the kitchen. By this point, we can see how a kitchen has transformed into something functional for cooking and entertaining, as seen by the return of the dining nooks.

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1965: The Dutch-Style Kitchen

The turn of the '60s was all about transitioning styles and focusing on a more compact and contemporary look. Now that kitchens were designed for more than just cooking, and people were looking to entertain more and more, kitchens became multi-functional and developed cutting-edge technology.

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Underwood Archives/Getty Images

The Dutch-style kitchen was a big part of the 1960's classic kitchen look. The contemporary style made the somewhat small kitchen feel more extensive and more comfortable for all. The traditional kitchen included a more progressive layout, similar to what we see today, with a quilt-like design and even a dishwasher!

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1969: Changing Styles

In the late '60s, people were sticking with the basics but started adding wood to their kitchens. Wooden appliances were introduced to kitchens during this time, giving the homeowners a more open-kitchen plan and allowing for new styles to integrate.

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 Chaloner Woods via Getty Images

This photo here shows a housewife in her cleaning apron, standing in her kitchen, represented by more earth-toned colors. People were saying goodbye to shiny linoleum floors and bright colors and geared more towards wooden appliances, large windows, and earthier tones; well, until the '70s came along...

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1970: Let's Get Groovy

The '70s was a time for people to escape the horrors of the wars and intense social movements and focus on freedom of expression, creativity, and togetherness. The era marked technological changes, the rise of disco music, and all-around groovy and good vibes - which all translated back to the kitchen, of course.

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 Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

The '70s were a time to experiment with all sorts of "out there" patterns, colors, and furniture pieces! As seen by this colorful floral island in the center of the kitchen, combining "clashing" colors was the way to go. It must have worked because she is looking delighted with those logs as chairs!

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1976: The Classic '70s Family

The iconic '90s sitcom, That '70s Show, hit the nail on the head when encompassing the true form of life in the '70s. The brilliant series followed a close group of high school friends who were dealing with the ups and downs of being teenagers during the '70s.

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IMDB-That '70s Show (1998) via Fox

The sitcom portrayed the earthy tones, clashing patterns, and colors of the time period while also embracing the style and lingo of the '70s. Many scenes took place in the family's kitchen, showcasing the kitchen style of that time but also indicating how important the kitchen table remained.

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1976: Wood for Days!

Some trends are better left in the decades they started in, and some are too good that people brought them along for years to come! In the late '60s, people started to incorporate wood into their kitchens slowly, and by the mid-'70s, kitchens were basically made of all wood!

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 H. Armstrong Roberts/Classicstock via Getty Images

Besides wooden cabinets, families incorporated wooden appliances into the kitchen in any which way they could! The wooden-styled kitchens gave the space a much more open and warm feel and could last for ages. Families were ready to say bye to linoleum and hello to wood!

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1980: Pastel All Day, Everyday

This may look like the inside of a Barbie dream house, but that was just the vibe of the '80s (for some). Not to worry, not every kitchen looked like the inside of a pastel box - but it was definitely a very popular look for most households in the '80s!

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Frederic Lewis via Getty Images

These "dusty pastels" were a huge staple of the 1980s, and the plaid wallpaper is similar to a kitchen found in the '60s. It seemed like the general vibe of clashing colors and patterns from the '70s was maintained, but this time using a pastel color scheme.

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1980: Introducing Islands!

As we know, not every kitchen was dripping in pastel colors. On the complete other hand, some kitchens looked like this and had a much more traditional feel to it. There was a classic bright, open and airy kitchen with big windows, greenery, white cabinets, and hints of color to maintain a down-to-earth vibe.

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 Frederic Lewis via Getty Images

Not only were these kitchens open and airy, but families started installing islands in the middle of the kitchen. Usually, the islands included a Formica countertop which was the perfect workspace to prepare for a meal, but also could be used as a great seating area for the family!

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1985: "Golden" Design Trends

The legendary 80's sitcom, The Golden Girls, perfectly displayed a standard 1980's kitchen setup. The hilarious NBC show followed a group of previously married women who live together in Miami while experiencing the ups and downs of life altogether.

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Touchstone Tv/Whitt-Thomas-Harris Prod/Kobal/Shutterstock

Following more of the "dusty pastel" palette for kitchens, the women often found themselves sitting in the kitchen chatting away! Blanche's kitchen highlighted an 80's kitchen - from the patterned wallpaper, colorful floral patterns everywhere, and the wood-stained cabinets. Don't forget about the outfits!

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1989: The Monochromatic Kitchen

People's tastes started to shift with the birth of the Information Age and the evolution of cutting-edge technologies coming to life. Even though the early '80s were all about pastel colors or earth-tone shades, some families veered towards the monochromatic kitchen.

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Paul Harris via Getty Images

During this time period, homes started to gear from a "homey" and comfortable vibe to a much more sleek and sophisticated look. Kitchens started featuring stainless steel appliances with bright white cabinets, a wildly different look from anything we've seen in the past!

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1990's: Rustic Memories

This kitchen practically screams the '90s. The traditional 1990's kitchen ditched the pastel colors and stainless steel appliances and welcomed back the feel of the classic wooden kitchens of the '70s—however, this time, the wooden kitchens gave off more of a rustic feel than anything else.

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Bob Thomas via Getty Images

By implementing pine cabinets, antique dishes, and subtle hints of color, families gained more of a cozy and "cabin" type vibe in their kitchen. A big part of these rustic kitchens was incorporating fruit in some way, shape, or form. Whether it be a classic fruit bowl, fake fruit, or tiled onto the wall - there was often fruit!

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1990's: TVs are Here!

Although televisions were first developed back in the 1930s, they were not so accessible at first, and then by the mid-1950s, millions and millions of households had them. As usual, as it was to have a television in the house, in the early '90s, families started putting television sets in the kitchen.

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Ed Bock via Getty Images

This kitchen decor is outdated compared to a modern kitchen, but definitely marks the spot with a standard 1990's kitchen! The fake plant and the light-colored brown counter-top are both reminiscent of that era. Family dinner time must have dramatically changed in the '90s with a TV in the kitchen!

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1993: Geometric Shapes and Fruit Bowls

This kitchen is reminiscent of any classic 90's sitcom! We can picture a scene from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air here as Will Smith and the rest of the family are sitting and laughing at something hilarious that Smith has just done. This is definitely a typical 1990's kitchen in our mind!

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 A Teufen/Classicstock via Getty Images

The open and bright layout mixed in with a totally geometric-style countertop is very nostalgic of the '90s. The fake plants and similar shades of off-white mixed in with the set table and bowl of apples are also screaming 1990's kitchen! It wasn't until the following year that kitchens incorporated the "shabby chic" vibe.

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1994: The Friends Era

The hit '90s sitcom Friends was the perfect example of a '90s New York lifestyle and '90s kitchen setup. Although it's impossible to find an apartment in Manhattan these days that looks like Monica's, at the time, her "shabby chic" style perfectly encompassed the style of the '90s.

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 Warner Bros. Television via Getty Images

The shabby chic style featured on the Friends set showcased furniture that looked like it had a little wear and tear at one point and could have been thrifted. The appliances and decorations were mismatched, felt very homey and stylish! The kitchen in Friends was also the center of many essential and hilarious conversations!

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2000: The Simple, Traditional Kitchen

For the families who were looking to have a simple and traditional kitchen, this design was conventional and great for a family! As the millennium was turning, so were the kitchens! However, there were plenty of noteworthy designs carrying over into the 2000s that households loved.

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Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

A big trend in the early 2000s was granite countertops, and although these are lightly colored, kitchens commonly had granite countertops and wall backsplashes. Families typically used the kitchen as more than just a place to cook, but children often sat at the counter to do homework after school with a snack in hand!

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2002: Open Floor Plans

During the early 2000s, families grew interested in more of an open floor plan design. This way, the kitchen could morph into the dining room or living room area, providing the ultimate entertainment and hosting experience - again, proving that kitchens are the center of the home!

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Polka Dot Images via Getty Images

Sure enough, with a new millennium came a new kitchen! Homeowners were uninterested in a closed-off eating space and living room with four walls. And with the open floor, plan families could be in both rooms simultaneously while still being together. How sweet!

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2004: More Technology Emerges

New technologies were rising, and homeowners were doing something never done before: buying refrigerators with televisions installed on them! The invention changed the kitchen's dynamic, but it began selling like hotcakes! Stainless steel appliances were extremely popular, displaying to all a sign of wealth.

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Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Technology was rapidly changing, and families were buying newer and newer gadgets for their homes. Stainless steel in the kitchen was at an all-time high and a drastic change from the "rustic" chic look - but things were just beginning. Since then, technology has only continued to make a mark on most American households...

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