What The American Kitchen Looked Like the Year You Were Born

Our love affair with stainless steel goes back further than you think.

I Love Lucy

More so than any other room in the house, respond to changing tastes, trends, and technology a bit faster. We're taking a look back at some of the most ground-breaking moments in kitchen design, trendy features that came and went, and iconic kitchens from beloved through the years.

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GraphicaArtis
1920s: A Little Bit of Color

Though color didn't totally dominate until the '50s, encouraged a little playfulness with decor as early as 1920. Note the compact icebox and the very roomy double-sink.

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Charles Le Grice/Hulton Archive
1920: All Hail the Cooking Stove

It's big, it's bulky, but it's useful. Multiple burners let you multi-task. In the 1920s, enamel finishes became trendy, which added more style options but also ease when wiping them down.

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1923: Built-Ins Reorganize Our Spaces

By the early '20s, the piecemeal kitchen, with its freestanding Hoosier cabinet, stove, and work table, was being replaced with all-in-one configurations.

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1926: Labor Savers Came Along

, toasters, and percolators were such marvels in the '20s that we suggested placing them — all of them — right on the dining table.

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1934: Keeping It Compact

A more streamlined gas stove and over-the-sink dish storage maximized space in smaller rooms.

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Douglas Miller/Topical Press Agency
1935: Art Deco Accents Arrive

The sleek, glamorous lines of the period made its way into the kitchen. There's an emphasis on light (a triple window), sleek lines, and a geometric motif make a definitive statement.

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1939: The "Self Cleaning" Kitchen

Saving time was a consistent theme in the '30s, when House Beautiful teamed up with Procter & Gamble to create the Ivory Washable House. The design emphasized materials that were easy to clean and maintain, like metal cabinets, stainless steel counters, and linoleum floors.

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1949: Eat-In Kitchen

Built-in dining nooks first hit our pages in 1920, but they weren't exactly comfy — think church pew – style benches. Fast-forward to 1949, and the nook had morphed into a comfortable banquette, ideal for casual family meals.

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1950: Inside the Modern Fridge

Easy-to-clean glass shelves, in-door compartments, and crisper drawers were a novel design in the '50s, and would become standard.

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1950: The Electric Range

We've cooked with wood, coal and gas, but by now, an electric range, however small, was the hallmark of the high-tech kitchen of the period.

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William Howland
1950s: The Kitchen as Status Symbol

New advances in food tech and labor-saving devices theoretically saved time in meal prep, making it possible to devote more space in your kitchen to decor (rather than to a pantry).

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I Love Lucy
1951: I Love Lucy

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo ate breakfast together at their kitchen countertop every morning rather than a typical dining table—a space-saving trick that apartment dwellers employ to this day.

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1951: Open Kitchens Take Hold

Though we think of as very "today," the modern homes of the midcentury often boasted the boundary-less designs that combined many functions into one space. Here, pastel cabinets separate the social area from the cooking space in the kitchen.

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1953: Hidden Helpers

While we can't speak to the safety of pull-out steps that function as an eating surface (let alone speak to the hygienic impact), but the '50s were all about innovations ... quite often for the sake of innovations.

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Housewife
1955: The "Fitted" Kitchen

Custom cabinetry was a popular option in the affluent '50s. White enamel and stainless steel reflect a more practical consideration.

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FPG/Hulton Archive
1955: The New "Living Room"

By the mid-century, the kitchen had become a stylish gathering space. In 1953, House Beautiful wrote about this new era: "The best measure of the revolution in the food world is that the kitchen has become a presentable living room. The kitchen has changed because the work done there is different, and because modern materials can look beautiful — yet still be practical." This combo kitchen and dining area elegantly proves the point.

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Maynard Parker
1957: Getting Gourmet

As food prep becomes simpler, cooking takes on a more "hobby" status. Budding gourmets flock to the teachings of , while more adventurous types take advantage of new tech (like the indoor barbecue and range hood in this kitchen). Decor-wise, color is king, but also lighting — high-end kitchens rely on recessed or hidden sources of illumination.

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Leave It To Beaver
1959: Leave It To Beaver

June Cleaver's spotless kitchen on the beloved sitcom was a central gathering place for her wholesome family. The picture-perfect mother and wife regularly washed dishes wearing heels and pearls.

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Archive
1960s: Going for Gold

The emergence of earth tones in the mid-to-late '60s brings shades like "harvest gold" and "avocado green" into kitchens across the country. Though some may go even bolder with color, these hues remained popular even though the '80s.

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Tom Kelley Archive
1960s: The U-Shaped Kitchen

The U-shaped kitchen gives a space the feeling of intimacy without being enclosed by walls. This design also provides a little extra space for cooking and storage, while still allowing natural light to come in.

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Julia Child
1961: Pegboards and Hoods Help Out

The kitchen pegboard became popular in the '50s when many home cooks followed the lead of Julia Child. It's a convenient way to keep pans within reach while also adding an unexpected decorative element, so many people kept it up.

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1966: Bold Prints

Boundary-breaking design hit suburban and city kitchens alike, in the form of busy prints.

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The Brady Bunch
1970s: The Brady Bunch

This iconic kitchen with its bright countertops and backsplash was the backdrop for so many hilarious scenes and heartfelt conversations with the Brady family's housekeeper, Alice.

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1970: The Statement Look

The '60s ushered in daring design and the '70s took it up to a very experimental place. Case in point: This rule-breaking kitchen that combines saturated color with foil wallpaper (in two prints!), wood cabinets, and avocado appliances.

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1975: Hidden Appliances

Don't get distracted by the pheasant. Instead, notice how features like the oversized fridge blend in with the overall design, thanks to the faux wood facade that mimics the cabinets. The tiled kitchen island is cutting-edge at the time, but would eventually be something that would be a "deal breaker" to homebuyers decades later.

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1976: Back to Nature

The emphasis on bold design isn't limited to color. The other prevailing trend is the nature-inspired look that likely took its cues from California. Rustic wood grain, a stone backsplash, gleaming , and a ton of ferns made for a very "in" look.

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1977: Electric Colors

Acid-hued Formica (the decade's most popular material) let homeowners get creative with their cabinets. Plain wood countertops created a cutting surface throughout the kitchen and gave a place for the eye to rest. The bold trend in color also shows how fashion often crossed over to interior design.

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1979: The Fridge Adds More Features

Water and ice dispensers start to sit in the door of the super high-tech refrigerators, dazzling everyone with the novelty of not having to go to the sink for a drink.

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Susan Wood
1980: Avant Garde Style

This 's kitchen is nothing like the average kitchen of the time, but creatively hinted at a few big trends coming: natural light and open shelving.

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1981: Big Islands Take Hold

By now, the island is a mainstay in a kitchen. But in the '80s, like shoulder pads and hair, the island gets huge. Part of this was due to the natural evolution of the kitchen as a social space. The other reason? Pure status symbol.

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