Why do we need bigger kitchens today?

donaleenSeptember 29, 2012

I've been watching the Victorian Kitchen series as well as the Kitchen in Wartime series. It's got me thinking. In earlier days, they cooked at home more than we do and they had fewer convenience foods. They also generally had larger households. So I would say they spent more time in the kitchen cooking than we do.

I live in a 1920's house that has had its kitchen expanded to fill what used to be two rooms. And yet, though I have a bigger kitchen than before, my house had a lot more people living in it then than it does now. Old kitchens never seem to be big enough for us these days. Why is that?

I've been giving it some thought. Some of it is fashion, I think. Some of it is that we cook more differing cuisines and so we need more kinds of ingredients and special equipment. What else?

When I was young my mother had certain things on certain days. On wash day, we had bean soup (clothes washing was a big deal with a ringer washer that had to be pulled out, along with its rinse tubs and then there was dragging everything out to the clothes line. Etc, etc). On Sundays we almost always had fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. I know we had pot roast pretty frequently. I don't remember what else. The point here is that it took less thought and less equipment to cook, I think. Though not less time.

What do you think?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Fori is not pleased

That's got to be part of it. Other factors I'm sure are involved.

Like how the kitchen is no longer off-limits when entertaining. Now it has to be nice.

Like men. Now they have less financial dominance in a household and also use the kitchen so are more willing to make it nice. Back when they could avoid the kitchen, they didn't care and they made the money decisions.

And of course now everything is bigger. And we have more stuff. I'm in a 50s house and have fewer people than it was designed to house so why are we so cramped?

I do like a smaller kitchen though, as long as it holds all my carp. I also like small bathrooms. But like a modern American, everything else MUST BE BIGGER!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 1:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

donaleen -- interesting question! I was taken by your comment that we cook more differing cuisines these days. I often think about how many ingredients and cooking utensils I use that my mom wouldn't recognize.

fori -- good observations about men being more involved in kitchen life, and women finally being participants in financial decisions. There was also a lot more "help" in older days. Both of my grandmothers, both middle class, not upper class, had live in housekeepers. The kitchen was definitely the housekeeper's domain. I imagine this made the size of the kitchen relatively unimportant to my grandmothers. (My mother's mother never learned to cook until her husband retired and they gave up the housekeeper.)

Sometimes I find it hard to keep perspective when I'm leafing through kitchen photos on Houzz or the FKB here. My kitchen is plenty big, but it's dwarfed by what's in fashion these days.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do not believe need has anything to do with the equation. It is a want. Fori hit the nail on the head. There is a belief today that bigger is better, thus big sells. I have modern sized appliances in my 1920s orginal foot print sized kitchen so even today's standard appliances can function, and quite well, in a small sized kitchen. I think the major contributing factor to the increase in square footage is the expectation that a kitchen should and must be a gathering place. I actually prefer entertainig and being entertained in a living room and/or dining room so I will most likely have a small closed kitchen even after my renovations. what a great thought provoking thread:)

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Maybe I'm thinking of before the 1900s, but I think they used to have storerooms and root cellars to keep food stuffs. Nowadays, we keep everything in the kitchen. Plus they didn't have 5 kinds of cereal, 4 kinds of chips, all manner of prepared foods and sauces which are frozen, canned, bagged or boxed. They also didn't have special machines to blend, chop and mix, make coffee, toast bread or wash the dishes. Course they had to make everything from scratch. We do less work now but need more space to store everything.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A few reasons:

We've got more stuff;

We have now had a couple of generations of younger families that seemed to have missed out on the idea of starting out small; they seem to want it all, from the outset;

We see more stuff on TV and mags, so we want it, too;

We have come to believe the preferredgoal is to live our daily private lives in the kitchen, instead of escaping from it;

And to be honest most people are bigger, if not in height, then certainly in, um, girth. Compared to pictures of adults on the street 50-60 years go, people on the street today are markedly overweight. The Depression was bad, but it wasn't the reason people looked thinner then, it's because we aren't as active as we once were and we eat way more calories.

But mostly I think it's the result of exposure to mass media and marketing. We are deluged with images that set us up for wanting what we see. That didn't exist 60 years ago. You only saw pretty much what your neighbors had so new things, ammenities, standards took longer to propagate. Nowadays Monday's gotta have barely has time to edge out Sunday's gotta have before Tuesday rolls around and we get prompted, again. It may be good for our poor old economy, but I'm not so sure about our psyches or our souls, and its definitely not so hot for our wallets.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think the kitchen has become the gathering place. A change I welcome from the family gathering around the television. I am already seeing how my larger kitchen is changing the way I interact with my kids and their friends.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What is the average square footage of new kitchens today? I have a large square roomy kitchen in my current house, with cabinets on all 4 sides and enough space in the center for a kitchen table or island.

In Mule House the kitchen will be in an 18 X 7 foot room - 126 sq ft, wall to wall. That will become 90 sq feet of floor space and 36 sq ft of cabinets. It's going to be a huge change for me and I'm sure there will be some adjusting to the lesser space.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 2:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

Nowadays, there is more than just one cook in the kitchen slaving away behind closed doors. Cooking has become more of a social family activity. It's a way for families to share time together and to work together with a common goal in mind. Even in homes where there is one main "cook", usually the other partner will pitch in and do cleanup duties or produce a specialty meal occasionally. More people in the work areas needs more space. This has transitioned kitchen design from the "kitchen triangle" to the "work zone" concept. When you increase the workers, each worker needs "their" zone function space without overlapping another zone's function if it can be accomplished. It's most easily accomplished by adding more room, and another water source. The sink has always been the battleground since multiple helpers became more common. This is why the prep sink or even a beverage sink added to the kitchen more than doubles the utility of the kitchen to handle multiple workers.

Kitchens have also become "command central" for homework, schoolbooks, electronica charging, indoor pet feeding zone (remember when all dogs were "outdoor dogs"!) and giant bulletin board to keep track of it all. Modern life has a lot of scheduling and traveling, and having meals at odd hours more of a standard than having one distinct sit down meal period. We've become used to creating a mini meal for the young kids and putting the to bed, then doing a main meal for the adults and older kids, and putting a plate aside for the partner who's working late to come home and reheat.

We also have more food allerges than ever before and lots of individual specialty meals are being prepared along side the regular family meal. My best friend has a grandchild that she's raising who has a gluten intolerance. His specialty items take up an entire cabinet in a pretty small kitchen simply because she's too rural to shop for things like that more than once a month.

So, by the time you add in all of the other functions that a kitchen now performs, is it any wonder that their size has grown! And, if you look at the national statistics on obesity, you'll also see why the minimum suggested kitchen aisle has also grown from 36" to 42". I personally think it has a lot to do with how homes are putting in so many places to eat, from the island, to the breakfast area, to the screened porch or deck, to the actual dining room. Dedicating 3 or more places in the home to eat is overkill for just about anyone.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 3:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mamashe wrote:

I think the kitchen has become the gathering place. A change I welcome from the family gathering around the television.

Gosh, I should think a cheaper and simpler way of changing your family interaction would be to simply get rid of the TV in your living or family room, rather than undertake an expensive kitchen reno.

I'm only half kidding. I think TV has becme a huge and not benign, factor in our private lives. We don't have TV in any public room, we only have one receiver and it's in my husband's bedroom. This leaves us interacting with each other, or reading, or being outside doing stuff, and not just staring passively at a box for hours on end. I can't imagine a life dictated by TV-watching. And part of its treacherous attraction is that it is just out in the public rooms and it's so easy to start watching, and so hard to stop.

I'm not anti-TV; I used to work on camera, after all. I just think that we have allowed it to assume an oversize place in life. (And not just because decorating around the godzilla black boxes is tough!)


    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 3:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is a good post- I find myself wondering the same thing. My mom raised 6 kids in a tiny house with a small kitchen, no dishwasher, no spare freezer, and no food processor/kitchenaid mixer/etc etc. (although I do recall a food grinder that clamped onto the counter).
She baked homemade bread and goodies, and made the most delicious homecooked meals. Although the cuisine was simpler.
We'd have pot roast, turkey dinners, meatloaf, soups/stews,etc. More of what today are considered "comfort foods". These are still some of my favorite things to eat and cook.

Our first home (built in 1905) had a super tiny kitchen but it was very functional and had great storage. Our house now has a big kitchen, but it was built in the 1990s and was part of the style of the home.
Now, with just my husband and I we have what I consider a big kitchen with a 36in cooktop, double ovens, food processor, KitchenAid,etc. etc.
We belong to a CSA so I spend most of my weekends cooking and freezing for the winter, and I love it. For me, cooking is not only a necessity but a hobby and it relaxes me. I always think of my Mom and how much she would LOVE our new kitchen. I can hear her saying "Isn't that something??" when I chop up onions in 2 seconds with my KA food processor.

We justified spending $$ on our remodel because we love to cook. We don't NEED the extras we have, including space, but we do certainly enjoy them. I know a huge part of why I do is the fond memories I have of my mom and my grandmas kitchens from growing up.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 3:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

WE are bigger now. Everything has to be bigger.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 3:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Which came first the .... people are bigger maybe because kichens became larger and we started hanging out in them longer. I like to visit away from the kitchen with my family because while in the kitchen I am more tempted to nibble.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 3:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree liriodendron. On another forum I just saw a pic of a new kitchen that had no oven (except the OTR convection micro), but did have a flat screen tv over the sink (and this is a kitchen big enough for a 36" fridge).

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 4:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There is a lot more interest in food and entertaining in the kitchen than there was before. Perhaps the larger kitchen trend started when this word was introduced:


food*ie noun \ˈfu-de"\

Definition of FOODIE

: a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads

First Known Use of FOODIE


Here is a link that might be useful: foodie

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 6:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

fori, you made some excellent points but I don't know that I agree that only one person cooked then. I think all the women and girls in the household helped and cooked and baked and cleaned up. They households were more likely to be multi-generational. I think neighbors and friends also cooked together sometimes (canning and preserving, gatherings).

justmakeit, yeah, my mom had a set of Revereware and a few mixing bowls and other simple implements. But she was a good cook and cooked and baked all the time. We were in a pretty remote place when I was young. If you wanted something sweet after dinner, you weren't running to the store.

roarah, it is in fashion to spend big on the kitchen. And to make the kitchen more the center of things, more the gathering place (as many people said). I liked what mamasheshe said about enjoying her kids and their friends in her kitchen. When I think back to being a kid in my friends' houses, I remember their kitchens best.

MuleHouse, I found their IS a thread here about average size kitchens. And it takes size of house into consideration.

labbie, I loved that bit of history.

This is such a fun discussion. I hope people continue to contribute.

Here is a link that might be useful: Average Kitchen and House Sizes

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 6:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

donaleen, great thread: thank you.

So many well-thought-out and expressed reasons...

I haven't much to add except that historically, and/or fashion-wise, if things are to change then they will be different from what was before. Kitchens were once huge, then grew smaller, and are now growing bigger. Some of this is just changing the hemline on the skirt: do what wasn't there yesterday.

I don't really think this is a very large component of the situation, just may not have been mentioned before. I prefer what everyone else said! :)

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 6:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Interestingly enough, I just started listening to the book Dearie the Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz (it's really good so far if anyone's interested in reading it).
In the intro, the author recounts Julia's first appearance on PBS, on a Book Discussion show (shortly after Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published) and how hysterical they all thought it was that this woman was going to cook..on TV!

Prior to her publicized passion for cooking, the author claims that cooking was just another act of drudgery for a housewife, and that the idea that it could be fun was groundbreaking.
Not sure I agree with the drudgery part (my mom/grammas seemed to enjoy it...but I could be wrong), but to beekeeperswife's point about the popularity of FOODIE-ism, kitchens/cooking/cuisine has definitely become more "fashionable" over the years.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 7:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Alex House

I think that there are a few factors working simultaneously.

- Status: For some reason having a large, knock-out kitchen is a status symbol. There's nothing wrong with that, humans seem to have a need to compete on status and competing in terms of elaborate and ornate kitchens is pretty harmless.

-Kitchen as a social room rather than as a strictly functional room means that there are more people and more activities and more lingering going on within kitchens.

- Multiple cooks means more room is required.

Of all the factors that people in this thread have listed, I'm putting my money on status. People used to go hog wild on sunken living rooms and extensive decks with built-in hot tubs, with billiard rooms, with gargantuan master suites with special areas just to sit, etc and now it's the turn of the kitchen. Way expensive cabinets when bare-bones would do 90% of the job suggests that cost-effectiveness and work efficiency are not the prime drivers.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 8:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think the kitchen has become the gathering place. A change I welcome from the family gathering around the television. I am already seeing how my larger kitchen is changing the way I interact with my kids and their friends.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 8:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Alex House

A novel thought just occurred to me. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam observed in his book, "Bowling Alone" that as society becomes more multicultural people tend to withdraw from society and cocoon themselves in their homes. Having larger homes, designed to accommodate more varied activities and being more family-centric rather than guest-centric could be rippling down into desires for larger kitchens in some sub-conscious way.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 8:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Interesting thoughts. I'll add a few more:

- Today we're much more concerned with re-sale value, so even we we ourselves don't cook, we feel compelled to build a large, fancy kitchen because, after all, kitchens sell houses!

- Back when I was a child in the country, all of my older relatives (the ones who still had 4-acre vegetable gardens for just the two of them and who canned literally everything they ate all year) had outbuildings in which to store the canned goods. They didn't count on the indoor pantry housing everything.

- More appliances, more specialized cookware. Add in a dishwasher, a microwave, a steamer, a stand mixer, a rotisserie, double ovens, an over-sized sink . . . well, you get the idea.

- Open concept rules today. Thus, the kitchen must be "good enough" to be viewed from the living room.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My kitchen is 11'11" by 13'. It's plenty big enough for me...and with the new layout I've created, we should be able to have more than one person working in the kitchen at a time.

I made my kitchen LESS open concept--I closed up the silly little "window" into the living room and left the large pass-through to the DR. That allowed me to move my range and divide my kitchen into two zones--a sink/prep zone and a cooking zone.

I'm HOPING it will work the way I think it will...if it ever gets finished.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Status.....and we are spoiled !

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think Mamsheshe is on target - "I think the kitchen has become the gathering place.... I am already seeing how my larger kitchen is changing the way I interact with my kids and their friends."

I see this already in my new space (which isn't even fully furnished yet). Formal rooms are nice for big parties and holidays, but for everyday living, the kitchen is the hub of the home.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Alexhouse, what an awful thought! I certainly hope that isn't the case.

I think the status of women had a huge part in this. Once upon a time it was servants in the kitchens, then wives who were little more than servants. Times changed, women demanded more, men entered the kitchen. Then in comes marketing and a gone crazy consumer culture and presto, you've got bigger kitchens.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Alexhse - sort of along the lines of your thinking, I think, I was wondering about the trend in home-building that's what's termed, I think, as "aspirational", aka "wishful thinking". Which accounts for the massive space and money devoted to, say, outdoor spaces and kitchens and the like -- people hardly ever use these expensive, full-blown spaces, but they are sort of de rigeur I'm told, for selling upscale houses; and it's what people renovate into these days (or maybe in recent past; I'm sure if I know about a trend it must be over by now).

Anyway, I was wondering how much of these "large kitchens" are just aspirational given that at least by the evidence of what's stocked in grocery stores, hardly anyone even cooks anymore. And interestingly, the population around here seems to be a sharp, clear aberration from this trend. I'd say by and large, the people who come here are cooks, from professional chefs to serious home cooks to long-term 2-acres-planted-to-put-up and beyond. I think nearly everyone on this list is in this heavy-kitchen-user category. And to the extent that kitchens become large on here, by and large a lot of them get used, relatively.

I'm not sure this is the case "out there", beyond, among those not obsessed with optimally planning their own kitchen. So I think it's something of a convergence of ends, but the means, or explanation for the phenomenon, might be different. Because "out there" beyond, I can't see how very many of these giant "gourmet kitchens" are getting used for anything beyond heating TJ TV-dinners. Which is borne out when you scrutinize those "gourmet kitchens" as well; usually they really don't function very well -- they're anything but and sell to those who vainly wish they were.

Thus these would, I guess, fall under the category of "Status", only I don't think it is a "status" thing. I don't think the Jones' ever come over anymore to see what it is they should be keeping up with because, as you alluded to, people are so much more cocooned these days (I bet you were waiting for the connection here....). So that's where the "aspiration" part comes in and is a better term perhaps than "Status". There's this almost guilt-tinged image of what we "should" be, sitting down for dinner, home-cooking 12 course healthily grown meals, etc. And this should all happen in a kitchen whose size reflects the nurturance that represents. It's not happening, by and large, but building to the image is a way of keeping it alive - almost in some neurotic, guilt-driven rub-your-nose-in-it way.

Wow. How's that for pop-psychologizing.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Kitchens started to become bigger during the McMansion expansion of homes in the 80's. That was the heyday of the real estate market - bigger homes, bigger bathrooms, higher ceilings and bigger kitchens. Those who couldn't or didn't want to move renovated to have those new ideals that were now "necessary" in our homes. We don't need bigger kitchens today, we've just been told that we do and if we don't have them we won't fit in the neighbourhood and we won't beable to resell our homes. We have fallen for the trap.

My renovated kitchen has gone from 99 sq.ft. to 180 sq ft and it is more than big enough for a family of 4 and family dinners of 30. But the smaller 99 sq ft was also big enough to do homework, socialize, feed the cats, keep track of kids social/sports/school lives and have family dinners for 30. The bigger space is nice, necessary - no.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 11:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wonder how much of it is because women work outside the home now?

I say this because my first thought was, "I deserve / need/ want a bigger kitchen than what was common in Victorian times because after working 10 hour days, most of my awake-time in the house is spent in the kitchen. So by God, it will not be a squished little space!" Insert stamping foot and "don't you dare think otherwise" glare.

And seriously - that is a big part of it. I enjoy cooking most of the time, and making dinner can take anywhere from 30 min to 60 min, so on days when I'm at the office from 7:30 til 5:30, I don't get dinner ready until 7-ish usually. Once you factor in commuting time a 10 hour day stretches to 11-12 hours.

Add to this that I make over half our family income and so a "nice, spacious kitchen with good light" was a must-have on our house hunt. Our kitchen is probably 12x14, so not huge, but way better than other kitchens I've had (it's open on 2 sides, so it feels bigger than it is).

DH said he had to have a 2 car garage & I said I had to have a decent kitchen. I might add that only one of those spaces is kept organized enough to show to friends most of the time (and it isn't the one with the snowblower parked in it).

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 12:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Alex House


Alexhouse, what an awful thought! I certainly hope that isn't the case.

Somehow I don't think you're responding to my status observation. The research on those findings are pretty solid and they've been replicated in a number of societies around the world. I really don't want to hi-jack this thread into a sociological or political direction, but for those who are interested in exposing themselves a bit more to this phenomenon, here is a Financial Times report from London which addresses this issue.

Now back to our topic - I wonder if this big kitchen trend is also seen in Europe, Canada, Australia or is it just a peculiar American phenomenon?


I was wondering about the trend in home-building that's what's termed, I think, as "aspirational", aka "wishful thinking". Which accounts for the massive space and money devoted to, say, outdoor spaces and kitchens and the like -- people hardly ever use these expensive, full-blown spaces

But why are they aspirational spaces? Is it a mindless fad? Shoving a $12,000 professional quality range into a kitchen where the owners only cook one meal per week is more clearly a status or fad decision, but I'm not so sure about kitchen space itself.

Watch some old episodes of TV shows for a glimpse into the past. Note the size of the kitchen in Leave it to Beaver but also note how Fred Flintsone was always going to lodge meetings. You know how experts make note of the fact that when it comes time to allocate space between uses in the house that bedrooms should sacrifice space to the living areas because the principal use of bedrooms is to sleep and the extra area would be better allocated to spaces where day to day living is going on, well back in the past people tended to socialize more, and have more activities outside of the home, from kids roaming around the neighborhood (watch Beaver's parents send him and Larry off on Saturdays to go exploring stuff around town and not worry about them) to parents going out to lodge meetings, social clubs, Kiwanis, to bridge clubs, etc. All this, to me, translates into needing smaller spaces within the home because the home is more utilitarian, like a bedroom, and much more of principal living was taking place outside of the home.

Now we're hunkering down more, our focus is more and more on safe and comforting "home space" where we can depressurize and find psychic comfort. Kitchens are great that way - comfort of food, comfort of food-centric activities, comfort of family doing family things focused on food. I don't know any guys who go to "lodge meetings" but I sure know people who find home to be a refuge.

Anyway, I was wondering how much of these "large kitchens" are just aspirational given that at least by the evidence of what's stocked in grocery stores, hardly anyone even cooks anymore.g

You have a point there. I recall starting a thread about how many of the kitchens on Houzz left me feeling flat because they looked like showpieces and I just couldn't relate to actually using them. I just didn't feel comfortable picturing myself in some of those kitchens and actually cooking, making a mess, chopping food, having a sink full of dirty pots, etc.

I think nearly everyone on this list is in this heavy-kitchen-user category. And to the extent that kitchens become large on here, by and large a lot of them get used, relatively.

I agree with this. When people are obsessing about how to USE their kitchens more than they obsess about how they LOOK, then that, in my opinion, strongly signals that people are inclined towards actually using the kitchens. Sure, some minority will enjoy the planning of a kitchen activity and the striving for efficiency and will never end up using the kitchen as they dreamed they would but I think these are odd ducks for, really, obsessing about drawers vs doors, work areas, traffic patterns, etc isn't all that spiritually rewarding in and of itself unless there is the carrot at the end of the stick which pays off with an enhanced kitchen use experience.

So when we talk about kitchen size it's probably safe to break out two groups - the dreamers and the users.

There's this almost guilt-tinged image of what we "should" be, sitting down for dinner, home-cooking 12 course healthily grown meals, etc. And this should all happen in a kitchen whose size reflects the nurturance that represents. It's not happening, by and large, but building to the image is a way of keeping it alive - almost in some neurotic, guilt-driven rub-your-nose-in-it way.

I could go along with this if increased kitchen size went hand in hand with increased ease of use, but how exactly are marble countertops principally beneficial in terms of enhanced efficiency? Again, let's separate out dreamers versus users. For a heavy kitchen user why not make the room that you're using a nice and aesthetically pleasant room to be in for a good part of the day, especially if you're just home from work and rushing to prepare dinner. I say "Go for it" spend money to make your kitchen nice so that you can do away with being cloistered in the servant's room and instead feel like you're in your nice home even when you're still working.

How though does the above touch on the Dreamers who use their $75,000 kitchen to heat up some take-out food? Here I think that the case for status is a bit stronger. Status doesn't have to be a direct Smith and Jones facing off situation, it only has to be that Smith KNOWS what Jones has and Jones feels satisfied and maybe not even that, maybe simply Jones spending the money makes Jones feel that his status has increased without anyone actually conferring increased status on Jones.

The guilt angle might be in play though. That makes sense to me. It's like spending money on the project makes what it represents, all that you mentioned above, that much more real even if it's not actually ever going to take place.

I think that this is an interesting topic. We can sure trot out all sorts of hypotheses to explore.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 12:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Aliris alluded to this briefly upthread, but it bears repeating: prior to the early 20th century, kitchens used to be larger. They got smaller in the early 20th century, before growing again later.

I have a book from 1935 on home remodeling and repair. The section on kitchens is titled "The Efficient Kitchen." It starts off with a list of questions for the homeowner to consider in assessing his or her present kitchen. Here is an excerpt. I am starting with the FIRST question:

Is your kitchen too large? Can it be reduced in size and some other use made of the space that is gained?
Is the present equipment grouped so that the minimum number of steps required to move from one working center to another?

Then, after some expository material, there is another relevant section:

The average kitchen in the older house, even one that is fifteen or twenty years old, is larger than is required to meet the needs of today. It may have been laid out when domestic labor was plentiful and wages low. It may have been planned to measure up tot he needs of a larger family.

Generally, all large kitchens are less efficient than smaller ones. Home economics experts and household engineers are agreed on the finding that a kitchen floor space of from 90 to 100 square feet is ample for the average family living in a house of six or seven rooms. [Emphasis in original.]

Clearly, kitchens were larger previous to this time frame.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 12:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The guilt angle might be in play though.

As I understand the aspirational-argument for private home building and renovating, guilt is very much part and parcel of it all. If you're of the class that can afford these mega-expensive renovations, you're likely working 16 hour days by definition, leaving no time to be lolling about in the vast, newly created spaces. It's quite the catch-22. So there's something wistful about the enactment of a nurturing, socializing-ready space, when in fact we are isolated, alienated and cocooned. [this makes me want to crack open that copy of "Bowling Alone" I have sitting in the other room, unread, along with another hundred or so other "aspirational" reads I have lying about! ;) ]

As you say, look to the evidence of the Leave-it-to-Beaver bungalow where a lot of albeit idealized living got done, in and out, in very little space.

I agree these things are really interesting. But I also think some of it really is just a see-saw dialectic; it's big now because it was small before. Though why things need to see-saw is less clear.

As for tracking the underlying motivation among dreamers-only as "status", I'm sure there are refinements there as with all else. .... actually, I guess I don't now and never have, understood the term "status". I really don't. Given that there's a calculus, a moving target of what you want, I have absolutely never understood how the concept of "status" could even have any meaning. By definition the end-game changes, so what's the meaning of a point-desire???

Generating hypotheses is sort of a parlor game around here ;)

So ... what was the original question anyway?? Is the subject/focus "need" or "bigger"? or "Why"?

It actually seems pretty reflective of today's role of women and cooking and eating in modern life: part and parcel of it all, hub-of-wheel, command-central. I think that's the case among users at least. For dreamers, it's all poetry, and since the currency of art is sense, having more is twice as good as half as much.

I think, maybe. ;)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 1:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, another bit of history! I wonder if that is when domestic help started disappearing? Thanks, Angie_DIY.

I think that even when kitchens were small, they were the center of most women's lives. And they were also where they hung out with their friends.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 1:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Alex House

The era that Angie is referencing also had the "benefits of science" being directed towards kitchens. Taylorism was still in full force and the expanding circle moved from industry towards home. A smaller kitchen could then be thought of as more scientific and representing a smarter design - remember this video starring a young Darrin McGavin that was posted back in January which detailed the efficient kitchen, though this is now closer to the rocket age and the expanding good life that came after WWII..

So, kitchens were larger, then became smaller and now are increasing in size. The wanting to get with the times and be efficient zeitgeist has run its course. And the current zeitgeist is . . . ?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 1:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK, love the video, and I could definitely enjoy the 50's kitchen. Wow.

My grandparents/parents kitchen from our house that was built around the turn of the century, was actually quite large though in an urban area, but there was no vast expanse of cabinets and our stove had to double as a space heater. So, it was very similar to a farmhouse kitchen.

I'm also interested in the TV series mentioned in the first post.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love seeing photos of the big gorgeous kitchens posted here, but always wonder how much walking is down when preparing meals. Maybe it's because I worked in an office for 30yrs., but when I remodeled my small kitchen, I wanted everything within reach. It was small to begin with but I added slightly more storage and rearranged appliances. The one thing I would change if I could, would be to have room for a table and chairs on one side of the room.

I think the bigger kitchens of today double as family rooms and I really see nothing wrong with that; but since it's only me here I would find it uncomfortable to have people crowded in there with me as I tried to cook.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 12:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think that in times past the kitchens of ordinary folks were on the small side. But they often made use of storage in other places... cellars, root cellars, closed in porches, pantries. The basement, in my 1920's bungalow, has two small rooms fitted with shelves that were meant for storing preserves.

In larger grander houses, the kitchens had even more additional rooms that were used including butler's pantries and sculleries.

I think I just love kitchens.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 12:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As I stated, the book I cited was published in 1935. I should acknowledge that this was 5 years into a recession. Perhaps the contraction of kitchen sizes at that time was driven by economic considerations.

It is possible that the authors were simply making a virtue of necessity; the zeitgeist certainly encouraged making do with less.

I believe that the median square footage of houses built in, say 2010 (post-crash) is smaller than it was in the early 2000's, for example.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 2:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is a great question! It kind of goes along with the question I've been discussing in my small circle which is, where did the idea of the "social kitchen" come from? I was raised in a small home with a small kitchen and my four siblings and I had dinners in there quite regularly. My mother cooked delicious meals from scratch and had all of the pans/utensils that were necessary for preparation. She did not allow us in the kitchen while she was cooking and whenever she entertained, the food was prepared before the start of the event so there was no need for company to park in the kitchen when they arrived. It's not big enough to entertain in at all but it was plenty sufficient for us.

Now that I have my own home, no children or spouse, the size of my kitchen is much larger than my mother's but certainly not huge. I have a pass through to my dining room but that's about as open as it will get. Like my mother, I do not like people in the kitchen when I'm cooking and I chose not to include an island in my kitchen so as not to encourage congregating.

Sorry for the ramble but I think more people socializing in the kitchen goes along with the status/marketing angles mentioned earlier in this thread and thus, has created this need for enormous kitchens. For homeowners, it has become another place to create a "wow factor" and for suppliers, it has become a place where they can convince us that the minimum we should spend on our kitchen remodel is $50,000.

By the way, my whole house cost less than that.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 3:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love my small house (now that my kitchen is redone!) The only time I find myself wanting more room is when I entertain. When it's just us, our small house is perfect. In fact, I just realized that instead of pining for a bigger house, I'm just going to have our patio tented for parties. Then no one will feel cramped. Might not work for the holiday season, but for spring, summer, fall - it should do the trick!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 3:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Our galley kitchen is 12'L x 8' W (96 square feet) with adjacent butlers pantry with eat in space/window of 11' (L) x 5' W (55 square feet). It needs an upgrade a la GW in due time. It is not an open house kitchen, rather true to original colonial revival design, yet our open-doored adjacent dining room is where we congregate due to it's inviting restful warmth and view, and where our children had all their evening dinners.

That said, I view our kitchen and house as an aging-in-place home, while offering our kids and/or their friends a respite at certain times in their life as well as a sibling/renter/visitor, etc. We're a stone throw across the river from a major city with viable metro and airport and hospital access, are becoming more self sustaining due to our land (solar energy, cistern irrigation, gardens, fruit trees, wood burning stove) and can live entirely on our first floor if need be due to large study/bedroom, and present bath with no major stairs outdoors. So to me, a bigger kitchen (with available bedrooms) offers the potential for assistance to family and friends through our older age continuum.

Thomas Jefferson was notorious for extended family staying at Monticello at all times. Six cords of wood per day used minimum. His pregnant sister in law brought four family members to his home while her husband was overseas, and indeed gave birth while there.

We are very fortunate people in large part due to hard work, planning and yes, some luck and gumption in home buying timing and location, and to be able to share back in current and future uncertain economy is the least we can do. Kitchens (and B&B) can and may play a big role in modern times as they did in the past.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 4:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

>Thomas Jefferson was notorious for extended family staying at Monticello at all times. Six cords of wood per day used minimum. His pregnant sister in law brought four family members to his home while her husband was overseas, and indeed gave birth while there.

Yes, but he was also an extremely wealthy man, and that was the pattern for all upper class families at that time, especially since travel was so onerous that you didn't go visiting for just a weekend.

I don't think the depression had so much to do with kitchens getting smaller (people just didn't buy houses, period). I think it was more the Motion Study let's-all-be-as-efficient-as-a-factory movement.

And I don't think we need bigger kitchens today. We want them, which is not the same thing at all, for all that our culture has made us believe that the words are synonyms.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 4:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Remember the Waltons and their kitchen? I think of that as a fairly accurate picture of a country family kitchen in thirties and forties. Not the living room part. Just the kitchen and kitchen table. I think the kitchen table was a general work table and had a good bit of space around it. It was used for working on pretty much anything from homework to canning to sewing. It was a sturdy work table. But it could also be moved out of the way (not like my island). Sigh.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 5:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

About to get Dusty... I didn't know your kitchen was done. Have you posted pictures? I'd love to see them. The last photo I remember was the one you posted for me of your Whitehaven sink with the measurements.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 5:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Interesting. I just returned from spending the weekend with my parents.

They live in the home I grew up in, a ranch house with a standard L kitchen and kitchen table in the corner. Not a lot of counter space or storage space, but the kitchen is in proportion to the overall home.

I can say that this is a fine kitchen for 1 cook, and a frustrating/dangerous kitchen for more than 1 cook. There is simply not ample room for 2 adults to be working with sharp knives, liquids, open oven doors, and such.

Since my parents really don't cook together, this poses no problem for them. But last night as I tried to fix dinner for 5 people, it was a good thing I had all my skills and my powers at hand.

So I think the answer to the question is that we need bigger kitchens because they make our lives easier. To go from not big enough to big enough is a good thing.

Bigger and Fancier.....this may be some function and some aspirational. But layout and size, in particular if you want space for 2 cooks. This usually requires a bigger space.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 5:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Monticello actually has a pretty nice, fairly large kitchen for its day - its split across several rooms for storage and a single larger room for final prep-cook. It even has raised waist high wood-coal powered burners (a french innovation) that form a linear cooktop of sorts appearing on the left wall. Notice the island and the single layered shelves. The room behind the fireplace wall is also kitchen.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 6:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Several thoughts:

I agree that the gotta-have-a-large-gourmet-kitchen concept is Aspirational. Whether we cook in those kitchens or not, we like to look as if we have an ideal family home (which equals an ideal family life). We as a society have an idea that if we have the right stuff (whether that's clothes, cars, or kitchens), we're successful and upwardly mobile.

Speaking of the Aspirational crowd, it's not only size -- it's also luxury finishes. Don't we all watch HGTV and laugh when we see the just-out-of-college girls demand, "But I must have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors! ARE THESE granite countertops?" Come on, if you can't identify it, you don't need it all that much. And since you've been out of school about 20 minutes, you really ought to consider that starter house that made you say, "Ewwwww." But top-of-the-line finishes have become the ultimate goal (screw good craftsmanship and solid mechanics -- we want those creamy white cabinets!).

I also agree with the concept of Dreamers vs. Users; however, I think the Dreamers tend to lie to themselves a bit. They tell themselves, "If I had a nicer kitchen, I'd cook all the time!" Also, the Dreamers -- because they don't have kitchen experience -- tend to make choices that aren't particularly well thought out. These are the people who think that bigger = better. These are the people who don't stop to think that dividing the refrigerator from the rest of the kitchen with a big, lovely island is a mistake. These are the people who put their dishwasher into the corner so that they can't reach the cabinets while the dishwasher's open. The problem is that Dreaming isn't Knowing.

Also, something that no one has mentioned yet: Today it's expected /acceptable to borrow money. So, whereas in the past people were limited to a small kitchen with linoleum and kept their old 'fridge -- because that's the money they had -- today we can splurge on the larger space, the granite countertops, the professional Viking range. Why not? We're going to pay it off over time anyway, so we might as well have the best. Anyway, isn't it a good investment?

As for me, I currently have a large kitchen. It is approximately 100 miles x 50 miles. We have a golf cart for trips to the pantry. No, seriously, it's a galley approximately 20 foot x 8 foot. I hate it. It's so large that replacing anything costs a fortune, and although I have so much space, it's laid out so poorly. For example, why do I have a desk smack-dab in the middle of the kitchen?

In the house we're building, we're going to have a 10x14 kitchen - actually, the cabinet area will be 10x10, and the rest will be an entryway from the garage /doorway to the living room. So 10x10 working space. I can't wait. It's going to be more efficient than my current kitchen. And I may be looking forward to the walk-in pantry/mudroom more than the kitchen itself.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 7:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

About To Get Dusty,

Oh, my! You and I have come to the same conclusion! I don't think it's particularly a popular line of thought, and I had believed I was somewhat alone in this idea.

We are planning a small house for our retirement: 1888 sf. We are building what we need for ourselves every day, but we are building a large patio outside. Also a covered outdoor eating area w/ fireplace, nice outdoor grilling area, and pool. We're planning a door through the laundry room that'll lead to a half-bath without dripping through the rest of my house with pool-wet hair.

Since we're in the South, this'll be perfect good for most holidays. We have -- some years -- had Thanksgiving out on the porch.

Indoors, we're planning an eating area that'll be set up for six everyday . . . and it'll be able to stretch to feed 10-12, if everyone sits close. If push comes to shove and we find ourselves required to host Christmas, we can always put up tables and chairs in the garage. We have been known to do that at other family member's houses.

I'm sure this is the right choice for us. Building /maintaining a large entertaining space that'll be used maybe once a month isn't a wise use of our resources.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the photo, bmorepanic. It was a grand kitchen for it's time, no doubt.

The Depression of 1819-1821 influenced large estate and farm owners greatly, including Jefferson who was against bank loans, preferring dealing in specie (gold, silver, perhaps barter).

While true that Thomas Jefferson inherited 3000 pristine acres from his father, and wealth through his work product and political stature, history shows he lived most of his adult life in debt. "Thomas Jefferson bore the burden of substantial monetary debt throughout his life." (see link below if interested).

I'm content with our galley and pantry; even content with the walls and doors that enclose it separate from the rest of the house. It certainly isn't large, but it's good enough and I like the idea of a space where cooking odors and effluents are contained. Perhaps the "open kitchen concept" will be forever popular, perhaps not. When I finally upgrade, my range burner type, ventilation and MUA might be a little easier to consider. I used a six burner Vulcan in a sorority yesterday. It was a very likable open burner beast and baked very evenly too.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Jefferson Monticello

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Great thread. I'm not typical, because I like my little kitchen.

My galley is 15 x (almost) 8. Honestly, I neither need nor crave a much bigger kitchen, although a bit of a butler's pantry would be nice so I could move all the less-used serving pieces (like the antique fish platter) and small appliances (like the pizzelle maker) out of the basement. But all in all, it works just fine for me. Fortunately, buyers don't expect huge kitchens in my neighborhood.

I don't really want the kitchen to be an entertaining space. When I'm coordinating the completion of four courses for a dinner party, I need to pay attention to what I'm doing. I don't mind one person visiting with me, but if it were the place for everyone to congregate, it would be very distracting. The dining room is right off the kitchen, so when DD needed help with homework, she could work at the table and still talk to me in the kitchen.

We don't need an eat-in kitchen. We eat in the dining room every night, making efficient use of that space. Eating in the dining room also gives a certain panache to everyday dinners.

Mainly, really big kitchens just look to me like a lot more to clean, and I'd rather clean less. When I used to go to Homearama new home shows in the '80s or early '90s, I'd always look at the huge kitchens and think "gee, that's a lot of floor to wash!"

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

>While true that Thomas Jefferson inherited 3000 pristine acres from his father, and wealth through his work product and political stature, history shows he lived most of his adult life in debt. "Thomas Jefferson bore the burden of substantial monetary debt throughout his life." (see link below if interested).

Very true, but a lot of wealthy people are also in debt, at any period in history. It's one thing not to want to have to realize your assets, so you borrow money for current projects/needs/wants. That's a totally different thing from not having any assets you could realize at need.

MrsPete, I know just the kind of kitchen you have. I was looking at the floor plan for the kitchen for a proposed development down the street from me and it was an 18 ft walk from the fridge to the sink.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've heard numerous times that "kitchens and baths sell houses." I think, to a large extent, that is true and that is a big part of the bigger kitchen phenomenon. There are really only so many ways you can make any other room in the house a "wow" room. Windows, fireplaces, room sizes can all help to make other rooms more special, but the difference between an OK living room and a great living room is not going to get the same kind of "wow" that the difference between an OK kitchen and a great kitchen will. I know that when I visit a house, usually the room I remember most is the kitchen and I also know that it was the first room that we designed when we were doing our house, even though I don't cook, just because there was so much more fun stuff I could do with it to make it look pretty (and I don't think it was aspirational or because I dreamed of cooking there some day or because I cared to impress anyone; I just love to sit on my couch in my nook and drink tea and be in a pretty space and I had a vision for what I wanted that space to be!)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My mother's kitchen is small. It's an irregular shape, but the main part is about 8ft wide by 7 ft long, and then it narrows to about 6 ft wide for another 3 feet. The narrow part houses the refrigerator, across from the back door. The range, sink and all the cabs and counters are in the 8x7 space.

But as someone mentioned earlier, she makes use of space elsewhere in the house. Canned goods are in the mud room, and when I was a kid, the freezer and all my mom's canning were in the basement. Potatoes were usually in a bag in the mud room. Fetching stuff from the basement was a chore for the kids.

Do we have more stuff? To some extent, yes. Microwaves and dishwashers didn't suck up space in homes in the early 20th century.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am not sure how this fits into the conversation but it influenced me a lot. I couple of summers ago I had the pleasure of spending some time in a custom home in Germany. The couple who had the house built are in their 80s; the house was built in the mid-70s. Anyway, I was pretty impressed by the the efficiency and tidiness of the house. The kitchen was closed and pretty cramped but very tidy and seemed to work well. The cool thing was the basement...it held the work rooms of the house. A large laundry room with storage, a work room with ample counter space and a center work table and a pantry room that held dishes, canning equipment and other kitchen stuff. That is how the main part of the house was so tidy. That setup may not be specific to Northern Europe but it was my first experience with that layout. (We don't have a lot of basements in Arizona :)

DH and I are project people. We have way more stuff than we need on one hand, but it is all useful and we do use it from time to time. I have a lot of kitchen stuff that I don't use on a regular basis but that I do want to keep and I do pull out that pressure-cooker once in a while :)

Anyway, the part of my kitchen that I actually use for food prep and cooking is quite small. The rest of it is storage with counters on top :) Also, seating and entertaining area. I could have a pretty small kitchen if I stored most of my stuff in another room and didn't entertain in there...

Could it be that larger kitchens partly reflect the re-allocating of space in some instances rather than simply an overall increase? Could kitchens be holding stuff that was held in large cellars, pantries and dining room china hutches?

The kitchen I am currently planning might be on the small side for the house. I would need to measure the plans to know the square footage :) Anyway, I am planning spaces outside of my kitchen to hold some of the stuff I currently keep in my kitchen and I am planning space in my new kitchen to hold stuff that I currently keep in my dining room because the new dining room won't have any storage space...

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

MrsPete, sounds great! Maybe it's because DH and I lived in many a 600sqft apartment in big cities...1800 sqft is our family, 95% of the time :-)
Donaleen, we were are done and moved in (but still disorganized and trying to figure out what to put where for a few cabs!) Here's the link to the kitchen before and after pics - enjoy! Loving my Whitehaven sink although I'm concerned after reading the recent post about a GWer's crazing Kohler experience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dusty's kitchen

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have lived in two very old homes with tiny kitchens, and they both had shelving in the basement, tons of it, with old bar mason jars...seems like they had very large 'pantries,' just not in the kitchen. I have visited historic homes that had an entire cabin, off the main house, devoted to the kitchen. I think they had the same space issues but partitioned it elsewhere.

For us, it is not about style but survival. lol We have 5 boys. We hardly ever eat out. I like to cook fresh. So I cook alot...and I make enough to feed an army. Will also be canning a ton with food we grow(11 acres). It makes sense to have a large pantry and plenty of space to work. :) It is a total bonus that we can make the kitchen look nice and be a seamless room with the dinning room/living room. :)

I have lived in tiny kitchens. I have cooked with ONLY two pans(a stock put and an iron skillet). Sure, I can make brownies in the skillet. I can make any kitchen work. But, it is so much easier having the proper pan for the job. So much easier having counter space to work. Saves me time. Allows me to actually have kids in the kitchen to help me as well, which is important to me as I have to teach them how to cook.

Big kitchens are beautiful and functional...I love them.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Circus Peanut

Do we have more stuff? To some extent, yes. Microwaves and dishwashers didn't suck up space in homes in the early 20th century.

I'm not completely sure about this -- we forget about the large water heater tank off the stove, the huge everpresent stockpot(s), castiron stove lid handles, meat grinder, iron & ironing board, breadbox, coffee mill, flour bin & sifter, food scales, soap shaker, milk cans, lard jar, etc etc; all the things it took to really cook food from scratch and run all the household electrical appliances. And stoves were not always the large luxury models we imagine they had; most regular households had smaller cookstoves.



c. 1912:

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

circuspeanut brings up a very good point. We may think we have more stuff, but what we have is more gadgets that are in general more compact and well designed. They are made to be stored and packed away.

I have what I consider a "large" kitchen. 10x 15 feet with 6' 9" ceilings. My house is 300 years old. I was just trying to explain to my mother why we were custom building cabinets to store my canning equipment - pressure canner, very large stock pots, 400 or so glass jars. I agree there was root cellars in the old days, but there was also more food held in pantries and in kitchen through winter and spring once the harvest came in. They didn't go to market every week (or every few days) like most do now.

Considering modern kitchen use cabinets stacked to the ceiling with shelves and cabinets, using the space way more efficiently than any kitchen of the past could claim, there is really no excuse for the additional space that I can see except that people want it. I think that square footage has become a sign of wealth and status and people are willing to borrow, go into debt, and live well beyond their means to obtain it.

Part of what I think has brought this about is that modern building has become more and more "pre-fab". As look a like housing developments pop up all over the country, they just keep increasing the square footage to keep everyone impressed. I think then people get used to seeing it, used to having it, then want bigger. We are a consumer society and we just keep consuming.

I personally love my little (big for me) kitchen. It is not done yet, but when it is I will not have any upper cabinets (ceiling is way too short). It will still be large enough to store my entire stock of food canned from the garden for winter and spring, all my equipment, plus all the "normal" stuff a kitchen needs to hold. I guess it is really a matter of what you have to work with and what you are used to.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you've come up with an answer to the OP's question that sounds flattering, then it's the wrong answer.

It's not because "we" cook so much more sophisticated food.

"We" barely cook at all.

The GW population is not representative of the population as a whole, and is not the driver of larger kitchens.

Fewer than a third of American households make meals from scratch. Half of all meals eaten at home are take out or prepared from supermarkets. An avalanche of survey data shows that parents no longer teach children how to cook and majorities of adults do not know how long to boil a three-minute egg or how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. Around half of American families don't even regularly eat dinner together, though this is improving a little (they're toobusysobusytoobusyyouhavenoideahowbusytoobusysobusy).

Room size expectations are generally set by new construction. Bigger kitchens are made to be sold, not lived in. They're flashy. They have more built-in features to brag about (stainless! granite!). They sell houses, as beagles said. That's the main reason they got bigger.

Of course, now that people no longer know how to cook, they have begun using kitchens for other purposes, as a utility room or homework room. They also serve as a facade presenting the image of the homeowners as great entertainers, even if they never entertain. They serve as a showy backdrop for the occasional experiment or, more often, the take-out feast.

In any case, kitchens certainly did not get bigger to accommodate people who needed them to cook more. That's just a fact, not a viewpoint.

BTW kitchens originally got smaller because technology enabled them to. Gas stoves replaced huge hulking smelly dangerous coal stoves, and so you needed less space to avoid being seared or choked. Kitchens were regarded as workrooms because at the time people actually worked in them.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 2:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This has been very interesting. I've really enjoyed reading all the responses.

I myself do cook. We both do, from scratch. Not generally all that fancy, but from scratch. Saturday we had roasted root vegetables and grilled halibut (the right time of year for both and they were so good). Yesterday we made Chinese roast pork buns, the baked kind, because we can't get great ones here in Portland. I also baked some cream scones yesterday. Tonight I think DH is going cook pork verde or maybe Chinese style beef and broccoli. I plan to make chicken pot pie this week. Just to give you an idea of what I mean by from scratch but on the simple side.

I started cooking at my mother's side. I remember my first jobs were greasing the baking pan (didn't like that job) and learning to peel potatoes with a knife. By the time I was about 10, I occasionally cooked dinner when my mother was gone. My dad was great and praised the undercooked potatoes and overcooked meat even though I was disappointed in both. I also baked as a child and longed for an Easy Bake oven, which I couldn't have since we had our own generator and my dad wasn't willing to rewire the easy bake oven. I loved all those little boxes things came in.

I do find it odd that when I ask for a pint of something people don't always know what that even means. That is in keeping with what Marcolo said.

Part of the reason I asked the question is because **I** really wanted to shrink my kitchen a bit. To make it more like it used to be. My DH didn't feel that way at all and it would be much more expensive to change the layout.

I think that the early farm kitchen I grew up in (which my mother did NOT like) had a big impact on what I do like. The upper cabinets had glass. The countertops were metal (we called it tin, but I don't think it was). The ceiling was bead board. It was a creamy off white color. The floor was an old linoleum with a pattern. It had a pullout cutting board. And a metal lined tip out flour bin. My dad's dad built that farm house in the twenties. I lived in that house in the fifties. The kitchen was the biggest room, though not that big.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

great topic!
a couple of random thoughts
- I think jumbo sized houses need to have something to fill up all that space...
- open concept creates the feeling of more space as kitchen, eating area, living room all bleed together and what counts as "kitchen" grows

- it is much cheaper and faster to create 'wow' or 'bling' in a new house by installing fancy appliances and countertops than by building with real wood trim, wainscotting, coffered ceilings, wide plank, finished in place floors - appliances instead of craftmanship - this creates bigger/fancier kitchens

- the trend of islands and island/bar seating necessitates larger kitchens. It creates an addional work space and an additional seating place.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"If you've come up with an answer to the OP's question that sounds flattering, then it's the wrong answer."

Well said Marcolo! That basically says what I was thinking reading every post.

And Donaleen, I also cook just about everything in our house from scratch also. Even our "quick meals in a fix" is from scratch that I have frozen. With the garden and canning, I go to the grocery store about once a month if that, with the exception of running out for milk once in a while. I would even rather bake a loaf of bread than run to a store for some.

And even though my 10x15 kitchen is not done yet, I am working with a old kitchen table as my ONLY work surface (and have been for the past year as we remodel the entire house). I have cooked almost every meal at home from scratch and canned for the winter everything that came out of our garden. I have no counter, no cabinets, just a utility sink, range, a pantry closet that was the first thing built and some plastic shelving to hold a few dishes and most used pots. The shear amount and quality of food I can turn out of my little (and sparse) kitchen does amaze me at times, but it also makes me wonder about some of the posts I see on this forum about "have to have" "absolute necessity", or advice about not being able to cook if your isles aren't a minimum of blah, blah, blah.... Really when you strip it all done, none of it actually has anything to do with actually cooking.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Alex House

Check out the insulation in the walls and roof of circuspeanut's 2nd photo.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 5:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So many right answers here! I think the real answer is that NO ONE THING has led to our preference for larger kitchens these days; rather, it's a combination of things:

The ability to build bigger
The ability to borrow money so that more people can afford to build bigger
Seeing the house as an investment
Valuing the kitchen as a status or aspirational item rather than simply something useful
Dreamers who want a beautiful kitchen, but who don't know how to make it efficient -- they can only grasp big
The availability of more appliances and more cookware
The popularity of Open Floorplans
The desire to have company while cooking
The popularity of islands, which don't fit into small kitchens
The increase in foods available to us, which require storage
The increase in our body size
The fact that we do our own cooking rather than using servants
The entrance of men into the world of cooking
Women earning money /demanding nicer kitchens

Whew, what'd I leave out? It's quite a list, and likely people who "build big" buy into 2-3 of these items.

The one recent note that's got me thinking, however, is from Shannonaz. She commented that people probably used to have just as much kitchen -- but it was kind of spread out. I think there's some truth in that. As I think back to an elderly relative whom I visited frequently as a child, I remember that she had a TINY kitchen (probably 8x8), but she also had a massive walk-in pantry . . . and a huge screened in porch where she sat to shell beans or chop things to be canned (she lived on that screen porch -- and who'd have wanted to stay indoors to do all that canning?) . . . and an entire outbuilding full of canned goods for the winter . . . and a root celler for her potatoes, etc . . . and a chicken house full of poultry and eggs . . . and a ciderhouse full of hard apple cider and homebrewed beer. If you consider all the places she stored food, she probably had well over 1000 square feet -- and that's a massive kitchen by anyone's standards.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 5:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A lot of it is confusing wants with needs. All any kitchen really needs is 3-4 functional burners, an oven, a double sink, and about 24"(tight)-48" in between the two for the primary prep space. The refrigerator can be some distance from that area, and in my grandmother's kitchen, it was on the enclosed back porch, not in the kitchen proper. Notice that I didn't include a DW, or an island, or a secondary sink or even aisle space. You can do it all with a single wall, if it's laid out right. My grandmother made meals for 12 regularly in just such a space, with a separate pantry cabinet on the screen porch and a couple of outbuildings worth of home canned goods.

However, once you start to store more than just a couple of meal's worth of ingredients in the kitchen, or to have more than one cook working there, that space needs to expand to accommodate those stored ingredients and extra butt(s). You can still do all of that work in a 10x10 galley space without a DW or prep sink. With other layouts than a galley that opt to include an island, you do start to need allocate more room for occupants, and thus aisle space and elbow space comes into play if the space is still to be efficient.

And then start to factor in convenience items that have become necessities, like a DW, microwave and coffee maker. You've got to have more counter space for counter top appliances that make our lives easier. I know I don't want to go back to the days of percolated coffee on the stovetop!

At some point though, the need for space for modern conveniences becomes confused with wanting more space for modern conveniences. And wanting more space for other reasons as well. Bigger is NOT always better. Some of the most dysfunctional kitchen that I have ever been in were large spaces (usually designed by architects who don't cook) that were designed to be impressive visually rather than be efficient work rooms for the production of sustenance. Again, you can regularly feed a family of 12 from a pretty tiny kitchen, so really think VERY hard about that 16 foot hike from the fridge to the range with the island in the way. Even if you're just doing box mac and cheese as the ultimate cooking effort and not cooking 7 grain bread from scratch and churning your own butter, too much space in the wrong areas doesn't make a better kitchen. It's still a PIA to grab that takeout container from the fridge and walk 12 feet to the MW every time you want to eat something. If you try, you can probably make yourself a more convenient layout for the way you use the kitchen that will still appeal to someone who cooks. All it would take in my hypothetical example is a MW close to the fridge with the china storage and cleanup zone not too far away and a prep sink on the island to serve the range for the cook who wants to buy the house at resale time.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 6:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know that I'd always use the word "confuse" when talking about needs and wants. I think most people know that they don't "need" a dishwasher or even a microwave, much less the three dishwashers I now have in my house. I know I don't need them. But I love them.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 8:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

>All any kitchen really needs is 3-4 functional burners, an oven, a double sink,

I'd say even this is listing what is desirable rather than what is necessary. What is necessary is a way to make things hot (along with fuel, vessels, and so on) and a way to make things clean. Beyond that, it's all fancy fixin's. :)

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 8:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That three dishwasher comment somehow made me think of a friend who had six bathrooms in her house (I think it was six) but only two people lived there so she had to make a point of flushing all the toilets regularly to make sure the U in the drain part didn't dry out.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 8:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Even some "ideal" GW kitchen layouts are too spread out. It's great to get a cleanup area out of the way of the prep and cooking zones--until you're stirring and want a fork, or want to take something out of a pan and need a plate.

I have to admit though, that for sheer morbid obesity, kitchens can't hold a muffin top to new build master bathrooms, which are now often larger than children's rooms, living rooms and even kitchens. If you need a quarter of the square footage of your entire house dedicated to excretion, eat a vegetable.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, Marcolo, I am still laughing out loud.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Man, I agree about the master baths. Even mine is way too big (IMO) and it was built in 78. At least people congregate in the kitchen ... god help us if that many people are congregating in the bath. To each his own, though, I gues...

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't care if I "need" it. I want it. I am coming from a 6x7 condo kitchen. Sure I made great meals and hosted dinner parties from it, but in the house we are building now I have a 17ft island and an 11x8 pantry. So could I work with smaller..of course. I worked in the smallest kitchen probably in the history of GW.

But I am over the moon about my new, as someone called it on here, "Kitchen Stadium". Cooking is my hobby so that term flattered me.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Also my master bath is actually smaller than most new homes, because I prefer that area to be more intimate as there is usually only one person using it at a time. I like baths to feel cozy...go figure.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Marcolo - that's why I have 4 forks, 4 tsp and 4 place spoons over in the prep area. They are a completely different pattern and don't creep back into the silverware drawer.

The plates are a different matter, but it's been fairly trivial so far.

I was struck by the kitchen in this tv show - the first half of the first episode is linked below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Little Paris Kitchen

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 9:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What a fun cooking show! I think she has an Easy Bake Oven and a camp stove. Food looks great.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 1:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think the kitchen has become the gathering place. A change I welcome from the family gathering around the television. I am already seeing how my larger kitchen is changing the way I interact with my kids and their friends.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen Renovations Melbourne

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 6:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In other words, larger kitchens are preferred by spammers.

Like we said.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 10:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Some of the most dysfunctional kitchen that I have ever been in were large spaces (usually designed by architects who don't cook) that were designed to be impressive visually rather than be efficient work rooms for the production of sustenance."

A friend of mine had such a kitchen (in a $1M+ house, of course, where else?) FTR, she did not buy the house, her DH already had it when they got married.

Oh, boy, that was one dysfunctional kitchen!

With all that counter space, the sink was shoved into a corner, the cooktop was on the island a mile away from the sink and the fridge was two miles away in the corner on the diagonal from the sink. Can you imagine cooking there?

She had two small children, cooked from scratch, and cleaned the kitchen by herself after dinner (though she had a helper in the morning). The kitchen was always "pristinely" clean. No wonder she was always so tired, LOL.

I would shoot myself if I had to cook there.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Have you seen the closets in older homes? LOL

Kitchens, bathrooms, closets, living/family rooms...everything is bigger. The key seems to be to find what works with your tastes, style and budget. And...know ahead of time if you can afford a full time maid! :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a closet in my house that isn't deep enough for clothes hangers to hang straight. But really old homes didn't even have closets. That's what wardrobes are for.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Very interesting topic and I haven't read every response, so I hope I'm not duplicating. I agree with pretty much everything I've read so far. I think much of why modern kitchens are larger has to do with the kitchen as gathering place, but also, the loss (in most cases) of the use of free-standing furniture, outdoor storage, and an increase in modern appliances and plumbing. Many people also no longer have separate parlors or dining rooms and eat in the kitchen. I'm not sure if it has to do with different cuisines - many traditional American dishes, while perhaps not including a million ingredients, would have been made from scratch - pie crusts need to be rolled out, bread needs to be kneaded, there needed to be room for canning (very space-hogging), etc..

I'm in my mid-30s so my mother was a "modern" mother and cooked pretty much what we cook today. But, we lived in an old (Victorian era, 1800s) house in New England which had for the most part NOT been renovated to accommodate modern lifestyles (and still hasn't been.) It has three closets now - one is under the main staircase, and is original. One is just an alcove off a bedroom, filling a space under the eaves, and one is a modern sliding-door closet which was finally built in a bedroom when we were teenagers. When the house was built, it didn't have running water or electricity. It had no bathroom. A bedroom was cut in two upstairs to make room for a bathroom, but that was all we had - one (sort of weird-looking) bathroom. The kitchen (and every room) had an opening to a central chimney, and food would have been cooked on a wood-burning stove.

We had and have almost no built-in cabinets. There is one hutch-style piece which is permanently built-in, but it is not like the cabinets of today. There would probably have been a wash basin instead of a sink and cabinets - there is now a sink with lower and upper cabinets, but this unit, while built-in, is not in any way attached to the other hutch-type cabinet piece. It's on a different wall. Until recently, there were no other cabinets, but my mother finally had a row of bead-board cabinets installed along one wall - they are short and actually run above the windows, which dominate one wall.

The modern stove/oven is also just free-standing, not flanked by counters. Let's say it takes up about as much space as the wood-burning stove of yesteryear. But, next to it, there is a normal modern refrigerator - which would NOT have been there before. Perishables would have been kept in an out-building or root cellar. There is virtually no counter space, which makes the kitchen seem cramped and poorly-functioning by today's standards. We use a round table for preparation, which seems abnormal, but is what people would have done in the past. A problem comes in when we want both a place to sit and eat AND plenty of prep space. The house has a room which would have been used as a dining room, despite the fact that the house is more "farmhouse" than grand Victorian mansion. Eating was just not done in the kitchen, even in a simple house.

If you think of this kitchen, which is remarkably preserved, and imagine the removal of the fridge, which is easy to do since it's just standing there, and imagine a stand with a wash basin, and a table for food prep.... in short, imagine it without modern plumbing/appliances and purely as a work space, it's big enough. If you want a gathering space, it's tiny.

I now live in a new house with the typical built-in everything, and a kitchen open to the living room. I have to say that I actually really miss the cramped little farmhouse kitchen, which I consider cozy. One of my goals, being a life-long New Englander, is to buy an old house. I look at listings and I am so horrified by what people have done. It's incredibly rare to find a house which has not been dramatically modernized in one way or another. The rare house has done it well - it has modern conveniences but created in an old-fashioned style. Many homeowners have just stripped out the old, added drop-ceilings and installed the typical "L" formation of builder-grade oak cabinets which look completely out of place.

My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a seventies ranch house with a very open floor plan. (It reminds me of the house the Brady Bunch lived in.) We differ on our views of individual and small rooms. Personally I don't WANT a wide open space and it feels weird and I feel like it actually makes the house look smaller because you can see from one exterior wall to the other. But, I think it's all about what you're used to. If I bought an old house which had had a builder-grade "modern" kitchen installed, I would immediately rip it out and try to get back to basics.

The only thing I LOVE about my new house is that we have at least one outlet on every wall. Growing up, we had ONE outlet per room, and had to buy adapters to plug in grounded ("three-hole") plugs!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'll also echo the housekeeper thing of an earlier poster... my mothers family was upper-class, and had a live-in nanny and a separate live-in housekeeper (in the 50s/60s.) My father's family did not have these things, but HIS parents' generation, early-twentieth century, did have a live-in housekeeper. It was just something "respectable" middle-class people had.

(That said, I really don't think anyone who lived in the house in which I grew up would have had a housekeeper. Nevertheless, while the kitchen was probably not the domain of the housekeeper, it would have been the domain of the wife. It was a place where work took place, out of sight.)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sorry, I should have included every comment in one post...

One other thought (partly inspired by the historic photos shown above) is that now, we want everything out of sight. I think this is true of pretty much every space in the house, but perhaps especially true of public spaces. The kitchen is now a public gathering space, which not only means that we need SPACE in which to gather, but we don't want to see all the STUFF. We want it to be all streamlined. If it were okay to just have everything out there, there'd be less need of space-hogging built-ins. Also, when it was merely a work space, nobody cared about "flow." Proper "flow" can, while sometimes allowing most efficient use of small space, perhaps more often take up MORE space.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 4:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

we don't want to see all the STUFF. We want it to be all streamlined.

Except the dining room is fully of huge, hideous plastic children's toys, in quantities quadruple what we had.

And often, the kitchen is full of stuff, too--bills, catalogs, computers, random bags, piles of paper. It just seems to be cooking stuff that we don't want to see. Maybe it makes some people feel guilty.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 6:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wasn't going to respond to this thread because there is so much negativity on it (people want bigger kitchens because they think they will use them but don't, people are too fat, etc), but I can't help myself so here goes.

First off, I reject the premise that kitchens are much bigger today. There are many large kitchens on this forum but I don't think that they are at all typical. I grew up in the LA area with houses built in the 50's and 60's. Most of the houses in my current Sacramento area neighborhood were built between the 60's and early 80's with infill and replacement houses built since 2000.

There may be regional differences - I've only once seen a house in either area with a basement and these are suburban houses without out-buildings so any storage is in the house or sometimes in the garage and perhaps that led to the average kitchen being a bit bigger around here.

The kitchens I see in the new builds are in the same size ranges as the kitchens I recall from growing up and the older kitchens around here. Many of my friends have remodeled their kitchens but most did it within the same footprint of the existing kitchen. I think one expanded significantly. We kept pretty much to the same footprint except for going a few more inches on one leg of the L.

What has changed over the years is house size in general. In the LA area, there were neighborhoods of small houses - typically 2 br, 1 bath with a den that could be a third bedroom at around ~1100 square feet. I don't see any single houses being built now that size. (I guess condos fill that niche now.) A house over 2000 sq ft was considered large. Now someone above classed their planned 1888 sq ft as small and it seems a house has to be around 3000 sq ft or bigger to be large.

When I considered a job move to Orange County in 2005, we looked at houses there (all pretty recent construction, some brand new). The kitchens were often in big rooms (family room and breakfast/eat-in area) but the actual kitchen area footprints were almost always small, tending to be smaller than around here in the same size houses. It was hard to find any with double ovens. Perhaps a regional variation due to lots of dining out, take out and grocery store prepared food?

Our son's house built just before the real estate bubble burst in the East Bay Area also has a relatively small kitchen footprint - only about 8 linear feet of counter space.

Secondly, while a lot of people do some take out and prepared foods, most also do some home cooking. I can and did make good food from scratch with smaller kitchens in previous homes and even from my make-shift temporary kitchen while remodeling but it is easier and more fun to cook in my larger one. It is particularly nice when we have 2 or 3 or more working on food prep at the same time.

As far as efficiency and larger kitchens - am I the only one who finds standing in one place for a long time to be more stressful than if I sometimes take a few steps. I've got an ankle that sometimes flares up with tendonitis and standing for long periods seems to be what sets it off, not walking. So I don't mind if once or twice during preparation of something I need to go 8 feet to a cabinet on the other side of our L or off to the pantry to fetch what I need. It keeps my ankle happy and adds little or nothing to prep time.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 3:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My DH and I made turnovers the other day (recipe in link). I was filling them and pinching them shut and he was brushing them with egg and poking holes in them. We were working in close quarters but we weren't feeling crowded. I asked myself why was that? It was because even though we were close to each other we were on either side of an outside corner. I decided that outside corners in a work space are a tremendous advantage for working together. Two cheers for tables and islands.

Here is a link that might be useful: pear leek and gruyers turnovers

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 3:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We all know exceptions to the rule, but data from the Census Bureau & Natl. Assoc. of Home Builders show that kitchens are, in fact, bigger than they used to be: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Moms/story?id=1445039#.UHHX767Z1lM

'The compact 9-by-10 kitchens of the 1950s have given way to the current 285 square foot average, according to the NAHB [Natl. Assoc. of Home Builders].' http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/24/real_estate/home_stretching/index.htm

Here is a link that might be useful: news story

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 3:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Funny how this thread has gotten under so many skins.

I was thinking about it last night as I was loving the way things are working in our new, large, family-conference-homework-kitchen room with formal DR on the other side of a passthru. I think family life is appreciably different from formerly; as it always is. Things change, cultures change. Our one-space really, really reflects our modern life where kids are in classes until 7:30pm and I reach home and have to start dinner then while kids are scrambling to get to their homework; they are told by schools that have far too many pupils per teacher that parents are mandated to help; they expect it, they need it, they are forced to it ... we are all working, in close-enough proximity, a scenario absolutely facilitated by the setup of this large kitchen-family room. I am not alone, I am not isolated, I am available (sort of) for help when needed. This really, really works.

There was nothing in my upbringing and early years that remotely modeled this. Dinner happened at 6, my mother prepared it from 4pm on or so and probably thought about and scrounged for it earlier in the day; HW was tackled completely solo in my own room, isolated, apart; if I couldn't figure it out then there was a problem with the assignment; my problem.

I am making zero judgement as to which is better relatively or absolutely; only noting how very different things are and how this is reflected in the needs of the space we remodeled. I've no idea where the dog ends and the tail begins wagging, or why. But I think space and its use is a phenomenon intimately connected with time, place, culture. I think it's reasonable to be interested in and scrutinize earlier trends, but to bemoan our not following them is just too simple an acceptance of the manifestation with no acknowledgement of all the story that led to it.

That said, I didn't feel a tide of negativity in this thread; I thought a lot of people were reflecting very deeply on these cultural changes. I think it's really interesting and love reading it. Cloud_swift, California has experienced some pretty long-sweeping cultural changes over the course of this long life you've described a little of. I think these time-place differences you talk about are important. And this phenomenon of the "Denominator" of house-size itself inching upward. Plus the factor of storage -- how we use this space completely matters in an overall sense. I think you've actually described quite a bit of difference, not the least of which is probably a function of the different locations, as well as other good reasons for it all.

To the extent this thread rarely does touch on a what-is-the-matter-with-you-people-don't-you-know-bigger-is-not-necessarily-better rant, I agree it's a problem. But exploding out some of the reasons for cultural shifts and making connections with housing and space-use is actually, I think, really helpful toward dispelling this secret judgment that we probably all of us feel a little of all the same. The best way around it, I think, is to explicitly figure out some of the more complex underlying happenings.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 4:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My DH and I both cook. There are nice things and not so nice things about that. It's nice to share the work and it's great to eat his delicious food. But, sometimes I wish I had my own kitchen, set up the way I want. Maybe that's the next trend: dual kitchens.

Just joking...

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The last 10 people that came into my house for the first time only sat by my kitchen island. I can't think of the last person that went into the LR and sat on the couch. (except my brother who always takes a nap on the couch) When I go into someone's home for the first time for a 'short' time, it is rare that I move out of the kitchen. This is where we receive people now. This is the gathering place. This is where the kids do homework. This is where I feed my kids friends. This is where I have coffee when friends come. Need I say more.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 6:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I thought the done thing these days for young professional couples was to be unmarried, with adjoining condos or houses -- amounts to the same thing. Friends of mine just built a huge gorgeous house (he built and designed it all over ten+ years) with separate bedroom suites -- kind of like from days of yore with boudoirs, no? It has to be said, though, that this is all his fantasy -- she looks at it and says "dust bunnies -- who's going to clean all this"???

The duplication in my kitchen I am loving (thank you GW) is the sink. Only complaint is that both of them aren't bigger. But the central location on an island edge even close to the second, clean-up one is brilliant. Hard to say whether this constitutes "bigger" or an innovation as butler's pantries with sinks were certainly common once upon a time, long before the efficient 40/50/60s kitchens got cranking (cf that Victorian Kitchen of the OP). Incorporating that utility has required a larger kitchen; which leads to which I dunno.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 6:26PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Anyone have Cambria Seagrove? Or Summerhill?
I have been GW lots lately trying to decide on countertops....
Lily Spider
99% Finished Kitchen--creamy white w/soapstone
Finally! Our kitchen is finished! I never thought the...
Large cove moulding?
I am looking for large cove moulding. I can't find...
Question on size of wall cabinets flanking cooktop
I'm planning 45" wall cabinets for my uppers....
Kitchen sink: Help me find the right one!
This should not be as hard as signing in and finding...
Alma Williams
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™