History of Kitchens – Kitchen Origins

People cooked on open fires in Ancient time. These fires were built outside or above the ground. As time progressed masonry construction was used in conjunction with wood to support the food being cooked.

As we progressed in time to the Middle ages, metal cauldrons by this time had been invented. These cauldrons were able to have more food in them and were often above the fire. People would gather at these cooking events as it was the main source of light, heat and of course food to feed the hungry.

This is a design of a kitchen from the 12th century from Dover Castle in England

Smoke and soot used to create huge problems as you can imagine right up until the 16th century. This is when they finally figured out that chimneys were a good idea. Rather than the smoke and soot flowing around your family in the room, the smoke was drawn away and up the chimney. This made it possible to have much large eating and cooking areas.

Stove developments in the 1700’s


Kitchens and designs soon became effected and influenced by political and economic trends. Designs and advancements came at regular intervals. The advancements were mainly associated with reducing time and labor in the kitchen.

Stoves in the 18th century were fueled by wood.An early wood burning stove was known as the stew stove or Castrol Stove. This was invented in 1735 by Francois Cuvilliés

here is a Franklin stove from the Metropolitan Museum. 1795

The 18th century saw the introduction of metal stoves. The Franklin Stove above, which was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1742 had a labrynthian path for the exhaust gases that were extremely hot, to escape. This stove was designed for heating and allowed hot air to enter a room, instead of via the chimney. This was not a cooking stove.

As the industrial revolution advanced new inventions came onto the market. Cheaper prices and new ergonomic designs provide better efficient models. The coal burning stove was the most widely used and common in the industrial world. These coal stoves came in all manner of sizes and shapes with different ways of working. This were around for almost 150 years. Coal burns at a much higher temperature than wood as such the coals stoves needed to be designed differently to the wood stoves.


Stove in the 1840’s – The Oberlin Stove

1834 saw Philo Stewart design a compact wood burning cast -iron stove. This was called funnily enough the Oberlin Stove. It was cast in metal for a kitchen and for small domestic use. It was also much more efficient than cooking in the open fires places. This stove increased the heating capacity and hence fast tracked the cooking time.

The commercial success of this stove was immense. There were various shapes and design made around the Oberlin stove. Something unique about it was the fact it could withstand heat and cold transitions very quickly. These stove were the forerunner to designs being implemented with pipes visa the chimney with add-ons for installations of water heaters.

The Oberlin Stove 1869 courtesy of “Beecher and Beecher Stowe”

Gas Stoves- When did these happen?


We started adapting to gas stoves in the 1825 to the 1920’s. Even back then people were concerned about the use of fossil fuels. The concern about air pollution influenced the decline in coal burning. As Gas was introduced it also became the main source of heat. Ovens consequently were able to be designed to be smaller and lighter and cheaper.

By the 1920’s due to the patented gas stove designed by James Sharp, the gas stove became the preferred norm in kitchens. Gas stove were used in most domestic kitchens.

Gas Stove, Windsor, 1851, from “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management”, 1904


When did the Electric oven rise to fame?

As electricity was invented and deployed across cities more inventions were coming on the markets. As the industrial revolution took hold the electric oven being a main competitor to gas. 1912 saw the first patent for an electric stove being awarded to The Copeman Electric Stove Company, based in Michigan



Copeman Electric Stove, 1912, Mostly wood, it had two ovens, top units, automatic timer (see clock) and heat control


Post world war 2 – Kitchen designs


After world war II there was a major boom in housing, manufacturing and other advancements. The modern kitchen was born. Home owners provided the inspiration to move beyond the constraints of the utilitarian kitchens. These new kitchens were cleaner, quieter, well organised and more fun to cook in. This allowed for further development and design for entertaining larger gatherings.

Social changes had been happening across a number of decades including the 1960’s and 70’s Kitchen designs were greatly enhanced and people began to experiment more in their  cooking at home. Utensils were also becoming popular making entertaining in and around the kitchen a great time. Once could improve their culinary skills in the new kitchen designs. Designer cookware became a commercial reality. The Modern Kitchen was born and the heart of the family home had been established.

The open kitchen design became reality in the 1980;s with wonderful appliances. I can remember the first dishwasher we had.

A kitchen from the 1960’s, author unknown, Veterans United

Contemporary kitchen designs


It wasn’t long after this that we advanced to the era of Contemporary kitchen designs. This brought about better spacing, cupboards, appliances, ovens and stoves that cooked faster and more efficiently. We could now half the time of cooking allowing the cook to spend more time with the family or entertaining. The new kitchen’s are well and truly established in our modern home and don’t have the old traditional designs.We have wonderfully designed cupboards, bench-tops, splash-backs and places for appliances to be hidden away.

Spectacular flooring and more……For further information on getting a quote for a new contemporary kitchen contact is here


Contemporary kitchen in a Geneva apartment by Poggenpohl


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