• March 21, 2004

Historical Kitchens

Ever wonder what your bungalow kitchen used to look like?

Inspiration, Kitchens

If you live in an old home, and are like me, you are probably curious what your kitchen looked like almost 100 years ago. I have been researching historical publications, magazines, books and online sources for ideas to help us when we restore our kitchen. These images span the early 1900′s to the late 1920′s, but primarily focus on the earlier years.

On thing that I found very interesting is that refrigerators or ice boxes are often shown integrated into a wall or cabinetry. This “trend” is considered modern in kitchen design today. Ha!

You might also enjoy:
Unpainted Historical Kitchens (more photos!)
Bungalow Kitchen Cupboards
Historical Bathroom Photos

Comments { 19 }
  1. Nathan

    In Continental Europe, they never stopped treating fridges as part of the cabinetry. The typical German house today would break an American’s heart! Just think~ these days we pine for the solid construction, careful consideration, and great details that went into old houses. We say “They just don’t make em like they used to” and it’s true. In Europe, technological advancement has actually led to better houses today than they had in the past because they never gave up craft, quality, and good design.

  2. Cari daly

    I’m in escrow on a 1910 West Adams craftsman on 31st Street(cross your fingers!) and I’m trying to figure out what to do with the kitchen counters, floors and fridge. Do you have any pictures that really show the countertops? I’ve seen some wood, but I can’t tell what else they were made from. Mine are bubbled formica.
    Most of the houses I’ve seen have destroyed kitchens and bathrooms, so I can’t find any examples of original surfaces. Plus am I right to think that the floors were usually wood or linoleum in kitchens?
    Any fridge ideas? The super expensive fridge is freaking gorgeous, but that money will go towards the foundation cracks instead. I just saw a 1950s fridge rebuild at a store on Beverly, but at $3,000 it’s going to stay there.
    One last question, what was the cabinet with the wire bottom shelf opening to the outside used for? I’m guessing it’s either onions/potatos or an icebox? If it’s onions/potatos what’s to stop ratties from snacking, and if it’s icebox shouldn’t it be more insulated?

    Thanks for a great site!!

    • tenantproof

      The absolute best guide for designing a bungalow kitchen is Jane Powell’s Bungalow Kitchens. She is vintage Bungalow Kitchen expert. You can purchase her book which is chock full of color photos of vintage kitchens. She has a whole section on countertops. The countertop materials used were wood, linoleum, ceramic tile, occasionally stone such as slate, soapstone and rarely granite and marble. The ceramic tile consisted of 2 inch hex tiles black and white with colored accent tile and a box edge tile. Small mosiac tiles with box edge tile treatment or four inch tile with box edge tile were also used.

    • B W

      Cari daly: A cabinet with wire or slat shelves that is open to the outside (or has a hole in the floor if there’s a basement and has wire screen panels in the door) is a California Cooler, it’s used for foods that just need to be a bit cool, to complement the icebox or fridge. Then there may have been metal drawers with curved edges on the bottom for bags of flour, sugar, oats, etc. that had to be dry.

  3. Kelly

    I LOVE those big old sinks! My favorite kitchen is the third pic up from the bottom, I love the cabinets. :)

  4. Terri DeJohn

    I am an interior designer getting ready to do some work on a home that is going on a Historic Register and I needed some additional information on the kitchen counter top. The house that I am working on was built in 1901 and we do not believe that the cabinets in the kitchen are original to the house. After seeing these pictures I am certain that they are not.

    thank you

  5. Karen Crosby

    I’d love the fourth one up from the bottom in my farm house kitchen…it is 1900, but with six doors/doorways running through it, it won’t fit! Sigh. It does have 1950s metal cabinet with a two drain board porcelain double sink which i will reuse dings & all to save money, along with another metal base I just bought for $15, one owner, which needs work but better than what is in my farmhouse. Have other metal cabinets, now to see where they will fit. I’d rather do these wooden ones but metal is cheaper in Iowa. Love the site.

  6. Michele

    My granny had a high-back sink in her little house….and somebody will probably just tear it down one of these days and throw it away. :( *love* these old kitchens.

  7. Phyllis

    Awesome! My grandmother had some of those things in her kitchen. Love, Love, Love it! (I am 62 so was LONG AGO LOL)

  8. Desiree

    I recently purchased my 1938 house; very little has been done to upgrade its systems and key areas. I want to improve the kitchen, but not necessarily in the way everyone thinks.

    I want the structures or ‘bones’ updated (insulation, new pipes, electrical updates, etc.), but I want a strong nod to an earlier style where storage units were more individual pieces of furniture.

    Having reviewed many earlier kitchen styles, it seems I prefer the 1900-1920 kitchen styles rather than the 1930s-40s. I especially love those huge freestanding kitchen sinks.

    Thanks so much for consolidating all those images. It’s a great help to my vision for my kitchen.

  9. Brian

    Enjoyed looking at your vintage kitchen pictures. These will come in handy when we remodel our kitchen. We purchased an American Foursquare built in 1912; the previous owner did a truly wonderful job restoring the house, however they gutted the kitchen down to the studs and the end result with their choice of cabinets is that the kitchen looks like 2011, it doesn’t flow with the rest of house and all the original wood work everywhere else. We would like to have a completely modern kitchen, but with cabinets that could pass as original.

  10. Amanda

    Who knows what was used for countertops? My house was built in 1921 and I’m trying to pick out a countertop for my kitchen remodel.

  11. Kathy

    Bungalow Kitchens is a great resource. Wood, zinc, marble and soapstone were used for countertops, with wood being the most common. Tables were protected with oilcloths and were the primary work surface. Hoosier cabinets had enameled metal tops, often with pull-out surfaces. Not having waterproof surfaces were one reason the large freestanding sink was so popular.

    If you take a look at the 1913 Purcell-Cutts House in Minneapolis, everything is perfectly preserved, including the original kitchen and built-ins with original Magnesite countertops and floors. This was the latest and greatest at the time in a custom home designed by a prominent architect for his family. Magnesite is a sort of poured in place linoleum made from magnesium oxide, sawdust, lime, pigment, and other materials. It has held up beautifully for 100 years–it was a family home until fairly recently. Might be worth reviving.


    http://articles.latimes.com/1999/jul/11/realestate/re-54828?pg=1 restoration of magnesite floor in LA

  12. Margaret Wylie

    The ice box , with the face flush with the wall allowed the ice man to come in the back door, place the ice in the box and never step into the kitchen proper, or come in contact with the items in the ice box.

  13. Mike Brenner

    Thank you for the helpful information. Does anyone have any information about the counter top materials used in 1910 Pullman railroad cars? I’m restoring a 1909 luxury trolley that was essentially gutted when it was retired in 1932. The company that built it was known for producing “Electric Pullmans.”

  14. Jennifer

    Thank you so much for doing all this research! I’m planning a renovation of my 1910 bungalow in NZ which, sadly, has lost a lot of its period features over the years (1990s kitchen & bathroom). I had a vision for the kitchen and the pictures above have confirmed that what I wanted will fit with the historical style. I was struggling with a vision for the bathroom though so your posts have really helped me out there. Great work!

  15. Camille Lee

    Were kitchens built for shorter women back in the early 1900′s?

  16. LuckyMC

    Thank you! This post is a treasure. Just what I’ve been looking for.

  17. Jean SmilingCoyote

    Thanks so much for the illustrations & comments! The house(a California bungalow)my grandpa built about 100 years ago in a historic section of Chicago is for sale. They lost house in the Depression. I need multi-millions in a lottery win to be able to buy it back. Sales agent thinks house is best for teardown or gut rehab. I have preliminary floor plan for a replacement house and am getting to kitchen details.

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