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Evolution of kitchens through the ages

From being tucked away out of sight to a central feature in a home, kitchens have evolved into the hub of the home.


Kitchens have evolved from being tucked away at the back of the house to a fully integrated part of the home. The Kitchen Specialists Association (KSA) shares some interesting information on how trends and styles have shaped the design of a kitchen, and how we can still see how some of those influences reflect in today's kitchen.

1950s – Kitchen developments happened rapidly during the 50s with the arrival of the fully-fitted kitchen recognisable in today’s homes.

Despite their meagre proportions, kitchens became a place of expression with brighter colours such as ‘bubble-gum’ shades of pink and blue as well as the iconic combinations of red, white and black. This bold use of colour spread to appliances, Formica or laminate tops, as well as cabinets. The first glimpse of the ‘open-plan’ design became evident with the incorporation of American ‘diner-style’ eating areas and seating.

1960s – Moving away from the pinks, blues and reds of the 50s, this era drew its colour inspiration from nature with a focus on earthy browns, greens and yellows combined with natural materials such as timber, brick and stone.

With the expansion of home sizes, the kitchens got bigger and this opened up space for the first kitchen island, increasing the focus on the kitchen as an entertainment area. The 60s were centred on convenience and, with the advent of the microwave, the kitchen became a ‘trophy room’ rather than one used only for food preparation.

1970s – Synonymous with the 70s are bold patterns which flowed into the heavy wooden panelling, dinettes and cabinetry of the kitchen, creating a busy yet somewhat dark space. Thankfully, this was offset by the introduction of large windows to the kitchen. This need for extra light, in turn, spurred the opening of the kitchen onto the garden creating a new entertainment area.

1980s – ‘Bigger is better’ dominated the mindset during the 80s and this was transferred onto kitchens where the increase of middle-class disposable income made for more kitchen space. There was a move away from flat-panel, painted and laminate cabinets with homeowners opting for solid timbers in warmer hues and the return to the sturdy and practical.

The classic ‘country’ kitchen became popular, inspired by shaker doors and florals. Developments in materials used to create laminate tops allowed for a diverse range of colours and patterns, which meant they retained popularity, while geometric patterns - graduating from the bold patterns of the 70s – were also coming to the fore.

1990s – A sense of calm arrived with the 90s as homeowners opted for lighter colours with timbers such as beach and maple becoming popular. Walls returned to white with a greater focus on clean lines, made possible with the introduction of integrated appliances. The kitchen island regained its popularity as did the pension for DIY kitchen upgrades with homeowners updating their drawer fronts and cupboard doors by hand painting them.

The influence of Scandinavian design could be felt with the advent of monochrome kitchens where white or light cabinets were offset by black granite replacing the laminate tops. Sliding or folding doors meant the kitchen space could truly expand onto the outdoors.

2000 to present – The new millennium brought with it clean lines, ergonomic design, increased light, natural materials and colours, engineered stone with timber or solid surface countertops. The modern kitchen is now place to live, work and entertain.

To view some exquisite modern kitchen designs, learn about the latest kitchen products and appliances, and interact directly with KSA and its members, get to Decorex Joburg at the Gallagher Convention Centre from 9 to 13 August. Tickets are sold through  and at the door.


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