Kitchen Cabinet History

Kitchen cabinets have a surprisingly rich history, going through incredible transformations over the decades.

In centuries past, it was common for kitchen cabinets to consist of open shelves, especially in rural areas. Today, the trend is coming back (at least until homeowners realize open shelving welcomes dust at lightning speed).


In 1920s America, kitchens were all about being spotless, and it’s when the phrase “clean enough to eat off” became popular.

The 1920s was also the heyday of the Hoosier cabinet, similar to a secretary desk with bottom shelves, counter space, and top shelves that opened every which direction. A workspace for Mom, it was created to hold cookbooks, grocery lists, sifters, bins and charts with nutrition information. Hoosiers boasted built-in spice racks and flour sifters.

Kitchen Cabinet Magic

In the 1930s, electronic kitchen appliances were invented, and the American kitchen changed forever. Arriving during the Great Depression, the advances gave many homemakers hope.

The 1940s was a time of banding together during the war, and many homemakers made jam in their small kitchens to help ends meet. Homemade became synonymous with sacrifice and virtue (a pairing that has enjoyed a resurgence lately). Cookbooks cropped up to give pickling directions, and the locavore movement was born, despite not being named as such.

Curious Kitchens

The kitchen became the heart of the home in the 1950s. Floral patterns started popping up, and decorating the kitchen became an obsession. In this decade, you could find U-shaped kitchens and the first architecture design where the stovetop, refrigerator and sink were placed in a triangle, ideally about equal distances apart.

One-of-a-kind designs, custom kitchen cabinet paint jobs, and shelf liner in cabinets were popular in the ’50s. Double ovens, separate cooktops and kitchen islands appeared.

These trends continued until the 1970s, when the feminist wave entered full force and women began retreating from the kitchen. The 1970s is a no man’s land for kitchens, a curious and strange time when few innovations popped up. Is it any wonder it’s the era of avocado-colored appliances?

A New Era

By the time 1980 rolled around, microwaves were common, the first celebrity cooks appeared on television and there were wine racks, pot racks and special cookbook shelves built into many kitchen cabinets.

Kitchens got brighter and much better equipped, a segue to today’s gourmet chef kitchens. During the 1990s, McMansions popped up with oversized kitchens boasting stunning cabinets and granite countertops, and the kitchen was often one of the biggest rooms in the home.

Ready to see what the latest kitchen cabinet trends have to offer? Call AWA Kitchen Cabinet and start designing your dream kitchen cabinets.