Kitchen design has evolved rapidly in the past 100 years, and its evolution will continue to accelerate as the 21st Century unfolds, bringing new materials, technologies, sensibilities, and data to bear on kitchen design.

Here are 10 unique kitchens providing insights — and more than a few tantalizing clues — into how kitchen design has progressed and where it might be going in the years to come.

The Frankfurt Kitchen

The first “truly modern kitchen” was hatched in 1927, the brainchild of Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, an Austrian architect inspired by the efficiency of the compact kitchens featured in railroad dining cars.  Cutting-edged innovations included an electric range (most stoves were coal-fired at the time), adjustable lighting, dedicated storage, (relatively) spacious cabinets, a tile backsplash, and a tile floor.

1938 Walter Gropius Kitchen

Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus — arguably the most important design movement of the 20th Century — and the kitchen he designed for his own house in 1938 is consistent with the Bauhaus’ no-nonsense “form follows function” aesthetic.  While Groupius’ design featured stainless steel cabinets (largely out of fashion today), the kitchen’s super-large window, logical layout, and cutting-edge GE garbage disposal unit (the first installed anywhere) all strike the contemporary observer as thoroughly modern elements.

Frank Lloyd Wright 1957 kitchen

Designed in 1957 and built in 1964, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House is chocked full of innovations, including over-the-counter lighting, backsplashes (hardly universal at that time), and seamlessly built-in appliances. While Wright was occasionally criticized for designing beautiful houses that were difficult to live in, this kitchen features plenty of light, space (both horizontal and vertical) and countertop surfaces, making for an eminently usable kitchen.

Philip Johnson Glass House Kitchen

The kitchen intentionally plays a nearly invisible role in Philip Johnson’s Glass House, a show-stopping, wall-abolishing example of the open floor plan built in 1949. When not in use, the Glass House’s low-profile, industrial-looking fridge, sink, and cooking units are completely covered by a walnut slab. While you may have too many nosy neighbors to live comfortably in any glass house, Johnson’s disappearing kitchen is an elegant solution to a nearly impossible design problem.

The Wilson House
In 1959, Ralph Wilson — the founder of the WilsonArt laminate company — made his own home into a laboratory in which the expressive possibilities of laminate could be fully explored inside and outside of the kitchen. The house’s website notes that “the kitchen countertops reveal some of the earliest work in post-forming, a process where laminate is bent and wrapped to form continuous curves from the top to the side edge of the counter. Other applications include laminate clad built-in cabinetry in the kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms—even in the shower!” While the Wilson House definitely represents a time-capsule of the late 50s aesthetic, it should be noted that laminate remains a versatile, colorful material in the kitchen designer’s contemporary toolbox.

Julia Child’s Kitchen
If you’re too young to remember Julia Child (1912-2004), this pioneering chef was America’s first bona fide cooking superstar whose long-running series ran for decades on PBS. Today her rustic kitchen survives at the Smithsonian Institute, and as the exhibit notes observes, it’s big on usability (even if a little short on fashionable flair).  “Julia had strong opinions about how her kitchen should be arranged. Its homey atmosphere, with simple, painted cabinetry and butcher-block countertops contrasts with the shiny surfaces pictured in kitchen brochures of the time.” 

Alessandro Isola’s reconfigurable kitchen
Radical, flexible, and endlessly reconfigurable, Italian designer Alessandro Isola’s reconfigurable kitchen features vertically sliding cabinets, an extendible, rotatable table, and a concealed sink. The result is a kitchen that’s designed to tailor itself to the purpose, mood, and need of each unique moment of the day. This kitchen is a prototype, one-of-a-kind unit, so don’t look for anything like this to appear at Ikea anytime soon!

Future Haus Kitchen
The Future Haus Kitchen’s stated purpose is to provide a “holistic, context-aware, and resource-aware kitchen that responds and adapts to users’ needs.” Consequently, the kitchen is a sensor-rich environment, where devices talk to one another, oven temperatures are precisely monitored, refrigerators monitor the freshness of items placed within them, and all ongoing kitchen activities can be scanned via a multimedia interactive display flush-mounted into the countertop. While some may worry how well this kitchen would work if teenage hackers ever got access to its IP address, there’s no question that this level of high-tech integration is being eyed by major kitchen appliance vendors today.

Universal Design Kitchens
Advocates of “Universal Design” strive to make buildings, objects, and environments that can be used and enjoyed by people with disabilities. Consequently, Universal Design kitchens are spacious, to accommodate wheelchairs, with appliances such as stoves and dishwashers located for maximum accessibility, and storage areas easily reachable. Even if you and yours aren’t disabled, the features of these kitchens – including soft cushioned flooring, lots of light, open shelving, and moveable islands – may be worthy of inclusion within your own unique kitchen design.

Your kitchen!
Each and every kitchen — however humble or short of aesthetic fireworks — is unique. And while you might not think it deserves ranking with those produced by the likes of Wright, Gropius, Johnson, and other design masters, we’ve never seen a kitchen that couldn’t be massively improved in respect to looks, usability, efficiency, and user satisfaction.

Which – we hope – is a subtle hint that we’d relish the chance to discuss the past, present, and (hopefully) glorious future of your own kitchen (we love talking about kitchens)! Call or visit our Long Island showroom for a free design consultation.