Growing up and spending time with grandma in her vintage kitchen are the memories that I cherish.
They were simple multi-task work spaces with limited counter space used to cook large family meals day in and day out with very few appliances.
Kitchens not only were used during meal times, they also served as the home canning work area, used to cut the families hair, complete homework, to do the laundry and bathing the babies in the kitchen sink.
A decade or so earlier the family also took baths in the center of the kitchen using a portable tub and hot water heated with a wood cook stove.
Today a kitchen is loaded with just about any gadget that can be imagined topped with large counter top work areas, yet the majority of people hardly ever use them as the old vintage kitchens were.
Most kitchens built in the early half of the 1900s basically had just one style.
Kitchen cabinets were built on site of pine lumber, used mostly one style surface mounted hinges, painted white and then topped with linoleum counter tops, varnished wood tops, or ceramic tops.
The cabinet pulls differed some, with glass, porcelain, wood and metal pulls.
Each cabinet maker would leave his mark by the different styles of kitchen cabinet valance’s that would be placed over the top of the kitchen sink to fill in the space between the two side cabinets.
This valance would often span the top of the kitchen window and would be scalloped, or cut with scroll work patterns.
Cabinet makers also would often add corner shelves on each side of the kitchen sink upper cabinets for the homeowner to display nick knacks picked up on family vacations.
Fancier cabinets and other built in’s used board and beaded pine siding in the cabinet backs, and may have been left with the cabinet doors off or would have glass doors to show the china that was displayed in them.
Board and bead siding also became popular for cabinet doors and to warp the walls with a wainscot capped chair rail.
The linoleum counter tops also covered pine boards and then later plywood when it became popular.
Plywood also took the place of the pine boards to build the lower cabinet shelves and cabinet doors, while 12” wide pine boards would still be used for the top cabinets as the boards were the perfect width.
Since linoleum couldn't be cut to form an edge on the front of the counter, a strip of metal chrome would be screwed along the front edge that held the linoleum in place.
Kitchen counter tops were only 1”-3/4” as well as kitchen work tables. This is why all the old fashioned clamp on meat grinders, apple peelers, and other hand crank appliances will only clamp on the edge of this thickness.
Most homes also used linoleum on the back splash, the more upscale homes may have used ceramic tile on the counter tops and back splash.
Many times the same linoleum or perhaps a different color was used on the floor as well. With all this linoleum, especially in the same color the kitchen could almost make one a bit dizzy.
Drawer space was limited, with very few kitchen tools, the homeowner just didn’t need a lot of drawer space.
Most of the cabinets would include a metal box within one of the drawers to store breads, some of the upper cabinets would also have metal flour and sugar bins to store these staples.
Just about every kitchen would include a pull out cutting and dough board mounted just above one of the drawer spaces.
Since dishwashers were known as those who washed the pots and pans and dinner dishes by hand, the kitchen sinks were large with built in drain boards.
Large kitchen sinks were also used to wash and process fresh vegetables from the home garden.
Most people worked from a kitchen table or an island work table to roll out dough and prepare the fixings that went into every meal.
Since refrigerator’s were small and freezers were not in use most of the food prepared would be done so fresh or from home canned items preserved during the gardening season.
Homes would have large pantries and back up root cellars to store such things as potatoes, onions, and turnips.
I can remember many homes had a trap door in the kitchen floor or on an attached porch so the home owner could quickly access the root cellar without having to go outside.
Kitchens were built when most appliances were hand crank, thus electric plugs were only installed in a couple of places, or wired in after the home was electrified.
During that era an electric toaster and maybe a waffle or cloths iron were about the only electric appliance available.
Stoves were self standing complete with burners , in contrast to today’s self standing stoves, the older models were almost double in width and likely contained a griddle with gas burners down each side.
They also had two side by side ovens for baking several items at a time.
Pictures are courtesy of Cottage Craft Works .com who still carry many of the old retro vintage reproduction kitchen wares and hand crank appliances.