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Sponsored by Fisher & Paykel

This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.

The evolution of the kitchen

From the wallpaper craze of the ‘70s to an obsession with quartz today, kitchen design is a time capsule of culture.

If there’s one room in the house that expresses your personal taste, it’s your kitchen. But the kitchen also reflects the world around you—its current cultural values, family norms, and technologies.

These ever-evolving influences have made the kitchen one of the rooms with the most radical transformations over the 20th and 21st centuries. Innovative companies like Fisher & Paykel, which was founded in the 1930s, advanced iceboxes into next-generation refrigeration. Laminate counters evolved into quartz masterpieces. “Avocado green” color splashes gave way to earthy neutrals as the backdrop for avocado toast breakfasts.

The journey of the American kitchen has been a fascinating and revealing one. Read on to feast your eyes on some kitchen design highlights from the last several decades.

When you think ‘60s kitchen, the “The Brady Bunch” and their iconic wooden cabinets, bright red backsplashes, and matching countertops might pop into mind. Real ‘60s kitchens, like this beloved Hollywood set, were defined by mixing style and function. Easy-to-maintain laminate and particle board cabinets, linoleum floors, and built-in cabinets were coveted by increasingly busy homemakers. Clearly defined L- and U-shaped layouts gave kitchens of the era a more intimate feel without being claustrophobic.

The ‘60s also brought futuristic large appliances (hello, in-home automatic dishwashers and multiple-burner cooktops) that were more reliable and at times even self-cleaning. Then there was the emergence of earth tone shades like “harvest gold” and “avocado green.”

 

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New technology put traditional cooking on the backburner during this decade, as the microwave became ubiquitous and convenience became king. Refrigerators with water and ice dispensers were introduced and more home kitchens boasted features like electric cooktops, separate ovens, and drawers full of gourmet cookware. Kathy Chrisicos of Boston-based Chrisicos Interiors credits Cambridge-resident, super chef Julia Child and her popular cooking shows with homeowners’ sudden desire to make cooking-related upgrades priority number one.

Design styles of the time were just as dazzling as the equipment. “In the ‘70s, homeowners were committed to brightening and modernizing kitchens, while not entirely losing the homey look and feel of their parents’ kitchen,” Chrisicos says, noting that sunny colors and cheerful touches were wanted during this decade. The solution to all of this color craving? Wallpaper everywhere—walls, ceiling, cabinets—in wonky patterns and bright hues.

 

Everything in the ‘80s went big, so of course kitchen layouts followed suit. “A trend towards larger homes in the suburbs gave added square footage for breakfast eating areas of the kitchen to open into a family room,” Chrisicos says. This kind of open floor plan, plus elements like glass cabinetry, expanded the feel of the room.

Kitchens evolved from cook-only quarters into places to hangout, with large center and side islands, eating nooks, and designated breakfast areas. Even appliances became more streamlined in design, which left more room for relaxing and moving about.

Amping up the ease-of-use of this newly discovered gathering space, continually popular laminate cabinets, counters, and backsplashes, along with tile countertops, made frequent appearances. Off-white laminate cabinets with oak trim, a European-inspired look, was one particularly beloved design trend of the time. It didn’t stay in style for long.

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By the ‘90s, the kitchen was officially the center of the home. As McMansions grew in size, the gourmet kitchen took its cues from trendy restaurants, with pro-style appliances like professional stove top ranges, huge refrigerators, and tons of elegant granite.

“Granite countertops became ubiquitous in the evolving stylish kitchen,” Chrisicos says. The era’s black granite countertops went on to maintain their popularity while its green granite countertops were left behind. White and heavily-veined granite, meanwhile, became stylish at the end of the decade.

“This was also the decade when stainless steel appliances came into fashion,” recalls Nancy Hanson, owner and kitchen designer at Heartwood Kitchens in Danvers. To counterbalance the sleek nature of these new appliances, Hanson notes, people chose bright, homey woods and ceramic tile for elsewhere in their kitchens. “Cabinet finishes of pickled oak and maple, white Thermofoil, as well as white-painted cabinetry were gaining popularity,” she says.

 

 

 

Settling into its role as family central, kitchens in the aughts were bright and brought a sense of character to the home. Sleek finishes that carried over from the ‘90s added a polished feel.

“In the 2000s, white and off-white finishes were all the rage,” Hanson says. It was also in the 2000s that Hanson noticed her clients becoming better informed about trendy products and kitchen design, thanks to the introduction of a little channel called “Home and Garden Television” (better known as HGTV) in the mid-1990s. 

Stainless steel appliances from the ‘90s also carried over into the ‘00s, and, as an alternative option, appliances with wood fronts to match the home’s cabinetry came on the scene. The Integrated Refrigeration suites from Fisher & Paykel, for instance, boast a seamless fit and can be adorned in a custom wood finish to blend in.

 

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Everything in a modern kitchen is Instagram-worthy—white cabinets, reclaimed wood floors, and quartz counters that serve as the center of today’s gorgeous design.  

“Quartz countertops were starting to draw attention in the 2000s. Unlike granite and marble, which require sealing, this man-made material required no maintenance,” Hanson says. There are naturalists who still choose granite, marble, and quartzite, but most of Hanson’s clients today prefer quartz. In keeping with the literal nature of the stone, accenting colors are all about adding to an earthy, calm aesthetic.

“We’ve seen revolutionary design changes in the kitchen. Individuals, couples, and families now spend more time than ever before in these versatile rooms—from socializing to relaxing,” Chrisicos says. This shift has meant more personalization: Island configurations can be decked out with deep sinks for entertaining. Kitchens can be designed with stainless steel finishes and quiet dishwashers for easy cleaning. Under-cabinet refrigerators, warming drawers, and combo appliances like the Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawer™, an install-anywhere drawer that changes from refrigerator to freezer at the touch of a button, provide extra storage options. “Once a utilitarian design decision, kitchens now truly reflected the homeowner’s life, style, and taste,” Chrisicos says.

Consumers tend to flock to the latest and greatest in kitchen design and products, but it’s really up to you how you want to embrace each trend and personalize your kitchen. After all, this central room now serves as the backdrop for many of the little moments that transform any house into a home.

 

To see the latest in kitchen trends and technology, browse Fisher & Paykel’s most recent appliances. Click here or use the map below to find a retailer near you.

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This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.

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