From 1900 to 1960, kitchens in American homes were relatively small and often less than 250 square feet. In 1945, the typical kitchen was about 12' x 15' square for a total of 205 sq. ft. Into that small space, the homemaker stored her cooking utensils, daily pantry goods, dishes, cleaning supplies, range, and refrigerator. If well-laid out, it made for a cozy, but functional space.
Drawers were more often used than now with various sized incorporated into the cabinet layout so a cook could house many different tools and goods. Counters were often tile or linoleum. Floors were linoleum, too, and two toned with a single solid color in the center with a wide contrasting border around the room or a geometric design. Then as now, the most popular placement for the sink was on an outside wall with a window so doing dishes also meant watching kids at play outside or simply presented an opportunity to daydream.
If life wasn't better in the good old days, it was certainly simpler. The mound of stuff we store in our kitchens now would dwarf the modest possessions of our grandmother's. Our shelf of dozens of cookbooks, was typically limited to just a select few such as Betty Crocker, Better Homes & Gardens, a church cookbook typed and assembled by the Women's Guild, and maybe one or two others. Because food was prepared from scratch, cooking was often basic. Bread might be "store bought" but it was just as likely to be made several loaves at a time at home a couple times a week. Vegetables came fresh from the garden during the summer, or out of the basement cellar in quart Mason jars during the winter. Milk was delivered twice a week to the doorstep and it was common for each family to have a few laying hens for eggs. The exotic gourmet cooking that is so common now, was virtually unheard of in 1940 or 1950.
The small 1940s kitchen had no dishwasher, trash compactor, and few had garbage disposals though they existed. The wood stove of the early century was replaced during the 1920s and 30s with gas and electric ranges. By the 1950s, the kitchen range was a testament of American ingenuity second only to the automobile in state-of-art industrial design. It was huge with clocks, timers, and built-in stock pots. The oven on one side was complemented with a handy warming oven on the other.
The other huge kitchen innovation was the refrigerator. For the first time in history, food could be prepared, eaten, and leftovers safely stored for several days without exposing one's entire family to a bout of food poisoning. Like the range, the refrigerator replaced the icebox with a huge modern convenience that quickly became essential. Between the range, refrigerator, and hot running water, American life and eating habits were transformed.
One amenity in homes of the 1920s and 30s was the breakfast nook, which was frequently incorporated into the kitchen itself or located between the kitchen and dining room. In the January 1946 issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, ideas for little kitchens were published with an eye to correcting that deficiency:
The color scheme for this little vintage kitchen featured aqua walls with white molding trim and cabinetry, and of course, appliances. The divider between kitchen and nook was turquoise with tiles of white, sea green and russet red. The floors were garnet red linoleum as were the counters which were banded in stainless steel trim. Lemon yellow accents were scattered throughout. The dining nook was accented with turquoise green and a more vibrant red in the upholstery of the benches. Copper molds, once a mainstay of kitchen decor, ornamented the wall behind the nook.