It’s funny to think how many times a day a person walks through their kitchen and never pay attention to what is in the room. Day in and day out we eat, clean, sit and sometimes work in our kitchen but nothing particular stands out. And then BAM! Suddenly this kitchen doesn’t look all that great. The walls are a crappy color, the cabinets could be treated; the counter tops are ancient and let’s not even start on the antiquated hardware. Stainless steel is all the rage and you’ve got grandma’s ol’ reliable to cook on, yuck!
As you look around you start to feel your mood dim but just as quickly your mood brightens until it’s a shinning beacon of the light bulb clicking on above your head: It’s time to redecorate! It’s time to make your kitchen your masterpiece, every awesome-or gut wrenching for the guys-step of the way. So pull out those magazines, paint samples, countertop pieces, cabinet fixtures, and hardware estimates to create your dream kitchen!
Unfortunately, this was not the general consensus during the Victorian Era (1830-1900). In fact, the kitchen was barely a consideration to homeowners. Hardly any improvements were made to kitchens until the 19th Century and that was based on high health and safety issues. Kitchens during this time were not seen or used by homeowners, just the kitchen workers. So the slogan for kitchens of this time: “Not Seen, No Worries.”
The kitchens themselves were a network of rooms that included a scullery, larder, butler’s pantry and storeroom. The scullery was a room used to wash dishes-lucky 21st Century with automatic dishwashers-clean silverware, and extra storage. A larder was used to actually store any and all foods, today we would call this our pantries. The butler’s pantry was a lavish expansion found only in larger homes. This room was used to make final preparations to food displays and to store the intercom system, a system that consisted of rope pulls and bells-not to be confused with electronic intercoms found in homes today.
The layout of a Victorian kitchen was built without work counters and relied more on large table found in the center of the room-today we have kitchen islands and counters, go 21st Century! Open shelving was also incorporated to display china and cutlery; shelving would gradually shift toward glass cabinet fronts. Also commonalities of these kitchens include dressers with shelves and an icebox. During the 1840s the icebox was a box with a big block of ice, a minor improvement came in the 1860s were the box was wooden and insulated with crushed chunks of ice. And we modern types frown when we have to press a button for crushed, cubed or shaved ice to appear.
Floors were standardized to brick, marble, tile or hardware flooring that was varnished. The placement of rugs and carpets were also permitted but bear flooring could be accepted. Lighting was limited during the 19th Century to candles and oil lamps. During the 1860s gas lamps came into existence to display windows that were either covered with various fabric curtains or left bare. Just image all the time taken to figure if 21st Century kitchens should have wall sconces, lamps, flush mounts, monorail or overheard fluorescent lights. It would seem people of the Victorian Era might have had the right idea to ignore the kitchen and skip the anxiety of redoing a kitchen, who knows?
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Barbara Heil-Sonneck has been featured in several publications. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Home Improvement Magazine, Radio Shows and was selected to be one of 8 Designers showcasing their work at the 2010 Atlanta Homeshow
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