Kitchens can be places for gathering and eating or spaces just for putting meals together. How well the kitchen matches the needs of the people using it can make or break a home buying or remodeling decision. Choosing between an efficient, set-off space just for cooking and an open layout for prepping and socializing is a big consideration for many, and making a better kitchen has been an ongoing task of design.
A 1946 U.S. study counted the actual steps housewives used to prepare a meal, finding that an "ideal layout" would lead to a dinner needing only 70 steps and the least efficient would need 454 [source: LIFE Magazine]. Their suggested design put appliances, cabinetry, and drawers on just two walls of the kitchen; this layout may be a forerunner to contemporary kitchens that use islands for additional counter and storage space and for the added eat-in counter, which changed the "L" to a "U" design.
An earlier German kitchen study of sorts, the Frankfurt kitchen (1926), is a model of domestic efficiency due to its very small size and easy to clean materials and layout, but at just 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) by 11.2 feet (3.4 meters) it is mostly a solo space [source: Moonan].
Designers borrowed elements of each of these studies, and the kitchen of today is often a small, windowless space for preparing food or a large, less efficient eat-in space that brings the kitchen and dining rooms into the living areas, along with the un-vented and sometimes lingering aromas of cabbage, curry and garlic.