|via The Victoria & Albert Museum|
Any inclination of mine to keep the galley footprint is rooted in recognition of the work of Philip Birnbaum, the architect who designed this building in 1946. Beloved by developers for his efficient use of space and by homeowners for gracious floorplans with lots of windows and natural light, Birnbaum was an architect more renown for his interiors than exteriors, though he's credited with some 300 buildings in New York. I particularly enjoy the subtle drama exhibited in things like his raised dining platforms and sunken living rooms. Who am I to mess with Birnbaum's design?
In fact, galley kitchens weren't unique to this one architect, but were ubiquitous in Jackson Heights construction of the era. To understand why, we need to step back in time.
One early proponent of the galley kitchen was Ladies Home Journal columnist Christine Frederick, an American home economist and author of the 1913 book "New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management." Inspired by time-motion studies of her day that were popularized by Frederick Winslow Taylor — probably best known to us modern folks as the stopwatch carrying dad in stories like "Cheaper by the Dozen"— and similar of his assembly-line and machine-era contemporaries, Christine Frederick was first to apply such efficiency and workflow theories to kitchen design. We have her to thank for the "kitchen triangle" workspace theory.
Frederick's book, translated into German, caught the eye of Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, who was also a student of Taylorism. Hired by German architect Ernst May — who was tasked with solving a post-WW1 housing crisis in the city of Frankfurt by shoehorning some 10,000 livable units of public housing into a city where both money and land were in short supply — Schütte-Lihotzky applied similar workflow principles. Her 1926 "Frankfurt Kitchen" was a compact galley design, inspired by restaurant cars she'd seen on trains.
The Frankfurt Kitchen was a model of efficiency, hygiene, and workflow. But it was also stylish and available in four modern colors: blue, gray, white, and green.
Her design withstands the test of time. You can easily imagine a Frankfurt Kitchen plopped down in a current-day Jackson Heights home, and it wouldn't even seem all that dated.
|via The Victoria & Albert Museum|
|via Sweeten Blog|
|via Jackson Heights Life|
It even had it's detractors in it's heyday.
According to Wikipedia, "Schütte-Lihotzky had designed the kitchen for one adult person only, children or even a second adult had not entered the picture, and in fact, the kitchen was too small for two people to work in. Even one person often was hampered by open cabinet doors."
The biggest complaint I have about my kitchen is that it's a one-cook kitchen. Not only can two people not cook dinner side by side comfortably, but even someone coming in to grab a drink from the refrigerator disrupts the flow. In addition, I find the aisle that probably easily accommodated 1940s appliances is too narrow to fit today's equipment comfortably. When our dishwasher door is open, it blocks the refrigerator. When the oven door is open, I have to stand to the side to remove trays — all well and good when I'm baking cookies, but it becomes treacherous when I'm pulling a sizzling hot 20 pound turkey out of the oven.
It doesn't escape me that in a twist of irony early female pioneers Fredericks and Lihotzky elevated the role of housewife to one worthy of scientific methods and modern design yet at the same time isolated women in a walled-off kitchen, far away from social interaction.
The popularity of the Frankfurt Kitchen was influential and far reaching, and galley style kitchens continued to be a common style of kitchen well into the 1940s and 1950s. But another style was also coming into play mid-century, and that was... you guessed it — the open concept.
|via Old House Online|
Not only could two cooks work side by side, but I'd have room to employ wall ovens, which would make baking easier, safer, and more efficient. I could also locate the refrigerator in a place where anyone might grab a cold drink and not disrupt the flow of cooking or clean-up.
I've seen a few homes in our neighborhood, where former galley kitchens like ours have been reconfigured to open concept, and it's hard not to like what I see.
|via Berkshire Green|
So, what do you think? Galley vs. open concept. Historical accuracy vs. functional design?