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Design Elements in a 1930s Farmhouse Kitchen

Mary Cockrill

The Great Depression of the 1930s left many people penniless and had a tremendous impact on the lifestyles -- and by extension -- the kitchens of America. City and farmhouse kitchen design elements of the 1930s were very different. Even though electricity was wired into many city homes during this era, rural farmhouses were some of the last to see this modern improvement. Wood stoves, icebox refrigerators, canning supplies, Hoosier cabinets, kerosene lamps and oversized kitchen sinks were common design elements of the 1930s farmhouse.

Ice Box

A 1930s farmhouse kitchen was equipped with canning jars and supplies.

It was unlikely that a 1930s farmhouse kitchen had the luxury of an electric refrigerator. Its predecessor was the ice box, constructed of three separate compartments. One held a large block of ice, another accommodated perishable food and the last compartment was a drip pan, which collected water from the melting ice. Antique ice boxes or reproductions add authentic character to the 1930s farmhouse design.

Pie Safe

Pie safes were an essential element of many 1930s farmhouse kitchens. Crafted as a rectangular cupboard with two doors incorporating metal pierced panels, the design allowed fresh air to circulate throughout the cupboard. According to Roy Beard, who lived in a 1930s Missouri farmhouse as a young boy, the kitchen pie safe was used to cool his mother's homemade, fresh-baked fruit pies.

Hoosier Cabinet

The Hoosier cabinet history can be traced back to the baker's cabinets of the 1800s. The farmhouse kitchen in the 1930s utilized the free-standing, multipurpose Hoosier cabinet. Upper cabinet sections included bins for flour, sugar and other dry staples. The flour bin could hold up to 50 lbs. of flour and incorporated a flour sifter. Utensils were stored in drawers, while shelves held dishes, bowls and glasses. A pull-out cutting and pastry board was a useful feature in baking.


Easy to clean oilcloth tablecloths, cast iron skillets, canning jars and clear dishes given away in boxes of oatmeal were kitchen boyhood memories of 1930s Missouri farmhouse dweller, Roy Beard. Kerosene lamps lit up the rustic kitchen table, where homemade food, family and conversation were top priorities. Metal dish pans or white farmhouse sinks were other design elements characteristic of a 1930s farmhouse kitchen.