Kitchen and Farmhouse Design Plans

A Step-Saving Kitchen

The National Archives has digitized a 1949 film from the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics: A Step-Saving Kitchen. The home economist who appears in and narrates the film is Lenore E. Sater, the co-author of "A Step-Saving U Kitchen."

The woman shown working in the kitchen is dressed in one of the aprons described in Farmer's Bulletin Number 1963: Dresses and Aprons for Work in the Home. The author of this Bulletin is Clarice Scott and she is credited in the film for her "functional house dresses."

Click the arrow to play the video. A transcript of the narration appears below.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a brochure and the shooting script for this film:

A Step-Saving Kitchen.jpg

A Step-Saving Kitchen: Motion Picture in Color (1949)

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bureau of Home Economics

Program Aid Number 67

"A kitchen planned as an efficient workshop — where a woman's work may be done with the least walking, stooping, lifting, and stretching — is demonstrated in this motion picture. It is a two-reel film, in color, with a narration sound track.

This U-shaped kitchen was designed by housing and household equipment specialists of the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics under the supervision of Miss Lenore Sater. In the film Miss Sater explains the basic principles used in planning the kitchen and shows how jobs are streamlined by the well-planned, adequate storage and work space."

A Step-Saving Kitchen Final Script 1.jpg

A Step-Saving Kitchen: Final Script Production Number 1045 (1948)

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Motion Picture Service U.S. Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics

"Demonstrating a U-shaped kitchen developed by the housing staff of the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics"


A Step-Saving Kitchen (Transcript)

(Home Economist):

"These plans were developed for people just like you. People who are interested in having the very latest ideas in design that will help them cut down on the time and the effort that must be spent in doing kitchen work. Since you folks have an old fashioned kitchen, you know the amount of stooping and reaching that must be done, and the running from one corner of the kitchen to the other. During the last few years, our bureau and the land grant colleges have received hundreds of requests from farm homemakers asking for suggestions that would help them do their kitchen work faster and more easily. That's why we've developed this kitchen."

(Male Client):

"Well, just how did you go about developing the design for this new kitchen?"

(Home Economist):

"We based our planning on established principles of work simplification to supply storage space and work space for all the activities that take place there--arranged for maximum convenience, and with good working heights, and good light. Incidentally, we developed this U-arranged kitchen first, but the principles of planning we used, we can apply to other arrangements such as the "L" and the "corridor" type.

Laboratory research in our bureau and in the state agricultural experiment stations has made evident many of the requirements of a good kitchen. For example, we have learned that more counter space is required for the making of cookies and bread than for any other mixing operation. Experiments have shown that we need at least 36 inches and that 42 inches is a more desirable length for the mixing counter. Different kitchen jobs have been studied to determine the most comfortable working height for each. To obtain different heights in our kitchen, we used pullout boards. We designed revolving corner cupboards to make the greatest use of available space. These bring things out in the open so they're easily seen and reached. Models for many features were made and experimented with. Some were used, some discarded.

Good lighting is important in the kitchen. To obtain this, we developed a design for a homemade fixture which would enable the farmer to use modern lighting at minimum cost. A shallow wooden trough, in which we mounted four 40 watt fluorescent tubes was hung 8 inches from the ceiling, above the work centers. And finally our kitchen began to take form.

The units for each activity were put together to secure an orderly sequence of work. We planned this kitchen to take care of the preparation of food, eating, clearing, and some food preservation.

(Phone ringing)

As a convenient place for the telephone, and for making out menus and market orders, we also included a planning center. The planning desk is actually a drop-leaf table on casters which can become a tea-cart or an extra work or dining table.

By placing a large picture window across the end of the kitchen, we gain the benefit of natural light over all work surfaces. Since most women prefer to work from right to left, we placed the mixing center in the right leg of the U between the refrigerator and the sink center.

In the mixing center, as in all other work areas we planned storage facilities to take care of all of the supplies and the equipment used in that center. These revolving corner shelves make it possible to store the heavy, and frequently used foods near working level. They are roomy enough to hold all of the staple supplies used here. Just below counter level, shallow drawers give handy access to small equipment used in the mixing center. Even in the best of kitchens, one will have to stoop sometimes. Store here only things used occasionally, like picnic supplies, extra-large baking utensils, and odds and ends. See how easy it is to get at what you want. We designed the smaller top shelf for long-handled pans to allow full use of the shelf space below. Space ordinarily wasted is utilized to advantage by the built-in bins for flour and sugar. Another advantage is that they eliminate canisters which take up counter surface. Behind the door, a container holding 40 pounds of flour feeds into the smaller bin below. Top shelf space is used to good advantage by vertical files for baking pans. This does away with stacking, and with stooping, or excessive reaching. This mixing center, like the other centers in our kitchen embodies all the principles of good planning. Thus it has plenty of work surface at comfortable height, well-lighted by natural and artificial lighting, with everything needed, stored within easy reach.

For sitting at work, this pullout board at lap level--26 inches above the floor--gives a good working height. It permits a woman to sit comfortably in an ordinary kitchen chair with a good backrest, her feet flat on the floor while she's working at long and tedious jobs. To supply additional work surface in food preservation, the table from the planning center can be easily rolled over and placed next to the pullout board.

To the left of the mixing counter is the vegetable preparation and dishwashing center. With knife rack and utensil cupboard at the right, vegetables in front of her, and sink at the left, this worker has a step saving set-up for preparing vegetables. A garbage hatch in the counter eliminates stooping and avoids repeated handling of garbage. The pail in the metal-lined compartment below can be removed for emptying from the outside through an insulated door in the wall.

All bins and the compartments into which they fit are designed for easy cleaning.

In the cooking and serving center are all the supplies and equipment used at the range. Right above the range, are bins built into the wall for food such as cereals that go directly into boiling water, and also for seasonings that are used at the range.

(Timer buzzes)

Notice how these doors fold back safely out of the way. Serving dishes and range utensils are close at hand. A serving counter next to the range is convenient to the dish cupboards. Sliding doors back at this counter and cupboard give access from the dining room side.

In the dishwashing center, dishes are scraped directly into the garbage hatch and stacked, ready for washing. A double bowl sink provides for both washing and draining. The one on the right is shallow, about 5 inches deep, making for a comfortable height for dishwashing. The drainer hangs across the deeper bowl with room at the side for emptying liquids. This bowl, because of its depth--8 inches--is also satisfactory for washing large quantities of fruits and vegetables. Just back of the faucets is a cupboard for storing soaps and cleaning supplies. Extra supplies and a handy waste paper basket are kept under the sink. After they're scalded and dried, silver, glass, and dishes are stored in adjoining cupboards. Here's a handy rack for drying dish towels.

Out of the way of meal preparation is this storage closet. Besides cleaning equipment, it has a rack for first-aid supplies, convenient for emergencies. The upper section is reserved for a few jars of canned foods, saving trips to the food storage room.

This serving counter, adjacent to the range is convenient to both the dining room and the kitchen dining table. This attractive dining space has been planned to be compact, but not cramped. It gives ample room for a table that can be extended to seat 6 comfortably. A ledge under the large picture window is wide enough to hold the electrical equipment used at the table. Shelves below give convenient storage space.

In this kitchen that has made her task of food preparation so much lighter, the housewife can share her family's enjoyment at mealtime."

(Working drawings of this kitchen are available through the regional plan exchange service. Consult the agricultural engineer at your state agricultural college. He will have the plans or can tell you where to get them.

Video available at: