Kitchen and Farmhouse Design Plans

Designing and Testing the USDA Kitchens

The professionals of the Bureau of Home Economics used established work principles and practical experience gained in their laboratories to develop kitchen design plans that would be efficient and functional for the public.

The film, "A Step-Saving Kitchen" documented some of the steps taken in this process:

Different kitchen counter heights were tested by Bureau staff to determine which ones were optimal for comfort and performance.

USDA workers testing kitchen counter heights


Lenore E. Sater, Housing and Equipment Specialist in the Bureau of Home Economics and co-author of "A Step-Saving U Kitchen," is shown here with a USDA carpenter conferring on a kitchen cabinet design.


USDA specialist Lenore Sater confers with colleague on design of a kitchen shelf


Bureau staff would produce drawings of kitchen designs that would be:


sketch of kitchen design


...transformed into working plans and ...


design for step-saving U kitchen

A Step-Saving U Kitchen (1949), p. 2


...fully realized in working models at their USDA laboratories in Beltsville, Maryland:


working model of a step-saving kitchen


Bureau staff would then test the models as they engaged in the normal kitchen tasks of food preparation, cooking, and cleaning.


home economist mixing food


Design changes would be made based on the findings of the work done in the laboratory.


home economist cooking food


Alternate designs were prepared for those homemakers who required accommodations based on physical differences. These designs were codified in a particular set of models termed "The Beltsville Kitchen-Workroom With Energy Saving Features."


home economist preserving food while sitting


The next section of the exhibit shows the actual plans of the kitchens designed by the Bureau of Home Economics and published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for public use. All of these plans have been digitized and are available in full-text format.