New Kitchen Built to Fit Your Wife (Sep, 1953)

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New Kitchen Built to Fit Your Wife

Tall, short or medium-sized, she’s bound to save energy in this kitchen.

By Gardner Soule

BUILD the cabinets to fit the woman. Build the shelves to fit the supplies.

Build the kitchen to fit the family.

Starting with these three principles, Cornell University has re-engineered the most-used room in the house.

The result is a kitchen equipped with:

• Cabinet counter tops that are adjustable—even after installation—to fit a woman of any height, or arm length.

• Shelves or other provision for storing all food and equipment.

• Separate work center tailored to fit your family now, and ready to be taken down any time by a handy man for rearrangement to meet new family needs. All these things, and many other fresh ideas, were included in the kitchen because so many experts worked on it. The experts came from the campus, from manufacturers, from federal, state and private agencies. Their work was coordinated by Glenn H. Beyer, professor of Housing and Design, and director of Housing Research Center at Cornell.

“Build the cabinets to fit the woman,” was the first Cornell principle.

How do you tell? There are no tables listing the right counter heights for women of different heights. There can’t be. If there were, the varying arm lengths of women would throw off the tables.

Counter Tops to Be Raised or Lowered

Cornell solved the problem with adjustable counter tops. Any woman can learn, from a few days’ experience, where her most comfortable working surface is, then have her husband put the counter top there—or do it herself. The counter top is held up by vertical spacers inserted into parallel rows of holes in the inner frame of the cabinet. They’re like the supports at both ends of adjustable bookshelves.

To learn more about the woman, and so to fit her better, Cornell’s home-economics department borrowed a method right out of the football team’s bag of tricks.

Like most colleges, Cornell takes movies of its games and studies slow-motion pictures of them. The home-economics department photographed, in very slow motion, many women at work in many kitchens. The Cornell kitchen was planned according to results of these films.

Almost no women, they showed, ever used the oven and range top for the same kitchen job. So Cornell separated oven from range. It put the oven next to the refrigerator, and built both oven and refrigerator into one work center at a waist-high level.

The Cornell kitchen thus is not a collection of separate stove, icebox, sink, and cabinets, like an ordinary kitchen. Instead, it consists of five work centers— the oven-and-refrigerator, mix, sink, range, and serve centers.

The centers are planned around the ideas of Mrs. Mary Koll Heiner, among others. Mrs. Heiner is associate professor in Cornell’s home-management department, and a woman who for 35 years has worked to simplify the labor of the homemaker.

Mrs. Heiner and her associates, some years back, came up with a new principle to help the cabinets fit the woman. It is called the principle of storage at the point of first use. It means everything in the kitchen is kept where the home-maker will use it first.

This principle of storage at point of first use saves literally miles of walking.

Researchers Were Sent Out

“Build the shelves to fit the supplies,” was the second Cornell precept.

Professor Beyer—with the assistance of housing-research staff members from the State University of New York and the U. S. Department of Agriculture—sent droves of researchers into homes from Maine to West Virginia to find out what was kept in kitchens. They found that, regardless of family size, most housewives keep about the same amount of food and supplies on hand, and have about the same equipment. Only exception to the rule are perishables like bread.

So the Cornell kitchen has a place for everything U. S. families keep in kitchens. Most supplies are stored between 30 and 60 inches off the floor, making reaching for them easier.

“Build the kitchen to fit the family,” was Cornell’s third and last rule.

Architect Frank Weise of Philadelphia took the ideas produced by Professor. Beyer and Mrs. Heiner, and all the other experts, and put them into work centers designed as you see them in the photographs and drawings.

Range, mix, and serve centers are each four feet long; the refrigerator-oven center, six feet; the sink center, eight feet. Grouped as a U, they can all go into eight by 12 feet. That’s all the space you need for a complete Cornell kitchen.

Or the work centers can form an L, or go along a long wall. This leaves more room for your child to play, for a breakfast nook or an easy chair.

The work centers are free standing-do not have to fasten to the wall. They can run right across the middle of the floor, and divide a big room into a kitchen and room for a laundry or other purpose.

Easy to Put Up

For the handy man’s convenience, the Cornell kitchen will be made largely of standardized doors, counters, trays, and other parts, and it is planned for simple erection. This consists mainly of bolting cabinets to the back C frames supporting them, and attaching cabinets to floors with bolts that adjust for differences in floor level. “It is,” says Beyer, “a one-man job—no more trouble than making something with an Erector set.”

Almost any color, including natural wood, will be available when the kitchen is manufactured. Cornell hopes it will be on the market sometime in 1954. For more information now, write the Mailing Room, Roberts Hall. Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y., send $1, and ask for the booklet. The Cornell Kitchen.

The kitchen, once in manufacture, will be a contradiction in terms:

• It will be mass-produced and therefore moderate in price.

• Though mass-produced, it will also be custom-built—because it can be arranged to suit any family’s needs.

You will even be able to take down the Cornell kitchen and carry it along when you move. That is, if the people who buy your house will let you.

  1. Blurgle says: July 31, 200711:41 am

    You’d think that building the shelves to fit the supplies would be self-evident, wouldn’t you? But before the time of pre-fabricated shelves, contractors often cut corners. Owners would end up with houses where the shelves were too shallow to hold dinner plates and too short to hold a box of rice.

  2. Rigo says: November 24, 20071:21 pm

    Yeah we live in a pretty old house and it’s like that. no room for anything.

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