In postwar America, modern kitchens became a prominent symbol of the American way of life. The heart of the suburban, single-family home, kitchens were stocked with the latest processed foods and filled with electric labor-saving appliances. Suburban builders like William Levitt promoted and reinforced the kitchen’s significance, relocating it from the back to the front of the house and integrating it with the living and dining rooms. Popular magazines advertised kitchens as status symbols, while manufacturers encouraged consumers to transform their kitchens into showcases of progress.
Julia Child’s real kitchen stands both in contrast to and in harmony with the sleek and modern ideal promoted for American suburban dwellers of the 1950s and ’60s. With her husband Paul, Julia Child designed and set up this kitchen in 1961. As a serious cook, author, and teacher, Julia had strong opinions about how her kitchen should be arranged. Its homey atmosphere, with simple, painted cabinetry and butcher-block countertops contrasts with the shiny surfaces pictured in kitchen brochures of the time. Yet her embrace of new appliances was very much in keeping with ideas of a “new and improved” kitchen.