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Experts and homeowners alike agree — the kitchen is the most essential space in the house. It’s where household members whip up traditional family recipes, parents and children bond at dinner, and kids do their homework. At parties, it’s not unusual for guests to stand around the island or to have multiple hands preparing holiday dishes. That’s why many prospective homebuyers question the average kitchen size and how much room they require to meet their needs.
The size of your kitchen is relative to your home’s overall square footage. Traditional homes may have much smaller kitchens than new construction. Likewise, a 3,500-square-foot home will have a much roomier space than a house that’s 1,600 square feet. As you can imagine, a New York City apartment will have the tiniest kitchen of all.
Amid the ever-changing standard kitchen measurements, you might wonder if the average kitchen size is big enough for you. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from the kitchen in different-sized homes.
Less Was More in Mid-Century Kitchens
English country kitchens — depicted beautifully in shows like Downton Abbey — were once drafty, more industrial spaces run by maids and cooks. Across the pond, early American kitchens resembled the European-style cooking space — simple, traditional and built on necessity instead of aesthetics.
However, by the 1920s and 1930s — amid societal changes and a restructuring of gender norms — kitchens became more domesticated in the home. Electric-run appliances replaced wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, while women began incorporating decorative elements to match the rest of the house. Following the start of the Cold War, Americans purchased 20 million refrigerators and 5.5 million stoves — consumerism at its finest.
Although some households continued to employ house staff, the kitchen went from a wide-open area to a scaled-down room. Of course, appliances were much smaller back then to fit the U-shape setup.
The average kitchen size was under 100 square feet — sometimes down to 70 square feet, depending on the overall size of the house. Because homes had become much tighter then, cramped kitchens became the norm.
Average Kitchen Size in Today’s Homes
Today, the average kitchen is around 100-square feet, relative to the overall 1,000 and 2,000 square feet in most new and existing homes in the United States. Often, layouts vary between U-shape, G-shape, L-shape, single-wall and galley. Many also include a peninsula or kitchen island.
Homeowners who live in an older home might have remnants of the mid-century kitchen, which may be frustrating if you like to cook. As appliances have also become bulkier, the standard kitchen shrinks significantly.
People like countertop space, plenty of storage, special nooks and barstool seating, which could take some creativity to fit comfortably. Remember that a kitchen island should only take up 10% of a kitchen’s square footage. Of course, a coat of white paint on dark cabinets reflects light to make a smaller kitchen feel much grander.
Massive Kitchens in Large Homes
In June 2023, global superstar Rihanna listed her Beverly Hills Tudor-style mansion for $10.5 million — a whopping 5,100 square feet of living space with a single-wall kitchen and an island.
Elsewhere in Beverly Hills, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez recently purchased a mammoth-sized 38,000-square-foot mansion — one can only imagine the size of their new kitchen.
Large kitchens are standard — and intricately embellished with the finest finishes and most upgraded technology — when you live in a big house. Even a 2,600-square-foot home now has a huge cooking area for social gatherings and family downtime. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to see 400-square-foot kitchens as part of open-floor plans in homes over 3,000 square feet.
Typically, though, the average kitchen size in a larger-than-normal house is about 288 square feet, in whatever layout you prefer.
Will the Average Kitchen Size Evolve Again?
After spending over a year locked in their houses, homeowners have grown well-acquainted with their kitchens. Although restaurants have reopened across the country following COVID-19 restrictions, many continue to embrace cooking at home and eating together as a family.
As such, home design experts believe kitchen spaces will evolve to include dining and living areas simultaneously. For example, custom breakfast nooks may become the norm, providing a cozier, more intimate dining room.
The need for ample storage — cabinets, drawers and pantry space — also has many wondering whether you can build functionality without additional square footage. Likewise, smart appliances are only getting bigger as they become more advanced. For this reason, more space is necessary.
Do you remember people stocking up on dry goods during the pandemic? It sparked an unprecedented return of the butler’s pantry — a popular upper-class staging and storage area during the 19th and 20th centuries. Additionally, smaller back kitchens — hidden in a small alcove off the central kitchen — are more commonplace in new construction.
Of course, kitchens of this scale demand a lot of room to work with. On the opposite end, as open-floor concepts drop in popularity — requests for open-floor plans were down by 41% from 2018 to 2021 — a smaller kitchen may suffice for some people.
It’s hard to determine what shifting preferences will do to change the average kitchen size. However, you can rest assured the standard 100 square feet will stick around for the long haul.
Only you can decide whether your cooking area is the right size and layout for your household. Fortunately, you can hire a contractor or designer to rework your kitchen setup so it’s comfortable for you and your household.
The Size of Your Kitchen Is Relative
You can expect the average kitchen size to increase the larger your home is. As such, the standard measurements are strictly relative. There are always methods to make a smaller kitchen feel slightly bigger with lighter finishes.
You likely spend most of your time in the kitchen, so ensure it best reflects your style preferences. Regardless of size, your special decorative touch can transform the room into the kitchen of your dreams.