It's generally true that the size of an American residential kitchen has increased over the years as the overall footprint of the average newly built home has increased. But at all points in history, these averages are more governed by home style and affluence than by historical design norms.
Large, luxury homes have always tended to have larger kitchen (attached or separate from the home). There are also regional and demographic variations. For example, suburban homes always tend to have larger kitchens than do urban homes, and homes in the Southwest tend to have larger kitchens than those in the Northeast.
Generally speaking, though, residential kitchens in the U.S. have gradually evolved into expanded spaces that serve social functions as well as food preparation.
Residential Kitchens Over the Years
Before 1900: Average home size was smaller than it is today, and the kitchen occupied a small area of the home. Appliances, including stoves, were huge free-standing appliances that took up most of the space; much of the food storage was done in separate pantries. The kitchen was largely a hidden space, not used for dining or socializing. An exception is found in the rural farm kitchen, which was often a very large space where meals were served.
Early 1900s: Homes remained fairly small, on average, very gradually increasing until 1950. Kitchens also remained fairly small rooms, but space-saving gas, electric appliances, and efficient cabinetry began to make kitchens more functional. Small informal dining areas within the kitchen space became more common. This led builders to construct somewhat larger kitchens.
1950s to 1980s: Home sizes gradually increased. With the increase in house size, kitchen sizes gradually increased, as well. As built-in appliances and efficient cabinetry grew more common, this made the kitchen more usable. Informal family meals are now often served at a small table or breakfast nook.
1980s to present: Sizes of newly built homes gradually increased to the current average of 2,600 square feet. Kitchen sizes in new homes have increased even faster, since the trend has been for kitchens to increasingly serve a social function. In newly built homes, kitchens may have large dining areas and open space for entertaining, and older homes have often seen major remodeling projects that devoted more space to the kitchen. Kitchens that are 400 square feet or larger are now quite common in large homes. Kitchens now are often part of open-concept room designs, blurring the distinction between the kitchen and living room.
Average Kitchen Sizes in Today's Homes
When all homes are considered (separate residential homes of all ages, as well as condos and townhomes) the average home size in the U.S. is about 1,500 square feet, according to U.S. Census Bureau. But the average size of today's newly built home is about 2,600 square feet, up a full 1,000 square feet from the average new home built in the 1970s. This discrepancy between newly built vs. existing homes leads to a wide variance in estimates of kitchen sizes, depending on the source.
The size of your kitchen is likely dependent on the age of the home, and on what kind of major remodeling has been done over the years.
Diverse statistics are provided from the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA):
- Overall, average kitchens in the U.S. are about 161 square feet in single-story homes and 174 square feet in multi-story homes.
- In homes under 1,500 square feet, the average kitchen is 103 square feet.
- In homes over 4,000 square feet, the average kitchen is 238 square feet.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), average sizes of kitchens in new homes tend to be proportionate to the overall footprint of the home itself:
- Homes under 2,000 square feet: average kitchen size, 195 square feet
- Homes 2,000 to 2,900 square feet: average kitchen size: 288 square feet
- Homes 3,000 square feet plus: average kitchen size 424 square feet
The seeming discrepancy between these statistics is because the NAHB study deals with new home construction, while the NKBA figures include all existing homes.
Characteristics of New Housing. U.S. Department of Commerce
New NKBA Research Defines Average Kitchen Sizes Across America. National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Spaces in New Homes. National Association of Home Builders