The kitchen niche: Gertrude Bray and the heart of the home

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Description of Activity

In Britain, self-taught Leeds architect and socialist feminist Gertrude Bray (1906-1992) pioneered a new kind of kitchen design in her speculatively built modest houses: the kitchen niche. In the historiography of the kitchen, this alternative layout has been overlooked and Bray has been forgotten. The 1926 Frankfurt kitchen has been writ large and positioned as the first modern kitchen. Designed by Austrian architect Grete Schütte-Lihotzky for municipal housing, this positioned women as managing housework alone without paid help through efficient processes in a compact space and separated cooking from eating. There is an irony in that positioning women as efficient workers, the Frankfurt kitchen replicated the isolation and loneliness that working-class women had experienced as domestic servants. This lecture seeks to restore Gertrude Bray to her rightful place in history. It will argue that her “cooking-recess” proposed an alternative more sociable and practical kitchen as the heart of the home, which addressed women’s practical needs. It enabled those with children to keep an eye on them while they cooked and allowed them to talk to family or friends while they worked.
Period8 Mar 2023
Event titleInternational Woman's Day lecture 2023,
Event typeOther
LocationPortsmouth, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • kitchens
  • kitchen history
  • architecture
  • housing
  • social history
  • design history