Now, enter the world of the kitchen pass-through window, a design element that — by the 1950s — revolutionized home layouts, and how we interact in our living spaces.
History & evolution of the kitchen pass-through window
The concept of the kitchen with a pass-through window marks a significant shift in interior design. Originating in the mid-20th century (but lasting through the 1970s), this feature was a response to the growing preference for open-plan living.
While kitchens had long been traditionally separate, the introduction of pass-through windows in kitchens symbolized a move towards inclusivity and socialization.
These openings allowed for easier serving of food and conversation between the kitchen and dining or living areas, effectively bridging the gap between separate rooms. This transition laid the groundwork for the open-concept floor plans that surged in popularity during the 1980s and beyond.
Current kitchen trends
So are kitchen pass-through windows making a comeback? Well, with the rising trend of retro and mid-century modern aesthetics, it seems like many homeowners are increasingly appreciating the functional charm of a kitchen with a pass-through. This feature not only offers a nod to vintage design, but caters to the contemporary desire for spaces that are both cozy and connected.
Our collection of old magazine clippings from the 1950s through the 1970s provides a fascinating glimpse into the early days of the kitchen pass-through window. These retro pictures showcase a range of styles and uses, highlighting how this design element was both a practical solution and a stylish statement in homes of that era.
Pass-through kitchen windows continue to inspire modern home design… even if most of us don’t go as far as adding them to our houses today.
Still, they serve as a reminder of how our living spaces have evolved to become more open and welcoming, and how elements from the past can be reimagined to suit current lifestyles and preferences.
Want to save steps? Pick a pass-through kitchen window (1957)
Time-saving tip from the experts: Use your head and save your feet — plan an opening in your kitchen-dining wall to scoot food and dishes to the table by the shortest route. Or you might connect your kitchen with the family room, terrace, or porch. Here’s a roundup of multi-purpose pass-throughs for you to choose from.
Smart, built-in pine buffet teams up with pass-through to the kitchen to give this step-saving combination. Guests can line up to help themselves to a smorgasbord at the Albert Marks’ home, Highland Park, Illinois. Or hot foods can go promptly from range to table — no run-around needed. Folding shutters that close off the kitchen when privacy is wanted, are a decorative touch.
Louvered doors fold back in accordion fashion to open the kitchen to the dining room. Serving-work counter can be used from either side. Each of the three drawers under the counter is a two-way slider — put silverware away in the kitchen, take it out in the dining room when setting table. The ceramic-tile panel adds a colorful pattern. The owners of this home are Mr and Mrs Paul Kirkpatrick of Apple Valley, California.
Now you see it, now you don’t! Pull-out shelf, with two side-arm supports, adds extra counter space when needed. The shelf pushes out of sight and out of the way. Sliding panels close entry to the kitchen, cabinets, and drawers offer valuable storage for china and linens. Home of Mr and Mrs Alfred Driscoll, Hollywood.
Wide work counter extends from the kitchen to the family room where it turns into a snack spot. The open section of the wall is small enough to hide any kitchen clutter but plenty large enough to take care of dishes on way to the dishwasher.
Double take. Put dishes away on the kitchen side: open a cabinet in the dining room to set a table or serve. The storage wall has twin chests for silver, linens, and placemats; adjustable shelves for glassware and china. A slick helper for Mr and Mrs Morris Kaplan, Highland Park, Illinois.
Dishwasher’s delight. Dishes land at the “stopover” ledge above the sink where the brush-and-faucet type dishwasher is ready to go into action. Pass-through is a good height for visiting with guests in the family room, yet hides a “worked-on” counter for the Gerald Tambkins, Los Angeles.
Simple 60s kitchen pass-through (1961)
Serving’s a snap in this kitchen with its pass-through from cooking top to table. Cabinets above it are high enough so that when you’re in the kitchen, you don’t have to stoop to see someone seated at the table. Backs of cabinets are used for hanging colorful accessories.
Dining room side of above pass-through kitchen window
Double pass-through windows in kitchen in this midcentury modern home
Adapted from House Beautiful magazine (1964)
It’s useful to have the kitchen in a direct working relationship with the rooms it serves. In this home, there is a pass-through to the entry gallery. The host can tend the bar from the living-room side for small gatherings, while a professional bartender can work from the kitchen side.
The pass-through to the dining room is perfectly situated between range and sink for serving and clearing without congestion. Nearby is an enclosed porch with a sliding glass door. The outside walls, facing the terrace, are double-thickness insulating glass. The inner porch is used for family meals the year around; it shows at right in the photograph below.
Below, both pass-throughs are open. Through the one at left, you see the living room in the distance. Through the other is the dining room.
Match your cabinetry in both rooms
View from dining room toward kitchen, with pass-through open, shows importance of matching quality of cabinetry in both rooms. Color of tile of kitchen side of counter relates to travertine on dining-room side. Drawers for silver; pull-out trays for linens. Infrared light (under speaker) keeps food hot until time for serving.
Dining-room table and the light above it, designed by Leslie Larson, were made by Master Craft Cabinet Shop, Hoboken, NJ. All interior woodwork was done by this firm. Matching speakers above far counter are wired for stereo from master system in the living ‘room, shown on facing page. Travertine, used on the floor in all traffic areas, will never wear out here, is easy to keep.