Kitchens and bathrooms

Art deco kitchens and bathrooms are likely to have been renovated to incorporate modern appliances and services.

Original details

The kitchen was usually located towards the rear of the house, and featured extensive built-in shelving as well as new appliances such as electric or gas stoves and, sometimes, refrigerators.

Though gas stoves had already replaced coal ranges in regions where reticulated gas was available, by the early 1930s electric stoves were becoming more readily available and were popular for their clean heat, ease of use and perceived safety – an aspect that was heavily promoted by manufacturers.

It is likely that most art deco houses had hot water systems. Most often, the kitchen hot water would be supplied by a gas califont or “geyser”, located either above the sink or in the bathroom above the bath.

It was not until the 1930s that household electricity wiring capable of carrying the necessary load for water heating was installed in New Zealand houses. Even then, the wiring was not generally capable of carrying the load for both water heating and cooking at the same time, so a switch was used to control the direction of electrical flow. Where installed, electric hot water cylinders were installed in a cupboard in the kitchen, often with slatted timber shelving beside or above the cylinder for airing or drying clothes or linen.

A chip-heater, generally located in the kitchen, was another means of providing hot water. Water was contained in a water jacket and surrounded a small fire box. It could burn all manner of burnable waste as well as kindling and could efficiently heat small quantities of water.

The kitchen storage often covered a whole wall. Some kitchens also had built-in tables (see other joinery for more detail). The sink bench was typically terrazzo or stainless steel, and was 450-500 mm deep, not the 600 mm that is usual today.

Common modifications

Kitchens are unlikely to be original. However, if a kitchen is still largely in the original condition, it is unlikely to be able to easily accommodate some of the more recently available appliances such as a dishwasher or a large stove, because of the narrower benchtops.

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Original details

An art deco house typically had one bathroom, located at the end of the hallway.

Bathrooms usually included a built-in bath, and a wall-hung or a pedestal handbasin. Where there was a good supply of hot water, they may also include a shower.

Coloured sanitaryware was a popular option, and baths, toilets and basins could be bought in shades of pink, blue, yellow or green.

The toilet was sometimes in the bathroom. Otherwise it would be in a room adjacent to the bathroom. Larger houses often featured a guest toilet.

Many art deco toilets had a cistern at chest height, usually a copper liner encased in a timber box, with a handle for flushing on the side or the centre. Ceramic cisterns were also available.

In some houses, the flushing system had no water storage tank but used water directly from the main water supply line.

As noted above, water heating was typically provided either by a gas califont or an electric hot water system.

Common modifications

The most common alterations include the installation of a new hand basin or vanity, the installation of a shower cubicle in addition to or replacing the bath, or a shower over the bath.

Significant bathroom modifications are likely to have included new wall and ceiling linings.

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The laundry was located at the rear of the house and typically accessed from the rear porch. As with the bungalow layout, the kitchen, bathroom and laundry were generally located close to each other to make the plumbing easier.

Although washing machines were starting to become widely available during the 1930s, copper boilers appear to have been more commonly used during this time. By this stage they were more likely to be gas-fired than coal-fired.

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Plumbing and drainage

Common problems include low hot water pressure, and deteriorating pipework – especially if the pipework was upgraded in the 1960s. Read more.

Electricity and gas

Some art deco houses will need rewiring, either to replace unsafe wiring or to increase the number of power outlets. Read more.