In the early 1930s, gas range manufacturers found a way to hide the gas manifold behind the sheet metal body, and cookers on spindly cabriole legs quickly assumed a new marketing persona as the chest of drawers range. Covers that pulled down over the burner left the appliance hardly recognizable as a stove, according to ads.
In the tight times of the Depression, some manufacturers suggested their ranges might even double as tables. Drawer-type handles and decorative legs continued the notion that ranges were furniture—even down to paint finishes that aped materials like marble or wood.
By the end of the decade, the built-in look had arrived, and gas and electric ranges alike suddenly stopped trying to masquerade as freestanding cabinets. The winds of streamline design were blowing through the kitchen, so ranges grew dashboard-like backs that hugged the wall and square-cut corners that fit flush with countertops at either side. Legs became greatly reduced or disappeared altogether.
Inspired by the new aerodynamic contours of planes, cars, and trains, designers were adding airfoil curves and chrome speed lines to the most stationary of kitchen appliances. The trend continued through the 1940s and into the post-war years, when ranges became blessed with as many timers, automatic controls, and gadgets as the new automobile-driven economy could connive—a fitting domestic food preparation station for the atomic-era lifestyle to come.
These vintage photos from Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse that show Dutch housewives using their stoves in the 1930s.