Olivia Newport John Deere kitchen

I took this photo in the kitchen of the John Deere House in Grand Detour, illinois, dating to the 1830s.

Is your kitchen one of those compact, efficient spaces where you can stand in one place and reach everything?

Or does it sprawl and attract guests and family for long hang-out sessions?

While writing the Avenue of Dreams series, I spent a lot of time imagining what the kitchen in the Banning household had to look like. In the course of my research, I came across a description by Maria Parloa, popular cookbook author. Here are some features she considered essential.

• A good size is 15 x 17. (I imagine kitchens on Chicago’s Prairie Avenue were larger than this)

• Good ventilation keeps people who work in the kitchen from becoming exhausted and irritable. (I agree! And I think Charlotte Farrow, kitchenmaid in the Banning house, would too.)

• Nothing is better for flooring than hard wood. (Wonder what she would think about laminate?)

• Use tile on the walls around the sink, tables and range. (I love this note about tiles: “The time will come when few people will think of finishing a kitchen without them.”)

• The sink should be iron, with a sloping and grooved shelf at one end for draining dishes. (Wow. Sounds heavy!)

• Cover a wall with hooks for hanging saucepans and other utensils. A shelf about one foot off the floor can hold heavy pots and kettles. (Sounds a lot more convenient than closed cupboards.)

So 120 years later, how does your kitchen measure up?

What one feature would you like to change about your kitchen?