Hidden Kitchen

Hidden Kitchen


For years, newer homes have been omitting walls in favor of open-concept living spaces, which allow the cook to interact with family and visitors. Now that the kitchen has evolved from an isolated work room to a gathering place, it’s more important than ever for the transition from one space to the next to be seamless.

The elimination of the kitchen as we know it started with appliances vanishing behind cabinets. Now, it’s gone a step further. A hood is transformed into a lighting fixture. Cabinets fade into the background, flush with and the same color as neighboring walls. Appliances either have the same chameleon quality or masquerade as furniture.

Today’s most cutting-edge kitchens hardly look like kitchens at all. And that’s the point.

“We started doing it when we began working with clients who were living in smaller spaces,” says Russian-born designer Yulia Sandecskaya of MusaDesign in Seattle. “We’re from Europe, so we’re familiar with that.

“It’s a necessary trend because we’re all downsizing our spaces. The kitchen has become the center of a unified hub, so it has to have the feel of being part of the overall living space and flow with the rest of the home.”

The most cleverly masked kitchens are expensive and still largely found in upscale homes, but the concept is slowly trickling down to the mass market. Small, discreet dishwasher drawers – once almost exclusively a designer kitchen item – can now be found in local appliance stores where middle-class families shop.

And there are inexpensive tricks to fool the eye. Arlene Ladegaard of Design Connection Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., has used copper for hoods and sinks to make them blend better with brown cabinetry.

“The color is just beautiful,” she says.

A minimalist kitchen can require tradeoffs, though.

If you really want cabinets to blend into walls completely, you will have to forego handles and exposed hinges. Those can be avoided with cabinet doors that open by pushing on them, causing them to pop out and slide left or right.

“The problem with that is that when you pull out that door and slide it one way or the other, you’re covering the adjacent cabinet, so it limits your access a little,” says certified kitchen designer Bill Livingston of Kitchen Distributors in Littleton, Colo. Also, those cabinets most often are manufactured in Europe, where cabinetry tends to be shallower.

While the look of a minimalist kitchen is impeccably sleek and modern, you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice storage, Livingston says.

Floor-to-ceiling vertical cabinets on one or more walls can compensate for eliminating countertops. Islands usually have storage inside and can be made larger to accommodate prep work. Also, there are all sorts of specialty items on the market to maximize space, such as lazy Susans and roll-out cabinet tray dividers.

A minimalist kitchen will demand some discipline, though.

Other previously luxury-only features (sliding panel cabinets and large cabinet drawers, right) can be seen in moderately priced homes now. Image courtesy Caesarstone

“Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need all these utensils?’ Go for quality rather than quantity, and choose items that are multifunctional,” MusaDesign’s Sandecskaya says.

An island is the perfect example: It’s a place to prepare food, a table and a place to do homework.

“Think about what kind of kitchen would work with the space you have now,” Sandecskaya says. “Then ask yourself, ‘How much of the kitchen do I really need? How much do I actually use?’ ”

When you’re honest with yourself about that, opportunities to peel away the outward signs of a kitchen present themselves in every nook and cranny. Once you’ve got it stripped down, you can rebuild an efficient, functional area “that fits the look and style of the overall living space,” Sandecskaya says.

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