By Kathryn Weber
Cabinetry that conceals appliances, such as the refrigerator, creates a very distinctive look in the kitchen, making it look more livable and less focused on function
Talk to any Realtor and they'll tell you that the one room in the house that returns more renovation investment than any other is the kitchen. What's more, surveys show that homeowners are more in love with their kitchens than they've ever been, and they're buying more expensive and commercial-grade appliances. While some homeowners love to place their appliances on center stage, others try to cleverly disguise it and make the kitchen more room-like.
Doug Flowers, master cabinet builder and owner of Hill Country Cabinets in Spring Branch, Texas, says that incorporating matching panels on kitchen appliances has been around for a while now but has become somewhat passé. "The emerging style now in upscale kitchen design is hiding appliances in furniture cabinetry," Flowers says. It creates a distinctive look in the kitchen, emphasizing livability over function.
Not all appliances work in cabinets
If this aesthetic appeals to you, be aware that not just any appliances will do. "Appliances that are put into cabinets are specially made to withstand the higher temperatures from being enclosed," Flowers says. "If you don't select these kinds of appliances, you could damage them."
Flowers recommends talking with a kitchen designer or cabinet company early in the process so they can incorporate the appliances into the design plan. Make sure your cabinetmaker is familiar with building cabinets with hidden appliances and with their special venting requirements. Supply the appliance manufacturer name and model number to the cabinetmaker so he can verify appliance dimensions and suitability for installation into a cabinet.
Large appliances, such as refrigerator cabinets, should be styled so they stand out from surrounding cabinets. This can be done by adding furniture trim, feet or other molding accents around the cabinet. Flowers also suggests painting or staining the cabinet a different color than the remaining cabinets.
"It seems odd that to make the appliance disappear in the kitchen you make the cabinet stand out more," Flowers admits. But making the cabinet distinct and high contrast makes the kitchen more appealing. Smaller appliances such as refrigerator drawers or TV cupboards can be built to blend into the rest of the cabinet scheme, however.
Go to the pros
Sub-Zero marketing manager Paul Leuthe notes that while his company's refrigeration units are designed to be inside cabinets and not suffocate, those are far from the only factors to consider. This kind of kitchen makeover isn't "an impulse buy," Leuthe cautions. "You really need someone to help you design your kitchen for built-in appliances because of their particular power and water needs." For more information on integrated or built-in refrigeration, you can check the Sub-Zero website (www.subzero.com/integrated).
If you're thinking about a kitchen remodel, consider hidden appliances. And next time you visit a home show or builder's parade, pull open the cabinet drawers or check behind that armoire door in the kitchen. You just might find a dishwasher, refrigerated drawer or wine cooler hiding in plain sight.
© Living Space by Kathryn Weber