Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen? (And My Choices!)


Hello! We are done with WEEK 7 of Project “Remodeling a Remuddle.” (If you’d like to follow along on Instagram, see the stories highlights!). I even found my slabs of Vermont Danby!


olympian white danby marble
Olympian White Select Danby Marble


olympian white vermont danby marbe
Holding up my paint sample!


Head to this post if you missed the quarry tour and all the details about this gorgeous locally-sourced product.


Today I’m going to talk about appliances — should you hide them or display them in plain site — in a historically-inspired “unfitted” kitchen.

Believe it or not, I think you can totally get away with visible appliances. But let’s look at both sides.


A Super Quick Summary of Kitchen Appliance History


The obvious reason for hiding your appliances in a houses of a certain vintage is that when the house was built, the only “appliance” was a fireplace, or a cast iron stove at the most. But honestly, not many people these days want to be completely historically accurate.

I’m not quite sure what they did in the 18th century about washing dishes (my house is 1790, for those of you new to the blog) — it was probably in a big cauldron.



historic vs. modern kitchens

This YouTube video describes how they cleaned the dishes in the 18th century. So I guess somebody does know!


I have no room or desire for a cauldron.


As we came further into the 19th century, people started having “dry sinks,” a designated cabinet where dishes might be scrubbed, but water was still hauled in from outside. And finally, with the Victorians, more prosperous homes pumped the water directly into the kitchen, and so began the “wet sink.”


Anne of Green Gables Historic Kitchen
Anne of Green Gables, Anne at the “wet” sink! She’s dreaming of puffed sleeves at this point.


I guess the Cuthberts were pretty prosperous.


The icebox was invented in 1802.


antique ice box, unfitted kitchen

Antique icebox via eBay.


Dishwashers made their debut in 1929, with the first automated version in 1960, and the microwave made its appearance on the stage in the glorious ’80s. I still remember when we got our first one.


Blah, blah. History, shmistory. My point is this —


When all of these advances in kitchen appliances were introduced, NO ONE made an attempt to hide them in order to make their kitchens “historically accurate,” even in homes that were already old at the time!


And we can talk about the realm of the servants vs. the realm of the masters, and how, today, we don’t have servants’ domains and so on … but it still comes down to the fact that new technological advances were welcomed and incorporated into whichever style the house was, without thought that they were anachronisms.


THEREFORE, one might even argue that incorporating, even showing off new appliances is a historically-inspired way of thinking about the kitchen!


Just playing Devil’s advocate, here.


Displaying Appliances in a Historically-Inspired Kitchen


When I was working with architect Sandra Vitzhum on the concept of my Remuddle Remodel — and the kitchen in particular — she originally felt that the refrigerator would stand alone and on display in its corner. It could be stainless or vintage-looking, depending upon my other appliances, but she didn’t feel that it HAD to be hidden with paneling. It was the “stand alone” aspect that was historically inspired.


No one illustrates how good modern appliances can look in a historic kitchen better than Hendricks Churchill.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Historic Unfitted Kitchen?
A stand alone refrigerator takes center stage. I spy a center table instead of an island!


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
Stainless steel sink & dish drawers.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
Stand alone refrigerator and stainless dishwasher.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
Sub Zero refrigerator.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
Professional range.


So, in my opinion, if you DON’T want to hide your appliances — whether by stylistic choice or because of budgetary considerations — I think you should feel free to flaunt them!


The Case for Disguising Your Appliances


Obviously, there are MANY reasons for disguising your appliances in a kitchen of any vintage whatsoever. Some of the most gorgeous contemporary kitchens in a slew of styles have hidden appliances.

And in a vintage kitchen, there are some really clever ways to disguise your appliances, too! I pinned this image of a ice-box inspired refrigerator cover years ago. I STILL love it!


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
via Old House Journal


And there are sooooo many cool vintage-inspired stoves and refrigerators out now. That’s a whole post in and of itself!


However, I think the only real reason for hiding your appliances is a personal aesthetic one. Do you want a *particular era’s* style? Do you want a more seamless look?


The “seamless look” is the biggest reason for hidden appliances for the majority of homeowners.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
Woodale Designs


Personally, I feel that having things blend is most important for small kitchens and for kitchens that have integrated sitting areasnot necessarily open concept spaces, per se, but for kitchens with small “keeping rooms” where you don’t necessarily want to be staring at the dishwasher while you’re cozied up with a good book in front of the fire.


My Choice: A Mix


I LOVE the work of Hendricks Churchill, and I have no problem with appliances on display in historic kitchens. I also love kitchens that try to identify with a particular historical period in time.

However, with this remodel and carving out a cozy “converted porch” seating area without increasing square footage, the functional space of my kitchen area is now considerably smaller than it was. I really felt I needed a more seamless look. For that reason, and not necessarily the “historically-inspired” aspect of my kitchen, I will be hiding most of my appliances and choosing a vintage-inspired range.

Hiding appliances definitely adds to the cost. Integrated appliances like built-in refrigerators and elaborate surrounds, along with high-end French style ranges like Lacanche and La Cornue that everyone loves, have MEGA price tags. I mean like $10K+ for an entry level range and the same for a refrigerator.

After A LOT of research, and I am SUPER EXCITED to have found appliances that achieve the look I want with the value, reliability, and craftsmanship I seek.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
Dual Fuel 48″ Aga Elise in Midnight Blue


Aga, maker of the venerable English cast iron ranges, came out with the 48″ Aga Elise in the last couple of years. It comes in 6 colors and boasts double 24″ ovens, plus a broiler and storage drawer, and is about $4,000 less than a comparable European model. I love the updated classic look and stainless steel trim.

I have been waiting 10+ years to have 2 ovens! I cook every other Thanksgiving dinner, as well as every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meal. Hooray, and I’m thrilled I can finally do the turkey and the roasted Brussels sprouts at the same time!


This range, after the raised ceiling height and additional windows, is the single most important change in this kitchen for me.


Since I planned to show off the range, I decided to hide the refrigerator and dishwasher with panel-ready appliances. I zeroed in on Fisher Paykel, a New Zealand brand. I’ve had a Fisher Paykel Eco Smart top-loader washer and dryer for 12 years (discontinued now), having purchased them on recommendations from service men who adored the super simple, patented Smart-Drive motor. I even did all the kids’ cloth diapers them, and never had a single problem. I would not have given them up had I been able to accommodate top-loaders in the new butler’s pantry/laundry room plans.

Fisher Paykel prides itself on a high-quality product for a mid-price range. I chose this integrated, bottom-freezer panel-ready refrigerator. Because we’re already doing a contrasting, stained wood pantry cupboard, we’re not doing anything fancy with the paneling for the refrigerator and dishwasher — they’ll just blend with the other cabinetry in the same beige color.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
Simple Shaker paneling on my integrated fridge.


However, I do wish I’d found the below example of how another homeowner covered the top dishwasher with a faux “double drawer” before we’d solidified our plans!


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
See how the top panel actually looks like 2 drawers? Brilliant! Via Old House Journal.


The above is from a great article in Old House Journal about disguising appliances in a kitchen in an old home. Fabulous historically appropriate linoleum floor and below-sink apron door details. The homeowners chose the same FP dishwasher drawers that I’ll be using. With the boys dirtying soooo many cups every day, being able to do half loads was a big plus in my book!


When it came to the microwave, I looked at a few different options for disguising it, but just found that I didn’t care whether it was hidden or not. I’m putting it below the counter, because there isn’t room for one at eye height. If there were, perhaps I’d be more adamant about putting it behind a door. As it is, I’m planning on just having it rest on a shelf, with cook books below.


Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?
via BHG


I chose this simple Panasonic counter-top version that I could also use in our temporary kitchen during the renovation. Somehow, knowing that I could remove the microwave and make room for more books (even if I’m never likely to!) makes me feel that the kitchen is more “unfitted” and less built-in. But I realize that the feeling in this case is completely arbitrary!


Do you have any feelings about hidden vs. displayed appliances in an unfitted, historically-inspired kitchen? I’m sure there are some purists out there. I hope I haven’t ruffled too many feathers!


A graphic for your pinning pleasure!

Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen?


And a few more fresh/classic kitchen posts for your perusing pleasure:


Not All Kitchens Have Islands — The Resurgence of the Center Table

Colorful Pendants & Lanterns

Layers of Implied Time — 10 New “Old” Elements for an Unfitted Kitchen


I’ll be taking next weekend off to spend some time with my men. Enjoy this glorious fall season!


Home Glow Design Shop on Chairish


4 thoughts on “Should You Hide the Appliances in Your Unfitted Kitchen? (And My Choices!)”

  1. Love your choices! Came across your blog while researching Danby marble. : ). Just wanted to say that we love our new Fisher & Paykel fridge; we chose a panel ready Bosch dishwasher; and also have a below counter microwave… very pleased with them all! Our house is a brick 1929 Colonial. Everything is in except countertops… still searching for the right slab.

    1. Hi, Jennifer and welcome! That’s really great to hear about the appliances. Ours can’t be installed quickly enough, IMO, but we’re still waiting on cabinets.

      I think you’d love the Danby. I am don’t now what your kitchen colors are, but we also saw some really stunning Montclair and Imperial when we were searching. Different ends of the price spectrum.Would love if you came back and let us know what you found!

  2. Hello Amy,

    It’s nice to hear that someone else has chosen an Aga Elise. My kitchen remodel is underway and the range should be installed in about two weeks. My husband is looking forward to the grill drawer. I’ve used both La Cornue and Lacanche in catering. I’ve found La Cornue to be too temperamental in terms of temperature control and the Lacanche is a pain in the backside to light. I have the same model as you do, but in Ivory. I got a sample of the color before ordering and loved the neutral, not too warm hue. When the range arrived it wasn’t exactly the same color. It was much more warm and slightly more yellow than the sample. It still looks great, but it threw my color scheme for the cabinets off. I couldn’t get an taupy, off white to work with the range. Our kitchen is much like yours in that it has an English feel to it with a lot of historic details. So instead I chose a blue based deep charcoal for the lower cabinets. They look terrific against the Aga. I’ll let you know how the installation goes. Good luck with your project. Sawdust Sisters Unite!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that someone else has chosen this range — and someone with experience with both popular French lines! The color you chose for cabinetry sounds gorgeous– but did you order your range well in advance or are you repainting existing cabinetry? We also have about 2 weeks to installation. Can’t come soon enough. The HH has decided that we are done with cooking and washing pots in the bath tub. 😬

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