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.
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.”
I guess the Cuthberts were pretty prosperous.
The icebox was invented in 1802.
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.
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!
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.
Personally, I feel that having things blend is most important for small kitchens and for kitchens that have integrated sitting areas — not 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
And a few more fresh/classic kitchen posts for your perusing pleasure:
I’ll be taking next weekend off to spend some time with my men. Enjoy this glorious fall season!