Hockey sticks, video screens, and side-by-side refrigerators feel anachronistic—out of time and place—in houses of a certain age. Look at design solutions past for ideas on how to conceal (or find space for) the clutter of modern life.
By Mary Ellen Polson
Let’s start with the obvious: appliances in the kitchen and electronics anywhere in the house. Appliance manufacturers and cabinetmakers have mastered the art of camouflaging even sizable appliances (except the range), so that dishwashers, refrigerators, and trash compactors hide behind easy-to-insert panels that match the rest of the cabinetry, be it raised-panel colonial or flat-panel Arts & Crafts. (Period aficionados have been known to order full-on, ca. 1900 icebox paneling complete with reproduction hardware, available from a handful of sources.) Smaller appliances may be swept under cover behind standard or sliding cabinet doors, some with a “pop-up” function that delivers a mixer up to countertop level.
For 20th century kitchens, an alternate tack has been to use appliances modeled on the “retro” designs of the 1940s and ’50s; the idea plays up rather than conceals the range or fridge. By the same token, it’s become popular to collect and display vintage toasters, mixers, and other mid-20th-century homemaking paraphernalia, if your house or kitchen dates to that era.
Electronics are probably the toughest nut to crack. The shapes, materials, and associated wires and chargers entangle our lives, often literally. Well-ventilated built-in cabinetry in a side hall or media room can house music systems and flat-screen TVs. Sliding doors and folding shoji-style screens slip over inactive video screens. Even charging stations can be beautiful, handcrafted in wood with period-specific millwork or hammered in copper.