It's been hiding in plain sight.
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kitchen with hidden appliances grey neutral cabinets
Credit: Molly Culver

At Southern Living, a beautifully designed kitchen is as common (and as important) as a durable Dutch oven or a mouth-watering biscuit recipe. (After all, a function-first space can look good, too.) Over the past few years, we've seen our fair share of kitchen design trends, running the gamut from colored cabinets to beautiful backsplashes. But, believe it or not, the latest phenomenon to hit the kitchen is actually invisible to the untrained design eye.

Recently, designers have begun to hide their appliances behind a panel that mimics the look of the space's cabinets. Instead of microwaves and beverage refrigerators that command attention, they fall into the background, creating unobstructed cohesion in the process. For Sara Malek Barney of BANDD/DESIGN, the rise of hidden appliance storage is a sign of the times.

"Our lifestyles have transitioned into more open-concept living," the Austin-based designer explains. "We want the spaces to be uncluttered and visually appealing. It takes time to transition over the years, so the trend has slowly increased in popularity."

Fellow Texan Killy Scheer agrees, noting that this trend "allows for designing cabinets with different colors and textures that don't get disrupted by large swaths of mis-matched materials and finishes." 

In a world where design trends can be fleeting, you might question the hidden appliance storage fad's staying power. But designers insist that this phenomenon is here to stay.

"Having the hidden appliance options gives designers and homeowners a new pass in creativity to really create warmth and cohesion in the center of the home," says Betsy Berry, an interior designer based in Charleston, South Carolina. "Our team has not only utilized this application in clients' kitchens, but we are now moving into hidden storage and hidden appliances in butler's pantries, media rooms, and even the bedroom." 

Looking to incorporate hidden storage into your home? Here are a few things to consider before you conceal.

Keep Measurements in Mind

However, just like any other element of your kitchen, it's important to be strategic about your setup. Not only can this trend impact your bottom line—especially if you need to repair or replace an appliance—but it can also dictate your space's footprint.

"Building in large appliances could make them difficult to replace down the road, as they all vary slightly in size, so cabinet or cavity modifications might be required later," Scheer says. "For example, refrigerator doors need to be designed with intention and consideration, as some doors may not open much more than 90 degrees, depending on their location." 

Try a DIY

Though Scheer recommends enlisting a professional for masquerading larger appliances, it is possible for anyone on a budget to DIY this budding trend. 

"You can purchase an existing cabinet panel and install it over your dishwasher," Berry shares. "These panels are pre-built and relatively inexpensive. With a quick coat of paint to match the rest of your cabinetry, you can breathe new life into your kitchen." 

Create a Focal Point

Whether you want to hire an expert or give your own handiwork a try, the mere thought of concealing all of your appliances might seem a tad overwhelming. Fear not: Designers say you don't have to hide every gadget to perfect this trend.  

"In some cases, people may want to create a focal point to highlight a statement appliance, like a great range," Scheer adds. "Swap that over-range microwave for a handsome range hood and install a microwave that can be installed in an island or lower cabinetry." 

Consider Functionality

But, no matter which appliances you conceal, it's important to create a space that's conducive to your culinary needs. "I think clients can get excited at the prospect and sometimes think they need more than they can actually use daily," Berry shares. "I think it is a good practice to design your home the way it will live 365 days out of the year and not just for entertaining on the big holidays or special occasions."