The Hidden Kitchen: a place for everything

"Design a free standing dwelling for an architect.  Must support the following activities: cooking, dining, sleeping, bathing, socializing, and studying/drafting. Size: single story, no larger than 100 square feet. Smaller is better."

This was one of my earliest studio assignments in architecture school. I was already a cabinetmaker when I started school so my solution to this challenge was more like a multifunctional cabinet composition than a house. I fit the whole program into 60 square feet and got the prize for size. My dwelling cabinet had parts that slid, dropped, folded, and flipped to transform the tiny space from one function to another. It was complicated, but uncrowded, and the intricacy of the parts made it seem richer than expected for such a tiny house. I liked the notion that a small and seemingly simple object could unfold to support a large variety of a Swiss Army knife, or an iPhone.

Today, economic and environmental forces provide an incentive to build homes that are smaller in size, and consumers are looking for the presence of detail and character. My student exercise from 30 years ago has changed from pedagogical device to something directly relevant to a real world model for housing. Smaller homes require that spaces be multifunctional and flexible, just like my dwelling cabinet.

At KR+H, we recently built a cabinet assembly inspired by these considerations. It contains all of the storage and equipment requirements of a fully functional kitchen, but can transform from workplace to gathering and dining space as parts fold, flip, and slide. Like a Murphy bed, its primary function can withdraw to support other activities in the same space. We designed our Hidden Kitchen for dwellings like lofts or studios where one space needs to accommodate a broad range of activities.

When we exhibited our Hidden Kitchen at the ICFF in New York, one architect who designs office environments thought the unit would do well in offices where it is becoming more common to have meetings or conferences accompanied by the preparation and serving of food. Another attendee has hired us to produce a hidden kitchen in the front parlor of his townhouse. We are working on a design that refers to his collection of Art Deco furniture which will occupy the same room.

KR+H's Hidden Kitchen is made from quarter sawn American black walnut; back-painted, acid-etched glass; and stainless steel. Appliances are by Sub Zero, Miele, and Fisher Paykel. The unique, articulated tube design of the faucet (Karbon model by Kohler) made it possible to tuck the faucet into the sink and keep it out of sight when not in use.

video clips by Joel Benjamin Photography