In one particularly humorous episode, the old television program Candid Camera tried to sell a house that had no toilets. (It was remarkable how many potential buyers didn't notice the defect.) A Paris apartment's kitchen, designed by Amsterdam-based i29 Interior Architects, is even better at playing tricks: it does have a kitchen, but one that practically vanishes.
The clients, a Dutch couple residing in Paris, initially desired an open kitchen at one end of the living room. “We felt that it would dominate the living space,” says i29 cofounder Jeroen Dellensen. “So we went to the other extreme.” When not in use, the kitchen is hidden behind a wall—in five sections—that is finished with decorative paneling and molding that mimic the circa-1905 apartment's original plasterwork.
The paneled doors open outward, slide away, and tuck in between contrasting charcoal-gray MDF-lined compartments, giving the clients access to different functions—the wall hides a refrigerator and dishwasher at the far left, for instance. In the center are three broader double-door sections, each measuring 4 feet wide by 9 feet, 6 inches high. One houses an oven, coffeemaker, and drawers for holding plates and cutlery; the middle compartment accommodates additional kitchen storage; and the third holds a pared-down computer workstation and writing desk. The narrow section to the far right is actually a false front that conceals shallow shelves and pipes.
The designers took a more inventive approach when it came to creating the “invisible” island. The ultrathin steel tabletop spans 10 feet and is 3 feet deep, a single steel plate whose edge has been machine-folded to present a very narrow profile of only ¾ of an inch to the living room. Toward the back, near the wall of doors, the counter expands to a thickness of 3 inches, just enough to accommodate a shallow sink and an induction cook surface flush with the top. This island's chamfered-steel legs, 3 feet high, provide room to route the aforementioned's water pipes and electrical equipment down to the floor, while access panels underneath the counter allow for maintenance of both the sink and cooktop. All of these steel elements were finished in a sleek black color and coated with scratch-resistant epoxy.
So as to further disguise the area's culinary function, the designers were also particular in their selection of a ventilation hood for the island. They chose an off-the-shelf product that resembles a suspended luminaire, thanks to integrated lighting and a 47-inch-wide-by-21½-inch-deep white solid surface shade.
The result is a smart juxtaposition of a classic look in the back and a cutting-edge, minimalist kitchen in the front. And since everything—appliances and equipment, dishes, pots and pans, cupboards, et al—is concealed behind the wall panels or within the table, the room is easy to keep clutter-free.
“We always try to integrate various functions in a way that looks simple but is actually a technical challenge,” explains Dellensen. “The clients are very happy. And the kitchen is not just for show—they really do cook here!” Tracy Metz
Architect: i29 Interior Architects
Cabinetmaker: Simon Sintenie
Metal fabricator: Huib Joosten
Size: 240 square feet
Completion date: March 2014
Cooktop, oven, refrigerator, coffeemaker: Gaggenau
Dishwasher: Fisher & Paykel
Ventilation hood: Novy