The kitchens of the rich in America today are capable of offering an experience of humility to the uninitiated. Attempts to get hold of ice cubes can turn the most worthy guest into an unlucky burglar rummaging through drawers for loose gems.
“I don’t think I’ve had a customer who wanted to reveal their refrigerator for a very long time,” said Martyn Lawrence Bullard, an English interior designer whose namesake company in Los Angeles has crowded out major appliances for Cher. , Tommy Hilfiger and Kylie Jenner. “For the past five years, everything we’ve done has had a hidden refrigerator. “
Many of the things that are immediately identifiable as things in the majority of American kitchens – appliances recognizable by their size, shape, and general appearance they have had since about the 1940s – are, in the homes of the wealthy, of more and more transformed into wardrobes.
“Ready-to-use” refrigerators, whose facades are designed to accommodate (usually via bracket and screw systems) custom wood pieces indistinguishable from fitted kitchen cabinets, have become the norm. So, it’s not only possible, but usual, to look at a newly built luxury kitchen and be unable to immediately determine if it contains a cooler.
“Everyone” covers their stainless steel with panels, said Shannon Wollack, founder of Studio Life / Style, an interior design firm in West Hollywood. “Everyone,” she repeated. Among the clients whose kitchens Ms. Wollack has turned into emporia of sleek cabinetry: actress Hilary Duff, whose blue-paneled kitchen, despite appearances, includes a refrigerator.
Au Courant refrigerators resemble the imaginary dragons of childhood fantasy in that they are both invisible and huge. “You would be shocked at how much space” luxury kitchens devote to hidden refrigeration, Ms. Wollack said. “A lot of people,” she said, have chosen to incorporate two refrigerators side by side.
But the explosion of tidy lockers and drawers that make a state-of-the-art kitchen look like a 19th-century apothecary’s office isn’t just the result of refrigerators turning into cabinets. Cabinets also become refrigerators.
“Everyone wants their refrigerator drawers these days,” Bullard said, referring to the smaller built-in cabinets, often located in kitchen islands, which unfold to reveal additional refrigerated storage cavities. “Everyone,” he said, puts on at least two. “Most people put in four – or maybe six.”
Can I offer you a drink?
What do the rich manipulate to achieve levels of cold and cool – far beyond nature’s inherent capacity – in amounts requiring such extensive storage?
“They like to drink a lot of drinks,” said Ms. Wollack, whose customers include many in the entertainment industry. “A lot of them are drinks.” A popular drawer configuration, she said, includes three small refrigerated partitions: one for wine, one for drinks other than wine, and one for fresh produce. Mr. Bullard has known customers who use them to store face creams and beauty products. “A bunch of people are putting them in their bathrooms now,” he said.
Second refrigerators are nothing new to American homes. A 2015 survey by the US Energy Information Administration found that 30% of the country – about 35 million homes in 2015 – could claim that at least two refrigerators “plugged in and turned on” in their homes at all times. .
What sets high-end supplemental refrigerators apart is the importance of their (concealed) location: according to the survey, the majority of supplemental refrigerators nationwide are banned in basements or garages.
Camouflage cabinetry is also not a modern innovation: for a short time in the 1950s, General Electric advertising copy boasted of a horizontal refrigeration system designed to hang “on the wall like a wall.” table ”, available in colors such as“ petal pink ”and“ turquoise green.
It’s expensive to hide high-end refrigeration technology in your kitchen. Many of Ms. Wollack’s customers opt for Sub-Zero refrigerators, which feature a magnetic seal around the edge of the interior door that creates a vacuum seal to block hot air.
These devices – which, she said, “can easily fetch $ 15,000” – are so dedicated to their cooling task that they can sometimes seem to work in opposition to their owners: Troubleshooting tips for customers on the go. Sub-Zero’s website explains to customers that while the company’s refrigerators and freezers are not designed to be impenetrable by humans, “depending on the strength of the vacuum, it may appear that the door is locked.”
But as the rich are eager to cool an ever-increasing volume of perishable items, one thing they are less and less inclined to do, Bullard says, is freeze them. “Freezing food is less and less fashionable,” he said. “People want to eat more organic. “
“Most of our customers these days end up using their freezers for ice cream and ice cream,” he said.
Likewise, refrigerators with built-in water and ice vending machines that allow tired refrigerator owners to get a drink without stopping to open the unit are also unappreciated.
Ice now comes from one of the many varieties of stand-alone squat machines dedicated solely to creating ice of a particular shape, texture and clarity. The more high-end ready-made models of these can cost a few thousand dollars. For those with only several hundred dollars to spend on creating ice, a small unit of GE showcases its cache of frozen water in the form of an empyreal glowing mosaic.
Filtered water faucets have been moved to the sink. “The refrigerator’s water filtration system is kind of an outdated look and never pairs well with the built-in cabinet drawers,” Mr. Bullard said.
“It’s not fashionable,” he says. “We haven’t used this sort of thing for years.”
An inside look
Reality TV has served as a venue for average Americans to exhibit high-end refrigeration since the early 2000s. In MTV’s “Cribs,” a popular documentary-style series in which performers – actors, musicians, athletes , occasional magician – claimed to show viewers around their private homes, the gazes inside the refrigerators were a hallmark of the show. (Many were mainly stocked with drinks, including, memorably, a quantity of vitamin water from a supermarket neatly arranged in the 50 Cent fridge.)
The “The Real Housewives” franchise has provided another window through which viewers can examine the design choices of America’s elite. Due to the show’s emphasis on lavish domesticity, the cast members are frequently filmed in their sprawling, immaculate kitchens.
Nene Leakes, from the Atlanta branch of the show, delivered one of the show’s most famous monologues in 2013, on the subject of a refrigerator. In a one-on-one interview, she seemed distraught when she described the appearance of a hotel in which one of her co-stars was temporarily residing: “He has a white refrigerator!” Mrs. Leakes moaned, her face a kaleidoscope of pain, horror and disbelief. “I was like ‘Oh hoo! Oh, not a white refrigerator. Girl, please put your shoes on. Let’s go find you a house, honey! ‘”
The huge glass closet filled with baskets of vibrant Technicolor products set up in the home of another “real housewife,” Yolanda Hadid, also drew attention to the show’s Beverly Hills franchise. While Ms. Hadid left the show in 2016, a Twitter account with the handle @YolandasFridge created during his tenure, he sometimes tweets as his transparent device to an audience of over 14,000 subscribers.
Despite the visual appeal of Ms. Hadid’s well-stocked refrigerator, most customers “don’t use the glass front – as much as they would like,” Ms. Wollack said.
All-glass refrigerators require a level of maintenance generally incompatible with human life. “You have to be organized and keep your refrigerator very, very tidy,” Mr. Bullard said. “Otherwise, it doesn’t look good at all. And they are very expensive. They are 15,000, 20,000 dollars.
For people who want to know the contents of their refrigerators without opening them, Mr. Bullard could instead install a refrigerator with a camera inside (“so that you, or your housekeeper in this case, maybe” can check in on a shopping trip to see what’s missing, he said). Some shelving systems will soon be equipped with weight sensors designed to sense how much product is left in a particular container, Bullard said.
Hidden in plain sight
Both Ms Wollack and Mr Bullard said the fervor in concealing household appliances resulted from the fact that kitchens were increasingly used as occasional gathering rooms, rather than areas dedicated exclusively to food preparation.
“The kitchens were hidden,” Ms. Wollack said. “There was a door. This was where you had all your devices. It was like the workspace. And now kitchens are more of a way of life. You want to make it look pretty and seamless.
These spaces are laid out “like living rooms,” said Bullard. “We add art. You add expensive lighting. In a way, the island is becoming the dining table of modern times. (The real dining table remains confined to a separate and less used room.)
A spokesperson for Sub-Zero confirmed that the out-of-the-box models of the company’s refrigerators are “particularly popular in large metropolitan areas.” Mr Bullard said the fastest way to catch cooking trends is to use social media images. Over the past few years, he said, Instagram has inspired a blitz of green-colored kitchens.
But some luxury kitchen equipment remains beyond the reach of even the wealthiest buyers – equipment including the very refrigerators they hope to hide.
“Right now, God knows, you can’t find a refrigerator anywhere,” Mr. Bullard said. “They are almost as hard to find as a car.” The disruption caused by a pandemic in the global supply chain has made even modest chest freezers hardly available since last spring. “Things are months and months behind at the moment,” he said. “And money doesn’t do it these days. You can’t pay more to get it faster because the product just isn’t available.
Mr. Bullard was recently tasked with tracking down a catering refrigerator for a customer’s chef. “We couldn’t find it anywhere,” he said. Finally, he located a used model. The final price of the used refrigerator: $ 18,000.
“You do,” he said, “what you must.”