You can officially add “appliance garages” to the list of retro kitchen trends making a 21st-century comeback. These practical and sleek storage solutions have been around in some capacity since the 1980s, but new iterations continue to pop up in traditional and modern kitchens alike.
“Upper cabinets make kitchens feel like kitchens, and the integrated, open-shelving look is becoming more popular,” says architect and designer Anne-Marie Singer of AM Singer Design. “Appliance garages are a great way to make up for that lost storage space while clearing countertop clutter — they’re especially handy in small urban kitchens that lack a proper pantry.”
For the uninitiated, an appliance garage is a clever storage cabinet that’s specifically used to stow away small appliances like blenders, coffee makers, microwaves, and toasters. The appliance garages of the ‘80s and ‘90s commonly featured slated pull-down doors, resembling an actual garage. Today, amateur and professional designers alike have modernized this creative storage hub, using matching cabinet fronts and custom paneling to create a stylish camouflage effect.
Ahead, Singer and two other designers break down the art of the 2021 appliance garage, using IKEA cabinets and Semihandmade fronts.
Large: A Manhattan Brownstone With an At-Home Coffee Bar
In her Upper West Side Brownstone project, Singer devised a sleek appliance garage using a 30-by-24-by-90-inch IKEA Sektion High Cabinet Frame, six custom Semihandmade panels, and DIY Shaker fronts. “Since the floor plan is open and the kitchen flows into this lounge area, we didn’t want it to feel like a kitchen,” explains Singer. “An appliance garage helped me maintain that modern aesthetic.”
Singer and her Manhattan-based clients ultimately decided that a coffee bar (with additional space for the microwave and blender) was the best use of the space. While Singer typically works with custom cabinetry and millwork, going the IKEA x Semihandmade route saved them roughly $15,000. “We were essentially able to create the same custom features at a fraction of the price.”
To create the garage, Singer and team built a frame around the IKEA cabinet using our custom panels (an extra step to create the pocket doors), attached our DIY Shaker doors, and finally added a butcher block countertop (also from IKEA) for the coffee bar. “My best advice would be to plan out which appliances you’re going to put inside, and make sure there’s ample room for each,” she adds. “Can you open the top of your coffee maker? Do you have enough room to plug in your microwave? All of those details need to be considered.”
Medium: An Open Miami Kitchen With a Hidden Pot Rack
In his Miami Kitchen project, designer Francis Domínguez of EFE Creative Lab was tasked with making up for lost storage space after removing a closet and knocking down a massive wall. “An appliance garage allowed me to free up necessary counter space while tucking away small appliances that aren’t exactly aesthetically-pleasing,” he shares.
In addition to a microwave cabinet and floor-to-ceiling storage surrounding the refrigerator, Domínguez installed a countertop appliance garage using a 20-inch IKEA Sektion upper cabinet as the base, a 40-inch cabinet on top, two Semihandmade custom panels, and Supermatte Light Grey Shaker fronts. “The client really wanted to hide away their toaster and blender, and this was the perfect solution,” he adds. “She also stores pots and pans in the upper cabinet.”
Due to the convenient corner location and extensive planning, installation was smooth for Domínguez and team. His contractor anchored the assembled IKEA cabinets to the left and back walls before attaching the cabinet fronts. Finally, they trimmed the cabinets out with a floor-to-ceiling Semihandmade panel on the right, and a horizontal piece across the front to make the cabinet flush. “The last thing I’d recommend is to include an electrical outlet inside the appliance garage,” he adds. “It really allows your appliances to ‘live’ in the cabinet, which is much easier.”
Small: A Bay Area Bungalow With a “Morning Routine” Hub
Behold California-based designer Katrina Chersicla’s innovative corner appliance garage. Using two IKEA corner Sektion cabinets (26-by-15-by-20-inch on top, and the 26-by-15-by-30-inch on bottom), custom panel pieces, and Semihandmade Shaker Fronts in Desert Grey, Chersicla and her husband fashioned a sleek home for their morning routine essentials: coffee and coffee maker, tea and hot water kettle, toaster, vitamins, blender, and more.
“As a designer, I hate having clutter on the counters, and this was the perfect solution,” shares Chersicla. “All of our essentials are easily accessible, and the garage doesn’t detract from the modern aesthetic.”
A wooden base and four Semihandmade panels were all the duo needed to give their appliance garage a custom look. After assembling and anchoring the IKEA cabinets to the back wall and wooden base, the Chersiclas trimmed out the cabinets with two large floor-to-ceiling panels on the left and right, plus two small trim pieces on the top and bottom to make the garage flush with the countertops and ceiling.
“My best advice is to mock up everything before drilling any holes,” she suggests. “We basically assembled the entire cabinet and made slight sizing adjustments before finally attaching all the panels.”