Design Notes Archive

Kitchen Camouflage

Kitchen Camouflage

How to deal with ventilation in the kitchen has been a challenge for cooks since fire moved indoors, but no need to go back that far. The development of modern day extractor hoods in the early 1900s quelled the smoke and steam problem but not without an aesthetic one—large metal boxes above the range. Even today, the extractor hood can be one of the kitchen’s biggest decorating dilemmas. Designers have hidden them behind plaster, integrated them into cabinetry, even recessed them down into centre islands (the latter with varying degrees of usefulness). Given the movement towards open shelves and tiled walls, we’re rather fond of extractor hoods clad in tile. It’s a look that can completely camouflage the hood, ideal in kitchens where you want form, rather than function, on display.


Take the farmhouse kitchen that Waldo Works remodeled at Kilchoan Estate in the Scottish Highlands, left. Edging the northernmost wilderness on mainland Britain, it’s a remote and rustic spot. Surrounded by such elements, they sought to design a kitchen that felt cosy and comforting but done in a contemporary way. “I was thinking about being in the country, taking refuge from the cold outside near an Aga, that shiny object in the kitchen that exudes warmth,” says Waldo Works’ co-founder, designer Tom Bartlett. “The tiling scheme, with its linear stripe, slightly references the classic design of those ranges.” Indeed, installing plain slipped tile in rusty red over the extractor and splashback underneath creates a focal point as an Aga would, but without the need to maintain one in a vacation property, as Kilchoan Farm House is. The entire estate was purchased by Dunton Destinations for wilderness retreats and a series of buildings are in the process of being revamped. Bartlett collaborated on this kitchen with Sebastian Cox, who fabricated the cabinetry from local Scottish elm and ash. “It’s solid timber and shows off lovely jointing details,” he notes. Case in point—a visible dovetail joint running along the top of the larder cupboard. A terracotta pendant lamp further adds to the room's earthy feel.  

In another kind of wilderness altogether—the palm tree laden wilds of Los Angeles—designer Amber Lewis used a palette of chalky whites and layers of texture to create a serene escape from the city, centre. Rows of elongated tiles installed horizontally from splashback to ceiling encapsulate her range hood, rendering it nearly invisible. The tiles, boasting a weathered finish, glisten in the light and contrast the sleekness of a Calcutta marble splashback, including a thin marble shelf that separates the two materials (also a handy perch for spices when cooking). Reclaimed white oak beams and brass fittings, along with a pair of aged brass picture lights over the windows, keep the white-on-white palette from feeling stark. By the way, keep your eyes out for her second book, due on shelves this fall. 

Yet even further afield in Sydney, Australia, designers Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke of Arent & Pyke also concealed a range hood behind tile, right. Sheathed in square, off-white zellige, the hood is distinguished from the wall tile with just a sliver of brass—the lines repeating from the cabinet door pulls. The rest of the kitchen is an intersection of colour and materials designed to meld with the living room opposite—deep green cabinetry and leathered marble on the worktop, golden burlwood veneer on the island, and peachy terrazzo on the floor. (Try Balineum’s Terrazzo I in Salmon or Apricot or Terrazzo II in Tiber for similar). Concealing the hood in an open-plan kitchen like this is especially key, as equipment is the last thing you want to gaze at from the sofa.

Photographs © Waldo Works, Amber Lewis, Anson Smart