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Ask interior designer Caren Rideau how many kitchens she’s renovated in her career and you’ll be greeted with a big laugh. “In my lifetime? Oh, my gosh,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years.” Her estimate: more than 500. “Everybody comes to me to make magic in the kitchen.” She’s the founder of Los Angeles–based Kitchen Design Group; runs a vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley with winemaker Andrés Ibarra; and just debuted a new book, Caren Rideau: Kitchen Designer, Vintner, Entertaining at Home.
“Everybody” includes us. We asked Rideau to let us in on a few of her kitchen design secrets—must-haves she incorporates into most of her projects to double down on functionality and efficiency. Some are so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of them first. (It’s okay, you probably haven’t brought hundreds of kitchens to life—yet.)
You don’t necessarily have to do a demo to create more breathing room—just clear away visual clutter. “I take knife blocks and spices off the countertop and conceal them in [customized] drawers,” Rideau says. “Then there’s a place for all of these items—and they’re not taking up space.”
An appliance center is central to many of Rideau’s kitchens. A what? “They look like tall storage with pocket doors,” she explains. When they’re closed, you’d never guess the blender, toaster, or slow cooker are within such easy reach. Yours can also double as a one-stop coffee bar, storing a Nespresso machine, coffee grinder, and the like. If you love to host, the possibilities expand even further; in this space, Rideau installed a warming drawer underneath so dishes can stay hidden—and hot—until their dinnertime debut.
Imagine it now: You go through all the effort (and time and money) of choosing the exact right countertop and cupboard color, but your eye still catches on the stainless steel fridge. Not in Ridaeu’s projects. “I love to conceal the dishwasher and fridge—any large appliance—with cabinet doors so that you don’t really know they’re appliances,” she says. In fact, covered in paneling and a duo of brass straps, the ones in this kitchen Rideau designed look more like stand-alone furniture.
We’ve all been there, awkwardly yanking a cutting board out of a too-full cabinet. Rideau’s solution: integrated versions, either hidden or on display. Option one: “You pull a drawer open to find a cutting board,” she explains. Give it a wash once you’re done chopping, then slide it back into place. Option two: a sink with a built-in lip around the perimeter to hold a cutting board aloft (and a colander, if you add a second ledge). Wash, slice, and go.
Caren Rideau: Kitchen Designer, Vintner, Entertaining at Home by Caren Rideau, Amazon ($73)