Hide and Seek

When you think of “good design”, it is common to think of what you see when you look at a room or a product. For example, the color, style, size/proportion, and the overall feel it imparts. However, good design is also what you cannot see. Good design has a purpose even though it may not be immediately visible. It is also functional and sometimes solves a problem. It must be sustainable in that the materials must be long lasting and not just a trend. Good design is also thorough – even to the last detail.

An example of good design is how some interior designers choose to hide functional items such as air registers in a home. We connected with one of our favorite designers, Hellen Hsieh, from Design Loft in Palo Alto. On a recent tour of a spec home she designed in the Crescent Park neighborhood of Palo Alto, we were drawn to the open and airy feel and the simplicity of the room. Visually, design elements such as the pendant lighting, clearstory windows, paint and furniture colors, and the proportion of the art and mirrors all add to the ambiance of the room. However, there is one element that is not initially noticeable – an HVAC supply air register.

Hellen pointed out that the air supply grate is hidden in the custom Austrian Walnut bookshelf above the TV. Designed to match the entertainment unit below, the bookshelf features made-to-order door inserts from Light Wave Laser which hide the grates.

There are also alternatives for floor register placement. In this family room remodel HCI completed last year, our designer Suzette O’Farrell chose to tuck the air vents into the toe kick of the entertainment unit, eliminating any vents protruding from the floors or walls. This allows for more options when placing furniture and carpeting in the room and prevents unwanted debris from entering the duct work.

Similarly, larger air returns can also be hidden, as in this recently-completed whole house remodel. The intricate crown molding detail of the vaulted living room ceiling was already populated with multiple can lights and speakers. To eliminate another interruption of the ceiling architecture, we hid the return air vent and whole house fan air intake inside the skylight wells.

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