The first thing you see when you walk into Patrick McInerney’s living room is that there’s nothing to see. The walls are bare, and ditto for the ceiling. You try to switch on the lights, but there doesn’t appear to be a switch.
The lamp is obviously working, but it seems to be plugged into…the plaster?
Part interior illusionist and part aesthetic anorexic, McInerney, a San Diego architect, is a practicing member of the cult of disappearing design, the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t ethos that aims to secret away anything that needs a button or cord to work.
More than simply stashing your stereo in a closet or throwing a shawl over your ottoman, the all-invisible aesthetic aims for a higher-minded goal: creating unified spaces that flow from room to room.
Driven by technology and old-fashioned ingenuity, such design pursues goals like “zero sightlines” (fixtures that can’t be seen in profile) as well as creating seamless – and shadowless – surfaces.
Tricks are plentiful and often James Bond-ian: light switches are camouflaged to appear to be part of the wall, for example, while lighting fixtures lurk behind small apertures.
Disappearing design is meant to maximize one’s ground plan – particularly in small urban apartments – and minimize the “visual noise” created by things like bulky knobs, dust-prone vents and the ancient albatross of many decorators: the wide-screen TV.
“People like, more and more, a clean look,” said Alexandra Mathews, the vice president for international sales and marketing at Lucifer Lighting. “It’s nice to be in a place where you’re not forced to look at a bunch of things.”
And while Mathews and other acolytes concede that such a look isn’t for everyone – “Some people like hardware and clutter,” she said – they note there is plenty of proof that such a modernist-tinged look is in vogue. They offer as evidence the popularity of both Ikea furniture and iPads – the former being mass-market minimal, the latter basically buttonless.