Power outlets, data jacks, and light switches are the eyesores of interior design. The most common solution is the path of least resistance: We try to ignore them and their cumbersome cover plates. Others take the makeover approach and dress up cover plates to blend with backgrounds. Hiding outlets and switches is another popular option—but one that’s not always possible because of code, safety, and convenience.
What if instead we could make our power sources and controls almost invisible? A new generation of products is making this possible. Sorry, cover plates, we won’t miss you.
Above: Studio Oink spec’d flush-mount
Electrical Outlets from Vancouver lighting and design company Bocci for a townhouse conversion in DC; see A Luminous, Euro-Style Row House in Washington, DC
. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista.
Above: What’s missing? The Jebbia family’s New York loft kitchen by architects
Fernlund + Logan has clean white cabinetry and walls free of outlet covers. Instead, power is provided via flush wall outlets sourced from Vancouver lighting and design company Bocci. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista. Take a full tour of the Jebbia kitchen in the Remodelista book, and see below for a close look at the outlets.
What are flush-mount power outlets and switches?
Flush-mount power outlets (including switches, data jacks, and keypads) are installed directly into walls so that the outlet surface is flush, eliminating the need for cover plates. Flush-mount outlets integrate seamlessly with their surroundings: No more wall clutter.
Above: A nearly invisible Trufig flush-mount outlet.
Above: Camouflage appeal: Trufig can also create flush-mount solutions (some of them hand-painted) that blend seamlessly with architectural finishes, like marble.
Where can flush-mount outlets be used?
They can be placed anywhere a regular indoor receptacle would go—and, thanks to their slim profile, are less restricted than other outlets from an aesthetic point of view. But note that they’re subject to the same electrical codes and restrictions as all receptacles (no horizontal surface-mounting in the kitchen, for example, because of the hazard of having liquids seep into the outlets).
Above: A pair of Bocci 22 flush outlets in the Fernlund + Logan loft kitchen. Photograph by Matthew Williams
Above: A single Bocci 22 outlet inset into a bathroom wall.
How are flush-mount outlets installed?
Flush-mount outlet placement is part of the drywall installation process—so it’s only an option for remodelers and people doing construction. The electrical wall box/container is placed within the drywall and “mudded in” using common construction and finishing techniques by an electrician and drywall installer. This is not a DIY project. Installation varies depending on the make of the particular outlet, but generally the electric receptacle is put in after the box is embedded in the wall. Some models are designed with a fascia plate that fits seamlessly into the face of the receptacle box, flush with the wall. Not to worry, repairs do not require more holes in the wall: Outlets can be removed to access wiring after installation.
Bocci 22 Flush Mount Electrical Accessories are designed to be installed directly into drywall without a visible cover plate or trim. They can also be set flush into wood, marble, glass or any other wall surface.
California company Trufig offers a family of flush-mount products including switches, power outlets, data jacks, keypads and touch panels. Unlike Bocci’s outlets, Trufig’s come with fascias, thin faceplates that fit flush on top of the inset receptacle box. The fascias can be treated the same way as walls–they can be painted, faux finished, wallpapered, or laminated with a material, including stone.
Above: A flush-mount wall plate system for drywall and wood, Smoothline was developed by a remodeler frustrated by the lack of utilitarian elements with a clean, modern design. It’s only available in white, but can be painted and wallpapered.
How much do flush-mount outlets cost?
The initial outlay for flush-mount outlets is well above that of your standard electrical outlet (the Trufig Single Outlet runs close to $300 for all the necessary parts, about 10 times more than a standard outlet). Manufacturers contend that while the initial costs are higher, other costs associated with efforts to hide outlets after installation are eliminated. To keep expenses in control, consider using flush outlets only in main living areas that are exposed.
Above: The Bocci 22 Single Drywall Assembly starts at $200, and it also requires a $75 Bocci Remove Tool for installation (only one required regardless of the number of outlets installed).
Above: Smoothline is moderately priced: Its White 1-Gang Drywall Installation is $10.95 for a flush-mount wall box and faceplate; these work with the standard outlet electric parts (not included) for a flush-mount application.
I’m not doing a remodel. Are there alternatives to flush-mount outlets for reducing cover plate clutter?
If you can’t hide the cover plates, try to make them attractive: Work room by room to switch up the cheap plastic models with affordable metal, porcelain, or wood ones—or plates that blend into your decor.
Consider outlet camouflage in the form of recessed outlets that enable you to hide protruding plugs behind furniture, appliances, or a flat-screen TV. Or try pop-out outlets that disappear when not in use.
Above: French company Meljac makes top-of-the-line switches and sockets, like these Sol models in architect Joseph Dirand’s Paris kitchen. Photograph via T Magazine.
N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on September 11, 2014.