Dumbwaiters were popular devices during the 19th Century, but recently the market for the systems have been given a boost, as developers use them to tackle the verticality of modern buildings.

In most modern home designs, it’s not unusual to find bi-folding doors, ipe-wood floors and kitchenettes. What you might not expect to find hidden away beneath sleek cabinets: a dumbwaiter.

You would commonly find dumbwaiters in hotels, apartment buildings and wealthy homes. Primarily used by servants, these hand-operated, cupboard-based systems were used to transfer food items between the kitchen and the dining room. Electric models started appearing in the early 20th century, but shortly after, the market for dumbwaiters took a steep drop.

Most homes that are now equipped with dumbwaiters are relatively new. 45% of them were built after 1999, with only 8% being built between 1850 and 1950. It is thought this increase in the dumbwaiter market is due to the increasing cost of land, resulting in developers having to build more vertically than ever before.

Residential dumbwaiter models can go up to 3-by-3-by-4 feet, with a carrying capacity of 500 pounds. Most are installed as part of larger renovations or new constructions, but bespoke designs can be small enough to install in existing laundry chutes or other wall spaces.

Although a dumbwaiter is still much cheaper than having any other type of lift installed, they are still an expensive addition for what is convenience rather than necessity. Standard electric dumbwaiters can range between £2,000 – £12,000, depending on a number of factors; including installation, equipment, permitting and on-going maintenance costs.

Some home developers are capitalising on the Victorian-era appeal of the dumbwaiter. For those wanting an authentic rustic design in their home, and have the cash to back their ideas up, dumbwaiters can be a beautiful and functional part of the home.