Power to the People: Outlets Right Where You Want Them

The other night I noticed my wife crouching on our sofa, her body twisted so she was almost facing the wall. It was a peculiar position obviously not anticipated by the Ikea designer. But, you see, my wife’s iPhone battery was dying, and the only way she could remain on the sofa and still use her phone was to plug it into the outlet behind the sofa. (Why are those dang phone cords so short?)

In this day and age, plugging in and using our much-loved devices shouldn’t be so difficult. If you’re frustrated over where to plug in a laptop, phone, floor lamp, hair dryer or kitchen mixer, you’re not alone. But you’re also not without options. With proper planning you can put an outlet almost anywhere you want — and make it look good, too.

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Project: Adding or moving an electrical outlet.

Why: Convenience is the main concern. In an increasingly wired world, we’re constantly on the lookout for the nearest power source. But standard wall outlets, which are 18 inches off the ground, aren’t always the easiest to access, especially if you’re kicking back on a sofa.

Aesthetics is also a reason. Let’s face it: Outlets, and the cords hooked up to them, are eyesores. Hiding or blending them with home decor will help keep your space visually organized.

Things to consider: In the kitchen there are countless solutions. Here a plug mold blends seamlessly into the space under the cabinets to keep the backsplash free of unsightly outlets. The downside, says Erik Holmberg of Windward Electric, is that plug molds are difficult to work with and you have to hire a skilled tradesperson.

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This example of an under-cabinet system shows how you can incorporate electronics and still have a streamlined look. Holmberg estimates that a custom plug mold addition would cost anywhere from $400 to $800.

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Other models hide in countertops and telescope up when needed.

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Another solution is to incorporate an outlet smack dab in your furniture. Doug Mockett sells all sorts of fancy gizmos that take care of tech needs. He says you can install an outlet in any number of furnishings, including a sofa or chair, as seen here. This means you could plug right into the armrest. The outlet cord runs through the frame and into the wall.

This would cost you about $120 to $400 for the outlet, then you’d have to find someone to install it. “It probably needs to be a wood-framed piece and fitted by someone who knows what they’re doing,” Mockett says.

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Linda Burnside came up with a cool solution for this built-in cabinet. She added an outlet to the wall, then used a pigtail cord that runs through the unit and into this drawer for charging phones and iPads. If you already have an outlet located behind a cabinet like this, setting this up would cost about $50. Hiring an electrician to install an outlet might run another $100.

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Outlets in bathroom drawers are great for hair dryers and curling irons. Paul Paniagua, owner at All Pro Builders, says you can have a drawer outlet installed for about $250.

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Planning ahead is the biggest factor to consider. Tina Dann-Fenwick designed this bathroom for a 13-year-old girl and was able to add an outlet under a corner vanity. It’s hidden out of sight but convenient enough for a variety of needs. “Planning for electrical issues is one of those forgotten things,” she says. “You need to think about the structural and convenience factors when designing a room. It’s crucial to the feel and mood, but also to functionality.”

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Sometimes just moving the location or adding a single outlet to a room in a prime spot can make all the difference. Paniagua says installing a new wall outlet in a strategic spot would run about $300.

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