Dumbwaiters are actually smart devices, ferrying food, laundry and more between floors in a home
The dumbwaiter began as a movable serving stand with many tiers that allowed waitstaff to serve dinner guests; it was made popular by Thomas Jefferson. The dumbwaiter later evolved into a small service elevator or lift that could be raised or lowered via ropes on pulleys between floors, and electric motors were added in the 1920s.
Dumbwaiters allow food, laundry and other items to be raised and lowered between floors. A cabinet with two open sides is raised or lowered in a chute, either manually via ropes and pulleys or with the help of an electric motor.
The dumbwaiter was an invaluable mechanism before refrigeration was available. Milk, butter, vegetables and other perishable items could be lowered to the basement and stored where it was cool. A cleat ties off rope on manual versions to keep the dumbwaiter from falling.
Dumbwaiters can also be used to bring suitcases upstairs to guest rooms or cargo downstairs for storing in the basement.
This basement is the terminating point for this dumbwaiter. Springs on the base of the dumbwaiter guarantee a soft landing.
Not all dumbwaiters look like antique 19th-century kitchen cabinets. This sleek example has aluminum shelves and high-gloss cabinet doors in electric blue.
The lucky occupants of this tree house enjoy the benefits of a basket dumbwaiter, saving trips up and down the ladder with cookies and other necessary items.
Before adding a dumbwaiter to your kitchen, check your local building codes. Fire travels quickly upward in the closed compartment of a dumbwaiter or laundry chute, so fire doors and fireproof materials are required.