Panel-ready refrigerators… (alternate title: EVERYTHING NICE IS SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS.)
Below is our previous plan for the kitchen layout… to understand the details that dictate our options, this is the post you want to read, (it’s boring because it deals with boring details.) Here is an index of all my posts about the kitchen.
My problem with kitchens is that you need stuff in them.
Appliances are ugly.
Unless they are $47,000.
If you do not have $47,000, you are left with an equation where you still have to pay LOTS OF MONEY… but now, the money is FOR UGLY THINGS.
So you buy ugly things, put them in your home, and then come to terms with ugly things just hanging out, being ugly.
For me and Paul, this equation-of-ugly is compounded by the age of our house– even if budget were no issue, we are still constrained by a space that was never intended to house a hulking metal box full of ketchup.
Up until now, the spot the refrigerator has been occupying in all our designs was dictated by two things:
1. my wish to have it as much out of view as possible.
2. access to the basement stairwell—> allows us to recess a non-counter-depth fridge.
The house originally had access to the basement from both the foyer and the kitchen; but the access from the kitchen had been closed off at some point.
The wood and wallpaper we found was pretty old, so we are thinking it was closed around 1930?
Below is a (not remotely professional) footprint of our first floor, just so you can visualize better what is happening… the grey/porch area at the bottom is the entrance to the house.
Paul had already reopened the access to the basement stairwell to recess the refrigerator; it allows us to make a normal-depth fridge appear counter-depth.
What we have there now is a 33″ refrigerator, but after a mind-numbing amount of internet-ing, we realized that with a brand new fridge, we could get that down to 30” and keep the same storage.
Infact, you can get a 30″ standard-depth fridge, with storage (21.8 cu. ft. at that link) that is greater than a 36″ counter-depth refrigerator.
This makes me think that the reason we’re seeing MASSIVE WALLS OF NOTHING BUT FRIDGE are NOT because that looks awesome… but because otherwise you have zero refrigerator space.
Also, hello? Can we discuss how a regular fridge is SO MUCH CHEAPER… $1,300 for a standard depth, vs. $8,000, minimum, starting price, for a panel-ready fridge.
Why would I pay 57 times more, to get less fridge space?
Oh, wait… I remember: TO AVOID THE UGLY.
If you have not spent the last three months looking AT ALL OF THE REFRIGERATORS ON PLANET EARTH, you may not have realized JUST HOW UGLY YOUR REFRIGERATOR IS.
A regular fridge is not a visually appealing thing… SQUAT is the word that comes to mind.
This is a fact: a $12,000 refrigerator looks better than one that is $1,300.
And if you spend even MORE… say, $24,000… you can acquire an appliance that I would fully enjoy LIVING INSIDE. LIKE A MINI HOUSE JUST FOR ME AND KITTENS.
I could have solved this by working an extra job on third-shift, to afford a refrigerator I’d really ENJOY looking at… but then I would end up in the sanitarium, and wouldn’t really get much use out of it.
This is the point in a blog post where I question my life choices that I have so much to say about refrigerators.
My point is: for a while it seemed that panel-ready was the solution to my stupid-problems-that-are-not-real-problems-but-still-occupy-all-of-my-brain-space.
There is no ven diagram where you find overlap between a 30″ refrigerator, that is panel ready, AND has real storage… IT DOES NOT EXIST… you MUST go to 36″ to get a reasonably-sized panel-ready.
We went and looked at them in person, just to verify that we would be insane to buy one; and also to feel like we are people who consider high-end ketchup boxes. (Albeit, scratch-and-dent fancy ketchup boxes.)
My findings: 30″ panel-ready refrigerators are for people who do not wish to have food in their home.
Half a watermelon and a large bowl of grandma’s cucumbers would leave room for not much else.
Which led us to this consideration: let’s just do an all-fridge column… this will give us the space we need, and let us keep the less-obtrusive 30″ width… and we’ll just trek to the basement for freezer stuff, (because we bought a chest freezer.)
The OPPOSITE of ideal!
(Hi! Have we met?)
This fridge-only-column “solution” isn’t even more “affordable”… it’s just random juggling of needs-vs-visual-appeal, and doesn’t really solve anything… but is the sort of design-road you travel down just to see if it might magically lead anywhere other than a dead end.
And! Of course! No new plan would be complete without an attempt to DIY what lives in my head… which is how we ended up lying on the floor at the scratch-and-dent trying to figure out how to remove the finished door of a cheap fridge to turn it into a panel-ready.
An interesting theoretical exercise!
But even if we could overcome the hinging/pivot issue, (panel-ready/built in/integrated fridges; which are not really interchangeable terms, but for my purposes they are… they hinge differently than regular fridges) I still couldn’t figure out a solution to the inherent SQUATness. Cheap fridge = short… and while extending the panel above the actual fridge to make it APPEAR taller was maybe an option, that seemed… what? Silly? Shoddy? And when added to the hinging issue… blah blah blah, words words words, WHY AM I STILL SPEAKING?
I also concocted a plan where we buy antique brass doors… and glue them to a 30” cheap fridge… and then paint the fridge, inside the new brass “frames” a sophisticated shade of yes-this-is-a-painted-fridge-with-brass-glued-on.
Paul didn’t have to consider it because the frames are $4,500. And in Las Vegas. And also because it would look incredibly stupid.
This is how NUTS the refrigerator makes me.
And you know what else? EVEN IF we found a 30″ panel-ready that was magically not $9 million dollars, and stored more than condiments, I WOULD STILL HATE IT.
Because in our kitchen, the refrigerator makes our layout NOT SYMMETRICAL.
Lack of symmetry makes me itchy on inside of my brain.
The refrigerator MESSES EVERYTHING UP.
Thus it is unacceptable.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:26 am
Do you have enough space for a sufficient number of refrigerator drawers to meet your needs? Assuming you are OK with the freezer in the basement (what do you do for ice for beverages in this arrangement?).
October 25, 2017 @ 11:36 am
That is what I will be doing in my 1894 kitchen.
Just a HUGE island with everything tucked below it, including refrigerator drawers and ice maker.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:29 am
I bought the cheapest panel ready fridge I could find (there is one made by Kitchen Aid) and I still regret it to this day. The freaking $8000 fridge is the only way to go. Tell self to swallow hard and suck it up on this one!
Sharyl (Sage Farm Antiques) Murphy
November 3, 2017 @ 5:30 am
I bought that one as well when in sticker-shock over panel fridges but I think it is fine, I am curious to know what you don’t like about it? I live in France for most of the year and, here, you can by panel ready fridges at IKEA for dirt cheap (granted, they are not what I would call high end appliances but they do the job) so I expected that a bit of googling would turn up something similar in the US- obviously, I was deluded. This baffles me. For any other house renovation item, I have 10x the choice in the States vs Europe EXCEPT for panel refrigerators. A mystery…
January 16, 2018 @ 7:57 pm
Nicole, & Victoria,
I just bought the same refrigerator and now I am in trouble with it sticking out even though it is counter depth ! Do you have a pic of yours? I’m trying to figure out what to do!
January 16, 2018 @ 7:58 pm
How do you post a picture?
Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
January 17, 2018 @ 8:34 am
Hey Connie… if it’s the Kitchen Aid w/ French doors that I am thinking of? I think it is designed to not be quite flush… if I recall, that fridge specifies that it must protrude 3″ to allow the doors to open?
The difference is in the hinges; the super expensive ones have a hinge that allows the door to pivot inside its own space, rather than needing the space where the countertop would otherwise be… if you figure out a solution, LET ME KNOW!?! Good luck!!!!
October 25, 2017 @ 11:30 am
Having just purchased a new fridge (after, oh, about four months of looking at every model made on the planet) I feel your pain. Our issue was height. Not that anyone actually uses the cabinets above the fridge except to store the wedding gift ice bucket and the extra lettuce spinner, but taking them down would leave a funny hole in the layout. So we bought what would fit and met the other requirements as best as possible. Namely, French doors (because the big dog is always on the floor in the kitchen at mealtime and I couldn’t possibly make her get up every time I wanted to open the fridge), the ability to accept magnets on the door (I know, how gauche) and ice. And you know what? We are happy and the large box has been assimilated. Life goes on.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:33 am
Paul must be a very patient person. He sounds a lot like my husband. And the photos look achingly familiar. We have been through this twice. I got “icky” feelings while renovating: sketched the kitchen, took photos from every angle and scrutinized, visited home improvement centers and haunted their kitchen departments, drew it on graph paper and cut out little miniature fridges, cabinets, etc. and arranged and rearranged them, collected a stack of Kitchens and Baths magazines as high as my knee. Hiding the refrigerator was SO costly. After obsessing over it for months to the point of even considering PAINTING the fridge to disguise it; we bought a generic sidebyside, and I am almost (after 7 years) over it. I wish you much luck with this, and am looking forward to the solution you come up with.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:33 am
still life: *woman faces existential void.*
This made me burst out laughing.
Enjoyed all the other words, too.
However…now I can never again go into my kitchen as I must, obviously, avoid the horror of being offended by my who-knew-this-was-an-aesthetic-insult refrigerator.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:37 am
I hate asking this, but did you consider fridge drawers instead?
October 25, 2017 @ 11:45 am
The fridge issue is a complex one. We struggled for a month (that’s all the angst I could allow myself!) In our 1930’s house with a 9×9 kitchen, we elected to place a two drawer under counter fridge, thus avoiding putting the big, hulking box of a thing in the breakfast room. We have a chest freezer in the basement and while it takes some coordinating of leftovers and keeps me from stocking up on fridge items, it does work for us, (DISCLAIMER!) a couple with no kids. Ours is an Electrolux model that we bought at Sears and it has worked great. Stainless steel, very quiet, two deep drawers. I first saw the idea in a historic home with such strict restoration standards that they could not make space for a full size fridge to be added. Just another consideration for you.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:48 am
Although I have no solutions for the lack-of-symmetry situation, I will say I totally shared your attraction to panel-ready refrigerators and are-you-kidding-me reaction to their price. Although I won’t say ours was cheap, we did get a rather huge discount by checking with the local you-must-be-stupid-rich-to-shop-here specialty appliance store, which had a paneled double door refrigerator as a display model. By putting down a modest deposit and waiting 3 months for them to do their seasonal display switch, we got the refrigerator for way less than list. Then the folks who made our inordinately expensive cabinets were able to clad it with panels that matched the cabinets. I speak to it sweetly every day, secretly praying that I die before it does, because the complications entailed with its replacement are too horrible to contemplate.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:53 am
I completely understand your paralysis. But I am just wondering how you guys are functioning without a kitchen? Where are you preparing food? It has been a looooong time to live without a kitchen!
October 25, 2017 @ 11:54 am
Oh appliance shopping, how fun! *twitch twitch*
Currently in the same boat of required remodel (dishwasher explosion due to rusted pipes + glued-down carpet (whyyy???) = ridiculous sticky mess of a floor… and broken plumbing). I don’t like the look of appliances either… current idea is to get a very sharp-edged boxy fridge and then wrap in black vinyl and maybe frame it, make it into a chalkboard-looking dry erase board. Now to convince everyone else it would be amazing…
Good luck to you!
Charlotte Des Fleurs
October 25, 2017 @ 11:54 am
At one house I put my fridge in the garage right next to the door that opened to the kitchen. A little inconvenient, but it made my kitchen look 1000% better.
Hubby and I are remodeling our kitchen as well. We just bought a floor-model, slightly scratched, panel ready, 36″, counter-depth, French-door Kitchen Aid. Retail is over $5,000 PLUS the cost of panels. We paid $1,000 and are making the panels ourselves from recycled French Armoire doors. So far, we LOVE it! There are 2 of us and there is plenty of room for everything we use in a week. We don’t stock up on many frozen things but if we wanted to, we would just get a freezer to put in the garage. When we have a party or visitors, we simply turn on our little dorm fridge in the garage and store extra things in there.
Our great grand parents did not have ginormous fridges. In fact, many of them did not have fridges at all. Unless you are a serial entertainer, who needs a big fridge?
October 25, 2017 @ 4:55 pm
Hi Charlotte! Can we see photos of your magnificent creation?
Charlotte Des Fleurs
November 4, 2017 @ 11:53 am
Hi Karyn, We just returned from a house-hunting expedition in southwest France. Our heads are jam packed with new ideas. A few days ago we had a structural engineer out to visit to get the go-ahead to rip out the ceiling in our kitchen and family room. (I started last night!) We are raising the roof, paneling the ceiling and adding hefty wooden beams. Therefore, we are holding off on paneling the fridge. Don’t want it to be damaged during the demo.
I think VEB and I have the same crazy remodeling genes because I, too, can function with a half demo’d kitchen because I can already see the “after”.
October 26, 2017 @ 7:15 am
You didn’t mention how you got a 5K fridge for 1K – did it involve sexual favors?
Charlotte Des Fleurs
November 4, 2017 @ 11:56 am
Hi Laura, I tried to reply to this last night. Sorry, no special favors involved. As I am nearly 70. However, I think the seller was trying to put as fast one on us because he told us to wait 48 hours before turning it on. We discovered that it did not work at all! Fortunately, I had contacted the manufacturer BEFORE giving the seller our money. The unit was still under warranty. So, a factory-trained tech came out and made the corrections. It works perfectly and the repairs were free!
Charlotte Des Fleurs
November 14, 2017 @ 10:33 pm
TO KARYN and LAUREN: UPDATE MY KITCHEN: It is now officially a wreck! The entire ceiling is out, half the cabinets are out AND I just found a La Cornue Albertine range for a steal (another Floor model that has only been used once at an Appliance Show). It’s just what I have been looking for – Gloss Black with chrome and brass trim. So, had to buy the range! Electricians have been ripping holes in my walls to put in more outlets, a special outlet for the range because it is European and NEEDS a special circuit, an outlet for the special hood that the special range requires and on and on. My panel-ready fridge is doing its duty as a fridge but is somewhat naked at the moment. Don’t know how to post photos or would show Karyn the armoire panels she asked to see.
Smiles from Charlotte
January 16, 2018 @ 7:39 pm
I just bought the same refrigerator you have and am struggling with it sticking out ! My cabinets will be creamy with black countertops the fridge panels will match the cabinets but the sides of the fridge are black! So with a cream front and black side, I’m so worried it will look terrible! Help! Do you have pictures of yours?
May 22, 2018 @ 9:19 pm
We just bought the panel ready KitchenAid French door frig. It will have black edges showing, but we’re okay with that. It seemed the best (affordable) way to not have a big piece of stainless steel staring at us. I’ve chosen cabinet & frig handles which will have black accents in hopes of blending in the black on the frig.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:56 am
I think refrigerators should go in the pantry. But then you have to have a pantry big enough for the refrigerator.
Also, I want to add that I also follow you on Instagram and you have inspired me to plant dahlias next year. Your photos of your flowers are beautiful.
October 27, 2017 @ 5:22 pm
Pantry, that’s what I was thinking. The big kitchen addition looks large enough to build a butlers pantry that could house the fridge. Daniel @ Manhattan Nest hosted quite the debate on fridge in pantry of old house kitchen on his blog last year. Many people were against it. I’m for it but my fridge lives in the basement so even more inconvenient. I also don’t have a shower because i don’t want to ruin the layout of my single 1920s bathroom. I will rearrange my life if necessary to avoid ruining my home with modern conveniences.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:59 am
I feel like I’m nearing the end of a movie and hanging on a cliff to see what happens! Thanks a lot!%$@#😜
October 25, 2017 @ 12:16 pm
I know it’s not your first plan but this (or a similar) DIY option would at least be dressier than standard/off the shelf option with no adaptations.
October 25, 2017 @ 2:23 pm
I loved this. But you must love black fridges to work. Can correctly sized cabinet doors be glued/ Velcro-ed to the box of ugliness? Or covered in mirror mosaics to resemble a box shaped disco ball? Or gift wrapped with giant red bows? Or painted to look like a Victorian mansion?
In other words, turn that giant box into something you’ll love… decoupage Don Draper to the front.
October 25, 2017 @ 2:55 pm
Came here to say that Stashy. Jenny did a great job!
October 25, 2017 @ 12:19 pm
You are in my head ….I have done all the same or similar research and I still have a standard refridgerator… so frustrating.
October 25, 2017 @ 12:24 pm
Fridges ARE ugly. I live in a cabin in Nevada. What I did was cover the front of my new plain basic white fridge in old desert weathered wood boards. Then I screwed in beautiful old iron handles made by my Blacksmith great-grandfather.
Then I hammered in some small nails and hung a wood framed old photo of my great -grandmother riding her horse on the front of the fridge. Love it. Everyone loves it.
Your fridge is a creative opportunity.
Maybe you can find a local craftsman to make you some custom fancy doors?
October 25, 2017 @ 1:08 pm
OMG can we see a photo?
October 25, 2017 @ 2:43 pm
I’m with you on that one Cindy!!! NevadaNY, would love to see your refrigerator!
October 25, 2017 @ 3:03 pm
What? Please show a picture!! How did you attach the first layer of boards? This is the most fascinating thing I have heard of in a while!! VEB could totally do something like this!
October 26, 2017 @ 6:24 pm
Wowed! Please share pic & instructions…
October 25, 2017 @ 12:43 pm
I feel your pain. There are some great suggestions in the comments section, but somehow I’m feeling maybe the fact that you are moving where your fridge goes is making way for GFTs along that wall???? Can’t wait to see! Good luck to you.
October 25, 2017 @ 1:07 pm
You should obviously just turn all of your drawers into refrigerator drawers and get that think Out. Of. Sight.
Sure, no tall things are allowed and freezer items have to go in the basement but beauty is pain so it is what it is. You also could just buy a cheap fridge and put that in the basement also. Besides, we all know the only important refridgerated items live in the wine cooler.
October 25, 2017 @ 1:09 pm
Personally, I have 2 fridge rules:
1) Never stainless steel (which leaves me with white)
2) New wall decal every couple if months. Right now I have matte gold stripes all over my boring ugly cheapshit fridge, and it looks, hmmm… daring.
October 25, 2017 @ 1:12 pm
Why don’t you put in a Smeg fridge in a fabulous color. They look fabulous.