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 @ 1:16 pm
I don’t know which I’ve enjoyed more – the post or the comments on the post. And I am currently reconsidering all my life choices in light of my complete lack of refrigerator aesthetic discrimination.
Also, am I the only one who thought of Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters, opening her fridge to another dimension??
Marianne in Mo.
October 25, 2017 @ 1:38 pm
I truly never thought of how ugly refrigerators are until I read this. Where have I been focusing my attention? Oh yeah, on the fact that this current kitchen AND previous one are the exact same —we rebuilt the same house, only on a lake lot now! We did love that house so much that we had to continue living in it, with the exception of the kitchen and master bath. While we solved the problem of the bath, we were unable to find a solution to the kitchen without adding square footage, which meant $$$ we didn’t have. So we thoughtfully figured out the issue in the past was a side by side fridge. It MUST remain in the end run against a wall, and we could never get the freezer side opened fully without PULLING IT AWAY FROM THE WALL! So we got a french door this time, figuring we STILL had the open door issue, but at least we could get to the entire thing with one door opened. (freezer is on bottom, drawer-type) WRONG! I recently found a spill had happened in there, and discovered I could NOT get the shelves, drawers or much of anything out of there WITHOUT PULLING IT AWAY AT AN ANGLE FROM THE WALL! When we moved in, that space was SO TIGHT, we scraped the wall pushing the fridge in place. Now I’m afraid to pull it out. So I cleaned as best as I could, and left it be. It haunts me every day when I open the door and see yuck between the glass and a plastic support for the veggie drawers. I’m considering converting our screened in porch that overlooks the lake view into a huge pantry, so the fridge can have a home, WITH A LAKE VIEW!!!! I am so sympathetic with you on words, words, words! My brain wants to turn to mush.
October 25, 2017 @ 1:55 pm
Why not two fridges? Do the drawer thing (maybe two of them) for the basics, the stuff you use everyday, and then put the *real* fridge downstairs with the freezer? I know, maybe not the most convenient but then you get the space back that is making your brain itchy, you save $41,000 and life can go on.
When I first looked at the house I eventually bought, that was built in 1937, the previous owners had their enormous fridge in the DINING room, because the kitchen had a built in area that modern fridges, for the most part, don’t fit in. Since my previous house had been built in 1925 I actually had a fridge that fit the new house but was 2″ too tall. A handyman and $500 fixed that and now it lives where the builder intended it. One real estate agent suggested I put my fridge in the separate breakfast room but I think my frozen glare stopped that lunacy. I mean, how COOL is it that there is this whole separate ROOM to put stuff in, complete with built-ins??? Now if I could just finish painting and get the final hinges on the corner cabinet, stuff could get put away, I could have a party and life would be grand!
October 25, 2017 @ 2:11 pm
I completely agree and am putting all my refrigeration into a butlers pantry. Maybe you can come up with a butler pantry space where the old stairwell used to be????
October 25, 2017 @ 2:13 pm
I went through the same painful experience when renovating our older home. We had a very strict budget which I could not go over. All was going well until the fridge nightmares. The only one that worked for me was a subzero with custom panels to match my cabinets, which made it virtually disappear. We were not putting in an over the top high end kitchen, but I just would not compromise on the fridge. You would not believe what I had to give up in order to fit the fridge into the budget ( new furniture, hardwoods, landscaping, etc.) – everyone thought I was crazy, but I am in love with it, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to have someone ask, “Where’s the fridge”.
October 25, 2017 @ 2:30 pm
Oh my. We just had this same issue with the microwave. We have a small kitchen in our villa and so the microwave must go above the stove or half of our counter top would be gone.
It needed to be vented from above, have a mute button and white (in that order). The mute button was absolutely necessary and it was tough to find one with it. I wanted it to be less ugly but there just wasn’t an option below $1k and I wasn’t paying that for a microwave I barely use.
How are there not be more options? I kept telling myself that others didn’t care so I shouldn’t care. But I still do. The rest of the kitchen is all white and the microwave really stands out.
Yes, it is quite ugly. It is large and even thought the frame is white the center is black-ish. But for less than $30 we are having a custom made vinyl decal that we can apply to the outside that will camouflage it (kind of).
(I WISH I had known about there being a fridge that was all fridge and no freezer when we replaced ours. Such a great idea!)
October 25, 2017 @ 3:00 pm
Ever think about doing a used commercial fridge with a glass door? Some are column shaped. You could do a column of refrigeration and a column for a freezer unit with something in between for symmetry.
October 25, 2017 @ 3:11 pm
I feel your pain, sister! Been there, done that. We were saved by the Home Depot EXPO Design Center going out of business within a year of opening, and I was able to score a kitchen-full of brand new Viking appliances from one of their display kitchens, at the cost of mere ugly appliances… You have great taste, a great sense of humor, and you guys are very resourceful. I know you’ll come up with something great.
October 25, 2017 @ 3:40 pm
I like MicheleFromBoston’s idea – I was going to say, what about a built-in wall-mounted oven on one side, the fridge on the other, and counter or cooktop in between? Or a full-height, glass-fronted crockery cabinet to balance off the fridge?
Planning our kitchen very nearly endangered our marriage. No one could comprehend that I had a VISION, people, not just a desire to be able to make soup and store mixing bowls.
October 25, 2017 @ 5:01 pm
Too late to frame out a Butlers pantry? Then you could also install a small fridge in the island, for the hinge you use everyday, or will be using later that day.
October 25, 2017 @ 5:06 pm
THIS is everything that has been happening in my headspace! Our dishwasher leaked, we’re in a forced kitchen remodel, and I’ve long-hated the awkward BEAST of a fridge we inherited with our house. Been looking at slim 24″ models, but all the ones that are tall and have amazing storage space/organization are only made and sold in the UK or Asia! There’s similar fridges starting to trickle into the U.S., but they’re all twice the price and shoddy. Seriously considering fridge drawers. The drama.
October 25, 2017 @ 6:59 pm
So … when we remodeled our kitchen, I decided I wanted a lovely kitchen, but a fancy fridge was not my deal….my neighbor has a fancy fridge and she knows her repairman far too well. So my architect came up with a seriously easy idea and just made all the cabinets deeper (36″ I believe), to allow for a standard size fridge that would be cabinet depth (I think standard is 30″ deep?). Granted, I still have a plain, boring, white fridge BUT my kitchen is absolutely gorgeous, because I spent the money on other (non-fancy-fridge) stuff and you don’t even notice the white fridge. And the two years I took dithering on Houzz and Pinterest paid off. Procrastination can be an underrated successful behavioral strategy! Take heart!
October 25, 2017 @ 8:09 pm
I think you should hold out for the $7,000,000.oo refrigerator!!!
October 25, 2017 @ 8:27 pm
Our second home is a cabin. The giant basic black fridge was taking over the entire space. I convinced my husband to move it to the lower level laundry room. We have a $150 dorm fridge in the kitchen – my husbands junk gets priority! The dorm fridge will have a custom counter built over it and it blends in with the older stainless stove next to it. The entire kitchen is now unfitted and homemade and I love it. My real house has a large pantry and we are kicking around the idea of sticking the fridge in there. I would remove the fridge surround and replace my current free standing hutch with a bigger one.
October 25, 2017 @ 8:43 pm
I did a glass mosaic on my side by side in a harlequin pattern. It was pretty cool, in white and cream. I’m thinking of doing a wide stripe pattern on the current one. BTW, couldn’t Paul make something for the front of the fridge? Panel ready or not?
October 27, 2017 @ 11:39 am
picture please. and some step by step instructions
October 25, 2017 @ 8:48 pm
Okay…so I have always thought the paneled fridge doors looked gorgeous but never actually investigated the cost of one. I knew they would be expensive but it never occurred to me they might run into the 47k region. Wow. SO I decided there must be a workable DIY solution. I looked at google and I looked at Pinterest. Some looked pretty horrid to me…but then I ran across this Houzz link….which referenced this part:
If you are doing custom cabinets anyways (guessing), why not get extra material and build a cabinet to put your fridge in. That dohooky will open the fridge good when you open the cabinet. I also ran across a comment in here than mentioned making the cabinets deeper on the fridge wall. What a brilliant idea!
Anyways, you may want to check out the Houzz reference yourself: https://www.houzz.com/discussions/2702816/connecting-a-wood-panel-door-to-a-fridge-door-to-open-together
I am sure whatever you decide on will be fabulous! It does seem like some glue and wood in some combination should do the trick.
October 30, 2017 @ 10:14 am
I had the same thought as you. Why not build a cabinet around the refrigerator to hide it when not in use? That way you could have a larger, practical unit, but it would be masked by a cabinet door. Those links are great.
October 25, 2017 @ 8:53 pm
I feel your pain. Old house, similar problem. Solved it by turning a small adjoining room into a pantry and located the refer there. It doesn’t mar the kitchen & works fine in the pantry.
October 25, 2017 @ 10:05 pm
Your posts just make me laugh. I totally get you!
October 25, 2017 @ 11:01 pm
I found this entire post completely relatable. You are not unreasonable at all as far as I’m concerned. However, my ultimate fridge is Yolanda Foster’s, it’s basically a marble walled closet with a glass door.
October 25, 2017 @ 11:07 pm
I have that 36in sub zero you’re looking at (with the interior water dispenser) and the 24 in freezer. Paneled. I love them more than one should love inanimate objects. You will never regret that purchase. It almost didn’t happen but because my contractor didn’t get my kitchen planners final design, i realized i didn’t have to get yet another regular fridge that wouldn’t really work and i’d curse every day of my life. Fate intervened. I also got a spice pantry, a floor to ceiling oil/vinegar pull out and a regular pantry. (All things that were not on the plan yet should have been obvious to my kitchen planner… but… 🙄)
While you’re emptying your bank account… might I also recommend a scotsman under counter nugget ice maker? Life. Changing.