Kitchen planning…with a counter depth refrigerator.

8038979Freestanding vs counter depth refrigerators

I’ve been a professional kitchen designer for a few decades now. I enjoy the challenge of creating the best possible kitchen (form & function) within whatever limitations I am dealing with. In fact, I’ll discard some plans that would be perfectly acceptable to many.

When I plan a kitchen on paper I can mentally put myself in the room and walk through all the motions. I can think through the whole process from when you set down your groceries to when you unload your dishwasher.

OK, knowing all that, here is my all-time #1 despise…freestanding refrigerators. Nothing will destroy the visual impact of a new kitchen more than a massively deep refrigerator projecting out 12″ beyond the front edge of a countertop.

The kitchen image above is actually a newly remodeled kitchen with new cabinets and granite tops…but what’s the first thing we see? The refrigerator….just awful, right? It was very difficult for me to find an image of a new kitchen with that type of refrigerator. They (the ugly refrigerators) are always cropped out of any professional images and promotional material.

In the race for more and more interior cubic feet, refrigerator manufacturers just keep adding to the only dimension they can…the depth. The width and height were already max’d out, as in your existing refrigerator space. (less than 36″w. x 69″h).

Don’t panic though, I am not suggesting you must spend 7K or more on a new Sub Zero®. You have other options, I promise.

Refrigerators on display










Refrigerator..installed surprise.










What not to do…

Never go out and buy a refrigerator on your own in advance of a full kitchen renovation. It happens all the time…“Let’s get that new refrigerator while it’s on sale”.

Pictured at right is what most people see when they select a refrigerator. Two dimensions only. On the other hand, I am 6′ 3″ tall. I see what most don’t, the front-to-back depth.

So a typical buyer (without advice) will spend weeks of time shopping for, and researching on, a given refrigerator. The price gets right, it’s on sale. It will fit the space (w & h). It has great features, so it gets paid for and delivered. It’s dragged through your home and with a great deal of effort, placed in your kitchen. “OK honey, let’s push it back to the wall”...whoops, why didn’t anybody tell us this…it’s too deep!

Return it? Nobody ever does after that…Too late…Too much trouble.

A year later is when I see that same consumer, now ready to remodel. I walk in the existing kitchen with my fingers crossed, but no avail… “Well we just bought that refrig a year ago, so we’re not going to change that” . I hate when that happens.

Right refrigerator, bad fit & finish


Now you recognise the importance of your refrigerator selection within a complete new kitchen. But it’s not enough to simply purchase a counter depth refrigerator. Your kitchen designer has to know about it and is responsible for the actual fit and finish.

Pictured at right is $4,000 dollar counter depth refrigerator. But, it was a poor choice on configuration…and location…and integration. If a kitchen designer was involved in this kitchen, it’s not properly fitted and not typical of the aesthetics for these refrigerators.

What’s going to happen when they open the left upper door? Its gonna smack the wall and rebound before it gets even half open (see handle). Any interior trays will not pull-out… The upper right door is backwards for the kitchen. When that door swings open to the right, it’s then blocking the landing counter space to the right. Not good.

The 2 images below are from my portfolio…both using a counter depth refrigerator properly integrated into the flow of the kitchen. Now, try to visualize either one of these kitchens with a free-standing refrigerator as in the very first image at the top of this article.



Counter depth refrigerator planned and fitted

Using a Counter Depth Refrigerator.

Using a Counter Depth Refrigerator.

Another counter depth refrigerator…properly placed


Using a counter depth refrigerator.


Top refrigerator, hinged from the left

Regarding hinging..

As I suggested earlier, the choice of door configuration for a refrigerator is extremely important to the daily function of a kitchen. Just because you love a certain style double door side x side in a showroom does not mean you’ll love it in your kitchen!! I cannot emphasize that enough.

Cabinet depth refrigerators are important for the ‘form’ of a kitchen. But the door swings and hinging are vitally important to the function. And form follows function, always.

French style doors are a terrific solution to eye level fresh food storage…but in some cases they just don’t work within a given layout. If you are planning a full remodel, or building a new home, it is essential the refrigerator placement allows for side x side doors. .
In some cases, it simply makes much more sense to use a single door, over/under model. Yes, the french doors are ‘sexy’…but sometimes hinged left or hinged right just makes more sense.In many cases with the refrigerator placed at the left end of a kitchen leg, a hinged left refrigerator makes more sense.

Every kitchen I have ever planned, the refrigerator was always my #1 consideration. Make it yours also. Again, if you have questions regarding your particular circumstance, feel free to contact me using the comment form below.