We’re no strangers to pint-size kitchens around here. From our condo to our garden unit and now our Tree House, we’ve always enjoyed packing as much form and function as possible into a small space. Bring on all the challenges!
When it came time to start making kitchen decisions at Tree house, we knew we’d have to think outside the box. The floor plan, although well laid out, is restrictive in the sense that the space not only does the job of a kitchen, but must be passed through on the way from the front (ahem, side) door into the main living space of the house. This immediately had us making choices that were not only visually lighter – nixing upper cabinets, for example – but physically more compact.
As is visible in the initial Tree House tour, the old refrigerator was standard size and jutted out past the shallow wall that separates the kitchen from the living room. This got us thinking about other options and we quickly went down a rabbit hole of apartment size, under-cabinet and counter-depth fridges. (Oh, and Smegs! Lots and lots of Smeg talk.) In the end, we kept coming back to 24″ wide panel ready appliances, which, sure, are smaller than standard units, but they allowed for a seamless look that would make the room feel larger and more cohesive.
Throughout this process, we learned a lot about panel ready appliances. Think of this as a highlight reel to keep you from having to start from scratch, maybe?
Panel Ready Appliances Are Gaining in Popularity.
Between the time we selected our appliances for the Tree House kitchen and now, we’ve noticed panel ready appliances popping up with a bit more regularity. Or maybe it’s one of those things where we’re now noticing them more? Most big box retailers have options available, but fair warning, they may not be on display in stores. A current search shows multiple dishwasher options from Bosch, KitchenAid, GE and Whirlpool at Lowe’s. Bosch and KitchenAid also have multiple refrigerator options available.
While appliance finish trends come and go, appliances faced to match cabinet doors will have as much staying power as the cabinets themselves, which I suppose can be a good or bad thing, depending on the design! The options are literally endless. Want a white shaker-style fridge? No problem. Want a dishwasher that jumps on the high-gloss cabinet train? Do it!
Appliance Pulls | Are they Necessary?
Nope! Another benefit of panel fronted appliances is that you’re able to select your own hardware. Lots of manufacturers offer specialized appliance pulls that are much larger (and way more expensive) than traditional cabinet pulls, but often not in every hardware finish.
We wanted to ensure that our pulls were consistent throughout the kitchen, so we restricted our search to drawer pull styles that had a very wide range of size options. We landed on these in aged brass, with a 12″ fridge pull and a 6″ freezer and dishwasher pull. They fit the bill nicely and allow for a firm grasp on the heavier doors, which is important.
We Wish We Knew…
We absolutely love our Bosch 800 Series Custom Panel fridge, but we do have one regret regarding the installation. Given the unusual size and built-in nature of the unit, neither we, nor our Lowe’s kitchen designer realized that the bottom freezer door would nearly skim the floor once the panel was installed. The installation instructions show the unit being slid into a cabinet that encompasses the entire fridge and incorporates a recessed toe kick. In hindsight, we wish we had known this as each of us has already stubbed a toe on the bottom of the freezer door – ouch!
Installing the fridge in a custom cabinet and lifting it off of the floor a few inches would not only eliminate future stubbed toes, but it would help the doors to align better with the cabinets in the rest of the room. After a pretty thorough search, we’ve not been able to locate a “standard” cabinet for a built in fridge, so this may be a custom item, which adds further expense. Note: On the opposite end, we found many photos online that show panel ready refrigerators installed exactly as ours! Perhaps there’s not a standard in this area just yet.
Appliance cost | Panel ready appliances are generally pricier than their standard counterparts. This is something to keep in mind as you budget for your renovation, and like anything, how important is it to you?
Custom panel cost | The price of the panels that will become the fronts of your appliances must be custom ordered. Of course, custom will add more to the bottom line, too.
Space | Many of the panel ready refrigerators we considered were smaller than standard 36″ wide units. It goes without saying, but counter-depth, built-in/under counter and 24″ wide fridges like ours offer less storage space. In our case, Tree House is not a full time home, and we were okay with this! In fact, we welcomed it. Less is more at Tree House.
Assembly + installation | Attaching and aligning the custom-made panels can be a bit stressful. Math is hard (for me at least). When it came time to drill the holes for hardware on all of the panels, I used no less than 3 sets of measurements before I made any permanent modifications. Allow for ample time, use the included templates and take lots of measurements.
Dishwashers | Panel ready dishwashers are the same size and shape as any standard dishwasher. They also slide into standard size openings, so in theory, upgrading to a panel ready model could be very straightforward if the panel itself could be sourced to match existing cabinetry. Our Bosch 800 Series looks great and is among the quietest out there. It even has an integrated light on the bottom of the door to let you know it’s running since it’s often hard to tell! (Kim’s favorite part.)
All said and done, we’re truly thrilled with the both the performance and aesthetics of our panel ready appliances and will absolutely consider them for future kitchen projects! As panel ready options increase in popularity, we’re confident that more options will become available and prices will drop over time. In the meantime, we still feel that the seamless look provided by built in appliances can’t be matched. Has anyone else gone down this road as well? We’d love to hear about your experiences!
PS – The inspiration for this post came from one of our wonderful Instagram followers. If you’ve got an idea for a post, a suggestion, or a burning question, feel free to drop us a note in the comments or shoot us an email!