Design Strategies for Integrating Refrigerators into Kitchen Cabinetry

It wasn’t that long ago that your appliances travelled with you. Buying a new house meant packing up your old refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher and installing them into your next kitchen. This wasn’t too critical for stoves and dishwashers because they usually come in standard dimensions. But refrigerators vary in both width and height and most kitchens had to be designed to accommodate just about any possible size. The result is the typical bad kitchen design detail of a refrigerator sitting in an oversized gap in the cabinetry.

The good news is that those days are largely behind us, and most appliances stay with a house when it is sold. However, there is still a legacy of badly designed cabinetry detailing around the refrigerator. Fortunately, a little care and attention paid to this small aspect of kitchen design can make a huge difference in the quality of the overall outcome.

To learn more, watch John and Matthew discuss some of the key design considerations for integrating both traditional 30” deep refrigerators as well as the new counter depth-variety into kitchen cabinetry.

Today’s Slides:

  • Terri

    Matthew and John, Thanks for the fridge discussion. I’m wondering about ventilation requirements since fridges generate a lot of heat. We built a drywall “box for ours and had cupboards installed above, but we allowed air space behind and above these cupboards for better air flow. Is this not really necessary?

  • Matthew North

    Hi Terri – hope you have had a good summer! Your point about fridge ventilation is a good one. A standard depth fridge usually has the condenser on the back, meaning that there is an air space required on the back, sides and top for air flow and ventilation. This will vary between models, but the installation guide will show the minimum dimensions required for venting. If a side gable, a cabinet or drywall is installed too close and the air gap does not meeting the manufacturers requirements, the fridge can over heat and fail. A counter depth fridge (like a Sub Zero) has the condenser on the front face, either at the top, or at the bottom below the tow kick. Again, these grills cannot be blocked or clad with millwork otherwise the fridge will over heat. This is a critical point in kitchen design – thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention!

  • Terri

    Hi Matthew, Since you (sort of) asked…my summer has been busy with kitchen and bathroom cabinet refinishing projects and some painting (need windows open for such work). Seems like a long time since I’ve thought about design though. Best wishes on the fall courses you’re offering in Calgary!