If you’re renovating your kitchen, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of refrigerator choices out there. You’ve likely been introduced to terms like “panel-ready,” “built-in,” and “integrated”… and if you’re not familiar with this refrigerator terminology (and let’s be honest — is anyone?) then this blog is for you! Why? Because this simple guide will help you make an informed decision about which fridge will suit your kitchen best!
Panel-Ready vs. Built-in vs. Integrated Kitchen Refrigerators
Before we get any further, let’s bring it back to basics. First things first… what do the terms “panel-ready”, “built-in,” and “integrated” actually mean? Here’s a simple glossary to help make things a little easier for you!
Built-In / Panel-Ready refers to refrigerators that are designed to accept custom cabinetry panels and depending on the installation method/type your matching cabinet panels may protrude, be framed in stainless steel or sit flush with surrounding cabinets. Some fridges are even designed to accept multiple install methods, allowing you to pick the look that’s best for you!
Panel-Ready STAINLESS FRAMED: features a stainless steel grille for venting at the top, and matching cabinetry panels are framed in stainless steel. The unit will protrude approx. 2” from front face of adjacent cabinetry.
Panel-Ready OVERLAY: refers to a built-in kitchen refrigerator that is fitted for a cabinet panel that matches the rest of the woodwork or cabinetry in your kitchen. In other words… it’s exactly as the “term” sounds! The refrigerator is overlayed with a cabinet panel that matches your kitchen cabinet design. The important key to remember here is that this type of kitchen refrigerator typically protrudes about 2 inches from the surrounding cabinets but unlike “Panel-Ready Framed”, it does not have a stainless steel frame, however the stainless steel hinges and seals are visible with this method.
Panel-Ready FLUSH INSET: allow for the matching cabinetry panels to be “flush” (typically within ¼”) of adjacent cabinetry with a ½” air gap reveal between cabinets & fridge panels. This air gap allows the fridge’s compressors to intake fresh air, and exhaust hot air. Planning tip: flush inset fridges require a larger opening, so this method typically cannot be used on retrofitting an existing opening unless it's already wide enough, and when designing a new kitchen, the wider opening & depth must be taken into account.
Fully Integrated refers to built-in fridges that sit completely flush with your surrounding cabinetry. In other words, there is no wide air gap and no protrusion of the doors whatsoever! Integrated kitchen refrigerators are unique in that they completely blend into surrounding cabinetry and mimic the same small reveal around the doors like other kitchen cabinetry. This type of paneled refrigerator is completely camouflaged and undetectable…. There aren’t even visible compressor vents! Planning tip: the compressor on integrated fridges is located at the bottom, so a decorative cutout or furniture toekick is required to allow the compressor to vent properly. Typically a matching toekick can be applied and is made removable for servicing.
When it comes to Panel-Ready vs. Fully Integrated…. It depends on your end vision and ultimately budget as Fully Integrated units are typically 20% more. At Bloomsbury Fine Cabinetry, we tend to lean more toward fully integrated refrigerators that blend seamlessly into our English furniture style framed inset cabinetry. What we love most about this type of refrigerator is that it allows for more versatility in terms of custom design and placement within your kitchen floor plan. Whether it be a feature in your kitchen like a beautiful fridge armoire, or disappear into a wall of tall pantry cabinets, the overall look is equal parts seamless, upscale and luxurious!
Stainless Steel vs. Fully Integrated / Panel-Ready
Well, now that we’ve got that covered, there’s a whole other realm of refrigerators to consider: stainless steel. Should you opt for a panel-ready or integrated fridge or opt for a stainless steel fridge? Both finishes have their pros and cons.
Stainless steel is an obvious kitchen go-to. They’re durable, sleek, crisp and contemporary. Not to mention, their natural elemental makeup helps fight off rust and makes them extremely resistant to wear and tear. In other words, stainless steel refrigerators can really go the distance! Although many stainless steel refrigerators do show fingerprints, there are now several smudge-free varieties on the market.
Fully Integrated or Panel-Ready will enhance the overall appearance of your kitchen with a streamlined, uniform look. If you’re after a more traditional, upscale feel, then fully integrated refrigerators is definitely something you should consider. Now that’s not to say that contemporary kitchens can’t embrace fully integrated refrigerators… Many of our clients have opted for a contemporary take on integrated fridges. Our Lake Joe project features this sleek refrigerator with a modern flat slab door. Are you swooning yet? We are….
Special Fridge Features to Look Out For
Once you’ve decided between stainless steel, and fully integrated or overlay, it’s time to consider what features are going to be important to you and your family! You can find the following features in many modern fridges. These additional features can make your experience cooling food and beverages more efficient and easy:
Chilled water and ice dispenser and filter
Open door alarm system
Touch screen controllers
Are you team Stainless Steel or Integrated/Panel-Ready? Let us know in the comments!
Discuss Your Refrigerator Options with Bloomsbury
Still can’t decide or not sure what’s right for your space? We can help with that! During your design process with Bloomsbury, our team of skilled designers will help guide you in choosing the refrigerator that is best suited for both the look and function of your kitchen. Book an appointment with one of our designers at our Newmarket or Toronto location today!