Welcome to Liesl, veteran writer for many New York papers and magazines who now is weighing in on kitchen appliances instead of books for a change.
Liesl's favorite, the Bombatino Doppio (left two) and the SMEG (right)
"My thought was, height isn't a problem, even in a small kitchen--floor space is. And if the fridge goes tall, it'll have enough storage. My own old fridge was 31"square, not counting a 3-inch grille that stuck out the back, and it was about 62" high. I sent out my emails, and waited for the responses to ping in my inbox..."
"None pinged, but I did find some enticing foreign options online. Having lived in Russia (bad example), and traveled in France, England, Italy, Japan and Spain (better examples), I knew that most of the world doesn't have kitchens big enough for the humongous American fridges which my mother has in triplicate, and which had been foisted on my minuscule apartment. In Northern Europe, I'd noticed that refrigerators often had sleek, designy, slender builds, and came in daring colors--burgundy, yellow, red--rather than the drab dimpled beige of my old GE.
Almost immediately, I found my top choice. Made by Boretti, and called the Bombatino Doppio, this was the fridge Speed Racer would have bought, if he'd been Italian. Sleek, apple-green, lean, and cartoony, the Bombatino Doppio looked like it would transform my humble kitchen-slash-dining room area into a state-of-the-art kitchen-appliance sculpture garden. It exactly matched my dream specs. No longer would I feel embarrassed to throw a dinner alongside the linoleum. The Bombatino would change everything. [See pics below, and letter to Big Chill]
Not so fast: my designer friends and the experts at Gringer's appliances in the East Village got back to me with bad news. The Bombatino was not exportable to America, would not work with American current, and, in any case, had no repairmen on the continent. I then checked out the revoltingly named but pluckily conceived Smeg fridge line. Smegs came in finishes as glossy and hard as Skittles candy--red, orange, buttercup yellow, mint-ice-cream green, even baby blue. The Smegs weren't as pleasing to my eye as the Borettis, they had a retro-bulbous look, like an old Cadillac-not to mention the giant logo SMEG affixed to the front door in chrome (which looked to me like a danger sign: "WATCH OUT! Smeg within!")
However, I was willing to invite irony across my American threshold on exchange for the height, footprint and lively color I desired. Sadly, it soon emerged that the only Smeg model on offer in this country is quite petite--5 feet tall, with a freezer that can just about hold two mini ice cube trays and a bag of frozen peas. If I had a Mattel Easy-Bake Oven, this might have worked. Instead, I scratched Smeg off the list and started looking for North American fridge purveyors whose fridges might satisfy my spatial needs and aesthetic hopes.
First I found Northstar, in Canada (good, retro designs, but too large for my needs); and Big Chill, in Colorado, whose playful colors (beach blue, cherry red, pink lemonade) delighted me, but also came only in king-size. I called Big Chill, found a friendly voice, and learned that the company is working up designs for a possible slim-line fridge. I sent a long, passionate email to the consumer relations department, laying out all the reasons why I thought they should design apartment-sized, design-conscious, color-drenched modern fridges for New Yorkers, Seattleans, San Franciscans, Washingtonians, Bostonians, Los Angelenos, and other space-challenged, beauty-loving urbanites. They thanked me for the message, but I suspect they were humoring me...."
- Liesl Schillinger
...Since 1991, she has written for many publications in the United States and Britain, chiefly The New York Times, The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the London Independent on Sunday, where she wrote a column about New York life in 1996-98. She now writes full time, and is pursuing the goal of living like an expat in her own city.