A Hideaway Kitchen Alternative: Refrigerator Drawers

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Stainless steel may still be the dominant kitchen appliance finish trend, but that doesn't mean large metal clad appliances have to dominate the kitchen. A few kitchen appliance manufacturers are starting to take note some customers don't want a giant fridge as the focal point of their kitchens, and have begun offering an alternative: refrigerator drawers.

Refrigerator drawers are fridge and freezer models that fit underneath countertops in place of cabinets. These compact units fit in the space of a traditional cabinet and slide outwards just like a regular cabinet drawer door.

Placing the fridge down below where cabinets traditionally belong allows placement in non-traditional spots, such as underneath a kitchen island. Under counter units also frees up valuable square footage in tight quarters kitchens. Most refrigerator drawers are also cabinet depth, which means these refrigerators will line up nicely with standard cabinetry instead of sticking out like most stand alone units, providing both aesthetic and space saving benefits.

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While refrigerator drawers provide more space up above on the countertops, they also have drawbacks to consider. Since they are low and to the ground, this requires looking down and into the fridge, and reaching or bending down for its contents. For those with messy cabinet drawers, space management and organization might not be as efficient as larger refrigerator models where food is often placed forwards and backwards as opposed to stacked in drawers.

Consider the following pros and cons before considering switching from a traditional free-standing refrigerator to a refrigerator drawer model.

Pros: frees up countertop space; remove the big mass of a traditional fridge; can be hidden from view with more seemless integration in kitchen design; more flexibility in locations such as in an island.

Cons: costlier than traditional fridge; requires bending down low to access content (not ideal for bad backs); space management issues.

Here are a few models to suit different budgets:

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While a nice and basic traditional stainless steel refrigerator might cost around $1,000 or so, getting into the refrigerator drawer game typically starts around $2,000. The KitchenAid Architect Series II line offers a double drawer refrigerator as well as a refrigerator/freezer combination, both for around $2,500 each.

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Sub-Zero also offers a variety of drawer style undercounter refrigeration units. This design allows for quite a lot of flexibility when designing a kitchen, and any combination of units can be assembled together, including refrigerator, freezer, beverage, or even ice maker units. On the upper tier, models like the 700BR refrigerator drawer and 700BF(I) freezer drawer can cost up to $4,000 each, and with additional features requiring even more.

If you want to get into a drawer fridge at a more modest price, you're still going to have to fork over about $1,200. The Summit SP5DS2D 24" 5.4 cu. ft. capacity drawer refrigerator comes equipped with a digital thermostat, auto defrost, enamel steel interior, and LED lighting at more reasonable price, though you'll have to pay more for a brushed stainless steel finish vs. the all-black model.


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(Images: KitchenAid)