A great way to be more creative this year is to rethink how to integrate appliances in the cabinetry for both large and small kitchen plans. Go beyond simply choosing between totally integrating appliance units within casework or featuring freestanding appliances that take center stage in the kitchen to offer the consumer a “one-of-a-kind” kitchen solution.
Such a focus on the appliance component of a new plan makes sense right now. Regardless of the budget allowance or style requested, the room will have a full complement of appliances. Using your design “know how” to help the client select appliances, as well as being creative when placing the appliances, can be the “tipping point” that separates your design from the competition. Although the consumer may focus on the investment they are considering for the new kitchen, the buying decision will be made based on who offers the most creative plan, personalized to the family’s needs.
By re-energizing your knowledge around appliance engineering innovations, and moving beyond predictable appliance placement, you can offer a great solution, without introducing new products you are unfamiliar with, and without dramatically overshooting the budget.
Mixing and Matching
Let’s first consider the simplest – and most affordable – way to be creative when integrating cabinets and appliances: mix and match these various elements.
Rather than automatically paneling the refrigerator, consider transforming this piece into a “power appliance.”
Refrigerator finishes that minimize fingerprints offer a new look (remember how important innovation is to your client), so consider suggesting something other than stainless steel.
- If a freestanding refrigerator's depth is an issue, find out if you can recess it through a wall into an adjacent area.
- Surround this “power appliance” with panels, but avoid a normal cabinet-above refrigerator installation. Because this area is very difficult to access, why not make it an open display space? Whether traditional or contemporary, a 30" to 46" wide, 15" to 25" high opening above a refrigerator can be a spot to add architectural detailing. If you do make this a display area, plan on a strip of LED lighting directly behind the valance, and make the display area shallower than the full refrigerator depth.
In a room where all built-in appliances will be paneled, take a fresh look at the cooking center.
- Rather than the expected stainless steel, suggest a dramatic color for the range. Show your client actual swatches of appliance colors – rather than a paper color card.
- Propose a well-engineered and sculptural steel hood in place of a wood mantel hood.
- Offer clients an alternative to the mantel hood they admired in your showroom – a stainless steel with a dramatic tile splash extending behind the hood to the ceiling.
The key reason to offer the consumer such options is to demonstrate your capabilities. If the customer selects the beautiful (yet predictable) mantel hood rather than a stainless steel dramatic one, that’s fine…as long as they buy it from you.
Refresh your appliance location specifications by placing more emphasis on ergonomic guidelines. I’ve written previously about the emergence of mid-height cabinetry (a European name for cabinets that finish between 60" and 78" off the floor – midway between base and tall units), and the concept of “pedestal cabinets” (my name for cabinets that finish between 42" and 60" off the floor).