In the quest for a lovely, functional, new kitchen, appliances are one of the first things you should be considering, although we recommend not purchasing them until after your final kitchen plan is complete. There are a myriad of options out there, which often leave people confused about what is the best combination for them. We will try and break it down a bit to help simplify your choices.
A ‘standard’ fridge, which is anything but standard, comes in multiple sizes, tending to cluster in around 30″, 33″ and 36″. These are typically deeper and taller than fridges used to be. The French door style with a bottom freezer drawer is by far the most popular these days, but single door fridges and side-by-side fridges are both options as well. If looking at side-by-side models, make sure to go shopping with the largest size pizza box you typically order or your largest serving platter, as many people find the space is too narrow to accommodate wider items.
Counter depth fridges: these fridges are a shallower version of a standard fridge. The body or case of the fridge is typically around 25-26″ deep, with the door taking the overall depth to 27-30″. In narrow spaces these can be a life saver! Make sure to go a little wider than you otherwise would have to make up for the lost space in depth.
Built in fridges: These beauties build right into the cabinetry, either with or without custom cabinetry panels, with no space required around them to breathe. They look fabulous, but might be worth an extended warranty as the cabinetry is built around them and it may be tough to find a new one with the identical dimensions down the line, especially for panels on the front. You are pretty much committed to keeping these guys going long term so make sure you buy from a reputable source and find a good repair person!
Range vs Cooktop and Wall Ovens
This is something we find quite a few clients wrestling with. The wall ovens and cooktop are more comfortable to use and split the cooking areas, which is especially nice if you are lucky enough to have multiple chefs in the kitchen at once. They are more ergonomic to use and an item we often see on the wish list of our more mature clients for that very reason. The downside to them is they usually mean less counter space. This is in direct conflict with most of our clients’ strong desire for more counter space! For this reason we would say that the size of your kitchen may be the determining factor in which option is right for you.
These are available in stand-alone, slide in and professional-style options.
Stand-alone models are the most economical and certainly what the majority of us grew up with. The controls sit on a panel at the back of the range.
Slide in models are a little newer to the market and have the controls at the front of the range for safer access as well as a little lip all around which sits on the counter, minimizing those nasty messes we’ve all seen dripping down the side of the range! These have a sleeker look than their stand-alone cousins and tend to make the space feel larger. If small children are part of your household make sure you choose a model with a lock-out feature as the controls are now within reach of little fingers!
Pro-Style: If budget isn’t a huge concern or if you are a serious chef, the pro style are certainly a centerpiece in any kitchen! These were designed to give many of the features a commercial restaurant range would have, including higher powered burners and a more industrial look, in a size/safety format that can work in residential settings.
Electric, Gas or Induction?
Electric models are largely smooth top now with a few brands still offering basic coil options. I have a lot of people worried about the upkeep on smooth top models, but if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and stay on top of the mess, they stay beautiful looking for years. Gas has ruled supreme for a very long time, with its rapid and precise response to adjustments and is still a very popular option but the newest kid on the block, induction, is picking up speed rapidly. Much like gas, it has fast and precise adjustments but also has a strong safety component as the cooktop itself doesn’t really heat up, just the pots. This means you can turn a burner on, place your hand on the surface and feel nothing!! It is also much easier to keep clean as foods don’t burn onto the surface like they would on a standard smooth top surface. Just a word of warning though, for clients with medical devices such as pacemakers, check with your doctor before investing in an induction cooktop.
Ovens are available in both gas and electric, but feedback from most of clients who are serious cooks, is that while they love gas for the cooktop, they would prefer electric for the oven as it seems to keep a more consistent temperature.
These essential babies are usually the easiest appliance to pick, but make sure you listen to your appliance sales person and read the instructions. In an effort to keep dishwashers as quiet as possible, many models are not equipped with a macerator to grind up food waste. This isn’t a problem, there is a filter at the bottom which captures the debris instead but many clients haven’t realized this meant that they need to clean out the filter on a regular basis. This leads to upset people who don’t understand why their almost new dishwasher isn’t working properly anymore!! Factor in how good your family will be about emptying this filter when choosing your new dishwasher.
Funnily, this pesky little guy is often the toughest to find a great location for. The easiest place to put it is over a built in wall oven, but given what I mentioned about space requirements for built in ovens and the effect that has on countertops earlier, that often isn’t an option. More and more we are seeing clients ask us to put microwaves into a base cabinet somewhere out of sight, with a trim kit to make them look built in. This has led several appliance manufacturers to come out with microwave drawers which provide access to food and controls from the top of the unit, definitely solving a problem for us! Another option, especially in a really small kitchen where every inch is at a premium, is to use a microwave hood fan combination. These have been given a bad rap, as people have often seen them mounted either too high or too low for efficient and safe use, but mounted correctly can be a viable option. The downside to these guys is that their venting capability is not as good as a really good, dedicated hood fan, making this a poor choice for serious cooks or those whose cooking has many strong aromas.
This leads me to the last appliance, the hood fan. Again, today we have many options, a standard fan that mounts under an upper cupboard, the very popular chimney style, which allows us to use tile to the ceiling creating a great feature wall, pro-style, which combine serious ventilation with some serious ‘attitude’, the space saving microwave hood fan, as well as models designed to be built into the cabinetry for a more traditional look. All of these are available at a multitude of price points. Be careful being too frugal here; a cheap hood fan can often make you feel like there is a 747 taking off in your kitchen! You need to be looking at both the cfm output (cubic feet of air being moved per minute) as well as the sone rating which tells you how much noise it’s going to make, in order to make an educated decision. There are certainly other exciting options in appliances these days; speed ovens, steam ovens, built in gourmet coffee machines, warming drawers, built in deep fryers and many more, but in the interest of brevity, we’ll leave those for another day!