All About the Appliances
In the last kitchen remodel post, I told you about how we decided on a layout for our new space. That was just one of many, many decisions.
If you’re thinking about doing your own kitchen remodel, please, please do NOT underestimate the amount of decisions that need to be made.
Being a Libra myself, I found it’s harder for me to pick cabinet hardware than it is for J-lo to pick a husband.
Here is a list of just some of the things you will need to figure out if you decide to tackle this yourself (as opposed to just hiring a kitchen designer and a contractor and completely trusting their judgment):
- Kitchen layout
- Cabinet style
- Cabinet finish
- Kitchen layout (did I say that already??)
- Counter tops
- Hardware finishes
- Kitchen layout.
And the bitch of it is, each of those decisions has like 10 million other little decisions that go along with them! I’ll be honest – by the end of it all I was practically flipping quarters to figure out whether we would use cabinet knobs, pulls or a combination of the two.
So before you can get to this:
… you need to make some decisions.
One of the first things you’ll want to decide – and this goes hand-in-hand with the layout – is which appliances you want to use. If you’re using existing appliances, great! Just measure ’em up and work them into your layout. But if you’re buying new, you’ll want to purchase those puppies before you finalize your layout.
Most stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. come in fairly standard sizes. However, especially in the case of stoves/ovens and refrigerators, you definitely have some other non-standard choices. Also, are you using a slide-in range, free-standing range, or just a range top with a separate wall oven? Are they gas, electric, or a combination? What kind of ventilation do they need?
My point is, these things take time and research, people!
But let me save you a little time with my handy, dandy appliance tutorial.
The most typical finish options you will see today are White, Black, or Stainless Steel.
I’m sure you’re all aware the Stainless appliances are the “it” thing right now, and even though those are what we bought ourselves, I’m not so sure the hype will last forever.
They get fingerprints all over (and I don’t even have kids!), and you basically end up forking out a couple hundred extra bucks for a very thin sheet of metal that covers your basic black or white appliance.
However, if you’re thinking resale value or simply love the look of metal, go for the stainless.
Freestanding ranges are simply that – ranges that stand on their own between or next to the base cabinets. The knobs are typically behind the stove-top, and the counter top stops when it reaches the range:
Slide-in ranges are built to fit inside a “nook” created by your base cabinets and counters. They look more “built-in” than freestanding ranges because the countertop basically wraps around the back of the range and you… you guessed it… slide it right in! The only other main difference between these and free-standing ranges are that the knobs are found in the front, and they tend to be notably pricier (who knows why):
Drop-in’s are quite literally built to “drop in” to your cabinetry. They look built-in because you may have a cabinet drawer or doors beneath it, and the counter wraps around the back:
If you have the space (and want to sacrifice the counter space), you could purchase a drop-in cooktop and a separate freestanding oven(s) to give the most “custom” look:
We ended up opting for a Whirlpool stainless steel, flat-top, electric freestanding range. This saved us major buckaroos for several reasons:
- Freestanding ranges are generally the least-expensive option
- We received an Energy Star discount
- We received a rebate from Whirlpool because we bought all Whirlpool appliances for our kitchen
You will also have to decide if you want a microwave mounted over the stove (which doubles as a vent for the smoke sent up from the latest stir-fry you concocted out of all the soon-to-expire frozen veggies you had lying around in your freezer), or if you want a regular hood or vent for the stove on its own.
Getting confused yet?
Here are just a few examples…
Microwave/hood combination (no need to put the microwave elsewhere, but some people think this constricts working space over the stove, especially for large stock pots; also, some people may argue that these vents just aren’t as strong as a hood on its own):
Under-cabinet hood (allows for extra cabinet storage above the hood):
Canopy range hood (more professional, “industrial” look):
Retractable range hood (ideal for island/peninsula locations where you can’t mount a wall or cabinet-mounted hood):
You’ll need to figure out whether you need an exterior or interior venting hood. Hoods that vent to the exterior can be a bit more complicated to install.
We opted for the over-the-range (OTR) microwave. It ended up working best in our space, and I haven’t found that it gets in the way when I’m cooking on the stove. It’s true that the vent hasn’t been able to keep up with all of my cooking (aka. burning) attempts, but that’s nothing an open window can’t solve.
Don’t want an OTR microwave? You could find one that mounts underneath your wall cabinets, build one into your cabinets, or simply set it on the counter. They also make microwave drawers, if you can believe it!
I’ve also seen stovetop/microwave combinations, and stovetop/microwave/oven combinations. Basically, if you have a need (either space-wise or just a strong desire to have the “latest thing”), you can pretty much find any type of applaince under the sun. You just have to be willing to pay for it.
Now for the big guns. Refrigerators. This can be a daunting decision for many people because it is likely one of the most expensive appliances you will ever purchase.
There’s a lot of pressure to make the right choice for you and your family, right? Right?
You could go with your basic side-by-side, which is just a tall, narrow freezer side next to a tall, narrow fridge side. In terms of cubic space, this setup is probably the least useful because the horizontal room is so limited. They look nice, but try getting a frozen pizza in one of these suckers:
Then there’s the freezer-on-top model (or less common freezer-on-bottom), which really makes a lot of sense space-wise. The problem could potentially be the freezer door – I’ve crammed these full before, only to have everything slide out of the freezer when I open the door. I also don’t believe they come with the external ice/water dispenser option:
And finally, the pièce de résistance, the french door refrigerator, has been growing in popularity for the past several years. This is what we ended up with, and let me just say that I love, love, love the bottom freezer drawer. The top part, however, I’m not as crazy about. It has great horizontal space – I can fit large casserole dishes and even a cookie sheet or two. I do, however, find it harder to store taller items. This could fully be dependent on the model I picked. Here is an example of a french door fridge:
A couple more fridge notes:
- If you choose the option of having an in-door water/ice dispenser, keep in mind that will take up room inside the fridge. In some models the ice maker takes up cubic shelf space, while in others it takes up space inside the door. Many french door fridges that don’t have the exterior ice/water dispenser have a filtered water dispenser inside the door. Unfortunately, it’s not very energy efficient to open the door every time you want some filtered water.
- The bottom freezer on the french door fridge really is fantastic. You can buy them with two drawers on the outside, but mine has two drawers on the inside and I find this to be much more space-efficient.
- Do your research on how loud/quiet a fridge might be while it’s running. I ruled out some options because the reviews I read online said they were noisy.
- If you’re not buying a counter-depth fridge to get that “built-in” look (counter-depth fridges tend to be several hundred dollars more expensive, even though they’re smaller!), pay attention to the color of the sides of the fridge. If you have all stainless appliances but the sides of your fridge are black, that might end up looking odd in your kitchen.
I’m going to skip dishwashers because frankly they bore me.
Are you even still awake?
One other kitchen item you’ll want to pick early is the sink. I realize that’s not an appliance, but trust me on this one because I learned the hard way.
You will need to buy an adequate sink cabinet base for the size sink you purchase. The granite installers actually had to cut the sides of my beautiful alder cabinets just to fit the sink. I have no pictures because I couldn’t watch. It’s really no big deal, but save yourself the agony and pick your sink early!
Sink material/size/color is all a matter of personal preference. We ended up with a Kohler enameled cast-iron “smart divide” sink:
I like the low, center divide; the hubs does not. I like that I can put my ugly dish drainer in one side and still wash dishes in the other. I also like that there isn’t a tall divide that would interfere with me washing a huge stock pot or my expansive grill pan.
The hubs complains that sometimes the dish water can splash on the dishes drying in the rack, but I just tell him to shut up and keep washing.
Okay… not. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention after this drawn-out appliance tutorial.
Any questions? Anyone out there planning on doing a kitchen renovation soon?*Thanks to whirlpool.com and sharp.com for the photos.