“What refrigerator should I get?” is one of the most common questions from readers undertaking retro renovations. I struggled with the issue, too… did a lot of research and tortured over the decision.
In the end, I went with Sub-Zero, and I think it was an investment well worth it. A great part of my decision was based on the need for a fridge that was 84″ high — right up to the soffit. I wanted a clean, built-in look. Other counter-depth fridges simply did not give me the height – I would have had to bring the soffit down. I also liked the handle – a very built-in classic forever look (vs. honkin’ on most other styles today). And a third reason — I could get plain doors with no exterior ice maker, although there are fancy schmantzy ice cubes inside the freezer.
The Sub-Zero image above is from 1966, and you can still get a fridge in this exact same style. Mine is a 42″ side-by-side (pictured below), with the same old-fashioned grille up top, and “appliance white” panels also from Sub-Zero. I really truly love it. It was the big splurge of the kitchen – the bits and pieces of everything else were not too expensive, although the labor was dear. (Another example of “you get what you pay for.)
To be honest, the only other fridge style that I really like for a retro renovation is a counter-depth side-by-side or french-door style with freezer on the bottom. The Fisher Paykel also seems like a good choice. But, I tend to like the way a side-by-side is more visually broken up — not one big wall of metal. The problem is, with any these, you have to figure out what goes above the fridge, because they are only 70″ high or so. If you can do it with matching cabinets – perfect. But if you have to jimmy something — that’s where I start to lose interest. The built-in look is what distinguishes the postwar kitchen! This is rule #1 for your renovations, renovators. And in the kingdom of Pam, built-in means surrounded by cabinets, or tucked nicely into finished drywall, preferably wallpapered.
Sorry, I am not really a fan of the Elmira Northstars or the Big Chills. I like the look, but they are so big – so deep. If you can recess them to get them counter-depth, that might be better. Also – these are not cheap, either. That said, I’ve seen some kitchens were they were incorporated nicely.
Vintage – scare me. The defrosting part. I actually bought a vintage fridge a few years back and had it delivered as far as the garage. My husband about threw a fit. The line got drawn in the sand – between him and the fridge. The marriage won out — and for the best.
However: I DO like vintage 70s and 80s side-by-sides. They were smaller scale. Watch for these and save a bundle!
In the end, I think that it would be better to … buy a cheaper car or wait another year or two (or three) ’til trade-in … and put the extra money, toward a Sub-Zero. I maintain an open mind – and keep an eagle eye out for other appropriate fridges.
And click here to see my other refrigerators identified as good possibilities for a Retro Renovation kitchen.