Exclusive: Big Chill introduces the new “Retropolitan” refrigerator w/bottom freezer

big chill original refrigerator with cofounders thom vernon and orion creamer

The original Big Chill has curvier, rounded like 1950s refrigerators. That's Orion Creamer on the right, his uncle and fellow cofounder Thom Vernon, on the left.

The nice folks at Big Chill reached out and asked if I wanted to be the first on the www to show photos of their new refrigerator design, and I said, heck yes. This is their new “Retropolitan” refrigerator, which is their first to feature a bottom freezer. I spoke by phone with Orion Creamer, who is co-founder of Big Chill and also product designer. He explained that (1) lots of customers have been asking for a bottom freezer and (2) lots of customers have been asking for a more mod style — “Jetsons, rather than Donna Reed”.

“We tried to make it as simple as possible,” said Orion. “We’re going for a modern crowd, who want yellow or blue, but don’t necessarily want it to look like 1955. A lot of our customers were telling us, ‘We’re getting your fridge becuase your the only ones who make orange.'”

So with the Retropolitan, Orion got rid of the curves that screamed 50s, but kept lots of chrome. He adds that, down the line, they may make some additional handles available.

Since I had Orion on the phone, I also asked about the guts of the fridge. Yes: The ‘box’ for the Big Chills come from a major manufacturer, such as Amana. Then, Big Chill completely “re-skins” the refrigeratorswith a heavy gauge steel. Paint is powder-coated on. There are eight stock colors, oryou can order from over 200 custom colors. They use what’s called the powder coating RAL color chart as a reference. Doors can open to either the right, or left.

complete lineup of retro design refrigerators from big chillThis Retropolitan is slightly smaller in scale than the 1950s-styled Big Chill original. It’s 30″ deep (rather than 33″ for the original), 66″ high (vs. 68.5″). It is Energy Star-certified. Big Chill also offers a smaller Studio Series.  

This newest product seems to underscore a belief that there is a market for kitchen appliances in more colors than stainless steel, white, bisque and black: “We’re trying to expand out of being a company of 1955 designs to being a design company based on color and design,” Orion says. Color! Yay!

Link (the new design should be up this week: Refrigerators and Stoves by Big Chill.

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Comments

  1. 52PostnBeam says

    I hesitate to share this info because I’m on the market for one, but this design is a rip off of the mid late 50s bottom freezer GE Spacemaker. Only difference being that a working spacemaker can be found in the $150-300 range, and is counter depth (with no coils on the back), at 26″ deep instead of 30.” Other dimensions are the same.

    the spacemaker has a cooler semi-whale tale handle, and the higher end version has roll-out drawer freezer and swing-out hinged interior shelves (cheaper version has a door on the freezer). While I am all about supporting the small business, the mark-up on these fridges make them out of reach for most retro renovators. SMEG makes a retro fridge as well, but it’s in about the same price range.

    Anyone with a lead on a GE Spacemaker in CA / AZ let me know. I recently missed out on a turquoise one only 40 min away for 150 — gah!

    • 52PostnBeam says

      Just did a quick google and found out I missed a 60s spacemaker for $175 only 2 hours away, posted on CL a week ago — double gah! The good news is it seems they’re not too rare.

      • Katie Cappello says

        52PostnBeam, I sympathize with your search. I set up google alerts for the fridge we’re looking for, a coppertone brown GE Americana circa 1962ish. You might want to do something similar. I have to sift through lots of alerts about new GE’s, but I’m confident one day our fridge will come!

        • 52PostnBeam says

          thank you Katie, Pam can tell you – I am the Queen of Search! I posted the fridge you’re looking for last year in the forum:
          http://retrorenovation.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=5046

          The GE Americana is also my “grail fridge” but they are soooo rare. In addition to the GE Spacemaker and the Kenmore Gavin mentions, Hotpoint also made a bottom-freezer fridge like the Retropolitan, and with swing-out shelving too. Seems it was the cool thing from the late 50s – 60s.

          All that said, I still have a hard time committing to the old fridges. I passed on a cheap, mint condition GE wall fridge last year because it didn’t seem to keep a perfect steady temp, and I know repairs on these old fridges can easily run into the cost of a new Big Chill!

          • 52PostNBeam says

            K – there’s another east coast, copper brown Americana for sale – on the ‘bay. I posted the link in the forum, same thread as above.

  2. Ben says

    Very nice looking stuff, but waaaay outta my price range. I recently painted our standard fridge with Porter Adv 900 latex acrylic, watered down and put on with several very LIGHT coats. After scrubbing it down with scotch pads it stuck really well, and the dry time between coats was 30 minutes. So, we have a beautiful pink $100 fridge that gets lots of compliments!

  3. Jeanne says

    I really like that Retropolitan! It would fit into the style of my kitchen better than the rounded style. I’m still using the brown 20 cu ft Kenmore that is the original to the house. I’ll keep using it until it dies. It looks to be the same size as the Retropolitan, as well (66 x about 28 deep).

    I WOULD like to switch to a bottom freezer, though. New ones have baskets and such to make it easier to access items in the freezer and I would really like to have the refrigerated items at eye level. I’m taller, so I’m always bending and squatting to get stuff out.

    Plus I LOVE that they are made in MICHIGAN! 🙂

    • Lauryn says

      Jeanne, I fear I may have misled re: made in Michigan. The base UNDER COUNTER model is made by a company called Marvel whose factory is in Michigan. I don’t know about the other models because I don’t know what the base models are. Sorry for any confusion!

    • Olivia says

      I really want a fridge with the freezer on bottom for the same reason. I have to bend over to hunt for things in the fridge way more often than I look for something in the freezer.

      We have a small chest freezer which can be a pain to dig stuff out of, but we’ve learned to keep like items in labeled grocery bags (all the chicken breasts together, all the hamburger together, etc). So we just have to lift out a bag or two to pull out something for dinner.

  4. says

    I have a vintage ice box (sorry refrigerator, so used to living in the 50\’s I can\’t lose the jargon) and it uses much less electricity. It does not have a defrost and that means I have to do it, but honestly, for the savings in electricity, the styling and the durability of the thing. Every aspect of the interior is so well made and heavy duty and when that door hinge clicks you know it is sealed. My old modern was such a light seal, sometimes it would open if not closed carefully. Even the old metal ice trays with the pull lever are so much nicer than the modern plastic.
    My friend just bought a fridge with ice maker, cold water dispenser it does everything, but was Far too expensive for me. I am happy with my $200 dollar find that was saved from a basement in a home where the seller thought I was \’coo coo\’ for wanting it as my full time fridge. It had been relegated to the \’beer fridge\’ before I saved her. I also like that they are over all smaller which means you buy less (save money) are easier to clean as you can\’t get lazy and let it fill up with too much food. These are lovely fridges, though, and certainly nice to support a U.S. made company and had I the money or the inclination for modern, they do seem a good get. Though, for my money, I prefer Donna Reed and 1955 to the Jetsons (though I wouldn\’t mind a robot maid!)

  5. says

    I have a vintage ice box (sorry refrigerator, so used to living in the 50’s I can’t lose the jargon) and it uses much less electricity. It does not have a defrost and that means I have to do it, but honestly, for the savings in electricity, the styling and the durability of the thing. Every aspect of the interior is so well made and heavy duty and when that door hinge clicks you know it is sealed. My old modern was such a light seal, sometimes it would open if not closed carefully. Even the old metal ice trays with the pull lever are so much nicer than the modern plastic.
    My friend just bought a fridge with ice maker, cold water dispenser it does everything, but was Far too expensive for me. I am happy with my $200 dollar find that was saved from a basement in a home where the seller thought I was ‘coo coo’ for wanting it as my full time fridge. It had been relegated to the ‘beer fridge’ before I saved her. I also like that they are over all smaller which means you buy less (save money) are easier to clean as you can’t get lazy and let it fill up with too much food. These are lovely fridges, though, and certainly nice to support a U.S. made company and had I the money or the inclination for modern, they do seem a good get. Though, for my money, I prefer Donna Reed and 1955 to the Jetsons (though I wouldn’t mind a robot maid!)

  6. Alice says

    I am so very thankful that Big Chill is out there and creating these updated retro pieces…in the long run this creates more options for all of us in the retro world – whether or not we can afford them. I love the new design…I am one with a retro kitchen but not ‘diner’ style, so these new models are more like it. Unfortunately, we HAVE to have a counter depth fridge or risk losing an elbow.

    Lovely new design and thanks loads for launching here on RetroRenovation…a very important source for us!

  7. 61futura says

    This is a great looking refrigerator and I hope they do well with it. I’m glad that they are looking at other handle options–something a little more 60s futuristic would be nice.

  8. Gavin Hastings says

    I have a second hand Kenmore from 2000. Except fot the chrome, it looks VERY similar. I find that a bottom door, not drawer works better for me….and at that price, a foot pedal to open the door would be a thoughtful, beneficial and authentic touch.

  9. Michelle says

    I saw one of the original Big Chills in black at the Home Goods in Vestal, NY two days ago! The price was (I believe) $1,965. A good deal! I might have seriously considered it, but I bought a new fridge a year ago. It was great to see one in person!

  10. Libennifer says

    Pam-We’ve been reading your blog for a while and I’m so happy you mentioned Big Chill. We recently purchased all the pieces, frig, dishwasher, stove and hood in beach blue. After saving and counting our pennies for over a year and picking Big Chill appliances instead of a wedding, we are very happy.

  11. gsciencechick says

    Love the look of the new line!

    By the time we were looking at other fridges, we found out they were still pretty expensive. So, when we had our state energy star appliance rebate in 2010, we got the Big Chill in beach blue since it is energy star rated. We saved 15%–that was the state deal, so that was pretty good. It makes me smile every day. We thought about getting the panel for the DW, but we will probably keep the fridge as the focal point. Everyone who comes to the house loves it. People hug it!

    Our previous fridge was only 18 cu. ft, so the little bit of extra space in the Big Chill made a difference.

    http://i336.photobucket.com/albums/n321/gsciencechick/kitchen%20remodel/Progess4_Dec2010.jpg

    http://i336.photobucket.com/albums/n321/gsciencechick/kitchen%20remodel/progress1_Dec2010.jpg

  12. HeyJude says

    The refrigerator design and concept is great, but the drawbacks are that they don’t come in stainless steel, which is very popular and versatile. Also, the handle-side options are very limited.

    • Lauryn says

      I think the whole point of the Big Chill design is to get AWAY from the ubiquitous stainless steel refrigerator. They are, after all, “vintage inspired retro appliances”.

  13. kristine hudson says

    **sticker shock** Yikes..i do love the colors of the bottom freezers, but those prices!!! im gonna have to come up with something much more thrifty.

  14. mark says

    Inspired by the Retropolitan but too cheap to buy one, I made my own version. I think it turned out well. You can see before and after pictures of my conversion here- https://plus.google.com/photos/107728305371919705415/albums/5956597832527335089?authkey=CNDO1dTPj_rWfw (hope that link works)

    I started with a used (~5 years old) Frigidaire. Frigidaire makes models with doors that are rounded on the sides, similar to the Retropolitan. These are common and easy to find. I got mine for $100 on Craig’s List. I then added 1″ flexible chrome trim intended
    for use as car molding ($30 on eBay). I also swapped out the plastic handles for vintage chrome stove handles I found on ebay for $33.

    I think my knock off looks great for the money. On the down side, mine has a textured surface and is still white. I think they make smooth door versions of similar fridges but I couldn’t find a cheap one. This fridge is in a house we rent out. I think I will make another one for another rental and paint it a fun color.

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