Amazing vintage refrigerator from GE that includes both wall and drawer fridges

vintage GE refrigeratorDo you think we 2000-somethings “invented” refrigerator drawers concealed in base cabinets? It appears not — because here is GE showcasing refrigerator drawers (update: okay, maybe they are freezer drawers, but big diff) that look like kitchen base cabinets… which they have combined with their Wall Refrigerator-Freezer and Cabinettes in this mother of all midcentury modern refrigerators units called, humbly, the GE Refrigeration Center. 

Love. Although, we don’t quite understand what’s holding it up, as readers have pointed out that the wall refrigerator-freezer weighs hundreds of pounds. I do not have a date for this piece of marketing — but the image is from my collection and is one of my boxes, so I’ll find it someday(ish) and add the year to this documentation. At minimum, it’s 1955. If anyone can identify one of these live in its original habitat, I will give you…a $100 Amazon gift certificate and Retro Renovation Fame, too! To win my leetle competition, though, YOU need to do the legwork to get the photo!

Want to see more of this amazing line of vintage GE kitchen appliances? Also see our story in the GE Wonder Kitchen.

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Comments

  1. linda h says

    This is all just too cool! I wonder why it is no longer in production. Such a great design should have had staying power.

  2. Sarah says

    There is a very similar set up in the Dymaxion house in the Henry Ford. I remember being amazed by it and also annoyed because it took up so much cabinet space!

    • Jeanne says

      I was just going to post this Sarah! I encourage anyone who has the chance to visit the Dymaxion house (designed by Buckminster Fuller) at The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, MI. It really is a unique, futuristic idea that never got off the ground. It’s cool to walk thru it, too! It’s a round, aluminum home suspended by a single central pole. And yes, it has a refrigerator/freezer system installed in the small kitchen.

    • pam kueber says

      Sarah and Jeanne, I’m clarifying my rules to win the gift card. YOU have to do the legwork to show me the unit.

  3. Janet in CT says

    I HAVE to get seriously motivated to search for all my repair manuals from the fifties which have been lost in my basement since we moved to this much smaller house nine years ago next month. It will date all these oddities and also list the colors for each year. I know where it is but I just cannot get to it. Mind you, this thing is the size of ten New York City phone books. And yes, I am a hoarder like my mother but a neat hoarder! This model is one I am totally unfamiliar with and I would bet it cost a boodle back then and was not a popular seller. I also figure it was mainly installed in new construction; it would not have been a model that you just stuck right in an existing kitchen. Fascinating!

  4. Janet in CT says

    Pam, do you think the lower drawers might both be freezer drawers? I suspect that is what they are with those bins. Many of our mothers did not work and had enormous gardens and froze everything, especially since families with four or more kids were common back then and our parents were so thrifty! This necessitated having a separate freezer; we had two huge chest freezers in our basement and froze everything imaginable from peaches to corn to applesauce. One of them was actually floating in the floodwaters after the Hurricane of 1955 and it still worked when plugged in and ran until the mid-nineties. They just aren’t built like that any more! So I would think the drawers might both be for freezing? Oh, I need to find those manuals to see.

  5. Jo Ann says

    Until 2 years ago, my kitchen was graced with a canary yellow (pink inside) GE wall refrigerator. And it worked! It was put in when the house was built in 1959. Unfortunately, by 2011, it was listing seriously and had to go. It was TINY – 12.4 cubic feet of fridge and freezer storage space. In researching, I found out that it was designed by George Nelson (yes, that George Nelson) for GE and marketed starting in 1957. Pam, I do have photos of it in its original home.

      • Jo Ann says

        Pam,

        “George Nelson: the design of modern design”, by Stanley Abercrombie, chapter 4, page 72.

        If you Google “George Nelson wall refrigerator” you will find the reference. The book is fascinating.

        Jo Ann

        • Jay says

          Thanks! That was a nice lunchtime diversion! I have to see if I can find the book through the library. I did come across a short article in Life magazine 12-13-52 about built-in appliances for the kitchen and it states that Nelson designed the wall fridge for GE. Nelson apparently was pushing the idea of integrated systems which sums up the whole idea of the GE Kitchen Center.

  6. Kirsten says

    I’m buying a time capsule house (no really, my daughter and I walked in and we thought we were in 1953, the year the house was built). I am scheduled for close on May 2nd and have a list of chores to accomplish before the move in on May 7th.

    One of them is removing the steel cabinets. I am keeping them, but I want to make an apartment in the basement for my parents, straight out of the 1950s. Here’s my question about the cabinets. They’re the original white enamel finish. They are in impeccable condition. But they’re white. White. We have an original built in freezer in a sage green, a built in mini fridge (both in the basement) and an original GE stove (looks like new, all the way to the brass/copper plate under the push buttons). But, the kitchen and the stove, they’re white. Can I re-enamel the cabinets? Is it enamel or glaze? And how do I even find someone in the DC area that does this sort of thing? I want my mom to be able to pick a color for these cabinets so that it ends up being the apartment of her dreams, but I’m at a loss for how to even start.

    So, any suggestions?

    And, it’s got an original tub but the faucet has seen better days and has damaged the tub from a long term drip. Is it possible to re-finish the tub? And do I need a plumber to do the faucet repair? I’ve replaced faucets and plumbing before, but I’m wondering if this might be out of my depth. How do I even know?

    So many many questions, and so little time!! I’m so excited!!

    • Chase says

      Hi Kirsten,

      I had seen some discussion on Retro Renovation about several people that had re-finished their metal cabinetry. One person had the cabinets powder coated, but ran into trouble with the insulation/sound deadening material inside of the doors burning up when the cabinets had to be baked to set the finish.

      Other people have very successfully taken their cabinets to an auto-body shop for cars to have them re-painted with a vehicle grade paint with FANTASTIC results. Personally, I would suggest that you go this route, as you will wind up with a very professional looking job.

      Good luck, and I hope your parents adore their new 50’s inspired apartment!

      • Chase says

        Also, in response to your question about re-glazing the tub; I believe you can as long as you aren’t having any rust problems. It will be another item that will have to be done professionally, though.

        In regards to your faucet, having a professional come in might make the diagnosis and fix faster and easier, unless you already know what is causing the drip.

        I know Pam tends to be very cautious with the suggestions that she gives to readers, I’m sure she’d recommend consulting with a professional at the very least.

        • kirsten says

          Yes, not necessary looking for a contractor recommendations, more like a recommendation on how to do some of this. I’d like to take on as much as I can myself. Not necessarily due to the cost, but because I think it’s cool to make this a present for my parents, to give them something that I haven’t just pulled together, but that I actually invest my body in as well.

          I’m excited about all of this, but getting started seems to be my stumbling block. I’m hitting some listservs in the DC area to see if I can find folks who’ve done the autobody refinish of cabinets and how that went for them. And recs for reglazing of tubs (I had a friend who did this recently). I’m also planning to hit community forklift to see if they might be able to steer me in the right direction. All in all, I’m just ubber excited and so glad I found all of you!!

      • kirsten says

        OMG!! That’s an amazing idea! I would never have thought of using an auto body shop!! It’s brilliant and means mom gets a wide assortment of colors to choose from. I LOVE that idea!!

        Now, if I could just identify the wall covering in the tiny half bath. It looks like a thick sheet of vinyl or thin sheet of steel designed to resemble tile. It goes up 2/3rds of the wall and then is topped with an edge to also resemble tile, but it’s all one sheet. The little half bath has a new toilet, but there’s a rehab place nearby with lots of similarly colored green toilets to match the tiny cute green sink, I just want to be able to expand the bathroom and matching that wall covering would be awesome, if I knew what I was even looking for!!

        I’m so glad I decided to buy this house and restore it. I really love my little time capsule and I just found out the sellers are planning to leave some of the furniture and odds and ends in the garage and storage spaces. I think there is a lot in there to look at and discover. I can’t wait!!

        • Marta says

          You might consider keeping the white, and attaching smaller colored or patterned panels centered on the cabinet doors. You could use anything, like foam board covered in fabric, wrapping paper, wallpaper, etc., or spray-painted cardboard or lauan. Attach them with thin magnet tape. That way, you can change whenever you want. How cute would it be to have 50’s style wrapping paper on them over the holidays?

    • pam kueber says

      Kirsten, I have a few thoughts for you:

      (1) Slow down. I strongly recommend living in your house a while before starting to make changes. Start doing research — my blog is FULL of info, start using the Search bar and all the Navigation at the top. You need to study your house and the situation for a while before you start moving things etc.
      (2) Personally, if I had perfect-condition steel kitchen cabinets (which I DO!) I would think long and hard before repainting them (and I DID NOT repaint them). It will be very difficult to replicate that original factory finish – not to mention expensive and if your cabinets are in great shape, it’s an ‘unnecessary’ fix. Why not use the white cabinets as-is and add color elsewhere? Perfect condition original finish = nearly impossible to find today. Alternatively, if you really wanted colored cabinets for downstairs, why not SELL your PERFECT CONDITION originals, and find BEAT UP units that really need restoration to restore for downstairs.
      (3) Regarding repainting, my readers continue to demonstrate they know me well. Good on you, Chace: Yes, I will not give you specific recommendations — as this is not a DIY fixit site… as I am not a Consumer Reports who has extensively tested all the alternatives myself… nor am I a properly licensed professional. Yes: Find and consult with your own pros. Also, Please also know there can be vintage nastiness in these old materials such as lead and asbestos, consult with your own identified professionals so you can learn what’s in them and make informed decisions.
      (4) That said, I have featured reader stories in which they share their alternatives. You can most likely find these stories either in the Kitchens/Steel Kitchens category or in Readers and their Kitchens category.
      (5) I have never heard of tub reglazing that was satisfactory. Try ROG products first. Use the Search bar, you will see my stories.
      (6) Regarding faucets, I don’t know. I use professionals. This is not a DIY fixit site.

      • Marta says

        12 years ago, we had our lavender enamel tub refinished to white by the Miracle Method people. We chose them because some friends had them redo a ‘plastic’ (can’t think of the name) bath five years previous and it was still perfect.

        Ours is still going strong except for a slight discoloration from my daughter using bleach on it, and a scratch where my husband had tossed a metal plumbing snake in the tub (grrrrrrrr!). You just have to be careful about what you use to clean it, but their cleaner works great on everything in the bath.

        • Sarah g (roundhouse) says

          I love miracle method, they do a great job! I have a lavender tub and I had them coat it clear bc it was in rough shape. It looks brand new and I was able to preserve the original color! I love my lavender bathroom!!!

  7. Marta says

    Love this. It doesn’t look any more precarious than a stacked washer/dryer unit. The fridge part is on the top, the freezer part is on the bottom, as is the motor works, making the bottom particularly heavy.

    On another note, for all the Corningware/Pyrex fans, I just ran across this old ‘documentary’ featuring a very young Chet Huntley telling us all about how Corning developed products based on what women want. Lots of Corning eye candy. Although the poster called it sexist, I don’t think it is; the poster’s opinion seems to be entirely based on a scene toward the end showing a husband and wife shopping and the wife picks up the percolator the film follows through the design process, and we hear Huntley comment that it doesn’t do husbands any good to argue logically with their wives that they already have a percolator. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=kCLpI6SKdkA&NR=1

  8. Jason says

    It is interesting – I wonder if it was every really installed anywhere or even intended as a freestanding room divider like this – or this was just marketing material and it would have always been installed against a wall.

    I can just see it now “my rerigerator crushed my cabinettes…” :)

  9. Diane says

    I’m delighted to add that we have this GE unit in our 1955 ranch. We are remodeling, but couldn’t part with this, its double oven counterpart and pink sink. We had them removed with care, freshened up and will have them back in and running in the next week. I made the very difficult decision to replace the pink push button stove with a gas cooktop, but am hoping it will find a new loving home via Craig’s list.

    • Janet in CT says

      Diane, how fabulous you have one! Is it pink like the sink and just like this one in the photo? So are the bottom drawers freezer? I am so pleased to hear you not only saved it but had it refurbished. Bravo!

      • Diane says

        Janet, I confess I got a little overexuberant when I spotted the GE appliances. I now have to admit we have only the top part, which is two thirds fridge and one third freezer (door on far right). I agree with you, the bottom look like freezers, which would make sense to me. My small freezer must have a capacity of about 1.25 CF! So sorry I exaggerated!

        • Janet in CT says

          Diane, even so, you are so lucky to have that wall fridge. There is one for sale right now in stainless somewhere – I saw it yesterday on Craigslist and sure do wish I had a place for it! I hadn’t seen one in stainless before this one but maybe it has added on panels. I really am glad you had it restored. That fridge has such a classic retro look.

  10. Joe Felice says

    Does anyone remember the GE Gold Medallion Homes? They were all-electric homes built by GE to showcase its home products. My parents purchased one new in 1964. It was also the builder’s model home. I remember, there was a plaque next the front door with a number on it. (I suppose there was a limited number built.) I took the plaque off, thinking it was no big deal; that these homes would be a dime a dozen in the future. How wrong I was! I wish I could remember what I did with the plaque. I know I didn’t throw it away. Mom & dad are gone now, but the home is still there. It is very-well built, and still looks good, although the buyers have not kept up the beautiful lawn and shrubs that dad & I had planted over the years.

    The electric baseboard heat fell out of favor in the late ’70s, when electricity costs skyrocketed, but, at the same time, was the only type of heat available for a few years, when there was a moratorium on gas taps. Still, it was clean, each room had its own thermostat, and it was maintenance-free. The biggest problem was the metal fins, which creaked and cracked as they heated & cooled. After a while, though, we got used to it.

  11. Cory says

    As others have mentioned, the far right door is a freezer and the middle and left doors are the fridge. They were available in 5 different colors and the early models through ’57 have pink interiors..which can look a little odd with the exterior color options.

    The roll-outs are freezers and are much tougher to find.

    I can’t think of a heavier fridge, free-standing or otherwise, that compares with these. The wall bracket gets screwed to your studs and the entire unit hangs in shear. A real lesson in physics when your intuition says “this’ll never hold”.

    GE did make a single unit that combined countertop, lighted backsplash, a double door fridge above and a single double width rollout freezer below called the Americana. Tough to find, but they’re out there.

    • pam kueber says

      Ok. Now I am on the hunt for the Americana. I *think* I’ve seen one here and there… now I need to get one into our archive!

  12. Betty Roth says

    Hi! Not only have i seen one but i know where you can purchase it. I frequent estate sales by Lucky Rabbit Estate sales and they’re handling a home in Brooklyn, NY with a complete GE kitchen- wall refrigerator and freezer, dishwasher and range. All in pink, one owner. They can be reached on their website: luckyrabbitestatesales.com. The owner, Paul, said that he thought it was still available and it is a real find! I hope someone saves it from the dumpster! If I had the room I’d buy it myself!

    • Joe Felice says

      You’re in good company. Many of us would like to own that jewel. I’m sure it won’t end up in a dumpster!

  13. Jeff says

    I own this fridge and matching wall oven in turquoise with pink interior. Sadly it stopped working!!! Compressor failed, and freezer coil developed a leak. Won’t hold a charge. Cosmetically it’s like showroom new…as well, can’t find anyone to fix it! The “best” appliance doctors here keep saying “get a new refrigerator” so I bought a 1962 GE floor model for the garage, and WILL NEVER remove the wall mounted one! I will eventually find someone to fix it.

    • Diane says

      Jeff, there is a place in Tucson that recently rehabbed both of these appliances for me. They repaired and restored the fridge, but I retired the freezer part to expedite the process. It took 5 months, but they’re back home and working beautifully.

  14. Latesa says

    I have one of these under counter GE food freezers. I have been looking for info on it but this is the first I have found mentioned on them. Mine has 2 drawers – the top one slides over the bottom one when the door is closed. The door pulls down like a dishwasher door – when we bought the house, we thought it was an old dishwasher until we opened the door and read the name on it.

    • Latesa says

      I was not able to post pictures of the unit here but I did post 2 pictures on your facebook page of it. Thanks! Would love to win the $100 gift card

  15. Peggy Vanantwerp says

    While browsing through the website, I came across the advertisement for the GE Wall hung refrigerator. I happen to have a turquoise one and they were originally from 1953 until about 54/55. They weren’t a big seller. They came in turquoise, pink, yellow and white. I have seen both the pink and the turquoise. I can send you pictures of it if you wish. When I first purchased it I had a very difficult time finding much info on it. I do know that the matching stove is in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mi.
    Peg

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