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Which will be the best fit for your kitchen?

A freestanding, integrated or built-in fridge?
Fridges have changed a lot in recent years, and the descriptions and comparisons of freestanding, integrated and built-in models that pop up when you do online research haven’t necessarily kept up . . . making it all the more confounding when you’re trying to sort out which type of appliance would best suit your tastes, needs and budget.

So let’s parse it all out piece by piece. (Given all the new features and options these categories of models offer, we’ll go into more of their specific characteristics in a future post – so stay tuned!)

Freestanding refrigerators

In short: You can stand this kind of fridge directly on your kitchen floor, wherever you like, as long as there is enough space for its door to completely open.

Some of the advantages of a freestanding fridge are fairly evident (for example, if you go through a change of address, moving it out of your kitchen will be very straightforward). Other advantages may be less obvious, partly because some are fairly recent:

  • Although older freestanding refrigerators couldn’t be fit into your kitchen as a built-in, now you can opt for a counter depth freestanding model that will look like a built-in.
  • You can find freestanding models with an icemaker inside the fridge or right up front, on the door.
  • Freestanding models come in a much wider range of styles than they once did. Manufacturers of these appliances are putting more and more effort into aesthetics, offering new colours, stylized handles, treated metals, anti-smudge and fingerprint surfaces and vintage styles.

Built-ins and integrated fridges

The modern, sleek look of these types of fridges is much coveted by those whose goal is a very contemporary look. If that’s you, either of these options will likely appeal to you. Both these types of appliance can sit flush with your kitchen cabinets.


In short: This category includes any type of refrigerator that fits into a niche and is attached to the kitchen wall in the back. Built-ins can either sit “flush” with your kitchen cabinets or “stand proud”, projecting beyond the line of your counter.

  • Built-ins are designed to be installed in a niche and set up with a specific ventilation system: the air intake is on the bottom and the air is let out from the top and, with some manufacturers’ models, from the sides.
  • Advancements in the design of the built-ins that are out on the market today allow them to fit much more snugly than they did in the past. You can have as little as 1/16” on either side of a built-in, now.
  • Built-in refrigerator models are made in a range of sizes – if you’re looking for a family fridge, you’ll be glad to know that there are larger models of built-ins with drawers that are deeper than your countertops!
  • In terms of repairs and maintenance, some built-ins have to be taken out of their niche and laid on their sides to get to their compressor or evaporator, whereas high end built-ins like Bertazzoni and Fulgor Milano don’t require this, making repair work less complicated and disruptive.
  • Stainless steel panels for built-ins come in different colours – even matt black!
  • Different refrigerator manufacturers use different kinds of hinges on their built-ins. The hinges on some models will be visible when they’re installed, whereas the hinges on high-end built-ins such as Bertazzoni and Blomberg are invisible.

Integrated refrigerators

In short: There are two types of fully integrated refrigerators. One type takes a panel on its front and is slid into a niche. The other type is surrounded by a box. The Blomberg BRFB1052FFBI is an example of that second kind of integrated fridge.

  • The external panel of an integrated fridge is attached directly to it (as opposed to built-in fridges, where the external panel is fixed to the surrounding cabinets). This means that the door hinges of the appliance determine how much weight it can take, and as a result, what kind of panels you can choose from.
  • If your kitchen design calls for steel doors or any other kind of heavy panel, you’ll want to know that Fulgor Milano and Bertazzoni integrated fridges can take the most weight – their door hinges can bear a stunning 290 lbs!

Looks aren’t everything . . .

. . . of course! But looks and style have a lot of impact. Contemporary kitchen designs often lean towards a very minimalist vibe featuring integrated or built-in appliances. However for those who like a warm, inviting look with some contrast or have a penchant for retro, 50’s style appliances, freestanding appliances are an enviably stylish option.

So, will you go with an integrated, built-in or a freestanding fridge? Whatever kind of model you choose, it’s bound to be one of your kitchen’s best and most used features.

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