Monday, April 21, 2014

the refrigerator conundrum SOLVED

I started writing this post several months ago, originally titled 'kitchen fail', shortly after the kitchen construction was completed.  I didn't publish the post then because it was written largely out of frustration.  I complained and didn't have a good solution to the problem.  I didn't even know if we would keep the refrigerator after it was installed.  But the refrigerator has stayed and I'm happy to report that an acceptable solution to the problem has been built and installed, and so I'm finally ready to share my biggest frustration with the kitchen, aside from the extended construction schedule.

When we set out to complete the kitchen remodel, we planned to reuse all of the existing appliances. The previous owner (our landlord) had updated them and though they all aren't the same brand or the latest styles, they worked and weren't offensive.  The 5-burner gas range is actually quite nice.

As the kitchen project progressed, however, we started having more and more discussions about replacing the refrigerator.  I wrote a little bit about it here and here.  We felt that a counter-depth refrigerator with french doors would be the ideal solution for the small space.  I had been doing my research on refrigerators that might work in our little space long before the kitchen cabinets were even ordered,  but without confirmation that a new fridge was in our future, I tried to play things safe as best I could.

VERTICAL SPACE  When we were at IKEA ordering our cabinets, I had our kitchen designer change the over-the-fridge cabinet from a 24" tall unit to their shortest cabinet, coming in at a mere 15" tall.  I decided that because some of the 30" wide fridge models I had been looking at were on the taller side, I would play it safe and install the shortest cabinet I could to give the refrigerator opening the most vertical space possible.  And to fill the remaining space (if any), I ordered a cover panel that could be mounted horizontally as an open shelf just above the top of the fridge.  I thought it might be a nice place for cookbooks or a few storage bins.

HORIZONTAL SPACE  In addition to trying to make accommodations for a tall, future fridge, I also realized during construction that some of the refrigerators that were on our short list were wider than the exactly 30" wide opening.  So I had the contractor add an approximately 5/8" thick filler piece to either side of the 30" wide over-the-fridge cabinet to make the space as wide as could possibly be achieved.  The fridge cabinet now butts completely up against the door casing of the back door on the right and along side the hidden duct traveling from the basement to Ella's bedroom on the second floor on the left.  This was the maximum width we could have achieved here.

And so, with the kitchen finished and final measurements taken, we decided to go ahead and buy the new fridge - a Fisher & Paykel counter-depth, french door model, my husband's favorite of the group.  I love the squared profile of the doors and handles.  It looks GREAT.  But I was worried all along that having only an 1/8" buffer was going to be way to small, especially considering that nothing in this house seems to be square!  I was also concerned about the gaping void above the fridge - a shelf would have just further defined the void and brought attention to the one, incomplete spot in the entire kitchen.

The fridge JUST fit.  It's in and working but the tight installation process caused the side cover panel to bow near the top.  It wasn't pretty, at least to me, and so I began trying to figure out what to do about it.  I tossed around the idea of removing the panel entirely.  One side of the refrigerator would be exposed but it is a nice looking appliance.  Removing the side panel would have also made the installation of a shelf above the fridge impossible, leaving an unused, large, cavernous space just staring me in the face every day.

My next option at the time was to try and ignore the issue for a while, and, in the meantime, I proceeded to load up the top of the fridge with cookbooks and junk.  That junk piling up reminded me why I despise an open, top of fridge area.  Give me a space and I will quickly pile it up with anything and everything just to get things out of the way.  I decided that I needed to install something that wouldn't afford me that option.  So I designed a unit with a wine cubby and an open display area, all to be made from the same oak material as the open shelving over the sink, and only about 12" deep.

The contractor installed the cubby last week and I am so excited to have that void filled.  The installation of the box helped to pull the side panel back in as well (bonus).  Now I have a place to keep wine and more cookbooks, though I think I'll swap those out for one of the antique bowls given to us as a wedding gift.  I still need to sand and oil the unit as I did with the shelves over the sink, but for now I don't have to stare at any more junk on top of the fridge.

This entire situation was very disheartening to me.  This is what I do and I didn't listen to my gut (and all of my research) telling me to order a different fridge, or even push the decision to purchase a new fridge earlier in the process.  I've learned some valuable lessons here: trust my gut (and my research), always leave more space than you think you'll need, and don't expect everything to be perfect.  Oh, and try to plan ahead as much as possible.  If we had decided to replace the fridge at the beginning of the project, I would have made the appropriate plans upfront to accommodate it's height and width.

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