Get the Look of a Built-in Fridge for Less

Counter-depth refrigerators are popular appliances for new kitchens. Their appeal is that they save precious aisle space by sitting flush with the cabinets rather than sticking out. This makes the kitchen look smooth, custom and visually organized. These models can also be finished with matching cabinet doors for an even more cohesive look. 

The downside is that they are very expensive. They can cost two to three times more than a regular freestanding refrigerator, and must be wider to incorporate the same cubic-foot storage. If you want this look without the extra expense, design your kitchen and cabinets so that your regular-size refrigerator sits flush with your cabinets. 


Freestanding refrigerators come in many sizes and configurations. While typical base and tall cabinets are 24 inches deep, freestanding refrigerators can be 30 inches deep or deeper, with varying widths too. Therefore, you should select your refrigerator early in the planning process. 

To get that flush look, you can either recess a freestanding unit several inches into a wall or have your cabinets furred out several inches to meet the refrigerator.

In this kitchen, if you look carefully, you’ll see that the 24-inch-deep base cabinets that extend to the left are recessed behind the oven cabinets. The appliance portion of this wall, therefore, has been furred out. Note that the side cabinet panel on the right has been ordered in a larger size to accommodate the depth of the refrigerator, which is greater than 24 inches.

In this case the refrigerator door sticks out beyond the base cabinets. But because there are deep side panels and a deep cabinet overhead, the refrigerator looks incorporated into the cabinetry and built in. A deep cabinet above the refrigerator is a good place for tray storage or even a TV, as shown here.


Here is another kitchen where deeper cabinets accommodate the greater depth of a freestanding unit. This refrigerator is a bottom-freezer model.


Here the homeowners built a wider set of deep cabinets, which include some open shelves for display.


Another way to “build in” your freestanding refrigerator is to actually build it into the wall, rather than cabinets. If your kitchen plan will allow it, this is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way to get the look, because you can make the opening the exact width and depth you require. You also won’t have any cabinet modification costs. 


This is particularly nicely done. The very linear refrigerator fits neatly into the opening and is trimmed out with house molding. The display shelf above draws the eye up. With a wine refrigerator next to the main refrigerator in a small peninsula cabinet, this is a good area for dispensing drinks.


This kitchen utilizes a very effective way to incorporate a deep refrigerator: The cabinets are stepped, for a very custom look. From the corner to the left of the refrigerator, the cabinets are typical sizes: 12 inches deep on top; 24 inches deep on the bottom. Next comes the upper cabinets and the appliance garage unit, probably 15 to 18 inches deep. The deepest cabinet is around the refrigerator, with display cabinets above. 

On the end is a tall open cabinet that creates an interesting visual display as one enters the kitchen. Note that this cabinet is actually pulled back a few inches from the refrigerator depth, so it continues the stepped look and also makes that corner a little less intrusive. 


Cabinets and a refrigerator sandwiched within stud walls create a clean and contemporary look here. The cabinets were probably furred out within the walls. 


This refrigerator is the centerpiece of an open display area. This would be a very cost-effective way to house a refrigerator and small appliances while using a short wall. (This treatment even accommodates a radiator.)