The design of Kitchen Appliances has really advanced in the last 20 years.
When I began my Kitchen Design career most appliance packages included a 30″ top mount refrigerator, a 30″ range, a 30″ ventilation hood, a 24″ dishwasher and a countertop model microwave.
How things have changed!
Appliance choices now are almost infinite!
Observing the evolution of Kitchen Appliances over the years I have developed some favorites.
One of these is the Kitchen Appliance as a Drawer.
Let’s look at why I love this type of appliance.
With a degree in Home Economics, I have always been drawn to the functionality of Kitchen Design.
Ergonomics, the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment, is at the heart of all my Kitchen Designs.
Early on in my career I saw that specifying a base cabinet as a bank of drawers, rather than a door and a shelf was a much more efficient storage unit.
The contents in a drawer are visible when you pull it out, while trying to find something at the back of a base shelf requires crouching down and moving items around.
Definitely drawers are much more ergonomic and a better design.
This is why I love appliances as drawers. The same principle is at play.
Let’s look at what types of appliances are available as drawer units.
The first appliance to really embrace drawers was refrigerators.
When manufactures decided to flip the freezer portion from the top of the unit to the bottom, the first models employed doors.
Consumers soon found that this design was not very functional.
Even though they were delighted to have the fresh food crispers located at waist level instead of ankle level, bending over to see what was hidden in the lower freezer compartment was a pain.
Some manufacturers added pullout basket drawers behind the lower freezer door but the best solution was the full pullout drawer with an additional internal drawer.
The upper end of the appliance market took the lower freezer drawer to the next level by developing refrigerators with two freezer drawers.
This appliance upped the functionality and efficiency of the freezer allowing customers to store short term freezer items in the top drawer and more long term freezer items in the bottom drawer.
Another configuration to hit the market was a bottom mount refrigerator with a “convertible” drawer.
It allows the homeowner to set the temperature of that single drawer to be used as a produce drawer, a freezer drawer or a wine chiller/beverage drawer.
For a functional design, refrigerators with bottom freezer drawers was a win!
Not long after the development of the lower portion of refrigeration becoming drawers, under counter refrigeration units were introduced.
Manufacturers produced all freezer drawers, all refrigerator drawers and combination refrigerator/freezer drawers.
Accessories available for under counter refrigerator drawers allowed homeowners to customize the drawers for specific uses such as a beverage fridge or a cooled salad bar as part of a buffet.
This development also opened up opportunities for the Kitchen Designer to place refrigeration in multiple locations within the kitchen.
Refrigeration could now be easily placed on an island or a peninsula.
Kitchen Design began to evolve beyond the standard work triangle to allow Kitchen Zone planning, because the large refrigerator box was no longer the only option.
The warming drawer is a specialty appliance that has always been a drawer.
These appliances evolved from the lower drawer that was standard on free-standing ranges.
In most electric ranges this was a storage drawer, but in almost all gas free-standing ranges, this lower drawer was a warming drawer.
The pilot flame keep that drawer warm making it perfect place for proofing bread, warming plates or keeping items warm until the cook was ready to serve them.
The modern warming drawer is a separate appliance that can be located in a variety of places within the kitchen.
Often this appliance is placed under the wall ovens as a default placement but it can be installed anywhere under the counter.
Specifying one under the cooktop or near the dining table are great spots for this handy appliance.
These units are available to coordinate with other cooking appliances or can be paneled to match kitchen cabinetry.
Cup Warming Drawers
Most warming drawers are used to keep food warm but since the introduction of the built-in coffee maker, manufacturers have added specialty cup warming drawers.
These cup warming drawers are ideally placed under the coffee maker to keep your expresso or latte cup warm, producing a coffee house experience every time.
Manufacturers such as Miele and Wolf produce cup warming drawers to match their built-in coffee makers providing a coordinate look in your Kitchen Design.
Dishwasher drawers were first introduced to the North American market by the New Zealand manufacturer Fisher & Paykel.
I still remember the first one I installed for a client in the late 90’s.
This homeowner was one of my first “Universal Design” clients and the dishwasher as drawers fit perfectly within the design.
Over the years the offering of dishwasher drawers has evolved to include single drawers and panel ready drawers.
These options allow Kitchen Designers to install dishwashers in locations throughout the space.
A single dishwasher drawer in the beverage bar for easy glass washing is a good example.
The dishwasher drawer does not have to be a focal point in the Kitchen Design because the Designer can cover it with a panel and have it blend in.
For me, one of the best drawer appliance introductions has been the microwave drawer.
The microwave has always been a difficult appliance to place functionally and aesthetically in the Kitchen.
When first introduce, the large microwave was placed on the countertop.
The industry then started making upper microwave shelves to place them on but they were still big and awkward.
The addition of trim kits helped to give these units a more streamline look but the depth of them was still an issue.
To solve this problem, Kitchen Designers began placing the microwave under counter.
But, the standard design of a hinged door microwave under counter was not very ergonomic.
The microwave company Sharpe was the first to introduce the microwave drawer.
This changed how Kitchen Designers incorporated this appliance into their Kitchen Designs.
The microwave drawer is one of the safest way for children to access the microwave and no longer does this appliance need to dominate the upper cabinetry in a Kitchen Design.
Vacuum Seal Drawers
The newest appliance drawer introduction for the Kitchen is the Vacuum Seal Drawer.
I see this appliance introduction as part of the Modern Cuisine Movement that is beginning to take hold in the world of Kitchen Design.
The trend revolves around appliance manufacturers producing products that allow the homeowner to cook restaurant quality meals at home.
You can read more about this trend in the blog post My Top 3 Insights for the KBIS 2021 Virtual Show Floor.
A vacuum seal drawer is a chamber-style drawer that can do a variety of things.
It can be used to better preserve frozen foods, it removes air to prepare for sous vide cooking and infuses flavors into proteins, vegetables, and oils.
It is a tool that professional chefs have used in their commercial kitchens for years.
Here are some of the things manufacturers are saying can be sealed with a vacuum seal drawer.
- Dry ingredients
- Fresh foods to be frozen
- Foods being marinated or brined
- Infusing foods with different flavors
- Pickling foods
- Foods for sous vide
- Opened bottles of wine
- Sealing paper documents!
It will be interesting to see if this appliance drawer takes off in contemporary Kitchen Design.
After doing my research, I think I would like one in my kitchen since I already can, dehydrate and freeze a lot of my family’s food.
Appliance drawers are a trend that will continue for Kitchen Appliances.
Consumers will not want to give up the convenience of sliding out a drawer to access appliances under the counter.
I am going to continue to be on the look out for new drawer appliances being brought to the market.
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Let me know if you are including appliance drawers in your designs. You can comment below.
Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.