Last week we explored the Art of Design with Appliances by looking at the 4 categories of Kitchen Appliances.

Helping your clients make the decision to choose Free Standing Appliances, Built-in Appliances, Integrated Appliances, or Pro-style Appliances is the first step in the Art of Design & Appliances.

In my FREE Workshop on Appliances launching this fall, I will cover additional art of design steps for specifying appliances. You will want to check it out!

To register for the workshop and get notified of dates and time for the Vestabul School of Design Appliance Workshop, subscribe to here:

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In this post we will review one of the most important aspects of the appliance process:

The Science of Kitchen Design & Appliances

Understanding the Science of Design is what will help you avoid costly mistakes when it comes to specifying and placing the appliances into your Kitchen designs.

With appliances being one of the last items to be installed into the kitchen, any glitch can be stressful and potentially difficult to recover from.

You never want the refrigerator to arrive on site and not fit in the allotted space!

The process I developed to ensure appliances fit seamlessly with the cabinetry involves 3 steps.

  1. Locating the Appliance Specification
  2. Understanding the Appliance Specification
  3. Integrating the Appliance into the Design

I will give you an overview of each of these steps here but I recommend you enroll in my FREE course: TIPS, TRICKS & TRAPS FOR READING APPLIANCE SPECIFICATIONS for a detailed description of the process.

Designers who have enrolled in this mini course have loved it. Here is what one had to say:

Jan, you nailed it 100%! You presented the info VERY clearly, VERY precisely, and VERY easy to digest! I took away great nuggets of info & have found ways to elevate my designs! Early in my career, it took me about 3 years to get comfortable with appliances specs & a few very costly mistakes! THANK YOU for taking the time to put together and share this fundamental & invaluable information!!

Jamie McFichtner, Kitchen Designer, Dallas, Texas

The mini course, TIPS, TRICKS & TRAPS FOR READING APPLIANCE SPECIFICATIONS uses a Free Standing, Counter Depth, French Door Refrigerator to illustrate the process.

Even though the Free Standing Refrigerator is thought to be an easy appliance to place in a Kitchen Design, there can be many TRAPS when wading through the specifications.

Let’s have a look at the process!

1. Locating the Appliance Specification

99% of the Kitchen Designer’s research for appliance specifications will be on-line.

After you put the model number in your search engine, chose the manufactures website and dive deep into all the areas on the site that provides specification information, including the sales page, the specification tabs and the manuals & guides.

The Manuals & Guides sections are important to the Kitchen Designer since all these areas include specification information that may be needed to successfully integrate the appliance into your client’s Kitchen design.

I recommend you download and read each one of these sections, especially if this is the first time you are integrating a particular appliance brand or model in one of your designs.

Once you have located the specifications you need, move on to the next step.

2. Understanding the Appliance Specification

Unfortunately there can be conflicting specification information on appliance manufacturer’s websites.

It will be important for you as the Kitchen Designer to understand what information you need.

In most cases, the cutout dimensions will be more important than the product dimensions.

The goal is to ensure the appliance fits within the cabinetry or millwork and provides enough surrounding air space.

You also want to look at Location information, especially when it comes to refrigerators.

While developing the TIPS, TRICKS & TRAPS FOR READING APPLIANCE SPECIFICATIONS course, I found the two above diagrams for locating the same refrigerator on a manufacture’s website!

This is an example of Why Working with Appliances Drives Kitchen Designers Crazy!

If the Kitchen Designer had installed the refrigerator leaving only a 3 3/4″ to the side wall as one of the diagrams shows, the door would hit the wall when opened and the crisper drawers would not be operational.

The contradictory air space clearances between these two drawings could also get the Kitchen Designer into trouble.

Being able to identify these “TRAPS” is a very important part of the Professional Kitchen Designers skillset.

I recommend you read every spec sheet, guide and manual on the manufacture’s website to ensure you have the correct information for your design. If in doubt, reach out the the retailer, distributor or manufacturer for clarification.

The next blog in this series, the Business of Kitchen Design & Appliances will talk more about the relationship between the Kitchen Designer and the Appliance Retailer, Distributor and Manufacturer.

3. Integrating the Appliance into your Design

Once the appliance specification is located and understood, the Kitchen Designer needs to integrate the unit correctly into their design.

This is a very important step and it cannot be left to chance. Do not rely on your cabinet manufacturer to tackle this on their own.

It is the responsibility of the Kitchen Designer to direct the integration of the chosen appliance to ensure client expectations are met.

Calculate the true depth of the refrigerator to avoid exposing the “unfinished” side of the unit.

Missed details such as the first example above is something that can derail a new Kitchen project.

By not calculating the full depth of the refrigerator box, the millwork was not designed to cover the side of the unfinished refrigerator.

Most clients will be very disappointed with a detail like that in their new dream Kitchen.

The manufactures website shows the correct installation, but as noted above it can be tricky to determine how to get the desired look.

Understanding & correctly implementing appliance specifications is the most important aspect of Appliance Integration.

If you don’t get this right, the cost to correct the mistake can be very expensive.

In some cases not implementing the appliance correctly may not allow the appliance or the cabinetry adjacent to it to function.

The three examples above show this for a refrigerator.

Example #1 has the refrigerator placed too close to a side wall. The door binds on the wall not allowing it to open fully.

This is a common mistake when placing a refrigerator in a kitchen design.

Example #2 shows the refrigerator door hitting the kitchen island. This occurred because the designer did not calculate the thickness of the refrigerator door when calculating the work aisle clearance.

Some refrigerator doors can be up to 9″ deep and can really cut into work aisles.

Insider Info:
North American refrigerator manufactures will often design their units so a large 1 gallon milk jug will fit on a shelf on the door. This is why many of them have such deep doors!

Example #3 happens more than you think.

Many free standing refrigerators have hinges that protrude above the refrigerator box and can block access to upper cabinetry if not calculated into the overall height of the unit.

With the popularity of giving free standing appliances a “built-in” look, minimum clearances are being specified by many designers.

If the Kitchen Designer misses the hinge height size, this can be a disaster.

Don’t let these appliance installation mishaps trip you up!

Again, enrolling in my Free course TIPS, TRICKS & TRAPS FOR READING APPLIANCE SPECIFICATIONS will introduce you to a process to help you avoid these mistakes.

You will also want to join my email list to keep updated on additional training on Appliances coming soon!

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Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

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.

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