How We Added Panel-Ready “Hidden” Appliances Without Replacing All Your Cabinets

Some of us are pro-showing off appliances and some of us want to hide them or diminish their visual impact. I land firmly in the “hide” camp because I want so many other design elements to be the star. The good news is that more and more appliance companies are making panel-ready fridges/dishwashers and they are getting less and less expensive. So today we are tackling how to get panel-ready appliances, fully integrated into your kitchen WITHOUT redoing your cabinetry (likely the most expensive part of any kitchen remodel). This was exactly what we did for the West Linn kitchen remodel – we didn’t have the time or budget to replace the cabinets (nor did we need to at all – they were fine and just needed some paint). So here is how we did this and what we learned.

The kitchen was on the smaller side so the appliances really would have stood out had we not integrated them (especially with the dark green color we wanted). We only needed a fridge panel and a dishwasher panel. We went to Basco in Portland and bought the only panel-ready fridge and dishwasher that they had in stock in Portland (we didn’t have time to risk lead time issues).

So how do you turn that into the below???

TIP #1: You HAVE To Order A “Counter-Depth” Fridge That’s “Panel-Ready” Or “Integrated”

You can’t just panel a normal fridge (at least not to my knowledge). To get the integrated look this has to be very specific. These things look ugly without the panel and yet they don’t come with a panel. I think a major hole in the market is fridges that come with a panel, primed and ready to be painted. If I were an appliance manufacturer I would offer 2-3 profiles (flat panel, shaker, and maybe a micro shaker with just a small trim piece?). In my opinion, so many people want this look without having to hire a cabinet maker to do it (it’s expensive as you’ll see below) so if the manufacturer fabricated them to be already on the fridge and primed, I think it could be a huge hit.

TIP #2: Find A Cabinet Maker Or Carpenter To Do A Small Job

Y’all, this is probably the hardest part. Maybe now that the huge renovation boom is slowing down you might be able to find a cabinet maker to do this job, but it’s small and that’s less attractive to them (which I get – it’s like hiring a designer to do 1/2 a bathroom). So they are going to charge more for their time to make it worth it to them (which I also get). My brother Ken had a few connections and as a new GC they knew that they could get future business with him so he was able to maneuver this job. You can also find a really good carpenter that might do this – it is very precise TBH, and not something that I would do myself. So just know that this will seem more expensive than it should be, and that is because it’s not really a service that they necessarily want to do (but again, this is a growing need so maybe it will become more commonplace).

Our needs were pretty simple but not something we could do ourselves – we would need to demo out the existing fridge cabinet surround to fit our new fridge specs (which weren’t that different, but we wanted to take it to the ceiling and add a cabinet above it) and then have a new fridge cabinet with upper cabinets fabricated.

TIP #3: Measure And Template

The biggest challenge is getting the panels to fit PERFECTLY – this can be a huge challenge that often requires multiple attempts. For our kitchen, Jamie had to tweak it for days to make it fit exactly and not settle in a way that would make the panels bump into each other. You can’t just go off the specs – they are often slightly off. “Fun fact” – since the pandemic, when the demand rose so high, the quality or exactness of many appliances have gone down because the companies were hiring and didn’t have time to train up the employees fast enough. So anecdotally we’ve heard from multiple contractors that things are more “off” than they used to be.

TIP #4: Construct Off-Site Of Contrast On-Site?

The carpenter or cabinet maker might want to construct the panel off-site, but they need to measure on-site and then install on-site (at least that’s how we did it). They install by screwing from the back into the wood.

TIP #5: Paint Boxes And Panels On Site

We obviously had to paint the boxes on-site, but our painter really wanted to take the panels and paint them off-site (like they did with the rest of the cabinet doors and drawer fronts). They always prefer to spray rather than roll cabinets (this is due to the type of paint and wanting the most even finish) and they can do that better in a spraying room off-site. But I’m telling you, getting them back on PERFECTLY is extremely difficult. Our cabinet dude had to come back THREE TIMES because every time he thought it was perfect, it just wasn’t (either wasn’t straight or the dimensions were a teeny tiny bit off). This isn’t uncommon – Jamie from ARCIFORM said that it’s just a highly precise process and often requires multiple attempts. I suppose this is why they don’t want to do this small but hard of a job and why it costs so much.

TOTAL COST Of Fridge And Dishwasher Paneling

So just to construct and install the fridge cabinet (with the upper cabinets above it) and the panels on the front of the fridge and dishwasher was $3,500. This did not include painting the cabinets or installing the hardware (which was wrapped up in a larger bid, but I think the whole room to paint was around $6k). It’s one of those things that is more expensive than it seems like it should be, but due to the craftmanship required, we weren’t surprised and we all thought was totally worth it. Ultimately, this is for people who are seriously design enthusiasts where the look matters a lot. This is for beautiful form, not practical function:). But for people like me, it was something that we needed to build into the budget and I feel made a huge difference in the overall design of the kitchen 🙂

*Design by Emily Henderson and Sarah Weldon
**Styled by Emily Henderson and Emily Bowser
***Pretty After Photos by Steven Mcdonald

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *