Appliances are an investment—so you really don’t want to make these mistakes:
- You opt for standard-depth fridge, only to find you bump into it every time you get up for a glass of water in the middle of the night
- You fall for (and pay for) a gas range, only to realize you actually can’t get a gas hookup there (whoops)
- Or your contractor installs your dishwasher on the wrong side of the sink and it totally throws off your whole dish washing process.
Your fridge, range, oven, and dishwasher are some of the biggest investments you’ll make in your new kitchen—and not only because they cost a good chunk of change. The type and size of your appliances will also help determine your kitchen layout and flow, and they’ll last for the next ten to fifteen years. (A good one should last longer than a car.) So choose carefully, starting with how big a space you’re working with. Here’s our quick and easy breakdown:
Where To Put Everything
Just like with the kitchen sink, it’s important to think carefully about where to put your major appliances: your fridge, dishwasher, and range/cooktop/wall oven (whichever combo of those you choose). The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends arranging your cooktop and fridge into a triangle formation with your sink—with no less than 4 feet and no more than 9 feet between each.
They also say you should leave some landing space beside every appliance: at least 12 inches on one side of the cooktop and 15 inches on the other (and at least 9 inches behind it, if it’s on a peninsula or island), and at least 15 inches beside or across from the refrigerator. And you should plan to slot your dishwasher or dishwasher drawer so that the nearest edge is no more than 36 inches from the sink (to the right or left, depending on where your plumbing hookups are and what feels more comfortable to you). Be sure the opening of any of the appliance doors don’t interfere with cabinets or walls (and vice versa).
**Pro Tip: “Please consider the location and door swings of the upper cabinets near your dishwasher,” says Jessi Economos, founder and principal designer of JEID Studio. “If the door is open and you’re bent over, grabbing your clean dishes, will you hit your head when you stand up? Unfortunately I learned that lesson in my own home.”
A Word on Fridge Depth
Measure carefully. For the fridge in particular, you want to opt for something counter-depth, not standard depth, so it won’t stick out awkwardly beyond the counter. While you’ll lose the deeper, roomier shelves and storage space of standard-depth fridges, counter--depth fridges often make up for this by being a bit wider and taller.
Or, you might also want to take things one step further and opt for either a built-in (where the fridge is fitted into a wall of cabinets), panel-ready (where the fridge is built in and fronted with panels to match your cabinets), or fully integrated design (where the fridge is camouflaged completely behind flush cabinetry). (P.S.: Dishwashers can be panel-ready or fully integrated, too.)
Lastly, measure carefully: “Counter depth” fridges are generally about 24” back to front, not including the doors or handles (and compared to standard depth, which can go up to 36 inches), so you’ll want to be sure the fridge you’re looking at is the proper depth for your kitchen cabinets, and that the fridge (door handles and all) stick out only a couple of inches at most.
**Pro Tip: “Check all dimensions—and any venting requirements,” says interior designer Larah Moravek, partner at Dutch East Design. For most fridges, for example, you’ll need to leave an inch or an inch and a half between the back of the unit and the wall, so figure that into your calculations.
You’ll also want to make sure you get the proper size appliances for your kitchen, which we’ll get into next.
For Smaller Spaces
Forget the idea that you need to have gigantic, tank-sized appliances in order to have a functional kitchen. You don’t. In fact, if you’re working with a smaller—or even medium-sized—space, fridges, dishwashers, ranges, and ovens scaled smaller will do everything you need them to do without overwhelming your kitchen.
Refrigerators and Freezers
Look for a compact 24-inch-wide refrigerator/freezers (which generally come in freezer-on-top and freezer-on-bottom combinations). They won’t loom over an otherwise petite space (or jut out into your workspace), but they’ll still do everything you need them to do and store a good amount of food. (You could also look for a compact or mini fridge; not at all dorm-like, they work in the teeny tiniest of kitchens, or serve, in addition to a regular fridge, as extra cold storage for larger families.)
Slim Dishwashers and Dishwasher Drawers
You don’t need to forgo a dishwasher even if you have a small kitchen. Find a 18-inch-wide dishwasher, or even a slim dishwasher drawer, which takes up just about the same amount of space as a regular kitchen drawer. All the pluses of having a dishwasher, just in less space.
If you’ve got a small space, we recommend installing all-in-one appliances if you can. Like, for instance, a range, which incorporates a cooktop and oven into one chunk, rather than a separate cooktop and wall oven setup. You can squeeze in a 24-inch-wide range in just about any fuel combination for all of your cooking needs.
For Larger Spaces
If you’ve got more space, congrats! You can opt for standard (or even bigger) appliances—and maybe even an add-on or two to maximize cooking, storage, and cleanup space. Big family or frequent host? These roomier appliances will come in handy. You can also add a wall oven or two if you entertain often and have space.
Refrigerators and Freezers
If you’ve got the space (and the need), you can go for a standard 30- to 36-inch wide fridge/freezer combination, in a French-door, freezer-on-top, or freezer-on-bottom arrangement. Have lots of space? They go as wide as 48 inches.
**Pro Tip: If you can, find a fridge/freezer with dual compressors instead of one. This means that the fridge and freezer are separate compartments with separately cooled air. That means more temperature control, longer-lasting foods, and no smells from one section carrying into the other. (No fishy-smelling ice cream.) Dual compressors are more energy efficient, too.
Yep, you can go for a standard 24-inch-wide dishwasher. If you have room and want the flexibility, you can also install a dishwasher drawer for times when you have far fewer dishes and don’t want to run a full load.
Pay special attention to the handle when choosing a dishwasher, too: Some are bigger and stick out, which can interrupt the streamlined look of a kitchen, while others come with pocket handles that are less obtrusive.
Ranges, Cooktops, and Wall Ovens
With more room, you can max out your cookspace a little more with a standard 30-inch range (or even wider, like 36 inches, if you like).
Or, separate your cooking areas with a cooktop or range and separate wall oven—particularly good for the cooking enthusiast or holiday host who needs lots of oven space. Wall ovens are space-efficient because they can be stacked, and you won’t have to bend over to get items in or out—though it can be more expensive to source and install two separate appliances (cooktop and range) rather than one combined range.
Just a Bit About Gas vs. Electric
Wondering which type of cooktop to get? There’s no shortage of choices, from gas to induction to electric (whether coil, solid-disc, or smoothtop). At-home cooks have long sworn by gas, but keep in mind that installing gas lines is often restricted in urban areas. Modern electric stoves can offer just as precise heat control—and state-of-the-art induction cooktops are particularly streamlined-looking and safe, since they heat only flat-bottomed pans containing iron, nothing else (though you may need to shell out for a new set of cookware).
**Pro Tip: Don’t forget to add a proper vent system—either ducted or recirculating—near your cooking area. Ducted vents carry smoky, steamy air out of the house entirely, while recirculating vents pass this air through a filter and return it to the kitchen. We recommend always going for a ducted vent, if you can, but this can be costly (and not always possible in cities).
Last but not least, plan to keep the area around the cooktop free of fabrics or fire hazards. (If you’ve got a window near the stove, that means no curtains.)