Reno of the month: a refrigerator style guide

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction.

By Nicola Cole Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

It may not be the most exciting decision you have to make when it comes to remodeling your kitchen, but it is an essential one: the refrigerator!

At the heart of home living, function is more important than form for some, but for others, a new refrigerator is an opportunity to make a design statement. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to choosing. It mostly comes down to personal preference, the utility you need and the look you prefer. If you’re hesitant or just looking for a minimalist design, here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular options.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to consider the depth of your refrigerator. Counter-depth refrigerators will stay flush with your countertops rather than protruding. In recent years, improved design and technology mean you don’t have to compromise on capacity to get that streamlined look.

You also need to make sure that the style of door you choose will open fully with enough clearance to pull out the inner product drawers. This can be particularly problematic when the refrigerator is positioned against a wall. No one wants to buy the latest and greatest refrigerator only to find out that they can’t open the drawer all the way to get to the veggies!

Before we begin, it should be noted that the benefit of working with a design-build company like Synergy is that our interior designers help you make hardware choices. We also (which is the case for most professional home remodeling companies) have accounts with suppliers and will not only give you any trade discounts, but help you pack your hardware and coordinate delivery for your project. Although not all kitchens and bathrooms do this, we also register appliances for warranty purposes on behalf of customers. It’s a huge time saver for them and it’s all part of Synergy’s service.

refrigerator patterns

Don’t know the difference between a French door, side-by-side or upright refrigerator? The best place to start is by reviewing the different styles out there. You will notice that not all of the examples below have external ice/water makers. Many of our customers choose refrigerators and freezers that have water/ice makers built inside.

French door refrigerator

This style of refrigerator simply means that you have left and right swinging doors for storing fresh produce at the top and a pull-out freezer at the bottom. This classic style is one of the most popular choices for many. This style of refrigerator might be for you if you tend to have more produce than frozen foods, or if you have large dishes or packaged items (like birthday cake, yum) that need storage.

This kitchen remodel nicely shows how a French door refrigerator is just as at home in a more modern aesthetic as it is in a transitional or traditional kitchen.

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction. See more of this remake here.

French door refrigerators now come in all sorts of configuration options. The Bosch 36 Inch Four Door Refrigerator has two pull out drawers.

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction. See more of this remake here.

side by side

This pattern means that the refrigerator is on one side, and the freezer is on the other. There are two benefits of a side-by-side refrigerator versus a French door refrigerator:

  1. Freezers tend to have a larger capacity
  2. Both fresh and frozen can be seen at eye level when the doors are opened
  3. Frozen produce is less likely to be buried under other things

Some people worry that there is no place for things like pizza boxes in side-by-side refrigerators. not like that! Most these days are designed with compartments large enough to fit this type of box.

In this remodeled Fairfax home, our customers have taken side-by-sides to a whole new level with this 36-Inch Sub-Zero Refrigerator and 36-Inch Freezer.

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction. See more of this kitchen remodel here.


Bar fridges are built into a wall or cabinet and refer to any full-size or single-purpose refrigerator (or freezer or wine storage). It gives an upscale, designer feel to any kitchen.

Refrigerator poles are very versatile because they come in a wide variety of designs and widths. Mix and match the width of the refrigerator with the freezer and wine columns to suit your needs and kitchen design. It is also available in a number of finishes, including pre-painted. They can either have water/ice makers on the outside of the door or have water filtration systems built in on the inside (always check, some don’t have water systems).

In this remodeled kitchen in Herndon, our clients chose a 36-inch sub-zero refrigerator column and a 24-inch freezer column. This project is also a great example of how the fridge and freezer don’t always have to sit side by side. In this case, they surround a sink on each side.

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction. See more remodels of this home here.

Refrigerator finishes

You’ve decided on the fridge style you want, now it’s time to decide on the color/finish.

Stainless Steel

An obvious place to start, stainless steel has been the preferred choice for a few decades. The enduring appeal of stainless steel is its ability to “fit in” with lots of different design aesthetics, from contemporary to traditional.

For this transitional kitchen remodel, a Thermador 36-Inch Stainless Steel Integrated Fresh Food Column and 24-Inch Freezer Column (with a water/ice dispenser on the outside of the freezer pole) are in the perfect spot for hungry teens!

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction. See more of this remake here.

On the downside, many stainless steel refrigerator owners will tell you that fingerprints and water marks are a never-ending nuisance. However, many new appliances now come in tarnish-resistant stainless steel.

Plate ready refrigerators

In what may seem counterintuitive, panel-ready refrigerators and freezers usually cost more (plus the cost of a panel of matching cabinets). However, if you want appliances to “disappear” in the overall kitchen design, they’re the perfect choice for an ultra-sleek, fuss-free look.

refrigerator? what refrigerator? We love the contemporary finishes in this kitchen remodel.

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction. See more of this remake here.


Stainless steel took over white appliances some time ago as the preferred hardware choice, but if you loved white appliances, you’ll be glad to know they’re back! However, like most things in life, they have been given a new look with a modern twist on an old look.

In this remodeled home in Reston, our clients wanted a contemporary aesthetic and we were delivered with the GE Cafe White 36-Inch Counter-Depth Refrigerator with Polished Bronze Components! Note the style of the French door.

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction. See more of this remake here.


Like white devices, the popularity of black devices has been declining for quite some time. However, black hardware has also evolved. Fresh-look black refrigerators keep up with the trend of “mood” paint colors as black stainless steel has become a popular choice. Many have been finished in such a way that they are now stain and scratch resistant.

We tend to be a little conservative in Northern Virginia when it comes to this kind of bold design choice, so it’s not for everyone, but, as this example shows, maybe it’s time to get out of our comfort zones! love!

Image courtesy of Bosch.

splash of colour

I’m a big fan of making a color statement in hardware. I own a red secondary refrigerator that brings me joy every time I look at it! I also once owned a glossy black fridge when I lived in London. It was (and still is) my all-time favorite hand-held refrigerator. One of the leaders in bold-colored appliances, SMEG, has been making stylish refrigerators in a range of colors for years. We’re seeing the return of color to add pop and personality to kitchens and pantries. Maybe it’s time to rethink you?

Image courtesy of Williams Redout.

If you’re thinking of a kitchen remodel, we’re here to help. We’ve been helping local homeowners rejuvenate happiness for nearly 15 years. Ready to get started? Find out more about us here.

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