Appliance Panels: An elegant subterfuge

As the walls between kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms have come down over the past three decades,  it’s become important to a growing number of families that the view from each section of the wide open space is harmonious.

Coordinating appliance panels on the refrigerator/freezer (on the left) blend seamlessly with quarter-sawn oak cabinetry. The woodwork was chosen to complement an Arts & Crafts bungalow’s existing features.

For Teakwood Builders’ clients, that has meant an increasing emphasis on making sure the cabinets and appliances in the kitchen are as elegant as the woodwork in the dining and living rooms.

While the pink Frigidaire may be a retro delight for some, others opt to use custom appliance panels to give their refrigerators and dishwashers a furniture-like chic.

“There are some places where you want stainless steel, but with more and more floorplans being open, there are times when you’re staring straight from your living room into the kitchen,” said Teakwood Builders’ designer Eva Andersen. “Appliance panels offer a much more custom, finished look.”

Paneled appliances also increase the design options for adding refrigeration units in the bedroom, wine cellar, exercise room and den – without sacrificing visual style.

The bar in this kitchen has a custom panel on the panel-ready Sub-Zero beverage center.

The trend to disguise an appliance – also known as appliance integration – heated up in the 1990s, but took a quick backseat when professional grade-ish stainless steel appliances became the fad of choice at the turn of the century. After nearly 20 years of wiping fingerprints and smears off those shiny refrigerators, many homeowners are gravitating to a warmer, less fussy vibe, and spending as much time lounging at comfortable seating in the kitchen as they do cooking.

More manufacturers are offering panel-ready appliances, allowing clients a broad array of choices for colors and materials, and a more custom look to integrate their designs. About 90 percent of the clients who custom panel their appliances choose the dishwasher to keep an unbroken visual line under the counter, Andersen said. About half of them panel under-the-counter beverage centers, and a third panel the refrigerator.