By Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D.
I recently read an article on the internet regarding how to write an article for the newspapers! The author stressed the importance of having a catchy title designed to grab your reader’s interest. Using this technique, readers tend to at least begin to read what you wrote, instead of selecting an article that sounds more interesting than yours. Rather than succumbing to the common sensational catch-alls such as sex or violence I chose to use NAKED instead, and if you’ve read this far, it may have worked! This technique seems to be effective in other media as well, as it is grabbing viewers for the TV shows, “Dating Naked” and “Naked & Afraid”. But, alas, that’s where the titillation ends, and we get down to the less exciting concept of appliance panels or the lack of them.
When Liz and I remodeled our kitchen many years ago, we ordered the three wood panels for our refrigerator, immediately installing only one, to see if we liked it. Today, (fifteen years later), it still only has the one panel on it. At first, we couldn’t make up our minds, but as time passed it became more of a statement. Can an appliance be content without having a panel that matches the adjoining cabinets?
In a smaller kitchen, I don’t recommend panels for the appliances, especially the larger appliances like the refrigerator. The usual goal in designing a smaller kitchen is to make the space seem as big as possible. Panels on the appliances tend to make them look larger, and heavier. If you absolutely must have a panel, contain yourself to the dishwasher or, preferably, just at the end of a cabinet run.
If you insist on having panels in a small space, stick with a flat panel, rather than a raised panel design. Not only are they less expensive, they are not so overpowering. Flat panels are generally made of veneered plywood and are about ¼” thick. Raised panel fronts are usually ¾” thick.
In medium to large size rooms, we’re not as concerned with making the space look larger, so panels may be an option. If you’ve selected ‘Shaker’ style (or similar) cabinets I recommend the flat panels, as the door style itself is very plain. However, if you’ve selected a traditional raised panel door style you can go either way, flat or raised.
The color of your cabinetry should also impact on the decision to panel or not. If the color of the cabinets is on the lighter side, raised panel fronts will not look as ‘weighty’ as darker ones. Keep in mind, however, that in a large kitchen, a nice stainless steel appliance here and there breaks up the monotony of an endless expanse of wood.
While you’re shopping, keep in mind that not all dishwashers and refrigerators are designed to accept full-overlay panels, and some are not designed for panels at all. If this is what you are considering, check with the manufacturer to see which panel options are available for the model you like. Generally, you must order a trim-kit from the appliance store for the appliance that you are planning to cover.
If you want to panel an older model and no trim kit is available, there is a company called Frigo and they can make kits for most older appliances. You can find them at www.frigodesign.com. They even make blackboard panels for refrigerators!
So, should you cover your appliances or let them run around NAKED? Each kitchen design must be considered on an individual basis. In some cases, as in a size-challenged kitchen, I think not. Furthermore, I’m not embarrassed that people know that I have appliances in my kitchen, only that I cannot decide whether or not they should be paneled.
Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck, New York. A Master of Design (Pratt Institute), and E.P.A. Certified Remodeler, he serves on the Advisory Panel of Remodeling Magazine. A member of the National Kitchen & Bath Assoc., he is also a contributor to eZine and Do It Yourself magazine. He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or www.dreamworkkitchens.com.