Reno of the Month: Refrigerator style guide

Image courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction.

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

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

At the center of home life, 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 choice. It mostly comes down to personal preference, the utility you need and the look you prefer. If you’re undecided or just looking for a little design inspo, here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular options.

Pro tip: don’t forget to think about the depth of your refrigerator. Counter-depth refrigerators will sit flush with your countertops rather than jutting out. In recent years, improved design and technology means you don’t have to forego capacity for this streamlined look.

You also need to ensure the door style you choose will fully open with enough clearance for interior produce drawers to be pulled out. This can be particularly problematic when the refrigerator placement is against a wall. No one wants to buy the latest and greatest refrigerator only to find out they can’t open the drawer fully to get to the veggies!

Before we get started, it should be noted the benefit of working with a design-build company like Synergy is that our Interior Designers help you make appliance choices. We also have (and this is the case for most professional home remodeling companies) accounts with suppliers and will not only pass any trade discounts on to you, we help you with your appliance package and coordinate delivery for your project. Although not every kitchen and bathroom remodeler does this, we also register appliances for warranty purposes on behalf of clients. It’s a huge time saving convenience for them and all part of the Synergy service.

Refrigerator Styles

Don’t know the difference between a french door, a side-by-side or column refrigerator? A good place to start is reviewing the different styles out there. You’ll notice not all of the examples below have exterior ice/water makers. Many of our clients choose refrigerators and freezers that have integrated water/ice makers on the interior.

French Door Refrigerator

This refrigerator style simply means you have left and right swing doors for fresh produce storage on the top and a pull out freezer at the bottom. A classic style, this remains one of the most popular choices for many. This style of refrigerator may be for you if you tend to have more produce than frozen food, or if you have large dishware or boxed items (like birthday cake, yum) that need to be stored.

This kitchen remodel nicely shows how a french door refrigerator is equally at home in a more contemporary aesthetic just as much as in a transitional or traditional kitchen.

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

French door refrigerators now come in all sorts of configuration options. This 36” Bosch 4-door refrigerator has two pullout drawers.

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


This style means the refrigerator is on one side, the freezer is on the other. There are a couple of benefits to a side-by-side vs a french door refrigerator:

  1. the freezers tend to have more capacity
  2. both fresh and frozen can be seen at eye level when the doors are opened
  3. There is less likelihood of frozen produce getting buried under other items

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

In this home remodel in Fairfax, our clients took the side-by-side to a whole new level with this 36” Sub-Zero refrigerator and 36” freezer.

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


Column refrigerators are built into a wall or cabinetry and refer to any full size, single-purpose fridge (or freezer or wine storage). They give a high end, designer feel to any kitchen.

Refrigerator columns are versatile because they come in a variety of designs and widths. Refrigerator widths can be mixed and matched with freezer and wine columns to suit your needs and kitchen design. They are also available in a number of finishes, including panel ready. They can either have water/ice makers on the exterior of the door or have integrated water filtration systems on the inside (always check, some do not have water systems).

In this kitchen remodel in Herndon, our clients selected a 36” Sub-Zero refrigerator column and 24” freezer column. This project is also a great example of how the refrigerator and freezer don’t always have to sit side-by-side. In this case, they flank the sink on each side.

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

Refrigerator Finishes

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

Stainless steel

An obvious place to start, stainless steel became the go-to choice a few decades ago. The lasting appeal of stainless steel is the ability to “fit” in with a lot of different design aesthetics, from ultra-contemporary to traditional.

For this transitional kitchen remodel, a stainless steel Thermador 36” inch built-in fresh food column and 24” freezer column (with water/ice dispenser on the exterior of the freezer column) are in the perfect location for hungry teenagers!

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

On the downside, many owners of stainless steel refrigerators will tell you fingerprints and water marks are a never-ending annoyance. However, many of the newer appliances now come in smudge resistant stainless.

Panel-ready refrigerators

In what may seem counterintuitive, panel ready refrigerators and freezers usually cost more (plus the cost of the matching cabinetry panel). However, if you like appliances to ‘disappear’ into the overall kitchen design, they are the perfect choice for an ultra-sleek and 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 remodel here.


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

In this home remodel in Reston, our clients wanted a contemporary aesthetic and this 36” GE Cafe white counter-depth refrigerator with brushed bronze hardware delivered! Note the French door style.

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


Like white appliances, the popularity of black appliances took a downturn some time ago. However, black appliances have also evolved. The new look black refrigerators are more in line with the trend of “moody” paint colors with black stainless steel becoming a popular choice. Many are finished in such a way they are now stain and scratch resistant.

We tend to lean a little more conservative in Northern Virginia when it comes to this type of bold design choice, so it’s not for everyone but, as this example shows, maybe it’s time we stepped out of our comfort zones! Love!

Image courtesy of Bosch.

A Splash of Color

I’m a big fan of making a color statement in appliances. I own a secondary red refrigerator that brings me joy every time I look at it! I also once owned a black, sparkly refrigerator when I lived in London. It was (and still is) hands down my all-time favorite fridge. One of the industry leaders in bold color appliances, SMEG, have 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 yours?

Image courtesy of Williams Ridout.

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