Integrated Appliances - What's the Big Deal?

Sub Zero introduced "integrated" refrigeration over 20 years ago.  It was a genius idea, and Sub Zero's astronomical growth in the past two decades is proof of that.  So what's the big deal with integrated appliances?  If you haven't remodeled your kitchen or bought a new house in the past 10-15 years, it's totally possible that you have no idea what integration refers to. 

Simply put, integrated appliances are set into cabinetry and often incorporate matching wood panels to mimic the look of cabinetry. 

It used to be the case that integrated appliances were triple the cost of a standard appliance.  Not so anymore.  A good quality counter depth (27")  refrigerator with the ability to accept custom panels can be bought for under $2500 nowadays.  Kitchenaid and GE are just two of the manufacturers who are offering integrated refrigeration at an affordable price now. 

Integrating dishwashers, so that they disappear, is also a very popular design choice nowadays. 

Unfortunately, ovens and microwaves must be left with their faces unobstructed. 

I have seen designs that incorporate ovens behind bifold doors, or microwaves that are hidden by lift up doors.  However, when in use, these doors must be left open. 

So you're going appliance shopping and you're thinking about incorporating some integrated machines into your kitchen.  Here are a few questions to ask that will make your search easier and narrow your choices so that the decision on brand, size, and style is easier to grasp.

1.  Can I attach wooden panels, from the cabinet manufacturer, to this unit?

2.  Is it counter depth? (generally speaking, any unit < 27" in depth is considered counter depth.  True counter depth is 24" though) 

3.  What is the clearance required for the door swing? (some models claim to be "integrated".  However, they have large door swing clearances.  Why is this important?  The larger the clearance requirement, the bigger the gap you're going to see between fridge and cabinet housing.) 

4.  Does this manufacturer offer any integrated alternatives to its standard counter depth units?

5.  Dishwashers - are the controls on the top?  Or the front of the unit?  If you truly want to hide your dishwasher behind a panel, make sure the controls are on the top.