Kitchen Appliances Buying Guide

Tips to help you choose the right kitchen appliances for your needs and budget

By Sharon Johnson

Despite the myriad activities that take place in today's kitchen, it is, at its core, the room where food is stored, prepared, served, and cleaned up. The ways in which people live in their kitchens may be as varied as the people themselves, but every kitchen—regardless of its particular uses—requires a suite of appliances to function well. Whether your style is Bohemian chic or Brahmin traditional, our primer will help you choose the appliances that will best serve your aesthetic, your needs, and your budget.

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Buying a refrigerator is a little like buying a car: You don't have to spend vast sums of money to get a perfectly fine one, but you certainly can. Whether you have a sprawling suburban kitchen that works overtime to accommodate hungry teenagers or are city-dwelling empty nesters that use the refrigerator only to keep the Veuve Clicquot and caviar cool, there is a refrigerator to fit your lifestyle and budget.

Consider the Space Constraints:
A built-in refrigerator gives you more flexibility in terms of size, as you will be able to custom build the cabinets to fit. But if you're planning to purchase a unit that slides into a pre-existing space, then it is critical to have appropriate clearance. When measuring, take into account the clearance required when the doors are open, as well as a little extra "breathing room" for the unit to function efficiently.

Consider the Capacity:
Just as the unit must fit the space allotted, so too must it meet your family's food storage requirements. Refrigerators that are not kept at least two-thirds full are less energy efficient, so you'll waste energy (and pay for the privilege) if you buy a unit too large for your needs. But buy a fridge that's too small and you'll spend unnecessary time looking for the Greek yogurt that you know is in there somewhere. Plan for a minimum of 10 cubic feet refrigerator space (excluding the freezer) for a family of two. For each additional household member add 1.5 cubic feet. Home Depot recommends 21 cubic feet of space for the average-size family. Those with teenage boys living in the house will have to adjust accordingly!

Consider the Options:
Refrigerator prices vary widely based on the size, features, and energy efficiency of the model. The prices we've included here should be considered general guidelines only. As with any major purchase, it pays to shop around. Don't dismiss the value of rebates, and there is no harm in haggling.
TIP: If buying more than one appliance, consider a suite from the same manufacturer for considerable savings.
TIP: Spend as much time considering the interior as you do the exterior. Features such as lighting, and ease of organization and clean up will influence your enjoyment of the refrigerator over time.
Light Transitional Kitchen
Jessica Helgerson
Built-In Refrigerators:
Custom-mounted panels in a variety of styles and colors allow this type of refrigerator to blend seamlessly into your décor. Prices range from $2,200 to $7,500 for a 36-inch wide unit.

Top-Mount Refrigerators:
This configuration puts the freezer above the refrigerator, making for easy access. Prices range from $450 to $1,200.

Bottom-Mount Refrigerators:
This configuration provides easy access to the food in the refrigerator, though you'll need to bend down to access the foods in the freezer. In some bottom-mount units the freezer door is hinged; in other units the door pulls open like a drawer. Prices range from $850 to $1,500.

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