Deciding which appliances in a Kitchen to add a custom panel (or leave as exposed stainless steel) is a topic that follows closely to a previous post about using a custom wood hoods. The visual effect can make a big difference in the overall style and feel of the space. Are you going for a streamlined look of cabinetry with matching finishes and hardware? Or does the punch of stainless make you feel like you are a chef in a commercial Kitchen? (This can be a good or bad feeling, depending on your love-hate relationship with cooking.)
There are a few key guidelines we explain to our Clients in helping them make these key decisions. The first one is easy: a stainless dishwasher doesn’t look great most of the time. After being touched by wet hands loading dishes, and the endless parade of kid fingerprints, a stainless dishwasher can become an unwanted focal point. The cost of adding a custom panel is close in price to paying for the upgraded stainless steel. If you are re-using an existing dishwasher—not a big deal—just keep the can of Stainless Magic on hand. But if you have the option, buy the dishwasher model that can be fully concealed.
The bigger decision is the refrigerator/freezer, in terms of cost and aesthetic result. The high end units like Sub Zero, Thermador, Monogram and Viking all take panels beautifully. They fit flush with the side panels, hide most of the metal, and accept matching hardware pulls. You may still prefer the look of a stainless model, but in this price range, at least you have the option of adding custom panels for a finished look. The next tier appliances like Kitchen Aid and Jenn Air offer lower prices, deeper projections, more exposed metal and hardware and they just don’t look great with a panel attached to the front.
A quote from my last Client meeting: “a bad appliance panel looks like lipstick on a pig.”