Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comA reader sent me a message last weekend asking if I had any blog posts that explain or share information on “panel ready” appliances in regards to kitchen design. I immediately went to look for links to share and couldn’t believe I’ve never talked about this subject on the blog before… especially given the popularity of panel ready appliances these days! How do I not have a blog post solely devoted to this topic? Since this is a common question, I wanted to put together a helpful resource for you. If you’re planning to design a kitchen in the future, this post is a good one to pin and save! Because I’ve lived with panel ready appliances for years and have designed my fair share of kitchens (for both myself and clients), I think I can help answer some of your appliance questions. I’m often asked why we don’t have a dishwasher, or where our fridge is located. Of course we have both of these modern day appliances in our kitchen, but they do blend nicely with our cabinetry and can be difficult to spy- especially if you’re new to learning about panel ready appliances. I’m breaking down everything you need to know about designing, specifying, and installing panel ready appliances in this post. I’m also shedding light on cost, custom cabinetry, and when to use these types of appliances- plus, I’ve got a Q&A for you. Click through! 

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comBefore we dive in… the dishwasher in our current kitchen is the cabinet with the tea towel hanging from it, pictured above. It’s to the right of our sink, is really functional, and I love that it blends seamlessly with our lower cabinets.

Why choose panel ready in the first place?

It’s really a higher-end, custom look when it comes to kitchen design. Disguising appliances to look like cabinetry or blend seamlessly is definitely an aesthetic preference, but at the end of the day- the appliance functions in the same way. Many higher end brands have panel ready options, while most of the lower end appliance brands do not offer them, which brings me to the next question…

What is the price difference for panel ready, in comparison to a standard appliance?

They’re definitely more. Most panel ready appliances come with an overall higher price tag, in comparison to their non paneled counterparts. You also incur the cost of the custom cabinetry to complete the finished look. The majority of panel ready appliances are manufactured by higher-end brands, which come with higher prices.

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances -

How do you spec or order a panel ready appliance?

When designing your space, you’ll want to allow for whatever size of appliance you’ll need. Just like specifying other appliances, you’ll do the exact same thing- using terms like panel ready, built-in, or fully integrated appliances should help your search. Once you land on the right model for you, you’ll need to download the appliance specs and relay the information to your cabinetry manufacturer, so they’re able to create a panel that perfectly fits and attaches to your appliance.

Is custom cabinetry the only way to get a panel ready appliance?

No- if you buy a standard size appliance, you could definitely source a pre-made cabinetry panel for it. Another option is to retrofit or DIY a panel.

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How do you install a panel ready appliance?

Honestly- it’s pretty easy! Most of them snap onto the frame, screw in, or have specific instructions on how to attach the cabinet panel. We’ve never had an issue getting the panel attached… it’s pretty self explanatory!

What does a panel ready appliance look like without the panel… do people ever leave it like that?

I dug through my archives and the only image I could find of one of our appliances without the attached cabinetry panel was our previous dishwasher before it was installed (see below). They’re really nothing to look at and are meant to have an attached panel. I haven’t seen anyone intentionally leave the panel off for aesthetic purposes.

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comSince you’re looking at our previous kitchen (while under construction), I’ll show you that paneled dishwasher WITH the panel below…

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comDid you find it? The dishwasher is to the left of the sink in this kitchen. I’m going to drop some panel ready dishwashers in a slider below, so you can see what they look like, check out the vocabulary, and get a feel for price points (which should appear when you hover)

How do you choose hardware for panel ready appliances?

Typically you’ll want to search for an “appliance pull”, which generally matches your cabinetry hardware, but at a larger scale.

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comI’ll be the first to tell you, not all panel ready appliances are created equally, in terms of aesthetic. Some look more integrated than others! That was something I wasn’t really prepared for when designing our current kitchen. I was used to having larger client budgets and we always sourced the same high-end Viking, Wolf, or Subzero refrigerators. With our kitchen, we didn’t have an unlimited budget, so I went with the only panel-ready option available from Lowe’s, which was KitchenAid brand. It looked great on their website and while I hadn’t used it before, it good decent reviews and we loved our previous KitchenAid (non paneled) fridge. When it showed up, I expected it to look fully integrated, and while it is built-in and panel-ready, it looks a bit more bulky than others. There are two stainless frames the panels snap onto and they are visible when the doors are shut. It kind of bothers me, but not enough to want to swap our fridge. I may try painting them our cabinetry color someday… just something to be aware of! Do you see the metal strip I’m talking about, in the below image?

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comWith panel ready refrigerators, you often have to buy the left wing, right wing- or freezer separately. Our refrigerator is one of the few that includes the “all-in-one” look, or the french door style fridge & freezer combo as a paneled option. It’s also less expensive than most, which is why it’s probably not as low profile. If you want to peek inside of it, check out this post. I’ll drop some panel ready fridge options below…

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comIf I have the option and the budget, I’ll always choose a panel ready option over a standard finish appliance (stainless steel, etc). I love the integrated look and it feels more decorative to me. In my brain, it’s just like disguising technology. Have I grown to enjoy Emmett’s coveted surround sound? Yes (but don’t tell him that)! Do I still want to hide his speakers behind curtains, baskets, and books? You better believe it. Haha! Modern day technology (and appliances) look exactly as they’re meant to- like technology or machines used to cook or do our dishes. An appliance here or there feels more balanced to me- the two noticeable appliances in our kitchen are the range and the espresso machine. When you begin to see more, like a dishwasher, a range, a coffee maker, a fridge, etc. It begins to feel more industrialized… after all- it’s filled with modern technology that we use and love. If you have an industrial aesthetic, that can work well, but if you prefer a more traditional aesthetic, that’s when panel ready appliances can really provide balance.

Kitchen Design : Panel Ready Appliances - roomfortuesday.comI feel like I have a zillion helpful kitchen posts, and I’m happy to add this one to the repertoire. I’ll link some others below, in case you’ve got kitchen things on the brain…

Helpful Resource Blog Posts:

Renovations & Kitchen Reveal Blog Posts:

As always, let me know if you have any questions or thoughts in the comment section. I hope you all have a great day, and I hope this appliance post proves helpful!

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  1. What a good question! I learned a lot from this post. I had no idea (although I should have guessed) that the panel-ready models were SO much more expensive. I don’t mind an industrial look, but why are refrigerators so ugly? The bowed fronts and terrible handles? Yuck. Haven’t I seen refrigerator drawers in high-end kitchens? I wonder what those are like? Now that I’m thinking about it, where are the beautiful refrigerators? I mean, I can’t afford a LaCornue range, but at least they exist. I’ve never had a dishwasher (I know), but I do think I might splurge to hide that. Have you had issues with the water and steam affecting the wood panel? That would be my only worry. I guess at the end of the day, it is exactly like trying to hide your tech. We need more engineers with artistic sensibilities!🤣

    1. Especially the refrigerators! You can probably find some less expensive dishwashers locally. I have no idea why fridge design hasn’t improved over the years… if anything, it may be getting worse? Haha! It’s funny to me that brands like Smeg are replicating older, vintage styles that are more appealing than the new ones. Amazing point on the under counter refrigerated and warming drawers- those are another panel ready appliance that have been trendy these past fews years! You make an excellent point on the ranges- there are some well designed beauties out there. They really are like functional art for your kitchen, but other appliances… not so much. I can’t believe you’ve never had a dishwasher?! We went without one for years, but after getting used to having one- I’m not sure I could go back. Haha! We haven’t had any issues with steam or moisture messing up the panel. Have a wonderful Wednesday! :)

  2. What if you are just updating your kitchen by painting the cabinets and want to add a panel-ready dishwasher? I’m guessing you’d have to have a matching panel custom made?

  3. So…does Ikea not have panel-ready appliances in the US? they are pretty standard here, andwhile they are typically 100 to 200 Euros more than the comparable stand alone version, most peole value the optics enough to swallow that cost.

    1. They have a limited selection (1-2 options) and they’re just as expensive as the other appliance brands… $850 – $900 USD. I’m wondering why it’s more affordable in Europe? That’s so nice!

  4. Jennifer Laura says:

    They are SO worth it- so beautiful!! And from what I’ve heard much more common in other countries, everyone wants all stainless steel appliances and I’m just like- panel ready, please!!

    1. Definitely! I’ve also noticed the price difference in other countries isn’t as expensive as it is here in the US. I have no idea why that is! I’m with you- I certainly prefer the paneled look. Have a happy Wednesday :)

  5. I’m pinning this post Sarah. Great information. If there is one appliance in our house that I am embarrassed for anyone to see is our refrigerator. It is almost 22 years old…yep. I came so close to painting it before we put our house on the market. I feel like paneled refrigerators look like a piece of furniture in a kitchen. With the right hardware it makes the big piece aesthetically more pleasing. By paneling the large appliances you ‘see’ the beautiful cabinets, counters, and accessories…like with your kitchen.
    Have a great day!

    1. I’m so happy it’s helpful, Danna. A 22 year old fridge?! That sounds like our old TV that took us too long to get rid of. Haha! I wouldn’t worry about it. The new buyers will probably replace it with their preference and be happy to choose what best fits their preferences. Paneled appliances really do look like furniture in the kitchen. It’s such a nice, customized look! I wholeheartedly agree. I hope your house hunt and sell is going well :) Have a great day! xox

  6. I had no idea that panel ready was so much more expensive, but I love the look of having those appliances blend in! I wish they had panel ready microwaves-microwaves and refrigerators are just ugly no matter how much you spend. I also hate that counter depth refrigerators sacrifice so much internal storage space. This post is exceptionally helpful in deciding which route to take-definitely one to come back to. I’ve never noticed the strip of metal with your refrigerator, until you pointed it out-I think you totally could paint it and solve that minor irritation! One resource I know that is a more budget friendly option is IKEA-they sell panel ready appliances for their kitchens-their panels aren’t the best quality, but you could easily purchase the appliances from them and do your own custom panels. I know a lot of people in California do that. What’s funny is IKEA kitchens had a huge hay day here in California about 15 years ago. It was all the rage, but you could definitely tell which kitchens were custom versus IKEA. I always couldn’t stand panel ready appliances for that reason…until I saw your examples. You e completely changed my opinion of them! I’ll be posting a light update on this post later today, so keep a 👀 out! Hope everyone has a great Wednesday!

    1. There are under counter panel ready microwaves- we almost integrated one of those, but ultimately decided it was more functional in our pantry. Counter depth refrigerators might have to be an upcoming Design Discussion, as most people have strong opinions on those and the use of space. We’ve had both and I don’t really have a preference… it just depends on what fits the space / design plan. I’ve been hearing lots of votes for Ikea! If you’re using Ikea cabinetry, it definitely makes sense to go with their paneled appliances. I didn’t realize they were such a California thing! I feel like there for a bit, everyone was doing Ikea kitchens. Haha! Can’t wait to see your light :) YAY!!

  7. This is not a kitchen question, but I would love to know more about upholstery cleaning. I think you may have mentioned before that it’s something you have done regularly. If so, I’m curious who you hire, how often, what pieces they clean, etc. Maybe it’s not the most exciting topic, but I feel like it’s something I should be doing at my house but don’t know how. Thanks!

  8. We’re excited to get our first panel ready dishwasher as part of our upcoming kitchen remodel. If anyone is thinking appliances these Covid-days, be ready for a LONG lead time. We ordered ours in November where they said the lead time was 3 months and just heard it might arrive by May 30th! Covid has really impacted the appliance factories and lead times unfortunately.

    1. Wow! That is an insane lead time. Thanks for the heads up! Yikes. Super exciting about your kitchen remodel though- I hope it goes well :)

  9. christine says:

    Hi! What paint color is this?

    1. It will be so nice, Jen! That’s really exciting. It sounds like you’ve picked out some amazing options for your kitchen :)

  10. Here’s the good news. I have stared at pics of your kitchen for over a year now, and not once did I ever notice that teeny strip of metal at the top of the fridge. So it’s really something only a true professional would notice. Is novices don’t have the keen eye to even see it.
    Have you ever seen panel ready appliances used in a kitchen after the fact? Like I have a dishwasher that I need to replace, but I just re-did my kitchen last fall. We kept the cabinets and painted them. Would adding a panel ready dishwasher look odd with a non custom kitchen?

    1. Well, that makes me happy! I need to just paint it already- it bothers me everyday. Haha! You can definitely install a panel ready appliance after the fact. Most dishwashers are standard size, so you would just have to DIY or buy a panel to match your existing cabinet. I vote go for it :)

  11. Hi there! All your blogs are super helpful! One question I have that I can’t seem to find an answer to is that I noticed your panelled fridge sits flush within the cabinets. I’ve been many times where the fridge/freezer is panelled but still sticks out an inch or two and it pains my soul to look at. Just want to make sure I don’t run into the problem after the cabinets are already installed. Any tips or tricks on how to avoid this?

    1. Thank you, Jennifer! I’m so glad to hear that. Our fridge actually doesn’t sit flush- it sticks out about an inch (also a pet peeve of mine). If you’re doing inset cabinetry, instead of overlay, you can get a flush option (they’re usually more expensive). I hope that’s helpful!

  12. Zayba Siddiqui says:

    Hi came upon your site because I’m trying to also find a panel ready refrigerator that is not the super high end kind. Can you link to the kitchenaid one you have? Is this one flush/integrated?


  13. What size is your panel refrigerator?

    1. It’s 6 ft tall… but each width varies because the freezer and fridge are different sizes, since it’s a side-by-side model! Hope that helps, Jay :)

  14. Ok, the total width was what I meant. Is it 36 or 42inch overall

    1. Oh, got it! The total width of the panels are 47″ wide (that includes both panels).

  15. Hi, very helpful article! Do you know if a panelled refrigerator can be painted over while the panels are on the refrigerator? We are painting our cabinets and I don’t know how to tackle the refrigerator panels since they’re already installed…

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Hi Sam! You can definitely paint the panels on the refrigerator, but it would be much easier to remove them. They should slide off quite easily (depending on the type you have). Hope that helps.

  16. Kara Stierman says:

    Hello! This was so helpful. Have you ever installed a panel ready appliance into drywall or does it have to have a cabinet? This is for my own personal residence. My fridge/freezer are Jenn air and my builder is concerned they won’t look right/flush once installed.

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      I’m so glad to hear that, Kara! I’m with your builder on this one… I’d add casing or millwork to the drywall to make it feel more integrated and intentional. It would also cover the raw edge of the drywall. I hope that helps!