NYC Renovation Chronicles

Is Sub-Zero still NYC's "It" icebox?

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The Situation 

With New York City kitchens tending toward the smallish side, every design and product decision becomes that much more important. The right (or wrong) refrigerator can make or break a kitchen.  

The Deal


Built-in vs counter-depth

For years, the only “right” refrigerator was the Sub-Zero. It was the only product on the market that was shallow enough to work seamlessly with adjacent counters and cabinets that were a standard depth of 24 – 25 inches.

The narrower, smaller versions of SubZero start at $6,500.

If the custom, built-in look is important to you and the brand name less so, there are now other less pricey versions on the market. Liebherr, GE Monogram, Jenn-Air  - all are built-in models that fit within the 24”-25” depth. They can integrate seamlessly into your cabinet layout. These cost about 40% less than a comparable Sub-Zero.  

Even more economical are “counter depth” refrigerators that run a few inches deeper. Typically, what this means is that the body of the refrigerator sits within the 24-25 inch depth of the counter, but the thickness of the door goes past the counter.

Many of the best-known appliance brands, such as GE, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Fisher Paykel, etc., sell refrigerators that they market as “counter depth.”  Some have attractive features like large pullout freezer drawers at the bottom and/or double doors above for the fridge.

At prices ranging from $1600 to $2500, they can be a good if slightly less elegant solution, though some manufacturers provide a trim kit that goes around the refrigerator that creates a more custom-looking installation.


Deconstructing your refrigerator/freezer

Many NYC renovators are rethinking the traditional integrated refrigerator/freezer.

SubZero, for instance, has come through with some interesting options which I have incorporated into some recent renovations.

A 27” wide by 74” high unit dedicated exclusively to refrigeration is supplemented with a separate Sub-Zero freezer drawer unit (2 drawers that go under the counter) in another part of the kitchen.

This gives you more refrigerator space, and is a good solution if you keep lots of fresh food on hand and can’t spare the room for a wider refrigerator.  This is a luxurious and expensive combination – overall, the two units can cost as much as $10,000.

On the other hand, if space is tight and you don’t cook much, you might purchase one two- drawer unit for refrigeration and another for your freezer, about $3,000 apiece. Both are mounted under the countertop. 

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