Selecting the Perfect Refrigerator Configuration

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for Direct from the Designers™

Everybody knows that the kitchen is the most traveled room of the house, and the refrigerator gets the most visits on a daily basis. With all this traffic, you’ll want to make sure that you choose the best appliance to fit the needs of your family. Each refrigerator setup has its benefits and drawbacks, but you should also consider the interior drawer and shelving capabilities of each individual model before making a final decision. While a bottom freezer fridge might seem like the perfect choice, you could find that a particular French door model actually fits your exact needs best. To help get you started, here are the basics you need to know when shopping for a new refrigerator.

Freezer on Top

The classic in design, top freezer models were the only choice when home refrigerators started coming with freezers attached. Of course, this is the preferred configuration for modern retro units that themed interior designs utilize, but it still accounts for about half of all sales today. A top freezer refrigerator gives you everything you need and is perfectly suitable for most people, but it can be difficult for those with mobility issues to reach the low produce drawers and other frequently used spaces.

This configuration won’t usually give you in-door ice and water dispensers, but it is typically more energy efficient and less expensive to run than those with side-by-side doors. You’ll also find that these refrigerators come in more sizes, and if you have a smaller kitchen, it’s more likely that you’ll find something in this category that fits.

KitchenAid 22 cu. ft. 33-Inch Width Full Depth Non Dispense Bottom Mount Refrigerator

The 22 cu. ft. 33-Inch Width Full Depth Non Dispense Bottom Mount Refrigerator from KitchenAid® makes it easy to see fresh foods at eye level, has features to keep food fresher for longer, and is ENERGY STAR® qualified.

Freezer on Bottom

Placing the freezer on the bottom comes with the main benefit of lifting the fridge space to eye level, thereby reducing the amount of stooping you’ll do as you access the fresher foods that you use more often. This is the preferred arrangement for the elderly, it also comes in smaller sizes, and while it is typically more expensive to buy than a top freezer model, it tends to cost less to operate.

Having the freezer on the bottom can make it inconvenient to use, since you’ll have to bend over more to see what’s inside, but there are also plenty of models that address this issue with a large pull-out drawer. This way, you can see the contents from a normal position and it’s ultimately easier to grab what you want. On the downside, some things might get buried deep and get lost, so organization is a top priority when you’re using a freezer drawer.

Jenn-Air 42-Inch Built-In French Door Refrigerator

This 42-Inch Built-In French Door Refrigerator from Jenn-Air® creates a sleek, flush profile and comes in either stainless steel or custom wood panels to blend into your kitchen design. This fridge is beautiful inside and out, and it has room for everything you need.

French Door

This arrangement offers the same eye-level convenience of a bottom, pull-out freezer fridge, but it also allows for some extras like in-door water and ice. The two smaller doors can work better in tighter kitchens, and the multitude of storage options and wide shelves make it easier to store large trays as well as smaller items. This is a refrigerator that you can adjust to fit your lifestyle, first and foremost.

French door refrigerators are the newest configuration being offered, and they come in standard sizes and are also made for larger spaces. They might require extra clearance on the sides to open properly, and they are typically the most expensive option out there. Many people appreciate the convenience as much as the aesthetic of this arrangement, making the price tag worth it in the end.

Jenn-Air 48-Inch Built-In Side-by-Side Refrigerator

Wider than a standard refrigerator, the 48-Inch Built-In Side-by-Side Refrigerator from Jenn-Air® overcomes the drawbacks that side-by-side models can have. It has plenty of drawers and shelves in both the fridge and freezer sections, so it is easy to stay organized.


Finally, the side-by-side configuration places the fridge and freezer next to each other vertically. This was the first kind of refrigerator to offer in-door ice and water thanks to its convenient positioning. Both compartments will be narrower than in any of the other models, and to compensate for this, most of these fridges will be larger overall. What you get is full-length storage for fresh and frozen goods—with more freezer space proportionally—which makes it easier to organize and place prioritized items of either type at the best height, but it will be difficult to accommodate anything big.

Remember to go into the buying process with a plan and all the information that you need to make the perfect purchase. Measure the opening you have available so you can select a refrigerator that fits, first of all, but also try to fill the space you have so you don’t have awkward gaps around the appliance. You’ll also want to be aware of anything that might hinder a door opening, and know which side you’ll want the hinges on if you’re choosing a top or bottom freezer model. Many fridges give you reversible doors nowadays, but it’s still a good idea to make sure! With the right measurements and a good idea of what you want, buying this essential appliance doesn’t have to be difficult!

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