Counter-depth refrigerators, freezers, and wine coolers are no wider than the standard counter. The idea, when choosing a counter-depth appliance, is to have a more streamlined look that is very pleasing to the eye. This design style is available with all types of refrigerators: all refrigerator, bottom or top freezer, side-by-side and French door models. It's also an option for many other kitchen appliances. Counter-depth appliances, however, are usually shallower than standard-sized appliances. This can be a pro or con depending on how you use your appliances.
How Deep Is Counter-Depth?
In theory, counters are 25 inches deep—but the reality is somewhat different. The term counter-depth, though widely used amongst retailers, can be misleading because the actual measurement of the appliance can vary somewhat from the standard counter depth of 25 inches. Especially in a large kitchen, it's not unusual to find bottom cabinets that are much deeper than the standard 25-inch depth and the counter will protrude further, usually by an inch.
So counter-depth can range from 25 inches to 30 inches. Hence the importance of taking careful, precise measurements of the allowable space when shopping for appliances. Do not assume that all counter-depth refrigerators are the same size; they can vary in depth by several inches.
When it comes to compact, under-counter refrigerators, coolers and freezers, these are usually cabinet-depth and though these can vary from the standard, most will be 24 inches so that they will be flush with the cabinetry once installed, much the same as a built-in dishwasher.
Counter-Depth Wine Coolers
Most freestanding wine coolers are counter-depth or intended to be installed under the counter; there are few larger wine coolers available on the market. Depending on your needs, you'll want to check on the height and depth of the cooler you're purchasing. Heights and depths range considerably. Are you using the cooler to actually store large quantities or wine? Or is it simply a handy way to keep a small number of bottles ready to be served?
Most upright freezers are standard depth, but freezers that are designed to be custom-installed as a companion to a refrigerator are often counter-depth for a more integrated style. Of course, counter-depth freezers will hold less food than a larger model, so it's important to know how you intend to use yours. Will it just hold butter and frozen meat? Or are you likely to want extensive storage space for pre-cooked meals or large quantities of butchered game or fish?
Pros and Cons of Counter-Depth Refrigerators
Though the counter-depth design is a very popular choice and since this is a long-term appliance investment, you'll want to consider the benefits, as well as the constraints, to this refrigerator model. Also note that the door of a counter-depth fridge will protrude slightly from the edge of the counter and the same goes for the handle, so depth may not include these in the measurements.
More convenient access to contents. Finding and retrieving contents from a counter-depth refrigerator is much easier. It requires less extended bending. And the same applies to the freezer compartment.
A more streamlined look. Many will chose a counter-depth refrigerator simply because this style gives the kitchen a more uniform profile. The refrigerator does not protrude several inches past the counter.
If a traditional-style refrigerator is your choice, accessing the full interior of a door-access bottom freezer will be much easier. A pull-out bottom freezer drawer will also have a shorter depth, which is much nicer in terms of required room to open it.
Better traffic flow; less work triangle congestion. When a refrigerator is standard depth, it will be deeper than neighboring counter and cabinets, sometimes protruding into the main traffic area, and that can create a bottleneck of sorts in that kitchen space.
Unique storage possibilities: Since a counter-depth model will be wider than the same capacity in a standard-depth unit, that sometimes allows storage of wide cold-cut trays, something that might not be possible with a narrower fridge. The same applies to longer door bins that might be easier to organize and access.
The single door swing will require more clearance for a wider design.
Freezer compartments hold less. Whether the freezer section is a bottom drawer or top mount, expect less capacity. Access to frozen foods is more convenient, though.
Crispers are shorter and smaller. While access is better, drawers such as crispers and deli compartments are shorter. That makes a difference when storing long items such as celery, plastic storage containers or trays in these.
A wider profile. For a given capacity, a 25-inch counter-depth refrigerator will be wider than a standard-depth model. If you're replacing an existing standard-depth fridge with a counter-depth model, you may need to look at a reduced capacity to fit within the existing space.
This just emphasizes the importance of measuring your space before ordering. With today's custom kitchen designs, there's more risk of deviating from what some might call standard. Also read full appliance specs, as the term counter-depth may not be included in the model title.