Choosing the Best Refrigerator Style for Your Kitchen

Which Fridge is Best for Your Kitchen?

Bottom mount refrigerator
Bottom mount refrigerator. Photo © Mifflin

A good variety of refrigerator styles are available today and it can be very difficult to decide which type of fridge will work best for your kitchen and family. While installation constraints and capacity needs often dictate how large a model you should buy, how that refrigerator is designed (style) also matters.

The style of fridge can impede or enhance your kitchen workflow, making for more efficient (or not) meal prep and that easily translates into saving time and energy.

For a busy household, this can make a significant difference in your day. Maybe even in how your day starts.

So refrigerator style doesn't only relate to shiny finishes, bells, and whistles (how it looks), but how the overall design of this appliance functions in your kitchen. These will help you to consider options and eliminate the styles that are not good choices, to narrow down the best style for your particular needs. Then, you'll be ready to start shopping for a fridge.

All Refrigerator

  • This is usually the most economical model
  • Looks similar to an upright freezer
  • Not too many frills; least features on this style 
  • You can better organize all your cooled foods
  • Easy access to top half for items you use often
  • Provides the largest refrigerated capacity (no freezer compartment)
  • Best for homes that also have a freezer which is conveniently located near the kitchen
  • Good choice for a spare or second fridge
  • These are often manual defrost. Confirm the type of cleaning before buying.
  • Less capacity choice for this style of fridge; more compact models

Single-door Refrigerator With Freezer Capacity

  • This style has a freezer compartment, but there's only one refrigerator door, not a split door.
  • Economical to buy
  • Fewer features, less capacity, or fewer choices of exterior finish
  • Less energy efficient. Every time the door is opened warm air can cause the freezer temperature to rise and energy is needed to cool down again.
  • Freezer compartments are usually small and inadequate
  • Single door swing; allow sufficient space for door opening
  • Usually available in smaller capacities
  • Good choice for the budget minded, small spaces, or as secondary unit
  • Best if there's also a freezer in the home

Top (Freezer) Mount Refrigerator

  • Most popular model; ideal for smaller kitchens
  • This style has the freezer on the top with a separate split door
  • Economical and traditional model
  • Freezer temperature remains more constant with a separate door
  • Freezer compartment sizes vary per model
  • Good choice of finishes, features, and capacities
  • Allow room for full door swing
  • Best choice for those who do not have the space for a French door or side-by-side model

Bottom (Freezer) Mount Refrigerator

  • Freezer compartment is on the bottom with a separate door or drawer
  • More expensive than a top mount refrigerator
  • Freezer compartment capacity varies  
  • Good choice of finishes, features, racking
  • Good variety of capacities and models available
  • Various freezer configurations; shelving or pull-out basket with a door or pull out freezer drawer
  • Usually has a larger refrigerated section
  • Refrigerated items used most often are at eye level
  • More bending for some to easily access the bottom freezer; harder to organize contents
  • Before buying, review the freezer access for convenience

Side by Side Refrigerator

  • More expensive than traditional top or bottom mount
  • The freezer is typically on the left side; refrigerated on the right
  • Models range from 22cu.ft. and up
  • Capacities vary depending on height, depth, and width
  • Available with or without water and ice makers/dispensers 
  • Optional water or ice dispensers require plumbing set-up costs
  • Less refrigerated capacity, but more freezer capacity than a top mount
  • Freezer convenience for organizing and retrieving foods 
  • Odd-sized trays or items may require creative positioning due to reduced food storage width
  • Allow space for (short) door openings on each side; less door swing than top or bottom mount refrigerators
  • Good variety of features, finishes, and capacities
  • Good choice for small kitchens because of the shorter door swing
  • Ideal for those who want to eliminate the need for a separate freezer
  • Easier freezer access for some, compared to the bottom mount model

French Door Models

  • Most expensive, but most convenient especially for food trays
  • Split doors with largest refrigerated capacity
  • Freezer is on the bottom; configuration can vary
  • Good choice of features, adjustable racking, bins
  • Some models have four doors or additional deli drawer
  • Not available in under 20 cubic ft refrigerator models
  • Optional water/ice dispensers - requires plumbing set-up
  • Best for storing odd and bulky items
  • Best use of refrigerated space
  • Popular units for storage convenience, stylish looks, choice of finishes and short door swing

Steps to Making a Refrigerator Style Decision

Start by taking dimensions of the space where the refrigerator will be installed, including the allowable height, if you have overhead cabinets. Allow sufficient width for door swing(s). Though we often like to think in terms of food storage needs (capacity) first, the available space will have the final say on the size of fridge you settle on. So, keep your expectations within your space and budget considerations.

Refrigerator models can be counter/cabinet or full depth and that affects space and capacity. Learn more about refrigerator depth options to further narrow down your model choices. If you'd like a model with onboard water and ice, know that this feature will reduce the overall capacity. It will also require a plumbing connection.

Next, do you want a freezer compartment and where would you like it to be: on the side (side-by-side), on the bottom (bottom mount) or on the top (top mount). Maybe, you already have a standalone freezer nearby and you'd prefer an all refrigerator model.

That will save money, but you'll have less model variety to choose from.

Each style of refrigerator has its convenience level. Features, shelving, and humidity controls vary per model and of course, will influence the bottom line. If you've nailed down your choices to a French door model, you can help to keep costs down by getting only food storage features that matter to you. Costs for this popular fridge style can be considerable, so choose wisely.

  • Learn more about food storage and reducing food waste
  • 5 Places you'd love a compact fridge