WHAT IS PANEL READY AND IS IT WORTH THE $?
I really can't help myself. I dream of every kitchen having panel ready appliances. Why? Because I like to torture my guests so they cannot find the trash can, dishwasher or fridge. Haha. No, of course not. That's not the reason, although these days panel ready has come a long way and sometimes it's challenging to spot your everyday appliances disguised by cabinetry.
So what is panel ready? A panel ready appliance is a specific type of appliance that comes ready to be outfitted with a custom panel installed on its front surface to match surrounding cabinetry. The appliance comes without a finished front which allows your cabinetmaker to build a custom panel and install it directly onto the appliance to give it a seamless and integrated look.
Panel ready appliances are most commonly used for refrigeration and dishwashers. They are more expensive than standard appliances because of the extra customization required. You cannot purchase a regular appliance and retrofit it to hold a panel. Here's a quick example of a panel ready appliance prior to installation (left). Yes, this is exactly how your brand new dishwasher would arrive. It will come with a specification sheet (spec sheet) that tells the cabinetmaker what size to make the custom panel. If you are in the kitchen industry you just experienced a nervous tic when you heard the words "spec sheet" because spec sheets are the achilles heel of kitchen renovations. They are often times difficult to understand and are often times incorrect. If a contractor, a cabinetmaker, an appliance rep and a designer went to a bar, this is what they would talk about. Riveting, I know. They would share horror stories of which brands had incorrect spec sheets and how they never want to install a panel ready appliance again. True story.
All joking aside, it's construction, not heart surgery. And most inaccuracies can be remedied if you have a strong team of people with a "can-do" attitude. I share this information, not to deter you from panel ready installations (because again, I LOVE them). Instead, I share it so you understand the love that goes into building a panel ready kitchen. It is not uncommon for panel ready installations to be finicky. Ask anyone in construction. Sometimes, the spec sheets are great. And other times, it takes a little more finessing. But in the end it really does create a streamlined, luxury look.
Here's a few great examples of some panel ready appliances...
If you take another look at those images, you'll see not every appliance was paneled on every kitchen. I REALLY love to panel a beverage fridge + dishwasher and of course all appliances. However, it's not ALWAYS where a client may want to "splurge" on their overall investment. And that's ok! You can focus on paneling the more visible appliances and "save" for other splurges on the renovation or vice versa. Thankfully, there are some beautiful appliances out there that can also be a custom design detail if you choose to go without panels. Check out this project with these beautiful matte black appliances.
Aren't they darling? We actually paneled the dishwasher (LOL) here since it was on the island and the dishwasher handle is larger than most (I guess I really can't get away from it, what can I say?). We wanted to make sure there would be enough space in the walkway so paneling was a great option. And sometimes too many appliances in a smaller space can crowd the overall floor plan. But that's besides the point.
My point is when you renovate a kitchen there are countless options as to HOW you will invest your money. You can splurge in certain areas and save in others. I think it's always great to dig a little into all the options and make an informed decision. Some people have a flexible budget and others have a more firm allocated sum for the renovation. What's important or a priority to you may not be important to your neighbor or friend. That is what makes renovating a home so much fun. No client is the same and every home is unique. It is a custom experience tailored just for YOU! If you want to deep dive into any of these kitchens, you can find more images on our portfolio page.