Under Counter Refrigerators For A Small Apartment Kitchen

Here in the US, by and large we’re pretty spoiled when it comes to kitchen space. Many European apartments don’t even have ovens, let alone full sized refrigerators or sprawling six burner ranges. Most Americans – especially those who own large homes and have big families – would probably balk at the idea of having nothing more than a dorm-sized fridge. But for singles and couples living in small apartments or condos, especially in big cities, swapping to space saving under counter refrigerators can not only give you a little extra wiggle room, it can actually fit better with your lifestyle.

The Problem With Supply And Demand (Or, America’s Got Food Deserts)

CM421BLBI Built In Under Cabinet Refrigerator From Summit
CM421BLBI Built In Under Counter Refrigerator From Summit

While it’s practically an essential part of the American dream to have a big house with a back yard and a white picket fence, a much greater portion of Europeans live in apartments and other multi-family buildings. Because they live close to shops that provide fresh produce, it’s not uncommon for the French, for example, to buy food every few days. In the US, where food is typically farther away and by extension more time consuming to buy, we tend to only shop once every week or two, and store a LOT of food in our refrigerators and freezers. But if you live in an urban area with easy access to a local shop or bodega,¬† swapping from a big refrigerator/freezer to a small undercounter refrigerator like this CM421BLBI can be much, much more efficient.

Shop Undercounter Refrigerators by Summit Appliance:

Cooking For One (Or Two)

CM411LBI Under Cabinet Refrigerator From Summit
CM411LBI Under Counter Refrigerator From Summit

For apartment dwellers, one of the biggest advantages of swapping from a full sized refrigerator to a compact undercounter refrigerator isn’t just that it saves space – it also saves money. Smaller refrigerators cool more efficiently and use less energy. And because something like this CM411LBI is smaller, it’s easier to keep full, which makes it run even more efficiently. If you’re only cooking for one or two, you’re also much, MUCH less likely to push something to the back of the refrigerator and forget about it until it goes bad. In fact, if you’re buying only the food you can use within a few days, you’re not only saving money by not wasting food you bought in bulk, you’re also eating fresher and healthier.

They Just Plain Save Space

CT66BI Under Counter Compact Refrigerator From Summit
CT66BI Under Counter Compact Refrigerator From Summit

And, of course, under counter refrigerators like this CT66BI have the distinct advantage of taking up less than half the space of a normal, full-sized refrigerator. That means that you have all that space for more cabinets, more counters, or both. Depending on your personal cooking style, that¬† can even mean using the space you save for pantry storage or even for more cookware you wouldn’t otherwise have space for in a small apartment kitchen.

Integrated Design

Summits Under Counter Refrigerators, Like This CT66BI, Can Be Finished To Match Your Existing Cabinetry
Summits Under Counter Refrigerators, Like This CT66BI, Can Be Finished To Match Your Existing Cabinetry

I’ve seen some pretty cool, very, very small kitchens, especially in some of the more expensive-to-live parts of NYC, and it’s helped me realize that a teeny tiny kitchen doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it just has to be designed well. One of the perks of under counter refrigerators like this CT66BI (and all other under counter refrigerators from Summit) is that they can be specially designed with faces that match and integrate into your existing cabinetry. Now, this might seem like a small thing, but having a smooth, uniform cabinet space (especially one that isn’t interrupted by anything over waist height) can make your kitchen look neat and organized and keep your eye from catching on any one part that stands out.


Under Counter Refrigerators Like This BI540 From Summit Have Very Limited Freezer Space
Under Counter Refrigerators Like This BI540 From Summit Have Very Limited Freezer Space

Of course, having a small fridge isn’t without it’s problems, though the most common complaints often come from people who cook for big families, those who like to cook or prep in advance, or don’t have easy access to local groceries. Obviously you won’t have as much room in an under counter refrigerator as you would in a full sized one, but you might not anticipate how the change will change your routine. You might want to drop down from full to half or quarter gallons of milk to save space, but if you drink a lot of it, you’ll have to buy more often. And if you rely on frozen foods (or freeze leftovers), be aware that under counter refrigerators like this BI540 have very, very small freezers, if they have them at all. And while full sized refrigerators are perfect for the stand-and-stare, keeping the most-used items at face or chest level, under counter refrigerators require you to bend down to get at any of the stuff inside.

Let’s Talk Price

CM405BI Built In Under Cabinet Refrigerator And Freezer From Summit
CM405BI Built In Under Counter Refrigerator And Freezer From Summit

Now, this one is really important if you’re planning a big-scale small kitchen remodel. You can find a decent, dorm-style mini-fridge in the $150-$200 range, but you CAN’T use them in an under counter, built-in installation. Why? All refrigerators produce heat (the warmth from inside the refrigerator is transferred out of it), and a mini fridge pumps hot air out the back, while traditional and under counter refrigerators vent it from the bottom front. A back-venting fridge built into your counter will overheat and break pretty quickly, and unfortunately front-venting refrigerators are much more expensive. You can find a basic model like this CM405BI in the $500 range, but anticipate spending somewhere in the realm of a thousand dollars, give or take. It’s about half or less the cost of a full sized fridge, but more than you might anticipate if you’ve bought a freestanding mini fridge before.

Short version: if you need counter or cabinet space more than you need refrigerator space, if you only regularly cook for one or two, and you live in a place where fresh food is readily available, a compact, under counter refrigerator can turn your cramped kitchen into an innovative, usable space. Otherwise, save them for a dorm, in home bar, outdoor kitchen, or a supplement for when you entertain. Would you ever consider relying on a compact refrigerator? If you have one or have used one for an extended period of time, I’d love to hear how it worked for you.