Built-in Refrigerators: For a Seamless Kitchen

Built-in Refrigerators: For a Seamless Kitchen

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Nobody likes to be left guessing when it comes to food preservation; that’s why refrigerators are considered to be among the most crucial appliances in any kitchen. Refrigerators certainly play their role in preserving our food well enough, but their size and bulkiness can be a distraction when it comes to the overall aesthetics of our kitchen spaces. Enter, the built-in refrigerator.

Take a look at a built-in refrigerator compared to a freestanding model, and it is clear why built-ins are gaining popularity. With easy integration into kitchen cabinetry and the ability to provide a streamlined, manicured look, built-in refrigerators solve the riddle of how to make a fridge look good in a kitchen. In this blog post, we're covering built-in refrigerators to help you achieve the seamless kitchen of your dreams.

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What is a Built-In Refrigerator?

A built-in refrigerator, as the name suggests, is designed to be built into your kitchen cabinetry. This makes for a custom and sleek kitchen appearance which is hard to achieve with freestanding models - which often stand out as separate appliances. Designers, builders, and homeowners alike often favor built-in refrigerators for seamless kitchen designs, where aesthetics and functionality go hand in hand.

Built-in refrigerator in luxury kitchen.

Built-In vs. Panel-Ready Refrigerators: What's the Difference?

We here at Rustic Kitchen and Bath are often asked about built-in and panel-ready appliances, and we’ve learned that for many homeowners, the distinction between the two is not clear. While built-in and panel-ready refrigerators share the common benefit of seamless integration, there is a subtle difference between the two:

ZLINE built-in refrigerator with stainless steel panel

Built-In Refrigerators:

As we mentioned, these refrigerators are integrated into cabinetry for a polished look, as though your kitchen was designed to fit that refrigerator perfectly. However, these refrigerators are not designed to hide the fact they are a refrigerator and have a finished front that is meant to be displayed. They may have a stainless steel finish or other high-end materials on the exterior.

Panel-Ready Refrigerators:

Panel-ready refrigerators are essentially built-in refrigerators that are specifically designed to accept custom panels. They come with an unfinished front that is ready to accommodate a custom panel that matches your cabinetry. This design element allows for a cloaked integration that often hides the appearance of the refrigerator altogether and perfectly aligns with the rest of your kitchen.

We like to think of ‘built-in’ as a type of refrigerator while ‘panel-ready’ as a type of finish (or lack thereof.) That means many built-in refrigerators can be panel-ready. Take ZLINE’s 36-inch RBIV built-in refrigerator for example: 

Panel-ready refrigerator compared to a built-in refrigerator.


  • Built-in
  • Panel-Ready
  • No Handles Included


  • Built-in
  • Stainless Steel Finish
  • Handles Included

Both options from ZLINE have the same storage capacity and features; with the only difference being the exterior. The choice between a finished built-in and panel-ready built-in refrigerator just depends on your design preferences and the level of customization you desire for your kitchen.

Speaking of ZLINE… Are ZLINE Built-in Refrigerators Good?

Yes, ZLINE built-in refrigerators are good! We’re big fans of ZLINE’s RBIV line of built-in refrigerators because they combine style, functionality, and reliability without compromise. Their 36-inch RBIV-36 model is comfortably positioned between the compact 30-inch RBIV-30 and the spacious 60-inch RBIV-60, so there’s plenty of opportunity to find the perfect size for your needs.

With loads of premium features like separate dual cooling systems and RapidChill mode, these refrigerators come with everything you expect in a high-end refrigerator. They are available in elegant finishes like white matte and black stainless steel, as well as the panel-ready option for a truly customized appearance. ZLINE recently made their Autograph Edition refrigerator handles available for individual purchase, which means if you do opt for a panel-ready option, you can still enjoy polished gold, matte black, or champagne bronze accent handles.

Built-In refrigerator with white matte panel

Experience the Advantages of Seamless Integration

Built-in refrigerators, whether panel-ready or not, offer a sophisticated and space-efficient solution that is simply not matched by their freestanding counterparts. Homeowners and designers alike appreciate their ability to seamlessly integrate with a kitchen design and cabinetry while providing exceptional functionality.

Shop Built-in Refrigerators

When selecting a built-in refrigerator, consider your design preferences, budget, and desired features to find the perfect appliance that complements your kitchen's aesthetic and meets your food storage needs.

Panel-ready refrigerator with custom wood panel.

If you’re ready to experience the advantages of seamless integration and premium functionality in your kitchen, call us at 1 (866) 212-9706 or book a consultation with one of our built-in refrigerator experts!

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