Beyond the box

It's time for manufacturers to think again about household appliances, says Nicole Swengley
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The Independent Online

Imagine a fridge that tucks neatly into a kitchen corner, takes up one square metre of floor-space yet offers triple the capacity of a conventional fridge. Open the door (which can be left or right-hinged) and you have a complete overview of its entire contents. It sounds like a dream appliance. Not only does it save space but it's also good-looking and very practical.

Imagine a fridge that tucks neatly into a kitchen corner, takes up one square metre of floor-space yet offers triple the capacity of a conventional fridge. Open the door (which can be left or right-hinged) and you have a complete overview of its entire contents. It sounds like a dream appliance. Not only does it save space but it's also good-looking and very practical.

Happily, this isn't the figment of an avant garde designer's imagination. It's produced by a manufacturer who realises that homeowners are desperate for appliances that will adapt to their interiors.

With a price-tag of £2,900, the Corner Fridge is clearly not a cheap option. But the investment could prove worthwhile for a family kitchen that's short on space or for home-owners who prefer stylish individuality over a bland run of units. "We recently built the Corner Fridge into a curved sycamore cabinet that stands in the centre of a kitchen and it looks stunning," says interiors architect, Johnny Grey. The fridge is also available as a freestanding, two-door model in glossy stainless steel.

Look around for other household appliances that go beyond the conventional box, however, and you may be disappointed. A few role models exist - big, bright, freestanding Smeg fridges with their retro-style curves and Lofra's curved cooking ranges (and a curved oven available next spring) but there's little in the way of "soft geometry", as Grey puts it. "It's not impossible to install flat-fronted appliances within curved cabinetry but manufacturers need to offer more flexibility," he observes.

Another manufacturer keen to squeeze maximum fridge capacity into minimum space is Norcool, the Norwegian refrigeration specialist, whose products are distributed in the UK through Fourneaux de France. Like the Corner Fridge, Norcool's CoolGiant is designed to fit into a kitchen corner. It delivers 1,200 litres of storage on adjustable glass shelving while taking up one square metre of floor-space. Clad it in virtually any material to match kitchen cabinets or use it as a freestanding stainless steel unit. It costs from £3,000.

Although it's hard to find larger household appliances that aren't square or rectangular, some manufacturers are coming up with alternative solutions for locating appliances where they are needed. Sub-Zero's under-counter fridges and freezers can be sited directly below worktops or island preparation areas so you can dive into the fully opening chilled drawers without trekking across the kitchen to the main unit.

Just as flexible are Fisher & Paykel's DishDrawers. These mini-dishwashers come in an easy-loading, double-drawer format so they can be hidden within cabinetry near a hob, bar area or within an island unit. They take up to 24 dinner plates and also long-stemmed wine glasses. Check them out at B&B Italia's London showroom where they are used in the new Arc Linea kitchens or buy them from John Lewis at £949.

So why is so little designed outside the box? "Manufacturers tend to stick to standard 600mm appliances, or slimmer 400mm models, so they'll fit into a run of units and can be hidden behind doors," says designer Paul Priestman. "Freestanding appliances are just not as popular as built-in systems and you also need a bigger space for them."

The majority of homeowners do indeed favour built-in units although tenants - particularly in Europe's strong rental market - like freestanding appliances that they can take with them when they move. Even so, the freestanding appliance market lags well behind the built-in market even in Europe. As Priestman points out: "Some electrical appliances - big coffee machines, for example - are great to look at. But do you really want everyone to see your washing machine?" Well if a manufacturer came up with a really beautiful sculptural design then perhaps we would.

Arclinea kitchens from B&B Italia, 020-7591 8111, www.arclinea.it

www.cornerfridge.com, 0845 061 6622, www.fdef.co.uk, 01202 733011

www.fisherpaykel.co.uk, 0845 600 1934

www.johnnygrey.co.uk, 01730 821424 www.johnlewis.com, 0845 6049049

www.lofra.co.uk, 01675 479 600

www.priestmangoode.com, 020-7935 6665 www.sub-zero.eu.com, 020-8418 3800

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