The Big Kitchen Remodel: Buying a Retro Fridge


I’m a firm believer that when you’re doing a room (or planning an outfit for that matter) that you should have one striking architectural feature, or piece of furniture or art (or clothing or jewellery) that acts as the focal point of the scheme, adds the wow factor and provides an anchor to build everything else around.

Unfortunately our boxy rectangular kitchen has not a single architectural feature of merit, and it is difficult to create a wow factor out of cheap Ikea cabinets.  So that left the fridge as the only real possibility.



Our Big Chill fridge in a finished kitchen


Sadly most fridges available here in the US are either white or stainless steel boxes – gigantically huge, fabulously functional in a way that European fridges can only dream of, and boring as hell.  After a great deal of online research the following are the only interesting fridges I could find, all retro-styled.  Wouldn’t it be fab if a fridge manufacturer could come up with an eye-catching contemporary fridge design?

First of all I thought of getting a Smeg fridge.  I had one back in London and they are so ubiquitous in the European design world as to have become a bit of a cliché.  But for some reason THEY ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE T TO FIND IN THE US.

West Elm has started selling the small standalone Smeg fridge in a variety of gorgeous colours, but these are tiny even by European standards.


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Teeny tiny Smeg fridges


Smeg does manufacture bigger fridge-freezers which would have been perfect for us, but they are NOT available in the US. This is criminal Smeg US!  Get with the program!





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Smeg fridge-freezers out in the wild. Though not in the US obvs.


Since we definitely need a freezer, I searched for retro-style fridge freezers and came across NorthStar fridges made by Elmira Stove Works in Canada.  It’s important to note that both these fridges and the Big Chill fridge we bought are just retro cases screwed on to a cheap white box fridge (Elmira uses Amana fridges) so they’re by no means state of the art when it comes to internal features.  We liked the look of the Northstars very much, but since they are imported from Canada they work out even more expensive than the Big Chill. Here’s a great discussion outlining the pros and cons of Northstar v Big Chill.


fridge_1950-Flamingo-Pink fridge_1952-buttercup-yellow fridge_1952-Robins-Egg-Blue
Very cute and expensive Elmira NorthStar fridges

Big Chill Fridges are based on Whirlpool white box fridges. I have to admit that it was a difficult decision to spend so much money on what is merely a tarted up $800 fridge – as it was being delivered up our stairs I was given a graphic illustration of just what we’d bought, as all the fancy panels were unscrewed and removed so it could get up the stairs.  But once seen I had to have it, and we are delighted with its prettiness.



Another Big Chill fridge in a finished kitchen

Seems to me thought that there is a huge gap in the market for some manufacturer to produce a nicely-styled colourful, CHEAPER fridge-freezer from scratch though. What do you think?

Check out this fabulous post (with extra fridgeporn) from Nicole Balch of Making It Lovely for advice on how to style the top of your retro fridge.  Fortunately since we have a cabinet over our fridge, I do not have to make these difficult styling decisions.



  1. K says

    “I have to admit that it was a difficult decision to spend so much money on what is merely a tarted up $800 fridge ”

    But that is kind of like saying that you don’t want to wear gorgeous shoes because it is just a foot inside! As you are able to buy the pretty pretty dress-up clothes for your fridge, I’m sure you’ll never regret that you did. Imagine the white box in your kitchen for a second. No way, right?

    And this post answered my earlier question about the old-style-look of the handle. It sounds like it is not clamping the door shut like the old fridges did, if the usual rubbery seal thing is inside on the Whirlpool base fridge.

    • Joanie B says

      I bought a Big Chill Studio size fridge for my kitchen remodel. Had no trouble with customer service or delivery. It’s beautiful, quiet, and well built. The gaskets on mine are just fine. It’s the highlight of my kitchen. Just wanted to point out that most people who have a good experience don’t post about it, and every appliance manufacturer will have some poor reviews. I’d buy a Big Chill again.

  2. Katherine says

    When I first saw the title Retro Fridges I thought oh no retro colours in the kitchen but I must say looking at the pictures and reading the post I think they look fantastic! I want one now for my kitchen! There are some lovely fridge freezers on eBay in funky colours so I am going to get shopping! Great post!

  3. Jessie Barnes says

    I purchase 6 burner big chill stove and frig. Fig been nothing but trouble they say they are going to replace, find out if it will be a good one. Ordered the appliance in NOV.
    stove was shipped to me wrong then shipped damage. Waiting to find out when it will ship again. If u need appliance buy somewhere else. Big chill is taught not not work with customers. They get your money up front and u just have to wait. They are willing to do nothing for the customer. If I had it to do over would not go this route again. The more I wish I would have talked to people with these appliances before I purchased.

      • Jessie says

        I have baby due this coming week. Stove is probably still 3 weeks out on repair, I have no faith that it will be right then. So I’m probably going to have to go buy a stove to get by until my big chill oven makes it here. I ordered these in November. This is terrible service and they will not do anything for me give cost back a microwave or nothing. Only thing I get is we are working on it. Also my freeze will not freeze anything.

        Nothing but trouble dealing with big chill they said 6 to 8 week delivery on stove. They should have already made me 4 stoves, I can not get 1.

        • Jessie says

          Just noticed the name u must be the Paola that works for big chill.
          If it is!
          I guess it does help to try to make yourself feel good. But the service needs a lot of improvement. And common sense management goes along way. I ordered a 36 inch and a 30 was delivered big chill did not want to give me a break if I took the wrong stove. They did not think about the freight they would have to pay. So if no discount I wanted what I ordered.

      • LKLKLK says

        We bought a Big Chill Studio Fridge and can’t even get it delivered. They advertise ‘white glove’ delivery. What a joke. My husband took a vacation day to be here (they called yesterday and gave us a window of 9am to 1pm). They called at 10:30am today (7/30/2015) and said they’d be here in one hour. By 12:30pm we called the delivery service and they didn’t know WHEN they’d arrive. Then called back to say 5:30pm. Then, just before 5pm they said by 7:30pm. Meanwhile we called Bill Chill customer service who said to just send them an email so they could document it. They did NOTHING to actually help us in REAL time. Meanwhile, Bill Chill customer service went home at 4pm Mountain time and the delivery service dispatch went home at 5pm Eastern Time. So, here we are at 6:48pm Eastern Time and no fridge and NO ONE to call to find out what is going on. We paid over $3000 for this fridge, and for what? To be treated with total and complete indifference.

  4. Kari says

    I have both the big chill fridge and stove. When I had an issue with two of the burner grills flaking, big chill had two sent out to me within a week, I even spoke with a real live human being when I called. Having said that, my opinion is that while the product is a very snazzy looking item to complete any kitchen, they are by no means any tecnological wonder. You are paying for a look not a function. The stove doesn’t even have a temp gauge to tell you what your oven temp is at and like another poster wrote, the fridges are just dressed up bottom of the line white fridges.
    I bought them because I had a look I wanted to complete in my kitchen and I have the look… I’m ok with losing some of the bells and whistles you get when you purchase a modern stove and fridge.

  5. Per C says

    Seems to be a market for retro panelling of kitchen appliances!
    Someone ought to tip of the chinese! Alibaba and TaoBao!

  6. Annie says

    I ordered around 8 samples and the custom color booklet and they sent out only two and no booklet. I got a call back about 3 days after I wrote them and the gal kept talking over me and insisting that SHE supervises all samples and there was really no way it was HER fault. “It must have broken open in shipment”. Yah, no. It was a small white firm envelope that would not have been big enough for a booklet and came in tact. It may sound like a stupid thing to be concerned about and I wasn’t at all frustrated with the mistake to begin with but her attitude stunk. This is there 1 chance to make an impression and to be stuck up on a cheap sample card and blame either me or the shipping company leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What happens when something goes wrong with the appliance or shipping?

  7. Sasha76 says

    We just bought a sweet little 1940s bungalow with all original details, and I’m dying for a baby blue Smeg, but I’m married to an economist and he doesn’t think it’s a “good investment.” #economistsarenofun

  8. Red says

    Im just trying to buy a classic fridge. I called three times to confirm my over the phone order from last week and they say they are working on it and will get back to me. Customer service is lacking. Im thinking of not getting one now because of this.

    • Anna says

      I ordered my refrigerator back in September. I was told it was shipped November 13 ! Yay finally , no, two weeks later no refrigerator and no call from shipping company. Big chill keeps saying the shipping will call. I’m over it . Canceled . Wish I would have read about other complaints .

  9. says

    Under counter options are few and far between with retro styled fridges I found on my search last year. But there is one model that has recently come out that I have installed in my new kitchen, called the Bauer Haüs Retro Fridge Freezer, here’s pretty good review analysis of my very model:

    Now for anyone interested, it’s a tall design with a removable top portion. But even when removed it’s a much taller than the standard under counter fridge as the review mentions. But if you’re building or redoing a kitchen, it’s a great option. As the units + worktop only need to be raised by a few centimetres to accommodate. Plus for the money it’s definitely good value. I’d recommend.

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  12. Nur Zieha says

    Awesome. Thank you for sharing such a good and useful info. It is very helpful as currently I’m also still doing some survey on which retro fridge shall I get. I love retro looks and vibes. I also found some good info from this article below. If you guys want to know the details information, you can check it out here

  13. says

    I have baby due this coming week. Stove is probably still 3 weeks out on repair, I have no faith that it will be right then. So I’m probably going to have to go buy a stove to get by until my big chill oven makes it here. I ordered these in November. This is terrible service and they will not do anything for me give cost back a microwave or nothing. Only thing I get is we are working on it. Also my freeze will not freeze anything.


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