The Fridge – Then, now and the future!

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Design Shows & Events

36inch column thermador fridge

Welcome to the 36 Inch Columns integrated Fridge from Thermador.

I suspect one of the first things you did when you walked into your kitchen this morning was flick the kettle on then open your fridge. Bleary-eyed you found what you were looking for, shut the door and thought nothing more about it. In fact we just don’t think that much about our fridges at all. They stand there keeping our food chilled and fresh. Boom! Job done! But my recent trip to KBIS in the US had me completely re-thinking this noble soldier of the appliance world. Maybe I just wasn’t thinking BIG enough!!

phoebe with kbis pass in large fridge
Mary Middleton from peagreen in a fridge at kbis

Fridges Big enough to store a body in! Me playing hide and seek in a fridge photo curtesy of Hello Peagreen. The lovely Mary Middleton from Hello Peagreen chilling out!

The History of the Fridge

We take for granted the ability to keep our foods chilled or frozen but in the history of the world’s food storage it’s a relatively new idea.  Ice houses were the original concept for keeping foods stored in cold conditions. They were built on the grounds of family estates, packed with snow during the winter and used during warmer months. Not always the most efficient, and certainly only for the wealthy, it was the best that could be hoped for.

The first seed of the idea that cooling could be manmade was pioneered by William Cullen in 1748 when he demonstrated that certain evaporating fluids produce refrigeration. This idea led to advancement in air conditioning and food preservation, with General Electrics producing the first home refrigerator in 1911. But there were still issues as the gases used were unstable and toxic, with fridge gas leaks leading to a number of deaths. The solution was “Freon”, though this wasn’t without its issues being cited as a cause of the hole in the Ozone layer. Freon was banned in the 1990’s and replaced by tetrafluoroethane, which is still pumping round those tubes at the back of your fridge today. The fridge was the gift of science to the home with even Einstein getting in on the action and developing a fridge called “Einstein’s Refrigerator” whose design was purchased by Electrolux and still sits in their vault.


mile stones in the history of the fridge

The Future of the Fridge!!!

As I said earlier we currently take the roll of our fridge for granted but manufacturers are looking towards a bright new future. The thing that originally struck me when at KBIS is just how HUGE American fridges are compared to our 60cm wide European friends. Was this the way the future of the fridge was heading? No, it’s just most American houses, especially at the luxury end of the market, have the capacity to have fridge freezers that can almost be as wide as 180cm, that’s the length of an 8-person dining room table. But the style and technology that is being added is where the future will head.

The Connected Fridge

Thermador wasn’t just talking connected fridges but connected houses, with Amazon’s “Alexa” or Nest accepting instructions from you to run the dishwasher, turn on the oven and lower the temperature in your fridge. She’ll even chat to you while in your Lexus car, all courtesy of BSH’s “Home Connect” system! Never heard of Thermador? Well, that’s not a surprise as they are a large American appliance firm not currently available over here, but they are part of the BSH group which also owns Bosch and Gaggenau. “Home Connect” works across the parent company’s family of companies. So, like all successful technology if it works for one company it will be copied in others, until every appliance manufacturer offers it one way or another. But why do you need to chat to your fridge? “Home Connect” is connected to your Phone, so let’s say you are at work and wondering what to have for dinner. You can choose a recipe you have saved on “Home Connect” and then check out your fridge’s CCTV camera to see if you have the ingredients you need to make it. It sound nuts!

thermadors home connect hub
samsons family hub fridge

Thermador’s Home Connect System and Samson’s Family Hub Fridge

The question is, is it faddy?? The inventors of Thermador’s device have had the sense to connect into existing systems like Alexa and Nest (along with others). So instead of creating their own platform you can easily add it to the one you already have. I suspect once you start living that way then that will become the way we live, until we are all standing in Sainsbury’s looking at a picture of the inside of our fridges to see if we have what we need.

The BSH group weren’t the only company to be looking at this idea. LG also had their fridge wired for a similar situation but this time it not only chatted to your phone but also to your cooker. Right on the front was a touch pad where you could get all the information you needed like recipes and best before dates on your products, so you can tell if something is about to go off. It can even switch your oven on before you need to start cooking so you don’t have to touch the hob with your chicken covered hands.

thermador integrated fridge freezer
integrated fridge freezer by thermador

Thermador’s Integrated Fridge Freezer

Samsung were also in on the action with “Family Hub” but they had set up their touch pad so not only did it work with all the connections to your home but worked like a family notice board. So, just the same way we use our fridge but instead of sticking your diary and kids’ pictures to the fridge with magnets it is all on the touch screen display.

Richard Anuszkiewicz brush brass with leather handles initiated Fridge for Liebherr
Richard Anuszkiewicz brush brass with leather handles initiated Fridge for Liebherr

Richard Anuszkiewicz brush brass with leather handles initiated Fridge for Liebherr – Photos curtesy of Hello Peagreen.

The Beautiful Fridge

For as many people who love a techy future there are as many who are wary of it! If all of the connected home touch pad shenanigans is making you feel like your fridge has gone all Blade Runner on you then maybe you are looking for something from the stylish end of the future instead. Liebherr did just that bringing in designer Richard Anuszkiewicz to design their stand and show us how you can turn the humble fridge into a work of art. I have always been a fan of integrating my fridge freezer in my designs as it makes the whole space flow much better, but Richard took it to the next level turning them into pieces of exquisite furniture. It was the brushed brass fridge freezer with leather bound handles that had me weak at the knees. I also liked his flair for a red interior in his cabinets. This man has style! If you still want to add the ability to spy on your veg, Liebherr have a stand-alone fridge cam you can buy and pop in!

But it wasn’t just about the exterior of the fridge Dacor created a custom interior with painted ceramic drawer fronts. How much prettier than viewing your carrots or potatoes.

bespoke design interior
dacor fridge with custom design interior

Dacor’s Fridge with custom interior


Innovation is an interesting thing; where some see it and scream “yes!” others ask “why?”.  We are heading into the interconnected world, my friends, and there is no stopping the direction this is going. I might not want my washing machine to text me when it’s finished (yes it can do that now) but we will all find a way of embracing these new technologies to suit the way we live. And if we can add a whole heap of good looking design as well, well I think we can class this as the age of the new fridge thinking. Roll over Einstein, you’re late for the party!

Blogger Small Print

This Post isn’t a sponsored post however my flights and accommodation were paid for by Modenus and a number of sponsors as part of their Design Hounds, Blog Tour KBIS. Over the next few months I will share with you some of the inspirational finds I think will shape design to come.

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