Who Says Refrigerators Can't Be Cool?

Tis the season for holiday leftovers! Chances are, your refrigerator has been getting some extra use over the last 5-6 weeks, as the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and mashed potatoes gave way to Christmas ham and yule log (what is yule log, anyway?). You probably didn’t notice your refrigerator working extra hard because, frankly, your refrigerator probably doesn’t get noticed much at all. It’s a huge piece of hardware that drives a big chunk of the energy consumption in your house (2 to 3 times its purchase price if you keep it for a decade), but chances are you only notice it when it doesn’t work.

And is it really any surprise? Like most appliances, refrigerators spent much of the 70s, 80s and 90s being improved in functionality and energy efficiency, but not so much in terms of aesthetics. Used to be white, avocado and butterscotch. Now we get white, black and stainless steel. Options? Do you want top and bottom or side-by-side? Ice/water dispenser?...that’s about it.

But have no fear. The refrigeration industry is turning a corner, with vastly improved styles emerging in concert with new bells and whistles of the major variety. Here’s a look at the latest and greatest from a world where cool isn’t just an attitude...it’s a dial setting.

Impress your friends with your ability to purchase colorful, expensive food!Impress your friends with your ability to purchase colorful, expensive food!Problem: You Need to Open the Door to See What's in the Fridge
Innovation: Refrigerator with See-Through Glass Door

You didn’t have a childhood if your parents weren’t yelling at you to not air condition the whole house by keeping the refrigerator door open too long while you stare in looking for a snack. Turns out they were only partly right (opening the fridge door does create a spike in energy loss, but is insignificant compared with how most of the energy is lost through the walls of the refrigerator itself). Into this debate steps the Northland 60SS, with a tempered glass window on the fridge side so you can show off your culinary expertise and check out what's inside without ever opening the door. I doubt if my used Tupperware filled with week-old jambalaya would impress the same as shelves full of Perrier, fresh fruit and an uncovered turkey (?), but these high-end fridges are definitely a way to class up your kitchen. See refrigerator

Small footprint with big storage capacitySmall footprint with big storage capacityProblem: Cramped Kitchens Lead to Tiny Fridges
Innovation: Corner Fridge Quadruples Storage Space

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the UK where kitchen space is at a premium, NorCool has come up with a solution that ramps up storage space and...hold your breath...isn’t in the shape of a big box.

The Cool Giant Corner Fridge takes up only 1 square meter of floor space, but has the storage capacity of 4 large refrigerators. How do they do it? By cleverly putting the fridge in the corner of the kitchen. See refrigerator




Show your true cool colors!Show your true cool colors!Problem: Cookie Cutter Styling in Black, White or Stainless
Innovation: Endless Colors and Refrigerators with Personality

No, that’s not a typo. With curved lines and retro styling, the Mini Cooper of refrigerators comes from Italian manufacturer smeg, whose multiple lines of free-standing refrigerators come in colors like lime green, stripes and Union Jack from smeg. See refrigerator


When keeping things cold just isn't enough...When keeping things cold just isn't enough...Problem: Refrigerators Only Chill Stuff
Innovation: Fridges that Make Coffee and Bake Cakes

If style is your thing and price is no object (like you would rather buy a refrigerator than a new car), look no further than the Meneghini line of refrigeration units by Robeys. Each comes in a custom-made wood cabinet with options like a coffee maker and steam oven (who said refrigerators could only make things cold?!). The La Cambusa model (shown) comes in at a cool $21,000 grand. See refrigerator



Looks like a cooler, works like a fridgeLooks like a cooler, works like a fridgeProblem: You Can't Take Your Fridge Wherever You Go
Innovation: Refrigerators Go Portable

Not that I don’t love the convenience of a 75 lb cooler full of half-melted ice, but if you’re taking that road trip and a need a little more control over how cold everything gets, the Alen YTA2400 can’t be beat. Available for under $100, the YTA2400 is an actual refrigerator (not just a cooler) that connects to any electrical outlet or your car adapter for keeping those essentials like baby formula, sandwiches and fruit cool, but not frozen. See refrigerator



Clay pot refrigerators...I hope there's room for some Guinness!Clay pot refrigerators...I hope there's room for some Guinness!Problem: Your Refrigerator Needs Electricity
Innovation: Fridges That Don't Need Power

OK, so it sounds a bit like an episode of Mythbusters, and it’s not exactly the latest and greatest (the technique has been around for centuries), but if you’re short on resources, this takes (and cools) the cake. Put a clay jar inside another clay jar. Fill the space between with damp sand, and as the sand evaporates, it cools the inner jar. Don’t ask me how it works, but apparently it can preserve food for weeks. Who knew that the coolest refrigerator is actually something invented hundreds of years ago that you can make yourself?

The fridge of the future?The fridge of the future?Problem: Refrigerators Only Hold a Limited Amount of Food
Innovation: Soft Wall Refrigerator Expands to Hold More Food

Out of Electrolux’s DesignLab international competition for the future of the home comes the soft refrigerator. Looking a bit like one of those expandable hanging toy hampers from IKEA, the soft refrigerator expands to adapt to the amount of contents, and the flexible membrane keeps everything insulated (or so the design envisions). If most of the energy in a refrigerator is lost through the side walls, that's going to have to be some impressive membrane! The whole deal is also collapsible so you can bring it with you. See refrigerator



With all these options for refrigerators, you shouldn't have any problem both looking cool and keeping things cool in 2007.

Tim Whitney
Featured Blogger

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Jan 14, 2007
by jstlook

Problem: Your Refrigerator Needs Electricity

Actually, If I'm not mistaken, this is a fairly recent invention. Although the technology may have technically been around for centuries (I mean, sure .. put a pot in another pot, fill with sand and water. What kinda technology *is* that, anyhow?), this was specifically designed by a guy from Ni ger i a. God knows what spam filters will do. Check it out, use google once or twice before you publish something.

Apr 6, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

evaporating sand..

sand evaporates??????

Apr 8, 2007
by Michelle
Michelle's picture

you add water to the sand

you add water to the sand

May 28, 2008
by Anonymous

innnovative ideas on electronics

i want to know some more fascinating ideas abt electronics on refrigerators