Unless you go for built-in appliances, you’re largely stuck with the look of the devices that you choose. Well, until now, as Samsung is bringing its Bespoke Refrigerators to the UK, with their customisable front panels and modular designs making it quick and easy to create your own personalised cooler.
We sat down with Harry Choi, senior vice president of design at Samsung, to find out more about the Bespoke line-up and how it’s different from the competition during CES 2021.
The easiest way of understanding Bespoke is as a range that straddles the gap between integrated and freestanding appliances. You get some of the benefits of integrated, including a custom front panel to match your decor, yet a freestanding appliance that you can take with you if you move.
“Built-in appliances are too expensive and impossible to take away when people move to another house,” explains Choi. “For example, in Korea every three years, the people that don’t own their own home, they need to move, and always take away their appliances to a new home. So, Bespoke was a hybrid and alternative solution that combines freestanding with the look of the built-in.”
It’s a type of flexibility that hasn’t existed with appliances before now, but Bespoke is more than just a product designed for easy removal. It’s also a line-up that’s capable of making a statement, giving flexibility to contrast appliances against a kitchen design with a bespoke finish, without the cost that would usually be entailed.
“Customised designs are as old as human history. Making things to someone’s tastes and needs was originally something for the privileged class,” says Choi. “I think that the philosophy making and designing products to meet consumer’s taste is the zeitgeist that moves to the heart of consumers.”
More and more, people care not just about function but about how products look and fit into their home, and Bespoke delivers a way of unifying home design without having to turn to integrated appliances.
This is particularly true thanks to COVID-19, which has seen more and more people have to stay at home for longer periods, creating a desire for people to renovate their homes and care more about how their kitchens and appliances look.
Yet, Bespoke is about more than the way the product looks, and it’s a modular system that allows different components to be attached together, with cooling expanding to meet the current need. There are a variety of modules available, including full-height fridges and freezers, split designs and the 4-Door Flex. The latter isn’t coming to the UK, and we’re waiting to see the final line-up of UK options.
This ability to grow the Bespoke range, was down to Samsung wanting to create a product that could cover the entire life span of the owners, adapting to new situations and need
“When people marry, have children, they can add one extra column, such as a fridge, or freezer,” explains Choi.
Bespoke can also adapt to changing design needs, and the front panels are interchangeable, and new panels can be bought.
“If they really want to change and replenish their environment, consumers can simply purchase online,” says Choi. “The glass is quite heavy, so Samsung servicemen can [install the panels].”
Samsung currently has a wide range of panels and patterns available (cotta metal, sating glass and glam glass, all available with multiple colour options), although the long-term goal is to open up the design tech to third-parties, such as kitchen showrooms, to give even more options.
“Through this Bespoke platform, we want to give ultimate freedom to consumers as well as third-party manufacturers,” says Choi.
Bespoke is designed to fit more naturally with a kitchen, without protruding in the way that freestanding appliances do, which turns out to be quite the design challenge.
“Freestanding refrigerators protrude more than 150mm, but we are offering with Bespoke is flush. Cabinet and doors are thinner than existing refrigerators,” says Choi. “With a standard refrigerator, the door is more than 109mm but Bespoke doors are around 52mm.”
Getting the thickness of the fridge down required Samsung to implement newer, more efficient insulation to maintain performance. There’s also some clever work to ensure that the Bespoke can operate as both a traditional freestanding unit, as well as being inserted between cupboards. For the latter, the company had to work on the hinge design so that the Bespoke doors can open without impacting on units, minimising the gap required.
As Choi explains, the “simpler a product is, the more sophisticated technology is hidden inside of it”.
The future of refrigeration
Bespoke refrigerators are only the start of what can be done, and Samsung is looking at expanding the line to other home appliances, including dishwashers, microwave ovens and more.
For the future, Samsung sees needs changing.
“I think that refrigerators are affected by the consumers’ culinary lifestyle,” says Choi. “[Consumers used to] once a week buy food in large quantities, and lifestyles have changed so that they buy fresh food more often and consume it faster, eliminating the need for the large-capacity refrigerators as in the past.
“I think if this kind of change continuously happens then it will [change] the entire shape of a refrigerator.”
Choi believes that we’ll see a change to refrigerators, where they’re a piece of design as much as a functional product.
“When the refrigerator was first commercialised 100 years ago, the design was a piece of furniture like a closet itself. So it should be seen as a return to this essential starting point again.”
Bespoke will launch in the first quarter of 2021 and we’ll bring you more information on what’s available as we have it. Check out our best fridges guide for a list of the latest and greatest we’ve tested that are currently on the market.