Refrigerator mishaps are the result of poor planing or knee-jerk buying decisions and often leave home owners with a huge eyesore. The top and sides of refrigerators should always be hidden.
If it's worth doing, then do it right. Note the slight “miss” (above left) where the side of the refrigerator is exposed. This is easily fixed by recessing the water supply and/or electrical outlet. Limit side exposure to doors only (above right) to keep it from encroaching into the space.
Refrigerators are the largest appliance in the kitchen and thoughtful planning helps keep them from over taking the space. The poor placement of this refrigerator cuts the counter into two non-functional surfaces.
If 8-16.0k for a Sub-Zero is out of reach, use door trim kits and install cabinets around the best (size appropriate) refrigerator within your budget.
My preference is to use Over-Under (bottom drawer freezer) models. These wide counter depth models are classic and disappear when paneled. I hang the treasured gift of an original painting on the front of my refrigerator. This keeps it from imposing by turning the surface into wall space.
Avoid buying too big or too small, too trendy or complicated. Retailers merchandise appliances like fashion clothing. A unfashionable or ill-fitted outfit will soon be buried deep in a closet. Your refrigerator will be on display for 20 years.
Think about your overall kitchen layout when it's time to replace your refrigerator. Evaluate the life expectancy of the other appliances. In most cases, it's more cost effective to replace a suite of appliances. This is also an ideal time to make needed alterations to your kitchen which you will enjoy today and profit from when it is time to sell.