Appliances offer a wealth of upgrades.
Story by Tracy Dickinson
Featured in September/October 2021
Harvest gold, avocado green, or basic white? Gas or electric? That used to be the extent of your choices in appliance selection. But the products on the market today are anything but basic.
Appliance manufacturers are offering upgraded options in both small details and life-changing features. From handle and knob options to finish selections, many appliances have multiple options from which to choose.
“Regardless of the style, the details on appliances are being upgraded,” says Deb Pudenz of AIM Kitchen & Bath. “We’re seeing metal handles in a variety of finishes, including brass and stainless, which can really elevate the look of a white or black appliance.”
Jean Nicholls of Moehl Millwork says wall ovens continue to be the most common selection for remodels, and the variety of models available these days continues to expand. “More of the kitchens I design include wall ovens and typically combination units— convection and standard or some other combination,” she says.
Although professional-grade appliances are appealing, most homeowners find the features don’t justify the price for everyday cooking. So manufacturers have started incorporating similar features in other models.
BLC Projects designer Barb Hyde says her own experience with appliance selection made her an enthusiastic advocate for finding just the right product. “I recently replaced my 30-year-old oven, and I was amazed at the features available,” she says. “At only 30 inches wide, it has five burners and a center grill accessory, and the oven will air-fry, dehydrate, bake, and convection-bake.”
Even dishwashers and refrigerators boast features not typically available just a few years ago, from dishwashers with advanced drying cycles that eliminate the need for air- or towel- drying dishes to refrigerators that are designed to keep food fresh longer and reduce food waste.
Appliance fashion is more varied than ever; it’s more than just contemporary or traditional. You can choose ultramodern, professional grade, traditional, and nearly any finish that suits your kitchen design.
“Stainless steel is still popular,” says Pudenz, “but we are doing more specialty finishes like black stainless. We’re also seeing a trend toward using an accent color for the range rather than matching it to the other appliances.”
Nicholls says, “Black stainless steel is definitely a trend. We’re often designing cabinets to coordinate with it.”
On the other end of the spectrum, experts say white is making a comeback. “White appliances work so well in white kitchens, especially in smaller spaces,” says Pudenz. “With a smaller kitchen, you don’t want to create visual stops. So that full white look is a nice solution.”
Cabinet panels have been a fairly common trend on refrigerators for a while, but Pudenz says she’s seeing more dishwashers with this style, too. “The dishwasher is the appliance that is easiest to truly conceal,” she explains. “Even though you can’t fully hide a refrigerator, refrigerators are still popular in panel-ready styles because the look is more seamless when it visually mimics the cabinetry.”
Similarly, range hoods have become as much a design element as a functional piece.
Nicholls says, “More often than not, we are designing kitchens with decorative hoods since so many stove tops don’t require a separate unit. This leads to microwave units being incorporated into the cabinetry.”
True pro-grade appliances can be prohibitively expensive for some homeowners. A number of manufacturers are offering a similar look on a smaller scale.
Another trend, and one manufacturers are following with nearly every major kitchen appliance, is sleek, finger-touch controls. Not only do these styles offer a more contemporary look, they make cleaning easier as well.
Like every other area of life, appliance design has benefited enormously from continued advances in technology. Homeowners looking to age in place have more design choices than ever as well as ADA-compliant handle designs and multiple finishes.
Hyde says, “I’m no appliance person. My expertise is designing the cabinets around them. But the technology available on even a fairly basic appliance is impressive. These appliances offer digital technology that can be operated from anywhere using a cell phone just like the smart features common for controlling home security and lighting systems.”
Like the Bluetooth-enabled feature on Hyde’s oven, more and more appliances these days offer convenience features that allow today’s homeowners to make their appliances fit their lives. Many refrigerators include Wi-Fi-accessible LCD screens to control temperature and humidity. One company has incorporated this technology to make its products more accessible, offering voice-control capability for hands-free control.
Today’s appliances are never standard. Their options, styles, and advanced technology have transformed kitchen design and kitchen function. Manufacturers have even introduced new products such as undercabinet refrigerator drawers, residential-style wine refrigerators, and built-in filtered water dispensers to meet homeowners’ changing lifestyles.
These days appliances aren’t chosen just for looks any more. They offer a whole lot more. •
- Deb Pudenz AIM Kitchen & Bath
- Jean Nicholls Moehl Millwork
- Barb Hyde BLC Projects