Economic challenges continue to impact the appliance industry, creating greater demand for energy-saving, value-priced appliances. But that doesn’t mean designers or consumers are willing to sacrifice high style – or technology. Indeed, sleeker and more colorful designs, technological advancements and environmental concerns are key appliance trends right now. As a result, metallic finishes, warmer tones, touch-screen technology and Energy Star appliances abound in today’s market (see The Selection Process).
“Consumers are looking for features that increase performance, make appliances easier to use and maintain, and offer energy savings,” stresses Steve Joseph, v.p. of marketing for Dacor in Diamond Bar, CA.
There has also been a shift from high-end to mid-range appliances by consumers who are still looking for upscale styling, according to Brian Wellnitz, kitchen ventilation marketing manager for Broan-NuTone in Hartford, WI.
“Consumers are looking for quality and long life in their appliances. A few years ago, appliances were considered disposable; now they are viewed as an investment,” he comments.
Clean and Simple
There has been a move away from ornate and over-the-top designs, according to Bill Stanisci, owner, Stanisci Design and Manufacturing in Romeo, MI. “Consumers are going to cleaner, transitional looks,” he says. “For us, that translates to less ornate, transitional wood range hood designs to match the kitchen.”
Sara De La Hera, v.p. of sales and marketing for Fagor America in Lyndhurst, NJ has seen an increase in the demand for high-end European-sized (24") appliances. “Since urban kitchens are often space challenged, they give the option to have sleek, upscale appliances that integrate beautifully into tight spaces,” she explains. “You get the compact appliance that still has all of the same technology and style elements of the larger, standard-size counterparts.”
More and more, designers and consumers alike are looking to integrate their appliances into the kitchen design, according to Paul Leuthe, product marketing manager, Sub-Zero/Wolf Appliance in Madison, WI. “While there will always be the demand for stainless steel refrigerators, consumers in greater numbers want to have things cleaner within the kitchen space,” he says.
The cleaner, sleeker look has impacted the exterior and interior alike, according to Leuthe. “People like simplicity and organization,” he says.
Color My World
The use of cabinet panels on appliances has been one way to get around the cold, commercial look of stainless steel, but the result can be a less than exciting wall of wood. In addition, cabinet panels cannot be used on heat appliances, which leads to the use of stainless anyway.
These limited options have led to the creation of a more colorful selection of kitchen appliances. While Tracy Frye, contract senior marketing manager for Whirlpool Corporation in Benton Harbor, MI, concurs with Leuthe that the classic look of stainless steel will never go out of style, “there is a trend toward appliances in more metallic finish options.”
“Appliance design is due for a major change after 20 years of the stainless steel look,” adds Paolo Bertazzoni for CEO, Bertazzoni in Emilia, Italy.
Whether it’s subtle tones or something a bit more brilliant, today’s consumers can find almost any appliance they need in a color that will coordinate with their kitchen design.
De La Hera acknowledges the huge surge in the offering and demand for color appliances. “In particular, black appliances are hot again right now,” she says. Fagor’s Black Art refrigerator modernizes the black concept with a “slick Zirkonium reflective finish,” she notes.
While Joseph agrees that black appliances are seeing a comeback, designers and homeowners want more design options, and are looking to the next great thing beyond stainless. One reason, he says, is that stainless no longer has the high-end appeal because the finish is available at almost every price point.