Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stainless Steel Appliances Could Be Yesterday's Choice


Major manufacturers are placing bets on different potential successors to the shiny, upscale appliance finish, which surprised everyone with its resilience.

It is a pivotal moment in kitchen design: While stainless steel is still the dominant look, there are clear signals it has outworn its welcome, even with no clear successor in place.

The appliance industry has tried to promote new looks before. In recent years, manufacturers have pitched "oiled bronze," "antique copper" and a gray hue called "meteorite," as well as aluminum and other look-alikes, but none has been able to unseat stainless steel.

Whirlpool, the world's largest home-appliance maker, recently introduced its "Ice Collection" of appliances, including glossy white. "White is the new stainless," a Whirlpool news release says.

"Black is the new stainless steel," Wolf Appliance says in a news release for black glass ovens introduced this spring.

Last weekend, General Electric introduced refrigerators, ovens, microwaves and dishwashers in a muted gray called "slate." They say it will roll out new high-gloss finishes for the U.S. in the near future, refusing to divulge details.


The new colors and materials, though not as vibrant as the avocado-green and harvest-gold of previous eras, try to blend in with their surroundings, rather than stand out like a trophy of technology the way shiny stainless steel tends to do.

Introducing a new finish is a gamble. Development takes a year or more. Stores sometimes grant extra space to new ideas, but typically manufacturers have to work within an allotted number of slots, so an unsuccessful product can put the company's overall sales at risk.


No manufacturer is writing stainless steel off completely. It is too durable and versatile for that. Whirlpool, mindful of consumers' devotion to it, played it safe and included a stainless-steel option in the new Ice Collection line. Still, there is a growing sense that stainless steel's popularity is running into overtime.

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