THE WASHINGTON POST – I don’t remember the first refrigerator my family owned, but I distinctly recall the one my mother bought when she renovated our Massachusetts home in 1988. It was a sleek black glass unit, a contrast to the kitchen’s luxurious cherry wood cabinets and white tile floors and countertops.
Back then, a black glass refrigerator was the kind of appliance that dropped jaws. But a little over a decade later, when I started looking for apartments of my own, black had been replaced by stainless steel. My first solo apartment in Queens offered a depressing, glossy white fridge and rickety white range. So naturally, when I moved into a two-bedroom in 2012 that boasted a fridge with French doors, it felt as if I had arrived.
Although stainless-steel appliances have been the standard in mid-tier luxury homeownership for the past two decades, a new trend, is ushered in by a mass premium appliance line – Ilve, Samsung and Smeg, is slowly cresting. Kitchens are beginning to reflect whimsy and personal taste with colourful appliances in shades such as bright blue and lemon yellow.
“White was the primary appliance out there for many, many years,” said Chief Executive of the e-commerce platform Appliances Connection. “When stainless-steel appliances came out, that was a major differentiation.”
Now, Fouerti said, brands are evolving again, recognising that homeowners spend a lot of time in the kitchen and want to customise the space. So they are offering colours, hardware and bespoke options that allow consumers to express their creativity. “You have beautiful, great-looking, great-working appliances, but also different options of customisation that fit your needs,” he said.
Customisation used to be reserved for the highest tier of luxury consumers, an appliance market driven by those purchasing items in excess of USD10,000 apiece. But truly personalised products, available in finishes that extend beyond stainless or the standard black and white, are now accessible to a cross section of buyers who are defined as mid-tier. These are buyers who like what they like, and what they like is a little pop.
The move toward colour in appliances, said Senior Brand Director for Café Wayne Davis has been a slow but steady tack. Consumers have been falling in love with colourful appliances from a distance for several years, but they have also known them to be cost-prohibitive. “When they would go to the store, their budget really only allowed them to have stainless as their premium choice,” he said. “And so, we saw an opportunity to say: Well, how can we take what’s going on in luxury and bring it into what we call ‘mass premium’?”
The result has been a line of appliances – ranges, ovens, dishwashers, refrigerators – available in matte white, matte black and stainless steel that has customisable options for brushed black, bronze, copper and stainless-steel hardware. Davis said the black and white matte appliances, in particular, have been met with enthusiasm.
He attributes some of this stylistic change to the coronavirus pandemic. “Because we were all stuck at home, we’re spending a lot more time in our space,” he said.
“We all were saying: ‘What can I do to make this space more mine?'” Changing the colour of a range, dishwasher or refrigerator was an act that felt personal, and that feeling has continued, he said.
The options are now more open than ever, said owner and Principal Designer of Gina Sims Designs Gina Sims in Atlanta. “We love colour. We never shy away from an opportunity,” she said. Working with a vibrant appliance, Sims said, can be tricky at times, but one way to bypass overkill is to make careful choices. “Select one to be the main event,” she suggested.
“I do see stainless as kind of being jeans in an outfit. It exists for a purpose. If you want a statement appliance, you need everything else to kind of bow out a little bit.”
Nothing is out of bounds, Sims said. Homeowners should not be concerned about whether styles will change, assuming the colour or style they’re drawn to is something that they’ve loved for a long time and that is in tune with the overall look of their home. “If you look at something and go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so me, because I’ve always loved green my entire life’, well, then, I’m gonna love that green stove, because I’ve always loved it,” she said.
However, she cautions against purchasing something simply because you’ve seen it everywhere and find it momentarily appealing.
Sims also suggests tailoring the kitchen to meet your functional needs. Focus on choosing appliances first, rather than cabinetry or backsplash first and appliances second. Homeowners can match cabinetry to the appliances or pull from the appliances in the backsplash – decisions that can be made after the appliance colours are determined. “Let it have its moment,” she said of the appliance. “Just have fun with it.”
But homeowners should not be afraid of making bold choices. Like stainless steel, which also remains an eternal choice for those who continue to love its reliability, colourful appliances are not a one-off. So reach for the whole box of crayons, if your heart desires. “Colour is here to stay,” Fouerti said.