The essential functions of a kitchen – storing and preparing food, and cleaning up when the preparations are complete – require a full complement of appliances to get the job done. But while function might be the top priority for these products, the aesthetic appeal cannot be ignored. Designers are tasked with not only finding the best appliances for their clients’ family and entertaining needs, but also with finding exactly the right look to match the homeowner’s desired design aesthetic.
“People are looking for appliances that really fit their lifestyle and personality. In kitchen appliances, they want features they read about or learned about that they can immediately picture themselves using. Additionally, consumers are looking for appliances to fit their specific spaces or design vision. By offering a wide selection of products and in various sizes, we can accommodate almost any request,” says Stephanie Muraro Gust, product marketing manager for Perlick Residential Products in Milwaukee, WI.
Trends are constantly changing, but year after year, consumers want appliances that are innovative and flexible, and that make everyday use of the kitchen more efficient and convenient. Jack Palazzolo, v.p. of marketing for Madison, WI-based Sub-Zero Group, Inc. says, “There will always be trends that come and go, but in the long term, our customer is looking for appliances that provide incredible, consistent results and stand the test of time.”
Current trends include mixing and matching multiples of the same product for added versatility; multifunctional capabilities; a rise in black stainless finish, and increased interest in connected appliances and appliances that promote healthy cooking. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Homeowners desire the opportunity to feel like their kitchen is truly their own, a reflection of their personality and lifestyle that won’t be mimicked by everyone on the block. Manufacturers are ensuring that there are options for any whim so designers can offer clients a truly personalized look.
“Since appliances are such a major part of a kitchen, it’s not unlikely that the design of a kitchen is shaped almost completely around the look of the consumer’s appliances. The appearance of products should reflect the owner’s personality and harmonize with other products in the kitchen as well as the rest of the home,” states Natalie Walsh, customer marketing manager for Electrolux Major Appliances North America based in Augusta, GA.
“People want appliances that are personal to them, something that feels like it was built and designed with their wants and needs in mind. One-size-fits-all-type appliances are no longer desirable,” adds Muraro Gust. “Consumers are putting more emphasis on customization, so manufacturers are coming out with more color options and hardware finishes,” she says.
Sometimes, homeowners choose appliances designed to shine. “It’s time to be proud of your appliances. It’s a great time to be a home chef. From Pinterest for inspiration to YouTube how-tos, the home chef has access to better, fresher foods and knows how to use them. Having beautiful, high-performance appliances is part of this. When you love to cook, you don’t want to minimalize the appliances in the kitchen, you want to show them off as part of your craft,” says Andrew Shead, sales & marketing for True Residential in O’Fallon, MO.
“Every great cook has a signature personal style and wants appliances to match,” states Beatriz Sandoval, director of brand marketing for Thermador at BSH Appliances in Irvine, CA. “From a sleek, flush design to a bold statement piece, ultimate entertainers want appliances to convey their exceptional lifestyle. That said, custom paneling remains a highly sought-after option, and allows for the surrounding cabinetry to seamlessly blend in.”
While some prefer the bold personal statement, other consumers have a more understated style. They want appliances that reflect this by blending into the overall design – sometimes hidden away completely. “There are really two types of customers – one that wants their products to stand out and the other that wants them to be completely hidden,” says Scott Davies, marketing manager for Fisher & Paykel North America in Huntington Beach, CA. “Aside from cooking appliances, all the others can be completely hidden. Even ventilation can be hidden now. Either way, seamless integration with the cabinetry around it is critical.”
“Appliances are an integral part of the overall design of any kitchen,” notes Peter Weedfald, sr. v.p. of sales & marketing for Sharp Home Electronics Co. of America in Montvale, NJ. “Consumers want appliances with a low-profile design and clean sightlines to integrate seamlessly with the kitchen, and preserving counter space will always be a high priority.”
“Seamless integration of appliances into their environments is another must in the luxury appliance category,” agrees Jon Hall, marketing director for Jenn-Air, based in Benton Harbor, MI. “As open floor plans continue to grow in popularity, appliances designed to keep sightlines clear are increasingly important,” he adds.
MIX AND MATCH
A big demand placed on designers is the need for flexibility in appliance selection and layout. Manufacturers are supporting this desired flexibility by offering smaller versions of appliances that lend themselves to a mix-and-match approach. Often, the resulting designs incorporate more than one of the same types of appliance into the space for a truly personal arrangement.
“When it comes to building a new home, or remodeling a kitchen, consumers want appliances that offer options and versatility,” says Weedfald. “It’s also important for manufacturers to offer flexible placement options and finishes to allow for customization so it’s easy to mix and match.”
Davies adds that appliances, including multiple units, are being placed where they are needed most. “The standard triangle design of a kitchen is no longer relevant,” he reports. Instead, he explains, placing smaller refrigeration units adds convenience, instead of relying on the main larger refrigeration that is generally placed away from surfaces. Installing both gas and induction cooktops together allows for more choice in surface cooking, he adds. “Providing smaller, more compact products to enable users to create this style of kitchen design is essential,” he comments.
Sandoval agrees that smaller appliances are trending for added flexibility. “In addition to multiple refrigeration columns, ultimate entertainers are placing multiple dishwashers throughout their kitchen. Whether the cook needs to clean specialty tools, large dishes or delicate glassware, these luxury consumers desire multiple dishwashers to meet their needs,” she adds.
Shead believes customers are placing multiple refrigerators throughout the home with specific purposes in mind. For instance, he says, customers may use their 30″ glass door refrigerator as a large bar and snack refrigerator but hide the more mundane and less appealing items, like leftovers, behind a solid door refrigerator. “We also still have customers finding new uses for our refrigerators. We’ve seen our 15″ glass door undercounter refrigerator in bathrooms and dressing areas for refrigerated makeups and pharmaceuticals,” he states.
Hall cites Jenn-Air’s new modular cooktops, which provide the option for highly customized cooking surfaces. He adds that homeowners are creating specific stations within the kitchen, often with these smaller models. A baking station or prep area, for example, might include a 15″ induction modular cooktop for melting chocolate, making a lemon curd or steaming vegetables.
Not only is flexibility important, but consumers are also looking for quality machines that perform multiple tasks with ease and efficiency. Often, this means including appliances that are designed to multitask, such as a cooktop with several cooking style options, or a combination oven. Others can shift in purpose with a few simple accessory changes, allowing for ultimate flexibility.
“We see customers gravitate toward adding accessories to make their units multifunctional,” says Muraro Gust. “For example, our undercounter refrigerator can stock bottled water and beverages during the day, and with the switch of a rack become a martini fridge for entertaining in the evening. Anything that allows people to customize their appliances in form or function is desirable.”
“Consumers continue to want features and options that offer flexibility, connectivity, convenience and efficiency in cooking,” concurs V. David Bernardino, marketing director/Super Premium + Builder at Ridgefield Park, NJ-based Samsung Electronics America.
Changes in the attitudes and lifestyles of younger consumers also have an impact on what is expected from appliances. “The way consumers procure and cook food is rapidly changing. New appliance purchasers between the ages of 22 and 34 have unique habits and attitudes toward household chores. There is less emphasis on at-home cooking, resulting in the need for more functional products that make cooking and preparing meals faster and easier,” says Walsh.
Weedfald sees the trend toward healthy eating standing out, creating greater demand for superheated steam cooking technology, even as a replacement for a conventional oven. “We expect to continue seeing a shift toward appliances that make healthy cooking even easier,” he says.
Appliances have high performance expectations to live up to as well. “People are consistently looking for appliances that will stand the test of time, make their lives easier and offer outstanding design,” notes Taryn Brucia, director of public relations for LG Appliances USA based in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. She sees a clear desire for multifunctional appliances, even those that extend beyond the kitchen.
“Ultimately the premium customer demands convenience and functions that increase usability and functionality,” says Davies. This includes fully extendable shelving in ovens, high-quality runners in drawer appliances, smart electronics that take care of and extend the life of food, and visuals on the outside of products that help cue the customer as to the state of the product. “Ease of installation and superior post-purchase service are also very important,” he adds.
“Homeowners want their appliances to help them achieve exactly what they want, whether that is optimal food preservation or consistent results when cooking,” comments Palazzolo.
STAINLESS WITH A TWIST
While color is occasionally used to make a statement, manufacturers agree that, when it comes to kitchen appliances, stainless steel is still the top choice. Adding a unique twist to this constant is the rise of black stainless steel, which is exhibiting increased popularity, according to manufacturers.
“Stainless steel continues to reign supreme when it comes to kitchen appliances, and of those who currently have stainless steel, 64% of those consumers stated they would consider black stainless steel,” states Walsh. “Black stainless steel also offers consumers the ability to embrace more of a modern kitchen design.”
Bernardino agrees: “Stainless steel still continues to be the most requested finish, but we’re seeing a lot of demand for our new black stainless steel finishes, as they provide a sleek and modern finish that fits with contemporary kitchens.”
Brucia adds, “This new finish brings an undeniable luster to the kitchen and is an exciting advancement in the evolution of traditional stainless steel. It elevates the traditional stainless steel look with a satin-smooth, warm and sophisticated finish unlike any other for both a modern and timeless aesthetic that pairs beautifully with any high-end kitchen design. It is also coated with a special material, making it fingerprint- and smudge-resistant, requiring only a dry cloth to return it to its original luster, making it perfect for families,” she says.
Being connected is simply a way of life for many people, and the features they enjoy in their smartphones and tablets are more and more often being incorporated into their appliances. At the same time, most consumers only want these features if they add real benefit rather than being a gimmick.
“Connected appliances are a growing trend in the industry, and the features that will be introduced continue to evolve as consumer expectations evolve. The most important thing for connected appliances is that they provide actual benefits to the user and not features for features’ sake. Over the next few years it will be interesting to see how appliances evolve as homeowners’ grocery shopping and cooking habits change over the foreseeable future,” says Palazzolo.
“Wi-Fi and connectivity are having a major impact on appliance trends, as consumers are looking for ways to have their appliances be more integrated into their lives,” notes Bernardino.
Hall says that, as with so many other aspects of our lives, the “internet of things” is fundamentally changing everything, including how products for the kitchen are used and designed. “Consumers are becoming more accustomed to the idea of connectivity in devices beyond their smartphones and tablets. As a result, connected kitchen appliances are now a must for affluent, tech-savvy consumers, with voice activation representing the newest frontier in tapping the lifestyle-enabling power of Wi-Fi connectivity,” he points out.
The evolving market of “smart” appliances and the rise of Google Home and Amazon Alexa are impacting the appliance industry as well, according to Brucia.
Walsh has seen a shift in the way consumers look at appliances; where they used to be viewed as mechanical, now they are viewed as being electronics. “Therefore, electronics like laptops and smartphones, with two- to four-year lifecycles, have made consumers a bit skeptical of appliances’ computerization,” she says.
“Home Automation is being pushed forward, but customers haven’t really figured out what should be connected, and once connected, what appliances should do. There is a lot of experimentation here, but we haven’t seen any clear must-have features yet,” adds Shead. ▪