Top considerations for designers when selecting appliances for their clients are the homeowner’s personal taste, style and how the kitchen will be used. With the immense range of options on the market, creating the perfect setup for every individual is easier than ever. This includes a wide range of aesthetic possibilities, as well as smart technology that allows homeowners to customize how they use those appliances.
“Two trends we continue to see evolving in our industry are a desire for customization and a need for purposeful smart technology integration throughout the home,” says Beatriz Sandoval, head of marketing for Irvine, CA-based Thermador. “Technology is integral in nearly every part of our lives, and home appliances are no different. A true smart home is a fully integrated ecosystem of smart devices that delivers a cohesive experience, and smart appliances are part of the equation.”
“From an aesthetic perspective we are seeing a desire to have products feel unique and reflect one’s personality,” reports Brittni Pertijs, senior color material & finish designer at Whirlpool Corporation, based in Benton Harbor, MI. “It could be from customized settings to being able to choose a color or accessory of a product that better reflects one’s values or personality.”
In addition to offering features that make operating appliances easier, connectivity also allows for easier upkeep. “Technology is creating opportunities to make maintenance and service more seamless,” remarks Jon Barfell, head of marketing, North America for Liebherr Appliances in Miami, FL.
Other trends include attention to environmental concerns; increased use of color, texture and mixed materials, and a desire for personalized functional features. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
One of the most talked about trends is the move toward connectivity throughout the home. As the use of technologies like Amazon Alexa become more widespread, more and more appliances are also becoming WiFi connected, giving users the opportunity to control them from anywhere through applications on a smart device.
Peter Weedfald, senior v.p., home & consumer sales & marketing at Sharp Electronics in Montvale, NJ says, “Nowadays, many people have Amazon Alexa, which reminds them to pay rent, play music or wake them up. But Alexa’s use has quickly transformed to starting their oven, popping their popcorn and cooking their meals to perfection. Using these smart appliances also allows for more hands-free cooking, making for fewer fingerprints and messes to clean and more time for doing the things they love.”
Sandoval agrees that smart appliances are continuing to trend. “According to a survey conducted by Thermador, 42% of Americans desire smart technology as part of their dream home, illustrating that smart appliances are a growing demand driven by consumer needs,” she indicates. “For many consumers, connectivity is a must-have when considering new appliances as it helps ‘future-proof’ their homes.”
“Every manufacturer seems to be adding some connected features,” states John Hynek, senior product manager – culinary products at Miele USA, based in Princeton, NJ. “The execution of connected features varies greatly between products and manufacturers. There is a lot of promise in this space, but currently most features are related to monitoring and simple connected commands,” he adds.
As demand grows for connected appliances, there are some drawbacks, and manufacturers say the technology must serve a clear purpose. Christian Boscherini, marketing manager at SMEG, based in New York, NY, says connectivity is talked about constantly, but it’s not generic. “It’s very targeted in how it’s done,” he says, citing as an example refrigeration with cameras that can alert the consumer when an item is getting low.
Chelsea McClaran, brand manager at True Residential in O’Fallon, MO offers, “We’re seeing a lot of new technology appear across the industry – mainly WiFi-enabled appliances, smart appliances, etc. We haven’t delved into that space, as our main priority is consistently introducing solutions- based refrigeration with exceptional functionality and enhanced performance to keep food cold and fresh – without all the superfluous bells and whistles. Products with those tech-integrated features definitely have a market, but they also require more complicated installation and maintenance.”
“Technology such as Bluetooth and ‘smart’ functionality are strong trends,” stresses Tony Dowling, v.p., sales & marketing at Elmira Stove Works in Ontario, Canada. “The downside is that many technological upgrades rely on computer chips, which have been in short supply during the pandemic.”
It’s also essential that appliances can be easily updated as technology changes, manufacturers say. “It’s important in the appliance industry that, as new products are being developed, they are built to adapt to new technologies for years to come,” Sandoval explains.
“Technology has changed the way we use our appliances and is expanding the possibilities of what, when and how we cook. With new technology constantly entering the market, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the latest tech in your kitchen,” remarks Richard Anuszkiewicz, creative director, Monogram, based in Louisville, KY.
“We are harnessing the power of technology to make home appliances that last longer and can evolve over time. Upgrading your appliance is now just as easy as updating your phone,” he adds.
The desire for appliances customized to the homeowner’s unique needs means that specific features, and the appliances consumers select, can vary widely. Manufacturers note that the most desired features are those that impact how the appliance functions. Some features that used to be “add-ons” are now considered standard, manufacturers say.
Anuszkiewicz states that there are some “must have” features that can help homeowners elevate and rethink the everyday use of traditional kitchen appliances. First is flexibility, and second is precision, he offers.
“More than ‘must have’ features, appliances have to work reliably,” stresses Hynek. “As customers are looking more for appliances that reflect their own design aesthetics and personality, there is an expectation that longevity and cooking performance will be there. Poor quality or reliability is easy to spot in internet reviews and is a deal breaker to most customers. If anything, the ‘must have’ feature is the one that reflects the customer’s own style and cooking habits.”
Dowling reports, “Premium appliances have seen strong demand over the past two years, as more people are moving from the cities to the waterfronts and rural areas. They’re investing the differential in property values into upgrades in their new homes. That includes kitchen renovations and premium appliances. Riding on that trend is the demand for appliances that are different from the stainless steel boxes they had in the city.”
“Functional must-haves would include true convection ovens, large cooktops (six burners) and perhaps induction burners. Want-to-haves might include Bluetooth connectivity, air frying and steam ovens. They add functionality but aren’t yet mainstream,” he remarks.
“So many features have become ‘standard’ along the way that once were considered a luxury, such as soft-close doors, energy efficiency, sealed burners or smooth surface tops for electric, ergonomic slide racks and continuous grates,” reports Melissa Haber, v.p. of Edgewood, NY-based EuroChef USA, the exclusive importer of the Verona appliance brand. “Any feature that speeds up cooking or preheat times, such as convection fans and boost controls for induction tops, are hot with customers. [And the oven must have] a large cavity to hold a turkey. These are all standard now,” she adds.
“As appliances are the workhorses of the kitchen, they really need to not only be built to last, but also feel built to last. Homeowners and designers are continuing to seek out units that feature sturdy handles and hardware that feel substantial,” reports McClaran.
With the desire to customize a top priority, finishes can help accentuate the homeowner’s personal style. “Customers are moving to sleeker looking appliances, mixed materials and more semi-custom offerings regarding finishes, colors and materials,” Hynek observes.
“Because more time is being spent at home, there is added interest in personalizing one’s space, and color is an easy way to do this,” offers Pertijs. “We see earth tones making a big impact with the trend of bringing the outside in. This can range from blues and greens to taupe and warm whites to terracotta oranges and browns. Whatever color you choose, it should bring joy and make you feel good inside,” she emphasizes.
“Color is definitely trending, and it appears we’re just seeing the start of the curve,” concurs Dowling. “Color and custom colors are our wheelhouse at Elmira Stove Works. Where two years ago, perhaps 5% of our orders were for custom colors, today it’s probably more like 15%. We can code-match about 1,200 colors, and we also get many orders for colors to match a sample provided by the customer – college colors, matches to cars and motorcycles, various colors-of-the-year, etc. People more and more want products that speak to their individual style and personality,” he observes.
“Color continues to play a huge role for us,” adds McClaren “We launched our custom finishes and hardware in 2017, and currently over 50% of our sales are in a custom color. The neutrals – such as our Antique White, Matte White and Ultra Matte Black – are always really popular, but we’ve noticed an uptick in interest in what we call our ‘semi-neutrals,’ which consists of colors such as our serene blue-gray finish ‘Juniper’ and our calming Sage hue – our 2022 color of the year.”
“Stainless is so much of the industry, but when there are colors available, people default to the colors,” Boscherini confirms, adding that black and white are big right now, as are matte finishes.
“Matte black is so popular that it’s a standard finish now,” remarks Haber. “Gloss black also makes a statement, but matte is very trendy. Stainless steel is still the most popular since it’s very easy to match and replace, although white and black are also important finishes as high contrast with neutral colors is also an important trend now,” she says.
“Color is certainly trending in home design,” adds Sandoval. “We’ve seen earthy tones and warm whites really rise to the top of kitchen trends this year, in addition to moody tones like dark grays and blacks. These are being paired with pops of bolder colors so that homeowners can have the best of both worlds.”
Variety and Texture
In finish and materials, the consensus among manufacturers is that anything goes. The demand for a personalized look leads to the use of mixed materials, texture and unique accents, manufacturers say.
“As the kitchen appliance industry continues to evolve, we’ve seen a shift away from appliances only being available in select materials to a world where the possibilities are endless,” comments Anuszkiewicz. “Consumers today are not just looking for well-made products with impeccable performance, but also the chance to showcase their personality and style through home appliances. We expect designers to continue to offer custom appliances that can reflect the personality and lifestyles of owners with distinguished tastes.”
Hynek says they see a move away from bold, dominant stainless steel appliances to a balance between stainless steel, glass and other finishes. He adds that, often, there is some kind of accent, such as brass or a textured surface. “One trend we are seeing is more natural wood cabinets, which are a neutral canvas where almost any color appliance can add a touch of individuality,” he states.
Mixed metals are showing up more, McClaran agrees, especially stainless units paired with brass or gold hardware. “This look works really well with brass or gold cabinet pulls and any other metallic accents or accessories a kitchen might have. It’s an alternative to committing to boldly hued finishes while still keeping to a more adventurous aesthetic,” she says. “That being said, color in the kitchen is also a huge trend – we’re no longer just seeing a touch of color but vibrant bold hues are in many cases taking over,” she adds.
Pertijs notes that materials with added tactile or a textured feel are also rising in popularity. “If you think about metals that patina over time, a honed countertop or hand-made tiles, these all add a touch of approachability. It’s all about that added level of interest that brings you in for a closer look.”
Integrating appliances into the cabinetry is another trend that continues. Barfell believes panel customization will be a continuous trend since it changes according to personal style, and is 100% adaptable.
Environmental concerns are important to consumers right now, especially around energy savings. This sense of responsibility has contributed to the rise in popularity of induction cooking, manufacturers say.
Boscherini believes that anything related to the environment is important to consumers, such as whether the materials used are environmentally sustainable. “Every company is becoming more aware and trying to become more green,” he stresses.
Twenty years ago people may have been more concerned with things like how loud a dishwasher was; now they don’t care so much as long as the appliance doesn’t consume too much energy, he says. Induction cooking is on the rise, he says, primarily because it’s fast and more energy efficient.
“Sustainability in people’s selection of kitchen appliances has also become popular,” Weedfald states. “Appliances like induction cooktops are made to be environmentally friendly, using electric currents instead of natural gas. They also cook faster than normal cooktops, using less electricity than other appliances. Additionally, choosing timeless designs and sleek appliances like induction cooktops helps people eliminate replacements for the sake of appearances, reducing waste in plastic and metal,” he adds.
“The appliances are more energy efficient than ever before, and induction has become more practical and popular,” agrees Haber. “This is all due to climate change legislation and trends toward energy efficiency across the globe. Electric appliances are better than the ones you grew up with and will start to rival gas as far as performance – especially for induction ranges and tops.” She adds, “Electric cooking will become more of a player in the market as cities and states across the country start to eliminate the possibility of gas appliance installations.” ▪