Monday, June 2, 2014

So Over Stainless in the Kitchen? 14 Reasons to Give In to Color

by Becky Harris

Colorful kitchen appliances are popular again, and now 
you've got more choices than ever. Which would you choose?

Those who survived the invasion of avocado-green and harvest-gold appliances in the 1970s are still trepidatious about using strong color on kitchen appliances. In the 1980s we clung to white and sometimes black, and sometime during the 1990s, stainless steel took over as the must-have finish for appliances. Next we started to hide the appliances, camouflaging refrigerators and dishwashers with panel fronts that matched the cabinetry.

In typical fashion, now things are swinging back. Home cooks are proud of their appliances and want to make them stand out. Once only offered by a few companies, a wide range of appliance color options are now being offered by many manufacturers.

Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design at GE Appliances, has several theories about why colorful appliances are making such a comeback. “While stainless remains a popular premium finish, we’ve seen a rise in what we call ‘stainless fatigue’ — that feeling consumers get when they have to continuously clean fingerprint smudges and dirt marks off of their shiny stainless appliances,” he says. We also may need a break from technology. “Colors tend to soften the impact of the machine world we live in,“ he says.

While it used to be hard to find a range that cost less than a small car and that you didn’t have to import from Europe, American manufacturers are onto the colorful trend. Today there are many more affordable options, and soon you may even be able to switch out a colored refrigerator cover as easily as you switch out the case on your iPhone. Here are a variety of ways to add color via appliances; take a look and decide if your kitchen needs a color injection.

Inject a jolt of unique color. A few design professionals were onto the appeal of cobalt blue long before it became such a rage in the fashion world. When her clients told her they did not want a kitchen that looked like everyone else’s, architect Jean Verbridge’s mind went straight to this cobalt range and vent hood. It is a stunning focal point in this seaside kitchen.

Tip: If you’re going with stainless steel for your other appliances, stainless accents on the colored appliances and vent hood can help tie everything together.

Range: 48-inch RNB series with Pro-Line Hood, Bluestar

Make a range a focal point. Some designers already have been taking advantage of the color options. “I try and use a colorful range wherever possible,” says interior designer Alison Kandler. “I think the range is the ‘fireplace’ of any kitchen and should be a focal point.” In this beach cottage, the pleasing blue of the stove sets the tone for the rest of the whimsical home.

This range is by Lacanche, a company named for the town in the Burgundy region of France where cooking equipment has been manufactured since the 1800s, on the site of a foundry created in the 1400s.

Range: Cluny 1000, Lacanche

Add French elegance. La Cornue, whose range in Jaguar Burgundy is shown here, was established to take advantage of the new technology of gas running through Paris in 1908. The company not only crafts the colored ranges, but offers matching cabinetry that can give an entire kitchen a seamless look. The cabinetry also increases the range’s presence in a large kitchen.

In the case of this kitchen, architect Kate Johns used the additional La Cornue cabinetry but didn’t want everything to look too uniform; she mixed in white oak cabinets with bin pulls to keep things from feeling overly matched.

Extend the color with a matching range hood. “I’ve been in love with the look of French enamel ranges for as long as I can remember,” says Rebekah Zaveloff, principal designer at KitchenLab. “I’m not over stainless or anything, but when it comes to a range and hood, I really do prefer an enamel color … the hardest part is deciding on the color!” In her design for bakery owner Aliyyah Baylor’s home kitchen, the blue range and vent hood carry the color from the cement floor tiles to the ceiling.

Zaveloff also loves to play with the way the metals look with the different color options. In Baylor’s kitchen, copper adds interesting accents on the range. “I also love a bit of brass thrown in for warmth,” she says

Range: BlueStar; hood: Bonanza, Prizer

Get some Euro cottage cozy. Aga is a company most generally associated with cozy English kitchens, but its oven was actually invented by a Nobel Prize–winning Swede. In this Maine beach cottage kitchen, Whitten Architects mixed in some classic Swedish, whimsical British and vintage all-American style, and the Aga range is just the right fit for all three.

Bring in the color of the year via your appliances. In addition to the European companies famous for their colorful ranges, a very small handful of American companies have been providing a wide range of range colors for quite some time. BlueStar is a company that’s been deep into color for years. Because it has its own powder-coat shop, it offers 750 colors. At this year’s AD Home Design Show, it debuted a range in the Pantone Color of the Year, radiant orchid.

Plan a pleasing cabinet and appliance color combination. In this rustic Maine camp kitchen, interior designer Kristina Crestin combined greenish-yellow cabinets and a mint julep range from Viking. The combination is fresh and inspired by the camp’s natural surroundings.

Viking, an American manufacturer that brought commercial quality ranges to residential kitchens, offers a wide range of colors in ranges and other appliances. By the way, avocado is making a comeback, but with a fresh name, Wasabi. I can’t wait to see how designers modernize this color.

Cabinet paint: La Fonda Olive, Valspar; range, hood: Viking, in Mint Julep

Custom match your cabinetry or backsplash with an appliance color. BlueStar will also custom match any color you like. For instance, you can have your appliances powder coated to match your cabinet paint color. “People are feeling more comfortable experimenting with color these days,” says Michelle Zelman of BlueStar.

Zelman also gives some advice for those who just want to dip their toes into this color trend. “Another option to just bring in a little color at first is to switch out the knobs to a bright color,” she says.

Go for sharp contrast. In this transitional-style kitchen, a glossy red Viking range stands out among the subdued gray cabinets.

Range: Viking; cabinet paint color: CL3175, General Paint

Bring in brightly colored retro-style appliances. The bright color trend is not limited to the range. Orion Creamer was way ahead on the colored appliance trend in the U.S. After finding the limited appliance finishes a snore at a KBIS show over a decade ago, Creamer partnered up with his uncle, Thom Vernon. Vernon was looking for a refrigerator with retro pizazz for his beach house and coming up empty. Together the two founded Big Chill Fridge, designing brightly colored refrigerators with kitschy retro style. Their options in beach blue, buttercup yellow, cherry red, jadeite green and pink lemonade caught everyone’s attention. 

Big Chill’s standard palette of eight signature colors also includes black and white, and now the company can customize an appliance in one of 200 colors.

“We’re seeing more and more customers requesting custom colors,” Creamer says. “Everyone wants a unique kitchen, and our customers want people to come in and say ‘I’ve never seen that color on an appliance before!’”

Big Chill has also expanded its product line to include dishwashers, ranges and vent hoods.

Mix and match appliance finishes. The curtains don’t have to match the drapes, and the range doesn’t have to match the dishwasher, but thanks to customized colors, some of the above can match the backsplash. You can also tie elements together via details like knobs and other details.

“There are many different consumers; some who want to match and some who want a touch of color,” GE’s Lenzi says. “All of our color studies are based on the notion that not everyone can afford a complete appliance makeover.”

Here cobalt knobs pick up on other blue accents in the room.

GE Slate Appliances 
If you’re nervous about color but sick of the standard options, consider slate. If you’re not ready for fiery orange or bright turquoise but are still intrigued by alternatives to the usual stainless, white or black finishes, try GE’s slate finish; it’s a more conservative modern option. “Slate is just so versatile,” Lenzi says. The slate finish is a warm, gray, low-gloss metallic hue that doesn’t show fingerprints. Due to the popularity of its Slate product offerings, GE doubled them in 2013 with additional refrigeration and cooking models.

Get inspired by produce and spices when choosing a color. GE has been predicting which colors consumers will be clamoring for in the future, but it needs your help. Its colorful Artistry Series is still in the concept phase, and the company wants to know which colors you think it should carry.

Inspired by food, the design team started with color options that might already be present in the kitchen for you to chose from: ginger, lime, cinnamon, bell-pepper red, aubergine, cupcake blue and lemon.

You don’t have to splurge on all new appliances to get in on this trend. “Finishes like Slate and the new Artistry colors allow users to mix and match and also provide a unique option for replacing just one appliance, while still meshing well with the previous appliances in the kitchen,” Lenzi says.

It can be hard to commit to a color, as appliances are a big investment that you’ll be stuck with for years. Luckily, there’s good news regarding affordable color changes in the future. Lenzi and the team at GE are working on a series of colorful appliance covers that could be switched out like smart-phone covers. “Such an approach provides our customers with the flexibility to switch appliance colors over time,” Lenzi says. 

“I’d say about 50 percent of our clients right now are doing enamel color ranges,” Zaveloff says. “That’s a huge increase from a few years back.”

What are your thoughts on colorful appliances?

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