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Special Series: Appliances: Driven by Design

You need a new refrigerator and the days when the showroom was filled with models that were the same size and only came in white are gone. Today, options


Whirlpool’s Duet Washer and Dryer uses a metallic green colored called Aspen as a detour from standard white appliances.
Whirlpool’s Duet Washer and Dryer uses a metallic green colored called Aspen as a detour from standard white appliances.

abound. Do you want the freezer on the top, the bottom or do you prefer a side-by-side? What about color? Do you prefer stainless, black or something that matches your cabinetry?

All these options are available because today’s appliances aren’t only designed to work well but to look great, too. And because tastes vary, so do colors, materials and configurations.

“There are consumers that want the appliances to blend in with the architecture,” says Charles Jones, vice president of global consumer design for Whirlpool Corp. in Benton Harbor, Mich. Refrigerators with doors that match the cabinetry are one example. “Then there are other consumers that frankly want their appliances to stand out, and they have a different set of expectations,” Jones adds. This is why, in the appliance department, you’ll see everything from a stainless-steel microwave to a cherry-red range.

These differences in color, materials and aesthetics are based on consumer desires as well as current home design trends. Open floor plans—where the kitchen, living and dining spaces are essentially one room—have turned appliances from low-key workhorses to wonders of design-led innovation. Color is playing a larger role than ever in appliances. People don’t want “refrigerator white” clashing with their mahogany floors. “You are seeing a lot of full simple colors and elegant wood finishes that you would also find on furniture on appliances,” says Philip Guarino, owner of kitchen design firm Arclinea Boston in Boston, Mass.

Conversely, consumers are also being drawn to appliances that pop. Washing machines, once relegated to the back corner of the basement, are now admired as much for their capacity as their digital controls. “With the Duet series, we gave consumers a reason to put laundry rooms right into the main living space and literally, put them on the tour route,” says Jones of this colorful line from Whirlpool. “Consumers rave about how—just like they would show off a new kitchen—they were doing the same things with the laundry room.”

Universal design is also playing a huge role. As the population ages, making appliances easier to use is a design mandate, Jones says. “Designing for arthritic users [for example] has given us design solutions not only for people who have arthritis but solutions that are going to benefit everybody,” he says. For this reason, overhead appliances are being moved below the counter, and easy-to-access drawers are all the rage.

When shopping for an appliance, be prepared to fall in love with a look as much as you lust after the technology. Here are some design-forward products that are likely to become part of your home tour, as well.

Bold Colors and Finishes
The days of white, almond or stainless as your only color choices are over. No


Viking Corp. offers 24 different finishes allowing homeowners to personalize their appliances just as they would their furnishings.
Viking Corp. offers 24 different finishes allowing homeowners to personalize their appliances just as they would their furnishings.

place does is this vibrant makeover more noticeable than at Viking Range Corp., where you can select from up to 24 colors on their selection of kitchen appliances. Metallic silver is joined by hues such as lemonade, sage, iridescent blue, pumpkin and plum.

Color isn’t only becoming bolder, it’s being used more liberally. Whirlpool’s Duet line of washers and dryers changed the industry by introducing colors such as Aspen—a metallic, earthy green—and Diamond Dust, a light metallic silver. “I think back five years ago, and if someone had told me that high-saturation metallic finishes would be the big thing in fabric care, I would have told them they were crazy because at the time, it was pretty much an English white,” says Jones.



Jenn-Air’s Oiled Bronze collection aims to steer consumers away from stainless steel.
Jenn-Air’s Oiled Bronze collection aims to steer consumers away from stainless steel.

The next wave, some designers say, is a move away from stainless-steel toward bronze. This year Jenn-Air debuted its Oiled Bronze collection featured on refrigerators, microwaves and vent hoods.

“Bronze is going to hit big time because it is tied in with this new Tuscany Mediterranean feel,” says interior decorator Priscilla Castellano of Andrea Lauren Interiors in Tampa, Fla. “Everyone just loves and wants it warm. They are so tired of the Old World and the traditional look.”

If bold colors are not your thing, consider going minimal with Fagor’s Black Art Refrigerator. It features a reflective finish that allows it to fade into the background without a wood or other cabinet-matching finish.

Easy-to-Use Features
Design isn’t just about aesthetics but function as well. That’s why everything from dishwashers to microwaves to refrigerators can now be found in an easy-to-access drawer.


The Smeg Dishdrawer is wider than the standard dishwasher, making loading and unloading easier on the back.
The Smeg Dishdrawer is wider than the standard dishwasher, making loading and unloading easier on the back.


The dishwasher drawer kicked off the appliance-in-a-drawer movement, most notably with Fisher & Paykel’s dishdrawer. Smeg U.S.A. has taken that idea one step further. Instead of having two drawers on top of each other requiring potentially back-wrenching reaching down or squatting to get to the bottom drawer, the company offers a 36-inch horizontal dish drawer that 12 inches wider than the standard dishwasher, allowing users to fit more dirty dishes into a more accessible space.

Another new option is the microwave drawer. Sharp USA offers a cooktop/microwave drawer combo or a standalone microwave drawer, both at a standard cabinet width of 24 inches. Seattle-based kitchen designer Molly McCabe is a big fan of this innovation for two reasons. One, it


The Sharp Microwave Drawer allows for easy and safer food access.
The Sharp Microwave Drawer allows for easy and safer food access.

helps solve the problem of kitchen “congestion points,” where one person needs to cook and another comes to reach over the other’s head to reheat his coffee in the microwave. It is also safer. “You are looking down into it, not reaching up overhead for something that is probably hot,” McCabe says. “This becomes very important as we age because our depth perception declines and the opportunity for scolding increases.”

The versatility and practicality provided by French door refrigerators with bottom freezer drawers make this configuration very popular with homeowners, says kitchen designer Araya Jensen of Crystal Kitchen Center in Crystal, Minn. “When you have a side-by-side with a freezer, there are items that won’t fit in the freezer,” she says. GE’s Profile refrigerator features two freezer drawers, allowing cooks to better organize their frozen items while providing adequate space. The bottom drawer is deep enough to hold an entire turkey.

Drawers are ergonomic, but they also provide another purpose: They free up space above the counter, which creates many more kitchen design options. “When you have less wall cabinets above you can add more windows and create a brighter space, a more open space,” says Jensen.

The enormity of today’s appliance choices mean that you can get all the functions you want in a design that fits your décor and your lifestyle. Whether it’s ease of use, exciting finishes or an overall look that guests will praise, the only problem will be picking just one model.

Read other Special Series: Appliances articles here.

Credit: Renovate Your World