Would you be surprised the answer is White? Most of us are in the specialty end of the business as builders, kitchen designers, remodelers, designers and appliance consultants. We would likely all answer stainless steel as number one with cabinet fronts as the second most popular. The segments of the market we most often interact with are premium product buyers and stainless steel is still in high demand and will continue to be forever. The reason that white wins as number one is the majority is sold through the big box stores and goes most often to the do-it-yourself buyer replacing one piece or a whole kitchen, our side of the industry doesn’t talk to that customer. Even so, when you walk the appliance department in any big box store you will see more stainless steel than white product on display.
When I started in this industry in 1977, stainless steel was available from very few manufactures. Thermador offered cooking products and Sub-Zero offered refrigeration products. Depending on how long you have been in the industry, you have seen many colors come and go. Avocado green, coffee, harvest gold and almond to name a few, but white has outlasted them all. It just has been that since Viking Range brought stainless steel more mainstream with their arrival in 1986, stainless steel has grown to all brands and price points. The price upgrade of stainless over white and black is minimal in the freestanding segment of the market. Proof of that are the hundreds of foreclosure and new home packages I have sold in the last few years in stainless steel. Consumers still see stainless as a rich look that is easy to design around.
While it is unlikely stainless will have a successor in any new color or trend, there is plenty of room for color growth from all the appliance manufacturers. Two of the industry leaders are expanding the color palate with new and exciting offerings. Whirlpool has the Ice Collection which still includes stainless steel along with White Ice and Black Ice. It is a glossy finish over the white or black finish giving an elegance that blends well with other colors and textures. GE has introduced their new finish called Slate which is versatile and a modern finish to harmonize with today’s multitude of kitchen finishes and textures. It is a soft dark grey matte finish that blends well with stainless steel and other colors in the kitchen. The Slate matte finish will resist fingerprints and soil and is easier to clean. Cleaning is the most often concern voiced by potential purchasers considering stainless steel. If you follow the manufactures cleaning instruction and with today’s available products, I don’t believe this is a real concern. If the children are putting their fingers all over the appliances and using the kitchen as a play room, the cabinets will be soiled as well and need just as much cleaning maintenance.
Specialty colors beyond white and black are available and the choices continue to expand for Pro Style premium products. Viking Range offers 23 colors and is adding more including Cinnamon, Wasabi, Dijon and Kettle Black. Wolf and Sub-Zero offer a highly reflective black glass for their “E” series ovens. AGA, Bertazzoni, LaCornue and others offer a huge color palate. Vent-A-Hood and a few others go so far as to offer over 190 colors from the RAL chart, the most popular Central European Color Standard used today.
Electrolux has introduced a black-steel finish outside the U.S. but says “ stainless steel won’t go away soon.” They also are exploring possibilities made with stone, ceramic and enamel. Thermador, GE and Monogram offer reflective or mirrored finishes for their induction cooktops that can take on the color of the surrounding backslash, a nice change from the standard black glass. Viking’s D3 series allows for the color customization of the knobs and handles and caps in whatever material and finish you want to create.
We can see that it really doesn’t matter much what is the most popular color today. It is an ever increasing choice, and it is up to us in the industry to educate our clients to the possibilities, as they are endless.
Andy Welemin, Account Manager with Westar Kitchen & Bath, has been involved in home products since 1977 and, specifically, in the appliance industry since 1983.
Andy is a member of NKBA and NARI and a past board member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, Minnesota andArizona.
You can reach Andy at Awelemin@westar-sw.com