Stylish & Flexible

by WOHe

The kitchen has long been cited as the centerpiece of the American
home a place where we prepare and share meals, entertain friends,
spend quiet time alone or bond with family members, plan daily
activities and express our individual style and personality.

Just as our kitchens reflect our innermost selves, the
appliances we choose give evidence to our personal tastes, cultural
backgrounds, special needs, and daily priorities. And,
increasingly, these appliances act as status symbols, as well.

“The luxury market continues to expand and pave the path,
raising a new bar for quality and features that allow for
customization, personalization, convenience and flexibility,” says
Julia Uribe, strategic marketing director for Marvel Industries in
Richmond, IN. Uribe explains the raising of the bar also “increases
a market base of consumers seeking to achieve a

While the high-end appliance market continues to make its
presence felt in the kitchen, appliances have found their way into
other areas of the home, as well. According to Uribe, “Today,
appliances have far exceeded their original boundaries [and are
making headway] into other areas of the home, including media
centers and home theaters, dens, libraries, bedroom suites, wine
cellars, spas, in-home gyms, pool-side cabanas, the nursery and
outdoor kitchens.” The growing luxury market and the ability to
hide appliances have given birth to the “satellite kitchen,” she

Chilling Out
There is probably no other kitchen appliance requiring more
flexibility than today’s refrigerator. Users are demanding a wide
array of features and designs, and manufacturers are seeing an
increased demand for compartmentalization. According to Jane Crump,
spokesperson for Viking Range Corp., in Greenwood, MS, features
such as “separate temperature and humidity zones, built-in water
filters and design integration” are on the rise. Crump also points
to the demand for moisture-adjustable zones that allow food storage
at ideal moisture levels.

Nancy Butner, contract marketing manager for Whirlpool Corp. in
Benton Harbor, MI, explains that features such as locking seals for
keeping produce at the proper humidity, sensors that monitor and
maintain independent temperatures, multiple-zone interiors and
refrigerator models with advanced adjustable temperature controls
are popular amenities.

According to Crump, “The trend is toward adjustability.” Clients
are looking for adjustable door bins and shelves in order to
customize their refrigerators. Manufacturers are also offering
adjustable bins “that put often-used jars and cartons within easy
reach,” says Butner.

Uribe concurs: “Flexibility and convenience are key components
for decision making today. The flexibility of a particular product
is just as important as the overall flexibility it lends to any

Aside from the growing market for specialty refrigeration, three
basic choices of refrigerator/freezer models are in play in today’s
market: the bottom freezer with top refrigerator, top freezer with
bottom refrigerator, and side by side model. Brian Hendrick,
v.p./sales and marketing for Elmira Stove Works, in Elmira,
Ontario, Canada, says, “Bottom-mount popularity seems to be on the

Crump agrees, saying, “Bottom-mount refrigerator/freezers are
gaining popularity, as they allow storage of the most commonly used
refrigerated items at waist/ eye level.” Crump points out that
side-by-sides continue to be popular because of the storage
flexibility they offer.

The important thing to note, however, is the increasing interest
in a broad selection of refrigerator or freezer options. Crump
explains this growing trend. “Smaller under-counter refrigeration,
wine storage and ice machines are becoming increasingly important
as they are used not only in the primary kitchen but also in
secondary kitchens, bar areas, outdoor kitchens and even master
bedroom suites.”

Under-counter refrigeration offers both convenience and status,
and upscale clients are finding multiple uses for these products.
Jennifer Uihlein Straszawski, vice president and director of
marketing for U-Line Corp. in Milwaukee, WI, says, “Under-counter
icemakers and refrigerators offer many conveniences. From auxiliary
appliances for additional storage space in the kitchen to the
primary icemaker and refrigerator in a media room snack center,
there are endless application possibilities. Such unique
applications define the lifestyle trend by making living and
entertaining easy anywhere in the home.”

Other examples include a refrigerated drawer at the prep sink or
a combo icemaker/refrigerator in the master bedroom suite.
A professional look in the kitchen continues to be in high demand,
and stainless steel continues to be the front-runner.

“Although stainless steel is very important, the trend toward
‘hiding’ refrigerators behind panels is growing,” says Crump. She
adds, “People like the option of matching the refrigerator to the
kitchen cabinetry and being able to install the refrigerator
completely flush with the cabinetry.”

Stainless steel may be all the rage, but for those looking for
something unique, there are always color options. According to
Hendrick, “Our color trends don’t reflect the industry as a whole.
We offer very unique colors.” Hendrick maintains that wood panel
kits designed to hide the refrigerator “may not be as popular as
they once were.”

Wine as Status
The wine storage appliance
category continues to enjoy strong growth in its market.
Straszawski says, “Demand has pushed this appliance to the
forefront of the market, making it one of the hottest appliance
trends today.”

The recent surge of interest in wines has given a shot in the
arm to this piece of the market. Straszawski points primarily to
the social status associated with collecting wines. “The primary
consumer is a wine enthusiast who wishes to showcase a collection
where friends and guests will be impressed by his or her good taste
and sophistication,” she says.

While creating a wine cellar may be the best way to store wine,
many clients are choosing to incorporate a more practical wine
storage unit in their homes. Wine storage appliances that offer
flexibility are important, as well. Multiple temperature zones are
of paramount importance to the proper storage of wine, says Uribe.
She adds that a variety of options with regard to capacity and
shelving is important.

The wine storage unit is being used beyond the kitchen and bar
areas, often being installed in the bedroom suite, library, den,
home office, dining room or outdoor kitchen, manufacturers say.

Both Straszawski and Uribe agree that wine storage units are
expected to convey style and uniqueness. Many of the units sold
today are of a contemporary, sleek and sophisticated style. The
lighting is a key component in setting the right ambiance.

Creative Cooking
When it comes to cooking,
style and innovation are at the forefront. A professional stainless
steel look continues to be hot, although manufacturers say that
product design is beginning to lean toward softer lines along with
softer palettes. Monochromatic tones in black and white are also in

Bryce Wells, marketing manager for Fisher & Paykel in
Irvine, CA, says, “Appliance design is moving toward a simpler
style, with cleaner lines rather than the bulky look associated
with traditional commercial appliances.”

Although stainless still rules, Wells claims that “easy to clean
and maintain surfaces are going to grow in popularity as people
tire of the on-going maintenance with traditional brushed stainless

Brent Spann, marketing manager for Dacor in Pasadena, CA, adds,
“Glass is also trending up for its easy cleanability and for the
additional colors available.”

Hendrick adds, “Ease of cleaning is also important, which is why
we are starting to sell more smooth-top ranges.”

Manufacturers agree that consumers are looking for higher BTU
output for cooking appliances and for larger burners and oven
capacities. According to Butner, “Higher BTUs for cooktops are
increasingly popular, but we’re also finding that providing a wide
range of BTU choices is a key element.”

Today’s consumers are showing great interest in preparing a
broader variety of foods. Ethnic and gourmet specialty cooking have
become popular, as the trend toward healthier eating has picked up
steam and global awareness has increased. As a result,
manufacturers are offering options such as grills and woks as part
of the cooking appliance.

Wells says, “The increased diversity of the ethnicity of foods
today is broadening the requirement from cooking appliances such as
higher and lower powered cooking surfaces and increased control and
accuracy over the temperatures.”

In an effort to help speed things up in the kitchen, appliances
are “smarter” today than ever before. However, many find the myriad
electronic options overwhelming. “People have little tolerance for
learning to use appliances,” says Wells. He predicts that newer
technology will be designed in such a way that appliances do more
while being easier to operate.

Whether or not manufacturers will be able to convince consumers
to use all the technology available remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, Spann says, “The future looks extremely bright and
intelligent for cooking appliances.”

Hendrick sees induction as a technology to “keep an eye on.” He
says, “The technology is now here and improved, and I feel that it
is about to surface into the mainstream North American appliance
market in the next few years.”

Uribe agrees that the “reintroduction of induction cooking” will
impact the market. She also points to the “multi-function ovens,
steam ovens, built-in coffee systems and the European modular
cooking surfaces” as innovations that will grow in

Keeping it Clean
A number of manufacturers
agree that dishwasher style is all about stainless steel and/or
integration. With dishwasher options that include hidden electronic
controls positioned on the top of the door, “a fully integrated
custom door can be installed, blending perfectly and seamlessly
into existing or new cabinetry,” says Spann.

Crump believes consumers are hooked on stainless steel tanks and
doors because they are the “safest, most efficient way to clean
dishes because they are rustproof and ultra durable.” Crump adds
the full-overlay panel on the door of a dishwasher gives the unit a
“sleek, hidden look that is flush with the cabinetry,” making this
a strong aesthetic winner as well as a functionally sound

Butner, however, claims there is a “recent trend toward more
vibrant color in the kitchen.”

Butner further notes, “Increasing numbers of Americans consider
themselves environmentalists.” Consequently, manufacturers are
offering water- and energy-saving options on their

When it comes to dishwashers, designers are finding that their
clients are looking for flexibility. Quiet operation, flexible
storage and speed are all important, while several cycles and
choices of capacity are also increasingly becoming the norm.

In fact, Wells believes many of this amenities are no longer
just desired, but expected. “Quiet operation is certainly
important, though almost a given attribute [along with efficiency]
in high end dishwashers.” Wells also cites a trend toward increased
use of multiple dishwashers in the kitchen, as well as the use of
additional dishwashers placed in home entertainment areas such as
the bar or pool area.

The food waste disposer market is also offering quieter products
in an effort to respond to demands. “The disposer market continues
to grow, as most new housing incorporates a garbage disposal as a
part of its plumbing package,” says Lisa Engel, marketing
manager/water products, for In-Sink-Erator in Racine, WI. Engel
adds that today’s products include treatments to help break down
food waste in the disposer and in the septic system, and an
air-activated switch for island applications.

Finally, hot water dispensers are another new area of growth.
“Consumers are looking for kitchen appliances that can
help them complete their tasks more confidently and efficiently so
that they can have more time to relax and enjoy,” says Engel. She
points to a large array of possibilities for using the hot water
dispensers beyond the obvious choice of hot beverages. These
include cooking pasta, instant rice and potatoes, and warming baby

“Style trends for these products,” says Engel, “tend to mimic
those of kitchen faucets. An instant hot water dispenser
complements the kitchen décor, but does not define it. So,
we’ve seen the demand for unique finishes increase


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