More appliance manufacturers are betting on black stainless
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If you haven’t heard of black stainless, chances are you will soon—whether you’re shopping for appliances, watching a home renovation show on TV, or reading a kitchen design blog.
The finish first appeared on LG and Samsung appliances back in early 2015, but now it’s expanded to models from all major manufacturers. Whirlpool and Frigidaire are the latest to join, both debuting new black stainless suites in January.
Manufacturers hope the finish will appeal to consumers who want a neutral, modern look that stands out from traditional stainless—which has dominated the market for over a decade.
According to Narss Lapinid, who designed Frigidaire’s new take on black stainless, the finish has “the same quality and durability of stainless steel, but [is] more unique and modern looking.”
Indeed, most black stainless finishes are tinted versions of stainless steel, and are just as rust-proof and durable as the more traditional silvery stainless look. The darker tone is designed to blend with all different cabinetry finishes, and can even be mixed and matched with black or stainless steel appliances.
"Black stainless steel—I can promise you—is here to stay," said Nate Berkus, the designer and TV personality who advises LG on its Studio series—which is now available in the new color. Berkus says he appreciates how black stainless blends with other finishes. "There's a warmth and a patina to it."
While widespread industry adoption is a good sign that black stainless will be here to stay, sales data shows that consumers aren’t quite remodeling in droves. According to industry analysts at TraQline, 86 percent of appliances sold are still the traditional finishes of black, white, or stainless steel.
Just under 4 percent of appliances sold in the third quarter of 2016 were black stainless. That’s an increase from 3 percent in the first quarter and 3.8 percent in the second—but still less than a tenth of a percent of how many stainless appliances were sold during the same time periods.
For their part, manufacturers are optimistic. "It's been trending up every year since we introduced it—significantly," said Dave VanderWaal, VP of marketing at LG. He sees younger buyers remodeling their entire kitchens in black stainless suites, and all kinds of homeowners mixing and matching replacement pieces.
To help show off the finish's versatility, LG unveiled a website where consumers can match their own kitchen color palettes with black stainless.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s what every manufacturer has to offer:
The newest appliance manufacturer to introduce black stainless is Frigidaire, who has a whole suite of Frigidaire Gallery appliances in the finish—including French door and top-freezer fridges, single and double wall ovens, gas and electric ranges, plus a dishwasher and a microwave. The first products will hit stores as soon as April.
The overall look is almost like a smoked or tinted stainless, with black accents and handles to match. Based on MSRP, the black stainless appears to sell for about $100 more per unit than traditional stainless—although sale prices may erase some or all of that gap. Additionally, Frigidaire plans to expand the lineup beyond the Gallery series to entry-level Frigidaire products later this year.
In addition to the black stainless appliances available in LG's core lineup, the LG Studio sub-brand is also going to be available in black stainless for 2017. The LG Studio suite gets design from Nate Berkus, and comes in a satin, black stainless finish.
Available appliances include a counter-depth French door fridge with InstaView, a dishwasher, and an all-new Studio-specific range hood.
Brushed and matte, Whirlpool’s black stainless appliances also sport the company’s new, flatter handles. The overall look—or “visual brand language,” as marketing teams call it—is more like a sports car than an appliance. Although it’s genuine stainless steel, we found it a lot easier to clean.
Whirlpool first showed off the finish in January at CES, and a French door fridge, wall oven, front-control range, and dishwasher suite should go on sale later in 2017. Pricing has not yet been announced, but don’t confuse it with Black Ice. That finish combines a more traditional black exterior with stainless handles.
Also new for January 2017, GE’s finish is the only one that isn’t genuine stainless steel. Instead, it’s a different take on GE’s alternative Slate exterior, which first hit the market in 2012. It is more fingerprint resistant than stainless, and has a flat, charcoal look. It should be on sale later in 2017.
The Kenmore Elite black stainless collection is already on sale, and includes a French door fridge, dishwasher, gas or electric range, and microwave.
It also looks quite similar to what LG has to offer. That’s because LG manufactures all Kenmore black stainless appliances. The handle design and control panels are all a little different, but everything remains the same underneath.
One of the three original black stainless offerings, Samsung’s black stainless is closer to a brushed gunmetal finish. It’s already on sale, and is available on everything from four-door fridges to a new lineup of built-in wall ovens.
Another original contender, KitchenAid’s take on black stainless is a little different than anything else on the market. It contrasts thick, knurled, traditional stainless handles with a dark, matte black stainless finish. It’s already available at authorized KitchenAid retailers, AND
Outside of Studio, LG has expanded its black stainless offerings since 2015. With a satin black finish, matching handles, and both bright and dark accents, it’s a more modern and sleek look than some of the other choices on the market.
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