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Technology can be overwhelming, especially when your precious new gadget is outmoded within two years. It seems fair, then, to assume that this generation’s taste for retro culture—be it film, music, or fashion—is a reaction to the constant influx of life-changing technologies.
What’s ironic about this is that consumer tech itself has given birth to a retro-inspired niche community. Usually, this manifests itself in obnoxious hipster pretenses like writing on a typewriter in Starbucks, listening to a record player in a café, or realizing that it’s actually quite difficult to raise chickens in Brooklyn. However, the style has also lent itself it an interesting design trend—one that most recently appeared in the appliance market.
Here are a few brands experimenting with design elements from the 1950s and 60s...
Smeg is an Italian brand that’s actually an acronym for “Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla,” or “Guastalla Emilia Enamel Works.” The 65-year-old company has made all order of appliances, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it began to sell 1950s-style refrigerators.
Smeg has since unveiled a line of appliances inspired by the same era. If you’ve seen any retro fridges of late, chances are it was a Smeg. These fridges are fairly popular in the U.S., but are quite expensive. The FAB 28 model, for example, costs $1,999 and doesn’t even have a separate freezer compartment. For those with the money, though, these fridges would work great as a backup unit—maybe one for the man cave.
While not currently available in the U.S., these vibrantly colored fridges from German brand Oranier are most certainly retro-style—and they include a standalone freezer! Whereas Smeg seems to favor design over features, these fridges include a bit more, such as automatic defrosting, egg containers, and an impressive freezing capacity, according to Appliancist. They’re also very efficient and quite spacious.
Big Chill took the popular design of 1950s refrigerators and applied it to a host of other home appliances, including microwaves, dishwashers, and ovens. The company also seems to have some good PR; Big Chill appliances can be found in the homes of celebrities like Rachel Ray and Scarlett Johansson. Of course, they’re even more expensive than the Smeg units, with their fridge costing just under $3,000.
Elmira Stove Works
You’d expect a company with such beautifully designed home appliances to also have a well designed website, but that’s not the case with Elmira. That aside, Elmira appliances seem to dig deeper into appliance design history, culling elements from Art Deco to the Atomic Age, with a touch of Thomas Kinkade schmaltz for good measure.
GE Artistry Series
Even GE has thrown its hat into the retro ring with its line of sleek black-or-white “artistry” appliances. These fridges, dishwashers, ranges, and microwaves each feature the vintage GE logo, and look amazing—if you’re into a choice between black and white, that is. They’re also pretty affordable; the GE Artistry fridge runs for around $1,000.
[Hero image: Big Chill]