The stainless steel appliance hegemony has ended.
On Monday, Whirlpool introduced a new premium exterior finish that they call "White Ice." With clean lines, silver accents and streamlined controls, the new collection's refrigerator, range, dishwasher, and microwave are a departure from the flash and glitz of stainless steel and its many lookalikes. In fact, the combination of a white finish, stainless handles and mirrored glass appear to have a lot in common with Apple's popular design language.
The streamlined new look combines with simplified features that Whirlpool says will make the appliances easier to use. "In addition to the intuitive technology, the line takes a fresh look at appliance design and features flawless exteriors that add beauty to any home," said Pat Schiavone, Whirlpool's VP of Global Consumer Design.
Because the whole suite of appliances have such a unique style that's exclusive to one manufacturer, it's a safe bet that Whirlpool is hoping customers will upgrade their entire kitchen instead of taking a piecemeal approach.
Whirlpool seems to be aiming their new finish at customers who have grown weary of stainless and its numerous imitators. Indeed, the manufacturer says the new finish is "signifying a shift in the culture of home appliances." Because it's essentially an update of the classic white exterior, White Ice may appeal to consumers who are bored by stainless but also don't want their kitchens to look dated. For Whirlpool, it's an attempt to appeal to homeowners in a bottomed-out housing market, where renovating is less about increasing resale value and more about appealing to an individual's own tastes.
Before the recession, investors looking to flip a house for profit wanted to install upscale finishes that could cheaply and easily update the look of a home. So from the HGTV-era onward, the most popular kitchens have combined granite countertops along with stainless steel appliances. Go to any home improvement store and you'll be sure to see rows upon rows of fridges and dishwashers with stainless steel and stainless-style exteriors.
It wasn't always that way, and all it takes is a look at classic sitcoms to see how far kitchens have come. If I Love Lucy were in color, the Ricardo's kitchen likely would've had pastel finishes alongside white and stainless. Along with shows like Maude and Soap, the '70s and early '80s brought in earth tones, like avocado, harvest gold and almond. Later on, white and bisque became popular -- even on the upscale appliances that Geoffrey tended to in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
In addition to the modern White Ice, there are several other alternative finishes available on premium appliances. Smeg, an Italian company, builds retro-looking fridges that could easily be mistaken for your grandmother's Norge. They're available in a whole rainbow of shades, from bright yellow to deep purple. AGA, a British manufacturer, puts hard vitreous enamel surfaces in a variety of different colors on their ovens and dishwashers. Whirlpool's own Amana division also introduced a series of colorful refrigerators in 2009, including an exterior called Green Tea which features a floral motif.
The new White Ice refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave will be on display at New York City's Rockefeller Plaza this week for House Beautiful magazine's Kitchen of the Year event.