WRITTEN BY COLLEEN COLEMAN, CMC DESIGN STUDIO LLC
If you are in the market for new appliances, you don't want to miss this read....
One of my favorite trends to follow each year is appliances. With all the advances made in technology, our kitchens have been moving quickly toward the “Jetson” lifestyle we all thought as more fairytale when watching the cartoon. But here we are! For the younger generation of Millennials, this is how it has always been. As we move into the future, appliances are taking on the job of providing built-in cookbooks with high-definition imaging to make even a novice chef produce a restaurant quality meal. The term “Technicurean”, coined by Signature Kitchen Suite Appliances (SKS), hits the nail on the head…we want technology integrated into our everyday cooking so we can be our own award-winning chef!
We have 5 essential appliances that make up the majority of modern kitchens: The refrigerator, range, vent hood, microwave and dishwasher. With the kitchen becoming the workhorse of the home, many have found that preparing fresh foods in lieu of dining out can be a fun, family affair. More room is being made in the kitchen to accommodate multiple generations (see my article "Seamlessly Aging in Place” on page 50). Connectivity to app devices is on the rise allowing today’s homeowners to focus on work while still monitoring dinner from their home office. Many of today’s appliances can also be operated by voice control “Alexa, preheat the oven to 350 degrees,” done! Integrated appliances (otherwise known as panel ready) are on the rise, creating a seamless look throughout the kitchen that used to be predicated to the luxury market. Much of this has been available over the past few years but now as millennials are creating a higher demand for such options, the appliance industry has responded with options available for most price points.
Let’s talk specific appliances. The range is now a full expression of cooking…yes, even in average priced models…with integrated air fry, grill tops and dual fuel (A range with gas cooktop and an electric or convection oven). The higher end models are combining elements such as sous vide, steam and induction to create a full range of food preparation all-in-one. However, today’s consumers are moving the desire for induction cooktops almost equal to gas. The technology has gained such interest that the cost has allowed a greater number of homeowners to consider purchasing induction over a gas option. These cooktops have several features that make cooking safe and easy. First, the top can detect if a liquid has overboiled and will automatically shut off. Secondly, several manufacturers have incorporated the ability to combine cooking areas for larger pots or grill pans. Thermador introduced a Freedom Induction Cooktop which allows you to put your pan anywhere and the surface detects its location. Move the pot, the heat setting follows! Induction is a great choice when working in the kitchen with kids or aging parents. And…with WIFI, you can turn your cooktop down right from your phone. (See photo: Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop on page 51.)
For finishes, stainless steel is still holding the market, and we are noticing black stainless is creeping in. In the Saratoga County area, the commercial style range is still a hot trend, however, Mary Feiden of Earl B. Feiden Appliances noted, “We are seeing more personalization of appliances, allowing our customers to create a unique kitchen space of their own.” GE Café has options such as copper accents, matte white paired with brushed bronze, and matte black with stainless steel. She also notes, “The younger generation is making healthier choices in their cooking; preparing foods to bring to work and utilizing vacuum sealers to maintain freshness longer. They are more in tune with proper planning and using the food they have in lieu of throwing it away.”
Do you want to hear a shocker?... According to the USDA, the United States food waste is estimated at between 30-40% of our food supply. That’s 133 billion pounds or $161billion worth of food in one year. Refrigeration is a huge part of this. I want to start by saying not all refrigerators are created equal. I think we are all under the impression that a refrigerator is there to just keep our food cold or frozen. Albeit, that is the base line of its function, but the modern refrigerator is so much more. Its main purpose is to preserve food longer. There are two components to look for when purchasing a refrigerator with a freezer. First, best-case scenario is a dual compressor/dual evaporator; one for the freezer and one for the refrigerator. This eliminates the exchange of air between the two compartments. No onion taste in your ice cubes and no frozen lettuce in your refrigerator. This, of course, used to be only in the high-end units. However, manufacturers like Bosch have developed their own line to compete in this market. There are other features that are still unique to the higher end units, but I have to say that the average consumer now has the opportunity to decrease their food waste by investing just a bit upfront in the refrigeration unit they purchase. Second best-case scenario is a single compressor/dual evaporator unit. Essentially, the coolant (freon) is routed according to each cabin’s needs rather than the cool air from the freezer simply being routed to the refrigerator only. It all seems a bit complicated, but I know Earl B. Feiden Appliances can help you with all your questions in finding just the right unit for your needs.
Venting hoods are the ignored child of the kitchen when it comes to advances in the industry. Stainless steel and decorative wood vents still hold an equal lead for future trends. Most often being the focal point of the kitchen, interior designers play a larger role of creating a new look over the industry updating its appearance as a whole. That being said, I think the reason for this is the vent hood is quite often a hidden element that functions quietly in the background. Most manufacturers have updated their lighting to LED along with incorporating a grill that reflects the professional atmosphere most consumers’ desire. One update in functionality I have found is the pull-out hood. I have specified the Faber Cristal recently which offered the option to incorporate a wood panel finish on the movable hood tray. The vent hood is activated when pulled out to properly cover the range or cooktop surface while preparing meals. Its sleek style offers the proper ventilation while giving a modern nod to the range area as a whole.
Microwaves on the other hand have changed in leaps and bounds. Now, I’m going to date myself, but I remember attending the NY State Fair and seeing the microwave for the first time. It cooked bacon in a few minutes. We were all wide-eyed at this advance in the cooking industry (I guess I had a thing for appliances back then too!) By the time my siblings and I were out of college, we thought our parents were so outdated, we all pitched in to get them one! Today, a microwave is a staple in the kitchen, heck in the college dorm even! No more plug-in pots for this generation…but oh the memories! According to Mary, “The microwave over the range is still a big seller as its versatile and allows the homeowner dual function as a recirculating vent. Drawer microwaves have seen a big uptick in sales especially when there is no other place to install one. It’s a safety component so you don’t have to reach over the range and can be installed to comply with ADA guidelines.” Children can learn to warm food and help prep in the kitchen as well. I love the sleekness of the drawer and probably specify this version of the microwave more than any other. With the wave of the hand, a panel drops down in full view. You make your selection for cooking and off you go. I’ve even had several of my Boomer clients in awe over this appliance! (See photo: Drawer Microwave by Thermador on page 52.) Other options in this market are those that function as a small secondary oven. Last year, I went into great detail about the Monogram 5-in-1 microwave. It does just about everything but prepare the meal for you; convection oven, toaster oven, warming/proofing oven, precision cook oven and …oh yeah, it’s a microwave too! Without preheating, this mini-marvel can make a complete chicken dinner in 15 minutes flat, and juicy as can be! For Boomers, it’s great for a household where kids have moved out and you're only making meals for one or two people on a regular basis. Pairing it with a full wall oven below puts all the baking and roasting on one wall, eliminating the need to bend down to get that casserole.
Dishwashers have also come a long way from being a dark hole with two trays and a wash cycle. With so many people enjoying the experience of eating-in, the cleaning process has to make them want to stay home too. One of the best additions is the sanitize button. You know when those dishes come out, everything has been sterilized! And in today’s world, that’s a good thing! I even add my sink strainers every cycle! The controls on the interior top are also trending as panel ready options become a common “unseen” finish. More often, the interior is now stainless steel with some manufacturers incorporating LED lights that guide you to filling and unloading the three trays more efficiently. Many of the machines on the market today are very quiet. Your sales person can guide you to which options are best for your individual needs.
Other local trends noted by Bruce Karel of Earl B. Feiden in Clifton Park is “An increase in appliances in the island such as wine coolers or an extra dishwasher. Local consumers are looking for healthier cooking options like steam ovens and appliances with longevity, the ones that will last the test of time.” Personally, I have noticed an increase in requests for alternative bar/kitchens just off the pool or lake area or a separate pool house kitchen altogether. With consumers wanting to bring the outdoors in, and the indoors out, I’m definitely seeing home entertainment on the rise and a kitchen is one area that needs to be close by.
Remember, when shopping for all these new high-tech appliances, best doesn’t always have to mean you’ll break your budget. Many of the mid-to-higher end manufacturers offer promotions with substantial savings for consumers. It’s worth having a conversation with your sales person to discuss what is most important to you in your kitchen and how you can best spend your budgeted dollars to achieve the kitchen you have always dreamed of.
So, go ahead, call out to Siri to boil that water or ask Alexa to check the temperature of your wine cooler. The future is here…The Jetsons have arrived!
Until next time my friends,
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