Black stainless and panelled appliances open a new door
As more homeowners combine their living, dining and kitchen spaces, appliances have stepped up and have stopped behaving like wallflowers. Or, in other cases, are behaving like wallflowers and doing a beautiful job of it.
Stoves, fridges, dishwashers, microwaves — they play into the decor of the entire home. The appliances you select, and how they are installed, will either elevate the kitchen design to the level of the formal living and dining areas, or they will remove the formality of those rooms to create a more casual space.
Historically, the kitchen belonged to the woman — or women — of the house. And unless invited to help, or nominated for the dishwashing line, rarely would anyone be welcomed into that private place. Television shows of the 1960s, such as Bewitched, mirrored real life as husband Darrin Stephens only ventured into the kitchen to hash out a disagreement with wife (and reluctant spell-casting witch) Samantha when the couple had company.
Then a home’s appliances were all about function, based on ease of cleaning and ease of use. The room was very narrowly focused on the kitchen triangle with a clear and efficient route between the fridge, stove and sink.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that appliances and brands became status symbols — and men were as likely to be the chef of the home. And, by then, guests simply made their way to the kitchen to socialize with the hosts as both of them were likely there, working and prepping together.
Stainless steel, very popular in appliances for years now, was originally used strictly for commercial kitchens. Some argue that its popularity was based on men becoming more interested in cooking, perhaps as a result of popular TV cooking shows and eventually hit channels such The Food Network. Professional chefs, historically, were men working in commercial kitchens and the look of a commercial kitchen became the norm.
And, as guests began to congregate in kitchens to be with the hosts, stainless appliances started to speak to the status of the home. Now, with both parents in the kitchen, the room needed to expand to accommodate not just them but to also the kids. To do that, the walls between the kitchen and family room came and allowed everyone to be together while engaging in several different tasks at the same time.
With this design, appliances were on display — like the family car — and shiny stainless steel suited that purpose well.
The kitchen island evolved partly to separate the living/dining room from the cooking area, and to create a prep zone for the chef. Originally vital in the kitchen’s design, the “triangle” became less important with the addition of an island. Items could go from the fridge to the island, and be prepped there for cooking. The fridge could then be moved back, or away. As function became less heavily weighted, design took on a new importance and appliance manufacturers saw it as a motivating factor for buyers.
The open-concept space is almost a standard in condominium design. Over the years, it has become very popular in houses, both new and renovated. Current trends now see homeowners looking for living and dining space that feels more elegant than in the previous, casual approach of the combined rooms.
One response to that is the next generation in stainless appliances — such as the recent launch of KitchenAid’s black stainless steel. You can expect to see black stainless in the Canadian market next month.
The look of this finish on major appliances is very fashion-forward, much like the counter-top appliances of KitchenAid. Textured handles in a satin finish keep the “professional” element and the end cap of each with a small medallion in the iconic KitchenAid red adds another dimension to the design. Even the oven door features a chrome frame that transitions to the glass front — purely an aesthetic element but one that works, and well. The look of the black stainless is sleek and blends beautifully with the growing popularity of dark grey cabinets.
The other huge trend with appliances is to cover them with door panels matching the rest of the cabinetry. It’s called panel receiving, and essentially hides the appliance while extending the design décor of the kitchen. With fridges and dishwashers now covered, stoves and ovens are, in some cases, the only appliances the eye can see upon entering a kitchen.
A counter-depth fridge, now standard with almost every brand, is sized at 24 inches — although a bit wider to compensate for is shallow depth. When this appliance is “panelled,” it’s impossible to tell the difference between the fridge and any other cabinet in the room. By removing the focus from these appliances, the eye travels only to the cook surface and hood vent. And now, the front of the hood vent can be panelled, as well.
The more complex and detailed the cabinets are, the more elegant the kitchen will feel. Mouldings and carvings on the doors imply a more expensive, sophisticated room. Historically, carved designs would have been done by hand and therefore cost more but the price difference is no longer significant with current technology. And, with most of the appliances hidden under detailed door fronts, the kitchen becomes elevated to the level of a more formal living/dining room.
Sinks and faucets have benefited from the focus on kitchen design — stainless steel is now just one option. For instance, Silgranit sinks by Blanco offer matching faucets to blend with the colour palette of the kitchen; a black sink and faucet are visually diminished on a dark counter top and backsplash.
Design progress in kitchen appliances has, essentially, made them invisible, allowing the room where food is prepared to also serve as an elegant dining room.
- When opening walls, be sure structural support is maintained
- Hardwood in the kitchen can tie in the living and dining rooms
- Black stainless steel combines the commercial look with fashion-forward finish
- Counter depth appliances are easily camouflaged with cabinetry
- When renovating, include spots for recycling and compost
- Treat knobs and backsplash like jewelry to the kitchen
- The kitchen is a home’s most-used room; get it right with the help of a designer.
Glen Peloso appears every two weeks in New in Homes & Condos. He is principal designer of Peloso Alexander Interiors, national design editor of Canadian Home Trends magazine and a design expert on the Marilyn Denis Show on CTV. Contact him at pelosoalexander.com, follow on Twitter at @peloso1 or @glenandjamie, and onFacebook.