Out With the Stainless, in With a New Look
If you’ve noticed a difference in appliances of late, you aren’t alone. Stainless steel, once the go-to for those looking to streamline the modern kitchen, is getting a field of competitors in the mid-tier field. For some appliance makers, like GE’s CAFÉ line, it’s back to black and white, but with a bit of a spin from that drab 80s style you may remember from the old days.
“By disrupting what we call the ‘sea of stainless’ appliance offerings, CAFÉ gives consumers the opportunity to customize their appliance hardware through our customizable professional collection, or choose a more contemporary and urban glass finish through our modern glass collection,” says Wayne Davis, senior brand director for CAFÉ.
Davis calls the price point “mass premium,” which falls somewhere in the middle for luxury appliance buyers — and it’s a place where many appliance makers are now landing, especially those who are choosing to take more risks with finishes and color. For CAFÉ, that means matte black and matte white offerings, and customizable handles available in brushed black, copper, bronze, and stainless steel (Mr. Davis says that more colors and finishes may be available down the road as well).
“CAFÉ is all about giving consumers, who are more self-aware and expressive than ever before, the opportunity to design kitchens that fit their personal tastes with an offering of unique finishes and hardware options,” he says. “CAFÉ is the first brand to make this kind of appliance personalization available at a mass premium price point, while also delivering on exceptional appliance performance.”
The brand has also introduced a modern glass quad-door and four-door refrigerator, as well as innovations like LED light paneling with a geometrical pattern “inspired by Art Deco design on the back wall,” Mr. Davis says. Glass is a steadily rising trend in this mid-tier of luxury refrigerators, where other appliance makers — most notably Samsung, with their Bespoke line of refrigerators — have taken risks with colored glass, a trend that was momentarily popular in the 1990s and that is emerging once again as homeowners look to move away from stainless steel. The Samsung line, which retails from about $3000 to $4000, recently announced the release of the MyBespoke capability, enabling consumers to add original artwork or photos custom-printed on the French doors of their refrigerators, too, for a fully customized space.
For CAFÉ, notably, approachable luxury also means the integration of technology. The brand produces a line of induction ranges, and their induction, electric, and dual fuel ranges are all Alexa-, Google Home-, and Nest-compatible. Some of the more overlooked appliances, Mr. Davis says, which are equally capable of adding panache to a kitchen, include the CAFÉ dishwasher drawer — a drawer that functions as two dishwasher drawers in the same space as a traditional single dishwasher — and the built-in microwave oven.
“We think of our CAFÉ appliances as the jewelry of the kitchen,” Mr. Davis says. He notes that appliances, in 2022, in the “mass premium” market, are the kind of item that homeowners might upgrade to not because their last appliances stopped working, but, rather, because they want to redefine the aesthetic of their kitchen. Will stainless ever really go out of style? No, probably not. But for now, appliance makers like CAFÉ, Samsung, and others are working to introduce buyers to the wide world of possibility.