The Look of Stainless Steel Has Lost the Look of Love

It has been a 25-year run for the look of stainless steel, but has it’s time come?

In our constantly changing world, the newest look always seems to be the most sought after product that we can purchase. Currently, it is a pivotal moment in kitchen design, causing major manufacturers to speculate as to the new look that will succeed stainless steel in the world of kitchen design. The trend seems to point to the major decline of the ever popular stainless steel, even though there does not seem to be any clear successor lining up to de-throne the reigning finish king.

The appliance industry has tried to introduce and promote new finish looks before, which led to no success. “Oiled-bronze,” “antique copper,” and a gray hue called “meteorite” are a few that almost made a run for champ of the kitchen finishes. Whirlpool Corporation, the world’s now largest appliance manufacturer, recently introduced its “Ice Collection” of appliances, including glossy white. “White is the new stainless steel,” quotes a Whirlpool representative.

Wishful thinking? One might think so since competitor General Electric, just last week, introduced refrigerators, ovens, microwaves and dishwashers in a muted gray called “slate,” and this will soon be coupled with new high-gloss finishes that they plan to unleash to the U.S. sometime soon.

Bottom line, introducing a new finish is a risk, and one that can cost enough to make the colors matter. Development takes approximately a year or so, which is a lengthy amount of time, especially in the appliance industry. Typically, stores will grant extra space to new ideas, but usually manufacturers’ have to work within a given number of slots, which means that if the product is unsuccessful than the manufacturer has just lost significant numbers on overall sales.

Why does this matter? Why are manufacturers’ even bothering with “color-scheming?” Essentially, the appliance market is in need of a significant boost due to the slump in the housing market, which has resulted in an even more significant slump in appliance sales. This means that manufacturers’ are trying to dazzle the buyer with new looks at every turn.

Fear not, for stainless steel is not being completely pushed out. However, there is a changing role that kitchens are playing in the American household, and this role reflects the changing times, of which appliance manufacturers are well aware. Therefore, manufacturers will continue to keep stainless steel finish in their collections, but consumers should be on the look-out for new and innovative looks for very common appliances. Within the past decade, kitchens have been central to the home in the sense that children and parents alike spent a significant portion of their time bonding in that central location. However, with every room having a television and technology added to it, the family now splits at dinner time and this makes for the kitchen to be a much less essential place of meeting. But this breakdown of the American home is one that appliance manufacturers are looking to change and they hope to once again make the kitchen a place of gathering and quality time.

It is certainly whimsical to think that common appliances and their related finishes can have such profound effect on our everyday lives. However, this is precisely the thinking that manufacturers task their marketing team with in order to rejuvenate the family spirit in the modern American home. You may feel a tug of nostalgia in the coming years, but the question will be if this is targeted marketing, or just are you really longing for that special “look of steel?”

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