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Stainless steel remains king in choice of kitchen appliances | TribLIVE.com
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Stainless steel remains king in choice of kitchen appliances

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Viking Range
The stainless steel look of Viking's professional-level ranges often sets a design pattern for the rest of the kitchen.
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Whirlpool
Fingerprints and smudges do not show up on Whirlpool's Ice Collection.
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Whirlpool
Whirlpool designers are pushing the simplicity of the look of white appliances.

Stainless steel appliances continue to gleam in kitchen remodeling despite some common smudges.

Rob Johnson recently finished decorating a multi-story condo in the North Side. He went the stainless route — with some reluctance.

“I don’t even like stainless,” he said with a little sigh. “I don’t like the fingerprints or the cleaning that is required, but I guess I just went with the crowd.”

Lawrenceville architect Ben Maguire said he and his wife are redoing their kitchen and will use stainless steel appliances even though they really do not like the look.

“Where are you going to go?” he said.

Many options exist for kitchen jobs: black, colors, panels that make appliances blend with cabinetry. Every so often, a bold kitchen designer will predict the demise of stainless steel. But for decades, it has been a clear-cut favorite for homeowners who want to proclaim the seriousness of their kitchen design, said Jeff Martin, head of Primrose Homes, a construction firm, and Heart of the Home, a design and cabinetry company. They are headquartered in Cranberry.

“It is the status symbol of what you are doing in your kitchen,” he said.

Johnson said equipment availability is one of the main reasons for the popularity of stainless. It guided his choice.

“I wanted to get a Viking range; and if you want one of those, you just have to go stainless,” he said.

His comment is not really correct, but brings up Viking’s role in setting the pattern.

Tim Tyler, a spokesman for the Mississippi-based appliance maker, said the company offers 11 other colors including cobalt blue and apple red. But 95 percent of its sales are in stainless, he said.

He said most Viking customers are interested in having a “commercial-type” range, which means it provides all of the heat control and cooking features of a professional unit. In doing that, they go after the commercial look of heavy-duty stainless steel.

From there, he said, choosing other stainless appliances follows.

Other numbers related to the use of stainless steel are equally remarkable.

Mark Uchida, owner of A ReMARKable Kitchen in Blawnox, said 80 to 90 percent of his design firm’s clients choose stainless steel appliances.

Jeff Backus, owner of Manor House Kitchens in Greensburg, said a similar proportion of his customers do the same.

Rachel Pavilack, a Weirton, W.Va., interior designer who often works in this area, has been noticing a 50 percent increase in paneling appliances to make them look like cabinetry. But when paneling is not chosen, she said, the choice of stainless steel is “95, well, almost 100 percent.”

Uchida and Backus agreed stainless steel provides “that commercial feeling” that goes beyond a simple choice of design colors.

Backus, however, said some home­owners simply want their kitchen to look stylish, even if they’re not that interested in cooking.

“There is stainless out there for every consumer,” he said.

Companies such as GE and Whirlpool offer stainless steel products in more moderate prices and even in their high-end lines. Some are not stainless steel, but have the desired look — sometimes with added benefits.

“Did you know you can’t hang a magnet on stainless steel?” Backus said. “Forget about those fridge magnets. But you can with GE’s Clean Steel and other stainless-like products.”

He said those near-stainless products are less prone to showing fingerprints and marks that are issues with stainless steel.

Whirlpool has attacked the fingerprint-smudging issue with its Ice Collection, appliances with stainless-steel-like plain surfaces but in black and white.

“The collection is a break from the uniform whites, blacks and the ever-popular stainless steel,” said spokeswoman Samantha Smitala. “In other words, white is the new stainless.”

She would not say where stainless steel products rank in Whirlpool sales.

Pavilack believes white is the color to watch in coming years. Its simplicity and ability to be blended with white cabinetry make it a strong design choice, she said.

Clients using white in that manner probably would be similar to those interested in paneling: Their projects are so high-end that trying to make a statement with stainless steel wouldn’t matter, she said.

Martin agreed. He is noticing growing interest in paneling, too, and said the elimination of the stainless-steel look is not an issue.

“You have your Viking, Wolf, Sub-Zero or Thermador appliances and they just stand on their own,” he said.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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