black: the new black?

move over, stainless—there’s a new appliance trend in town

This article first appeared in Su Casa North Autumn 2016.

If you’re old enough to remember such things, a few decades ago appliances were white, black, or—and this one is still hard to fathom—that curious shade known as avocado. The late ’90s ushered in the era of stainless steel, which has reigned supreme to this day. Stainless has certainly proven its versatility over the years, keeping up with cabinet styles and countertop and backsplash materials that have changed steadily. But a new trend is emerging that’s part modern, part throwback.

“We’re seeing people who are tired of stainless asking about the new black stainless and slate gray appliances,” says Joe Rogillio, sales manager at Builders Source Appliance Gallery (builderssource.com) in Albuquerque.

“They’re looking for something different from what their mother, sister, or neighbor has—the new, cool thing in town.”

Builders Source carries black stainless steel appliances by KitchenAid, LG, and Samsung, as well as the slate color—a powder-coated dark gray—offered in GE’s standard and Profile lines. “Because of the big push toward contemporary in Albuquerque, about one in eight or 10 of my customers is looking into these appliances,” says Rogillio. “They really lend themselves well to a modern look.”

Joseph Candelaria, showroom consultant at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery (ferguson.com) is also seeing an upsurge in customers looking for alternatives to stainless—about 20 to 25 percent of buyers looking for new appliances. And not all of the reasons are aesthetic.

“There’s a lot of maintenance involved with real stainless steel—fingerprints and such,” Candelaria explains. “Some manufacturers of the black stainless—like KitchenAid—and slate appliances claim that their products are fingerprint- and smudge-proof. And I have to say those products do a pretty good job of that.”

Manufacturers of black stainless, graphite, and dark gray appliances are also capitalizing on the trend toward the gray and silver-colored palettes popular in many of today’s modern, transitional, and even Southwestern homes. Gray on gray and matte black on gray are two popular appliance-to-cabinetry combinations—though they’re not for everyone.

Jason Rogers, Rogillio’s sales counterpart at Builders Source in Santa Fe, notes that in his neck of the woods, the high-end, classic stainless steel appliances are still preferred by his clients. Interior designers are interested in the trendy new color options, Rogers says, but 99 percent of actual buyers in Santa Fe want stainless. Period.

So will this trend last? Depends on who you ask. Candelaria is optimistic we’ll see black stainless for a while, as suggested by KitchenAid’s recent expansion of products in that line. Rogers, who has witnessed many kitchen trends come and go over the years, predicts “new black” will go out of favor in five or six years. Indeed, brightly colored appliances in reds, oranges, blues, and retro colors seem poised to be the next big thing on the scene. But as those on the pulse of design are often quick to remind us: Black goes with everything.