Stainless in the Shade

Stainless in the Shade

The sleek, shiny silver veneer of stainless steel has been a kitchen mainstay for many a moon. But appliance makers and designers are adding new, attention-getting shades to the classic metallic exterior and getting consumers who might otherwise think stainless steel is impractical or passé to take a closer look.

"I've never been a fan of traditional stainless steel, but I'm obsessed with the color gray and a matte finish, which is why we went with Slate appliances," says Jamie Daniels, who recently renovated her home’s kitchen in her Orlando, Florida. A big reason Daniels and other homeowners have taken a shine to darker and different shades of stainless is that many of these newer exteriors are easy to clean and maintain, boasting resistant to smudges, scratches, dents and dirty digits.

"While people love the look of stainless steel, it takes a lot of upkeep to maintain its appearance, The new colors and finishes are smudge-proof and fingerprint free, and they don't show the same wear-and-tear as traditional stainless can," says Ben Wilson, owner of Kitchen Tune-Up in Helena, Montana.

Steven Cooper, owner of Cooper Pacific Kitchens in Los Angeles, says there's been a significant movement toward more artisanal character in kitchen design lately, resulting in fresh approaches to stainless finishes.

"Standard stainless can sometimes give off a cold or clinical feeling, whereas warmer-toned metals, like antique and agate stainless that we've installed lately, can be more inviting to look at and show more character in metal applications - rather than just a flat, consistent finish," Cooper says.

Alternative choices in appliance finishes are great differentiators for designers and homeowners seeking to create spaces that are more current and exhibit their own uniqueness, according to Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends at Jasper, Ind.-based MasterBrand Cabinets.

"These new choices either blend in or stand out in contrast to current palettes better than we have ever seen before," says Pierce, who is particularly bullish on black stainless steel gaining greater traction.

If you're considering an alternative-tone of stainless, compare features, materials and prices carefully and consult with an experienced designer.

"Trends are tricky. We all remember avocado and gold appliances is a specific timestamp in our lives," Cooper says. "You don't want to date your kitchen right away by going all in on a specific trend. Instead, consider adding the look to a block element - such as a custom panel front to a refrigerator, dishwasher or other appliance - that can be changed out down the road."

One approach is to mix and match different stainless tones throughout your kitchen, so long as you do so in a meaningful way.

"Ranges and refrigerators can easily stand on their own because they make a big visual impact, so treat them as the big furniture items in the room, while smaller items like door hardware and faucets need the benefit of cohesion to tie a whole room together," Cooper says. "In other words, apply an alternative stainless look to your larger items, and tie them together with a consistent finish on all your kitchen door pulls."

Pierce, on the other hand, is a fan of keeping all major appliances in the same color family.

"The best way to create an upscale and well-polished design theme is consistency," she says.


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