Once tucked away from public view, kitchens have become a nexus for home life and entertaining. To make the utilitarian spaces more welcoming, appliance makers are rolling out kinder, gentler appliance looks. “We’re on the cusp of a new aesthetic,” says Lou Lenzi, director of design for GE Appliances. For a while, everybody wanted to be Emeril Lagasse, he says, flaunting “big, chunky knobs on the range and big, heavy grates on the cooktop.” The new aesthetic, he says, involves “more furniture-like appliances,” with rounded edges and handles, less metallic sheen, and sometimes even a little color.
This year the U.S. market for consumer appliances will grow 3.8 percent, to $56 billion, while the global market will expand 3.7 percent, to $373 billion, according to Euromonitor International. U.S. sales are set to rise an additional 5.8 percent in 2014. Stainless steel appliances remain the runaway favorite, says John Petrie, 2014 president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. “It’s a good neutral, and it works well in lots of environments,” he says.