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Kitchens get brighter, but not an easy black-or-white issue

| Saturday, May 19, 2012, 3:25 p.m.
Stainless steel has been the standard, 'but color is where the volume is,' a sales executive says. Whirlpool
Stainless steel has been the standard, 'but color is where the volume is,' a sales executive says. Bluestar
Stainless steel has been the standard, 'but color is where the volume is,' a sales executive says. Bluestar

Kitchens are getting brighter in colors, but adding those greens and yellows could be responsible for a bad case of the blues.

Marc Scurci, an interior designer with offices in Squirrel Hill and Greensburg, cautions it can be frustrating to be severely limited by future color choices because of one decision.

"So you decide you want a green dishwasher and then you're stuck," he says.

But the Berks County-based Blue Star appliance firm can make its equipment in 190 colors at any given time, says John Novella, its vice president of sales. Beyond that, he says, the company can match any color it doesn't have.

"Stainless isn't going away," he says of the steel that has been the King of the Kitchen for more than a decade. "But color is where the volume is."

But the whole decision on whether to go with more color in the kitchen is not an easy black-or-white issue.

Colors and even wood tones have become popular as kitchens have become more popular overall as homespaces. Stephen Saint-Onge, a decorator, magazine contributor and blogger known as Designer Dad, says colors have become more popular because the kitchen is being used more often as a gathering spot in the house.

"Now, instead of the separate room where food is prepared, we have a site where people get together and have some wine while the host does the preparation," he says. "So colors are being used to match cabinet or countertop colors or bold steps are being taken in backsplashes."

It points to the long journey from the days of white stoves and refrigerators when ice-cube makers referred to the person unloading the tray.

There has even been a change since stainless steel and black seized control. Those two shades both maintain popularity, but as kitchens have grabbed more importance as an entertainment spot, there has been a greater concentration on decorating.

Ice can be really cool

"Stainless is classy," says Mark Uchida, a designer and owner of A ReMARKable Kitchen in Blawnox. "But now you have greater interest in color, including wood looks to match cabinets."

Even veining in some pieces of granite creates an interest in or demand for color.

Nick Hillebrand from Don's Appliances in Upper St. Clair agrees "stainless is still the king," but says the busiest area of interest he has seen recently is color, particularly all of the possibilities from Blue Star.

Hillebrand even has seen white being discontinued by some appliance makers because of its reduced use in design.

But Monica Teague, senior manager for public relations form Whirlpool, sees a use of color even when the shades are black and white.

Whirlpool currently is marketing White Ice and Black Ice models on appliances in which those basic tones are getting a more steely look, accented by chrome handles and trim.

"It's a whole new spin to traditional white," she says. "It is taking something old and making it new again."

Scurci looks at those directions as ways of producing the "transitional" look that moves a kitchen into a more modern look without abandoning the traditional touches.

"It's easier that deciding everything has to be red," he says.

The 'what-if' of colors

Saint-Onge, who also serves as a consultant for Whirlpool, says those forms of black and white can be used instead of the more traditional ebony and stainless steel to created a "safety zone where you don't go overboard with color."

Not being too dramatic is important for what he says are the two largest groups of homeowners: the renovator who is looking at the home for resale possibilities or the re-doer who is making that home comfortable for the long stay.

But Blue Star's Novella thinks colors create the "what-if possibility" in design.

While he agrees that colors can be determining factors in design, they also allow a homeowner to do something that couldn't be done otherwise.

"Color is a very important part of our business," he says, admitting stainless is still a big part of Blue Star business, too.

Teague says most interest in color comes from some starting point, whether in cabinets or appliances or even countertops. By matching those elements that are most important or most desired, a homeowner or designer will take a concept a certain way.

But stainless and black appliances -- or even White Ice -- allow that design "with what you already have."

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