Kitchen trends: It don't mean a thing if it's still got that bling

Consumer Reports News: March 16, 2011 06:07 PM

Those muscular pro-style appliances are just so pre-recession. In today’s redesigned kitchens, more and more homeowners are opting for cozy gathering spaces to not only cook and eat but to do homework and watch television too, according to Kitchens Play Hide and Sleek in today’s Wall Street Journal. Out go the trophy appliances and in come the couches and antique armoires. It’s like “the Situation” threw a shirt over his six-pack abs.

Appliance bling is now being hidden behind panels and under counters. "People are gravitating toward a more simplistic or minimalist look," Paul Leuthe, corporate marketing manager for Sub-Zero told the Journal. "I think a clean kitchen is more pleasing to the eye. It makes you feel calmer."

Of course, being a minimalist can take a lot of work. Fortunately, we found some appliances in our Ratings that can be hidden or nicely concealed. The bonus is you’ll get top performance for an understated price.

Refrigerators. Standouts in our tests that take custom trim kits include the Samsung RF263AE ($1,400) cabinet-depth French-door refrigerator, the top-freezer Samsung RB197AB[WP] ($1,100), and the side-by-side Bosch B22CS50SN ($2,300). Even if you don’t opt for the panels, you’ll get a more streamlined look.

Dishwashers. Nearly all of the high-end dishwashers in our tests can be fitted with a decorative trim panel, starting with our Best Buy Whirlpool Gold GU2300XTV ($500). But the Whirlpool lacks the hidden controls and lower noise level that makes the more expensive KitchenAid KUDE60FV ($1,200), a better candidate for concealment.

Cooktops. Induction cooktops provide the smooth surface of an electric range and the precise control of a gas-powered model without the latter’s bulky burners. The Frigidaire Professional FPCC3085K[S] ($1,100) and Kenmore Elite 4283[0] ($1,850), were good performers. 

Range hoods. Range hoods like the $1,900 ductless Double Vertigo stainless steel model we saw at the 2011 International Builders’ Show (see photo) can be mistaken for a sculpture. And Whirlpool has introduced a $949 stainless steel and glass canopy.

Microwaves. These workhorses are “One of the most most aesthetically challenged of all the appliances," Chicago-based kitchen designer Mick De Giulio told the Journal. Experts advise hiding them inside a cabinet or behind a movable panel. The smaller-sized Kenmore 6912 ($130), Kenmore 6633[9] )$140), and Sanyo EM-S6588S ($115) we tested are good candidates for concealment.

—Reporting by Gian Trotta

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