What’s New in Kitchen Appliances

Your choices for old-style appliances now go beyond the vintage or reproduction stove and the ’50s fridge to entire suites. Buy to match, or mix retro and new.

Big Chill, maker of retro refrigerators, now offers a full line of mid-century kitchen appliances.

Enameled European gas cookers from AGA Marvel are legendary. Fisher & Paykel introduced the dishwasher drawer. And Sub-Zero has been the last word in refrigeration since it invented the stand-alone freezer in the 1940s.

Now those companies, along with many other manufacturers, offer full suites of appliances, starting with the basics—stoves and refrigerators—and extending to gadgets newly in demand and ever more exotic . . . not just microwave ovens and dishwashers, but also espresso machines, wine chillers, and everything for the outdoor kitchen.

For those who want appliances to blend into a vintage-style kitchen, manufacturers of “antique” and retro-style appliances have been expanding their lines, too. Big Chill, known for its 1950s retro refrigerators in eye-popping colors, just introduced a new style, the ’60s Retropolitan, as well as a new dishwasher with a stainless-steel tub and integrated panel; it wouldn’t look out of place in a mid-century kitchen.

Integrated under-counter refrigerators like this one from Elmira Stove Works has been offering “antique” ranges with nickel-plated trim, reminiscent of 19th-century stoves, for more than 20 years, including all-gas, all-electric, and wood-burning ranges. Their other offerings include refrigerators, wall ovens, dishwashers, even microwave ovens. A second line, the very colorful Northstar, includes ranges, stove splashbacks and range hoods, refrigerators, and dishwasher panels ideal for homes built in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. Similarly, Heartland, now part of the AGA Marvel family, offers both antique-style and contemporary lines of kitchen appliances. At the other end of the spectrum, a handful of companies still make only one kind of appliance: ranges or range hoods, for example. Playing on a single strength doesn’t mean limited choices. Colors, styles, widths, and customization options can be extensive. Lacanche, for instance, has more than a dozen styles and sizes of cooking stoves, in many gorgeous colors. [caption]The Northstar range, here in Buttercup Yellow.

Whether period-look or contemporary, not all appliances are created equal, even across brands, so be diligent in your research. Before buying any appliance, check online for unbiased reviews or scuttlebutt about recurring problems. One example: digital keypads and plastic knobs, both now common on ranges at all price points, may mean trouble if they’re installed too close to heating elements.

For sources, see the Products & Services Directory.

Tags: appliance kitchens Mary Ellen Polson OHI March/April 2012 Old-House Interiors

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