Stainless steel: king of heavy metal Design: Cool, silvery look shines inside and outside the kitchen.

September 21, 1997|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, heavy metal is making its way back onto the hit parade in homes across America.

No, not the rock music metal, but stainless steel. You'll find it in the kitchen, of course, but you'll also find it making clean, bright design statements in the bedroom, living room, dining room and bath.

The matte silvery look also has shown up in galvanized tin, and for those who prefer a little polish, chrome remains strong. But stainless is king of stove hoods and kitchen appliances, while it makes a smooth transition into other rooms.

"Stainless is the new neutral," says Wendy Silverstein, home editor for American HomeStyle & Gardening magazine. "It's a classic. It's affordable. What's nice about it is that it's available in so many products, from sinks to refrigerators to furniture."

And, thanks to improved technology, the new stainless is far easier to care for. It's not so sensitive to fingerprints, it holds a permanent sheen, and it cleans easily with a damp cloth.

In the kitchen, stainless is giving black and white appliances some stiff competition. What used to be a strictly Eurostyle, high-tech or commercial look has become mainstream.

Sinks, dishwashers, refrigerators, cook tops, ranges and sculptural stove hoods in stainless exquisitely mate form and function and are being produced by nearly every major manufacturer.

One eye-grabbing application is a compact kitchen designed by Rochelle Kalisch of New York. A certified kitchen designer, Kalisch brought maple and stainless together in a diamond pattern, giving the back-splash and refrigerator panel a quilted look.

The counter top and sink are smooth stainless, a quieter application, and a stainless rod above the sink puts utensils within easy reach. A pass-through in the kitchen includes hideaway spots at either end of the granite counter for appliances behind doors that roll up like garage doors.

Stainless long has been a favorite medium for architects. Twentieth-century classics designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier are embraced today as enthusiastically as they were in the '20s and '30s.

The material is popular among contemporary designers, because it allows them to create unusual silhouettes. For example, Ethan Allen's catalog describes how contemporary "comes of age" with its Radius collection, which "melds 20th-century architectural and industrial design elements with contemporary materials -- glass, nickel-plated steel and solid veneers -- for a retro look with a modern '90s edge."

A dining set features a graceful pedestal table whose legs are cupped beneath a glass top, drawn into a central section that hugs a maple ball, and then arched to the floor. Its chair frames feature backs cut out in a spiral design.

Included in the same group is a curvy recliner with pole-like steel legs in the front and arched steel arms that extend into back legs. The arms are cushioned on top with upholstery.

Even the bedroom can benefit. Spiegel offers a bed designed along traditional lines, but its stainless steel pipe construction with a baked-on powder-coat finish and chrome-plated fittings gives the entire room added punch.

Silvery accessories also are abundant. There's a huge variety of stainless lamps on the market, ranging from high-tech halogen designs to more traditional ones, such as a shapely silhouette recently introduced by Alexander Julian.

Besides clocks (especially big are retro alarm clocks modeled after vintage models with strong art deco lines), candlesticks and picture frames, perhaps the biggest impact stainless is having on everyday objects has been in boxes.

Decorative or storage containers range from tiny stamp-holders to file-box-size metal pieces and photographers' trunks that double as side or coffee tables.

Pottery Barn's aluminum cubes are designed to show the marks of use and develop a patina with age. Contoured handles and a latch finish each piece.

Many containers are modeled after pre-World War II prototypes. For example, galvanized metal pharmacy cabinets are based on those used in pharmacies in the '30s.

In the bath, boxes come in matte and shiny chrome, to complement chrome faucets and tub and shower hardware. One particularly attractive group of ribbed chrome accessories is available through Pottery Barn.

Dornbracht even designed a ribbed chrome pedestal sink that tapers like a funnel. It is as much a piece of sculpture as it is useful.

Just as in jewelry, there are some who may be die-hard silver or gold fans. But the adaptability of stainless and similar metals has won more converts. American HomeStyle doesn't consider the popularity a mere fad. "As an accent or all-out strategy -- stainless is the new classic," a recent headline proclaimed.


* Baker Furniture, Attention: Library, 1661 Monroe Ave. N.W., Grand Rapids, Mich. 49505; 800-592-2537.

* Dornbracht no longer is available, but to get a catalog of other lines through Santile International, write to Suite 7, 2870 N. Berkely Lake Road N.W., Duluth, Ga. 30096, or call 770-814-2500.

* Ethan Allen catalog: 800-228-9229.

* Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry: Box 519, Schaefferstown, Pa. 17088; 717-949-6571.

* Pottery Barn: for store locations, call 800-922-5507.

* Spiegel: To place an order or request a catalog, call 800-345-4500.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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