Showing your true culinary colors

Appliances offer a rainbow for the kitchen

April 07, 2004|By Judith Blake | Judith Blake,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Hungry for color in your kitchen? It's a yen easily satisfied, especially if you're in the market for a new countertop appliance.

An expanding rainbow of hues - tangerine, tomato red, butter yellow, cranberry, pistachio green, ice blue, violet, pink - is tinting the mixers, blenders, food processors, espresso makers and toasters now on store shelves and finding their way into home kitchens.

"There has, thankfully, been a surge in color" on the home front, with more intense tones often replacing neutral ones, said Kathy Johnson, a Seattle color consultant specializing in paint hues.

Certain colors, especially reds, oranges and yellows, stimulate the appetite, some studies suggest, making them particularly apt for the kitchen.

Most often, however, people buy appliances in bright hues simply to add a splash of color, and tastes range to every shade. Although other items - colorful utensils, canisters, dish towels, potholders, mixing bowls, cookie jars, trivets - can do the trick less expensively, a shiny red toaster or a pumpkin-colored mixer is undeniably eye-catching.

"For the first 50 years, you could get any color as long as it was white," said Brian Maynard, a spokesman for 90-year-old Michigan-based KitchenAid, the manufacturer that now offers the widest array of colors in countertop appliances, especially the stand mixer.

Since the company introduced petal pink, island green and sunny yellow to its products in 1954, he said, "Sales of colors other than white have grown significantly every year. Now they're more than one-third of our sales."

Waring also uses assorted colors in some of its small appliances, especially blenders, and some other manufacturers offer several options.

Most local kitchen stores or kitchen departments stock at least a few appliance colors beyond those old stalwarts - white, black and stainless steel. Despite all the options, white remains the top-selling single color industrywide. After white, KitchenAid's bestsellers are cobalt blue, black, empire green (a deep shade), empire red and a buttery yellow, Maynard said.

Many shoppers are most drawn to buttery yellow, several stores said.

What else do we know about who prefers which appliance colors? Maynard says:

* Men are more likely than women to choose black or metal finishes.

* Black also draws more buyers in the West than the East.

* Bold colors attract younger consumers more than older ones.

* Retro colors such as soft yellow and petal pink are making a comeback among nostalgia seekers.

* Bold or pastel hues have even come to large appliances such as ranges, refrigerators and dishwashers in certain brands, such as Viking and Whirlpool. Were you so inclined, you could outfit your entire kitchen in large cobalt-blue appliances from Whirlpool.

If you find trendy colors in appliances tempting, you might want to ponder a sobering bit of kitchen history: the avocado-green or harvest-gold syndrome of decades past. It's a malady that, even today, in some form, could grab hold of your kitchen and hang on.

Those colors, as you may recall, tinted countless ranges, refrigerators, sinks and floor coverings across America in the early 1970s and then lingered, dating many a kitchen years after the colors fell out of fashion.

"I don't recommend people go out and buy a [high-end] red refrigerator," given the replacement cost if the color's charm wears off, said interior designer Andrea Gibson. The beauty of small appliances as decor items is they cost less and are more easily replaced if their color grows tiresome.

Even so, you could drop some fairly big bucks if you decided to replace your plain white mixer, blender, food processor and other countertop appliances with trendy-hued versions, only to see them fade from favor or fight with other colors if you redecorate or move. For instance, you'd have to shell out a total of more than $1,000 to buy a toaster, stand mixer, blender, coffee mill and food processor, if choosing KitchenAid models from lines that have the greatest range of color options.

The color explosion might make you wonder if it's a plot to encourage obsolescence - and more consumer buying - based on ever-changing color trends.

Not so, said Maynard of KitchenAid, whose stand mixer - its most color-varied product - now comes in three dozen hues.

His company adds colors in response to consumer demand, he said. "We typically add two or three, sometimes four, colors each year." Colors may also be "retired," as crimson, navy blue and a certain shade of sea green were in recent years, he said.

But, given the constantly turning cycles of color popularity, don't be surprised if hues now growing cold heat up again in kitchens of the future.

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