Black is the new steel

Stainless-steel kitchen appliances coated in a sleek, dark finish are right on trend

This kitchen, designed with black stainless- steel appliances, made a splash in the online design community Houzz.
This kitchen, designed with black stainless- steel appliances, made a splash in the online design community Houzz.PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST

NEW YORK •When the Toronto Interior Design Group dreamt up a kitchen for one of its cookingobsessed clients late last year, it opted to anchor the space with a suite of black stainless-steel appliances from Samsung.

The initiative not only thrilled the home owners, but also made a splash in online community Houzz.

Houzz editors even used an image of the Art Deco-meetsmodern kitchen to accompany a poll on black stainless-steel appliances, in which users voted in favour of the new finish by more than two to one.

What major appliance manufacturers such as LG, KitchenAid and Kenmore are trumpeting as "black stainless" is essentially traditional stainless steel coated in a sleek, dark finish. The actual hue varies by brand.

There is no denying that this new shade on the block is head-turning - but does it have staying power?

According to home improvement expert Karl Champley, the move towards darker appliance finishes started in Europe.

Mr Champley, a spokesman for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, said that although black stainless will not dethrone classic stainless any time soon, that does not mean home owners should not consider it now.

"It looks fantastic," he noted. "It's going to be quite a few more years before it goes mainstream and you're already ahead of the game."

Houzz editor Sheila Schmitz said an increase in user-generated images featuring black stainless prompted the site's research team to add it to the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study.

The survey results revealed that 7 per cent of home owners who are planning, working on or have completed a kitchen renovation are choosing black stainless kitchen appliances.

Mr Champley likens the glitzy marketing of black stainless across manufacturers to having a show car on a dealership lot.

"They want to show that they're on trend. If they get someone hooked on this finish, you'll have to complement it with other pieces from the line."

He recommends black stainless for anyone looking to make a statement or update to a modern or transitional kitchen style.

"What makes it powerful is the look and ease of maintenance," said Mr Champley, referring to its smudge-proof coating that is resistant to fingerprints.

As good as that sounds, there is one drawback that anyone with a high-traffic kitchen should consider: It can scratch.

"If you accidentally run your engagement ring up it, it's going to scratch," said Mr Champley, who noted, though, that scratching is rare and fixable.

Scratches aside, perhaps the biggest question on the mind of those about to invest thousands of dollars in new appliances (depending on the brand, black stainless can run an extra hundred or so a gadget) is whether it will become a decision they will regret in a few years.

Ms Schmitz's biggest piece of advice: "Don't be swayed by trends. Choose the thing that makes your heart go pitter-patter."

And if you cannot decide between black and traditional stainless, try mixing things up and using one black stainless appliance as a statement piece.

"People are mixing metal finishes more and more intentionally," she added. "It's like mixing metals in jewellery. That is an element of a classic kitchen. They tend to have a look acquired over time, a mix of new and old.

"It's actually a more beautiful kitchen because it's yours and it isn't like anyone else's."

She and Mr Champley agree that an expert designer can be a worthwhile investment.

"I've gone through this process myself and having a designer help you pick what to choose is worth the extra cost," Ms Schmitz said.

"It saves you money and time, rather than having that self-doubt and not being happy with the result."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Black is the new steel'. Print Edition | Subscribe