Appliance smart

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Appliance smart

It’s often been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. As the epicenter for grand gatherings and casual get-togethers, it’s no wonder most homeowners strive to create a well-designed space with cutting-edge conveniences. Although kitchen styles can certainly run the gamut based on personal preference—contemporary vs. traditional and everything in between—there are a few standout trends and features, particularly in appliances, that homeowners eagerly incorporate.

Design Options

Perhaps the most visible trend is the finish itself. Most appliances come standard in white, black and stainless steel, with stainless steel emerging as the dominant choice. However, for those homeowners who want to create their own signature look, some manufacturers are offering appliances in an array of colors. “Viking has 24 color options for those clients who want a splash of color as a focal point in their kitchen,” says Lisa Connor, district sales manager at HADCO in Suwanee (www.hadco.net). “This trend has really become a popular option for many homeowners.”

Another progressive trend is a move toward the integrated kitchen. Instead of displaying appliances’ flashy finishes, many homeowners are opting instead to cover them up, creating a sleek, unified look. Although many appliance manufacturers sell these concealing panels, a cabinetmaker can create custom panels to match the wood, style and design of any existing kitchen. “While most manufacturers do provide the specifications for custom panels, we prefer to measure and craft the panels after the appliance is delivered,” says Bobby Dulin, president of Cabinet Resources in Suwanee (www.cabinetresources.com). “This not only assures accuracy, but also a custom fit.”

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Functional Features

With an overall style in mind, it’s time to customize with cutting-edge features. Technology today is ever-changing, and in the realm of appliances, it’s as fast-paced as ever. Today’s tech-savvy appliances can do everything from alerting the homeowner when repairs are needed to induction cooking a complete meal in mere minutes.

Miele’s RemoteVision™ technology uses a wireless internet connection to monitor every appliance in a home. If a malfunction is detected, Miele’s customer service center immediately contacts the homeowner—or a contact listed on your call sheet—and dispatches a service contractor to fix the problem. “This service is particularly good for refrigeration and wine storage units,” says Jeff Watson, sales and showroom manager at Sewell Appliance Sales & Service in Sandy Springs (www.sewellappliance.com). “People invest thousands of dollars in their wine collection, and this technology could prevent a tremendous loss of product and investment.”

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Cooktops and Ovens

Putting a modern twist on an old European concept, manufacturers are transforming the art of cooking with ultra-efficient and time-saving induction cooktops. By heating cookware through magnetic friction, these cooktops only produce the energy needed to heat the bottom of the pan, thus providing even heat distribution. With concentrated energy to the pan, users experience rapid boils, quicker heat turn-down times and an unprecedented sense of control that used to only be associated with gas cooking. “Induction is an amazing method for cooking,” says John Arnott, owner of Kitchens Complete, Inc., in Atlanta (www.kitchenscomplete.com). “I use it, I teach it and I am sold on its long-term practicality and its ability to maintain power and control of the heat source.”

As induction takes hold, many makers are investigating the diversity of the method, including options for induction stoves. Until that takes off, Christopher J. Grubb, president of Arch-Interiors Design Group, Inc., in Beverly Hills, Calif., (www.archinteriors.com) is throwing his support behind German manufacturer Gaggenau’s Vario VI411 induction cooktop, which instantly recognizes the size of the pot or pan, automatically heating only that area for concentrated efficiency and keeping the rest of the cooktop cool.

With so much emphasis on energy- and time-saving appliances, Wolf developed a convection steam oven that combines the largest internal cavity in the industry with a water tank that’s easy to access and fill for quick and versatile cooking. “The convection steam oven does not have to be plumbed because it has its own water tank that lasts 90 minutes and can be refilled while cooking is in process,” says Diane Coker, marketing representative at Sub-Zero and Wolf Showroom Atlanta (www.subzero-wolf.com/showroom/atlanta). With this feature, cooking times are slashed by up to 25%, resulting in savings on all fronts.

Microwaves

Microwaves continue to offer quick and convenient cooking with speed and steam versions now available. Combine that technology with the space-saving microwave drawer, and it’s a safe and viable cooking option for every member of the family. “Microwave drawers can be installed under the counter wherever they are needed,” says Debra Bobo, a designer at CSI Kitchen & Bath Studio in Norcross (www.csikitchenandbath.com). “This enhances the convenience factor by making them easily accessible for children and the handicapped alike.”

Refrigerators and Freezers

Cooktops and ovens aren’t the only appliances that have developed attention-grabbing features and upgrades. Many refrigerator and freezer makers are answering industry demands for space-saving versions with the release of customizable column units. Sub-Zero, for example, introduced 27-inch units that can be customized with drawers or shelves for the perfect personal fit. Pair that with internal water and ice dispensers, and the column can easily be retrofitted for an integrated look.


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Test drive

You would never buy a car without taking it for a test drive first, but what about kitchen appliances? Most homeowners do their research, list the pros and cons and determine which appliances are right for their needs—on paper. But, when they make their final purchase, they don’t actually test their new addition until it’s snugly installed in their home.

Not anymore. With designer showrooms accompanying many dealer and manufacturer spaces, homeowners can test appliances before they make the ultimate buying decision. “When you’re checking out appliances, try to make an appointment to ensure a salesperson can devote the proper time to educating you on the features and differences in models,” says Christopher J. Grubb, president of Arch-Interiors Design Group, Inc., in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Also, if you are using a designer, speak with him or her early in the process so you can discuss the kind of appliances you desire, and make sure the project is designed accordingly.”


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Before you buy

Follow these tips on the hunt for new appliances:
•    Compare the same type of appliance from several manufacturers.
•    Read the warranty. Does it cover the entire product? Only certain parts? Is labor included? How long does the warranty last?
•    Read the use and care manual to find out how the product operates and how much maintenance is required.
•    Decide which features you will really use. Consider the possibility of adding features at a later date, such as installing an icemaker in a refrigerator.
•    Decide what capacity or size your family requires based on need and space available.
•    Make sure halls and doorways allow clearance for entry and installation.
•    Establish the cost of delivery and installation. Are they included in the price of the appliance?
•    Make sure authorized factory service is readily available in your area for the brand you select.
•    Check the design to make sure it meets your needs and accommodates your habits and favorite cookware.
•    Compare price in relation to convenience and service, which will vary by model. Price tends to increase as features are added.
•    Avoid overloaded circuits by making sure your house has adequate electrical service for the appliance. Check for adequately grounded, three-hole receptacles.  
—Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, www.aham.org
Editorial Resources begin on page 69.

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