The popularity of home-decorating shows, coupled with low rates for home-improvement loans, have helped propel major appliances from white-box commodities to aspirational fashion statements.
The transformation of majaps from utilitarian machines to high-end status symbols continued this weekend at the 2004 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference (K/BIS), held here April 1-4 at the McCormick Place convention center, as manufacturers unveiled a glittering array of sophisticated kitchen, cleaning and laundry products.
As Beverly Dalton, president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and the show's sponsor, noted: "Kitchens are now open public space and require quieter appliances, built-ins and an overall 'blended' look with complete coordination."
At the same time, these high-performance beauties also incorporated new time, space and energy-saving technologies to help keep food fresher, meals tastier and laundry cleaner.
Here's a look at what some of the full line manufacturers were showing on the exhibit floor. (TWICE's K/BIS coverage will continue in the next issue on April 19.)
Electrolux/Frigidaire: Frigidaire's parent company flexed its own branding muscles and bowed this country's first full kitchen series under the Electrolux nameplate. Dubbed Icon, the high-performance, premium platform includes a refrigerator with anti-microbial water filter, a single wall oven boasting ball-bearing racks, an electronic ignition gas cooktop, and a Turbo Dry dishwasher with pulsating direct washing and fully integrated control panel. At press time, designer and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" star Thom Filicia was slated to unveil the new collection.
GE Appliances: Refrigeration was front and center at GE's booth last weekend, as the company touted its new ClimateKeeper2 technology designed to keep fresh food fresher. The system employs two evaporators to create separate zones of air circulation for the freezer and fresh food compartments, allowing the latter section to maintain significantly higher humidity levels to prevent food from drying out.
Separate cooling systems also prevent odor transfer between compartments and, combined with GE's exclusive FrostGuard adaptive defrost technology, greatly reduces the risk of freezer burn on frozen food.
The ClimateKeeper2 system will be offered within a 23-cubic-foot CustomStyle-configured GE Profile Arctica that ships early this summer in white, black, bisque and stainless. Suggested retails will range from $2,600 to $3,100.
The Profile line also added a 42-inch built-in side-by-side with digital temperature controls, a QuickIce system, SmartWater Plus filtration system and soft-touch water and ice dispenser. The unit is available this month in white, black and stainless at suggested retails of $4,700 to $6,100.
LG Electronics: The Korean conglomerate introduced two innovative refrigerators and an updated Tromm washer/dryer. The former includes a TV fridge, a cable-ready 26-cubic-foot side-by-side replete with 13.5-inch LCD that leverages the company's CE and majaps prowess. The unit features an NTSC tuner, a coaxial connection (located behind the door hinge), as well as two speakers, an AM/FM radio, a remote and cable. LG engineers resolved LCD heat-related issues through an exhaust system and gave the modular flat-panel unit its own circuit.
The fridge itself offers a contour door, curved aluminum handles, external water dispenser and LG's signature anti-bacteria gasket, quick-freeze drawer, digital display and multi-vent cooling. It will be available this June in smooth black, smooth white and stainless steel (suggested retail $3,000) and a titanium finish ($3,200).
LG also debuted its first three-door configuration, which boasts a bottom-mount freezer and side-by-side fridge. Shipping in late May or early June, the unit is available in 25-cubic-foot and cabinet-depth 21-cubic-foot models. The former, offered in black, white and stainless, is priced to hit a $1,600 price point and will also be available in titanium ($1,799). LG is also offering a 21-cubic-foot cabinet-depth version for an additional $300 to $400.
In laundry, LG is now offering a space-saving front-control-panel version of its direct drive Tromm washer and dryer that allows the units to be stacked or stored beneath counters and cabinets. Capacity and pricing remain the same as the original back-panel models, which are 3.7 cubic feet for the $1,100 washer (suggested retail) and 7.3 cubic feet for the $800 dryer. Each can handle a 22-pound load.
Maytag: The vendor's multi-brand offering was built around the theme of making life easier for consumers. "People have enough frustration and confusion in their lives," said Maytag president Bill Beer. "They aren't necessarily looking for the latest gizmo or some cutting-edge technology. They want appliances that cut down work time, eliminate effort and make life easier."
To that end, the manufacturer rolled out its French-door bottom-mount refrigerator configuration — first seen last year as Sears' Kenmore Trio — to its Maytag, Amana and Jenn-Air families. The cabinet-depth unit contains a pullout bottom-freezer drawer and side-by-side doors for the fresh food compartment, which provides wide storage space for fresh food and frozen items, and dramatically reduces the amount of space needed for the swing of the door. Total capacity is 19.8 cubic feet and finishes include white, black, bisque, stainless and glass panel, depending on nameplate. Shipping begins this June and estimated retail prices vary from $1,649 for the Amana model to $2,399 for the Jenn-Air.
In laundry, Maytag showed its innovative Neptune Drying Center, which pairs a tumble dryer with an upper drying cabinet, and debuted a compact, stackable front-load under-counter washer-dryer pair that measures 24 inches wide and 33.5 inches high. The washer boasts 2.54-cubic-feet of capacity and electronic touch-button operation of four individual spin speeds (500, 800, 1,000 and 1,200 rpm), while the dryer offers a 4-cubic-foot interior. The units are slated to ship this fall, with distribution to be determined.
Samsung Electronics: The DLP powerhouse, which set tongues wagging two years ago by bringing out its first full-size refrigerators, has now added dishwashers and laundry to its majap lineup. "Samsung plans to create a complete appliance solution for the benefit of [our] customers," explained marketing director Stephanie Kivett Ohnegian. "We've designed our dishwashers and laundry products to offer consumers stylish, space-saving and efficient alternatives that include the latest technology at an affordable price" — and which optimize new form factors and colors to optimize the look and feel of the product lines.
At press time, actor Dom Deluise was slated to kick off the line extensions with cooking demonstrations at the booth.
Meanwhile, the company expanded its refrigeration foundation with a new Select Series that offers high-end features and an affordable price. Available in white and stainless mist for respective suggested retails of $899 and $999, the 26-cubic-foot side-by-sides offer evenly distributed airflow, spill-proof slide-out shelves, a digital control panel and space-saving water filter.
Samsung also showed a 28.8-cubic-foot built-in with dedicated cooling for refrigerator and freezer, which also features the company's new "Nano SilverSeal" interior coating that's designed to kill bacteria and suppress germs on surfaces and in the air. The technology, which employs a colloidal nano-silver solution to dissolve pathogens and deodorize surfaces, is also incorporated into the filters of a new combo refrigerator/air purifier concept product in order to kill germs both inside and outside the fridge.
Separately, Samsung demonstrated its Homevita home-networking platform that connects home entertainment and security devices over a single remote control point. The solution set is already available in Korea and, according to Samsung marketing exec Joshua Baik, elements of the digital system should enter the U.S. market by year's end.