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Maytag, Whirlpool Up Innovation Ante At Builders’ Show

White-goods makers played the high-stakes game of “Can You Top This?” to the hilt at last month’s International Builder’s Show, where innovative new concepts and feature sets were the order of the day.

Two of the most intriguing entries came from two of the nation’s largest majap manufacturers, Whirlpool and Maytag, which have made outside-the-box design a corporate imperative in recent years.

Whirlpool, which has extended its fabric care offerings beyond traditional laundry products with its Personal Valet “clothes vitalizing system” and DryAire drying cabinet, has added a new component to the category — the Whirlpool Fabric Freshener. The device is a portable appliance that uses heat and immersive steam to release wrinkles and odors from fabrics including wools, silks, polyester, rayon, cottons and linens in about 30 minutes. It’s comprised of a garment bag that can hold up to two items of clothing, a reservoir, and a heating mechanism that accepts plain tap water.

The Fabric Freshener’s dimensions are 58 inches high by 33 inches wide by 12 inches deep, making it appropriate for use in small apartments as well as laundry rooms, and the unit can be collapsed to 10 inches by 33 inches by 12 inches for storage.

Best Buy gets first dibs on the device, which it will begin carrying in late spring at a retail price of about $219.

Meanwhile, Maytag’s super-premium Jenn-Air brand, in an effort to provide a high-end alternative to stainless steel, introduced a full line of glass panel appliances, which the company calls an industry first.

Jenn-Air has dabbled in glass-front majaps before, specifically in refrigeration. This time out, the finish has been extended to dishwashers, ovens, warming drawers and cooktops. The smooth, opaque panels are offered in black and white, and extend beyond the face of the appliances, which hides hinges and allows counter-depth units to slide fully into a cut-out, mimicking more expensive built-in models.

Jenn-Air’s VP Susan Fisher said the glass finish gives consumers an alternative design choice, and has the aesthetic flexibility to complement both contemporary and classic retro-styled kitchens. Similarly, the choice of black and white glass offers “excellent design flexibility,” Fisher said. “Not only do these … appliances allow for a classy, monochromatic look in the kitchen, but they can also look great as backdrops for colorful countertop, cabinet or flooring choices.”

Jenn-Air’s complete suite of glass-finish majaps will hit the retail channel this April.