These days, almost every “updated” kitchen you encounter seems to be bursting with stainless steel appliances. Glossy kitchen magazines and design guides seem to have made stainless steel appliances for the 2010s what avocado green was for the 1970s. But are stainless steel appliances really worth the cost? Consider for a moment how the trend began and where it may be heading before you decide to spend the extra money.
The Stainless Revolution
Back in the 1990s, the only stainless steel surfaces you could find in a stylish kitchen were the double-bowl stainless sinks, and these were made from stainless steel for very practical reasons. As kitchen experts had learned in commercial kitchens, stainless steel didn’t rust or corrode like regular steel when exposed to water, and this made stainless an obvious choice for sink basins.
Kitchen designers began to integrate stainless steel appliances in the early 2000s, and their clean, sleek look caught on. Stainless steel appliances were considerably more expensive than plain, white-surfaced appliances, but this seemed to add to their novelty and appeal. Dishwashers and side-by-side refrigerators made of stainless steel became the new culinary status symbol, and fashionable homeowners rushed to update their kitchens. This was the case, particularly those interested in “flipping” their properties in the robust housing market.
When the housing bubble burst in the mid-2000s, homeowners became even more desperate to attract potential buyers. The number one suggestion by real estate agents during the crisis was to replace old kitchen appliances with new, stainless-steel models for an instant “contemporary” look, and that’s precisely what thousands of homeowners chose to do.
The truth is that the appeal of stainless steel appliances has always had everything to do with appearance and absolutely nothing to do with functionality. The real reason that stainless steel appliances cost hundreds of dollars more than their black or white counterparts is pure aesthetics, and if you’re choosing an appliance for surface beauty alone, stainless steel might not be your best option anyway. Unlike more traditionally surfaced kitchen appliances, stainless steel surfaces have a maddening tendency to show even the slightest smudge or fingerprint, so if you have kids you might find yourself constantly wiping down the refrigerator door. That’s a lot of extra work for something only meant to beautify your kitchen space.
End of the Trend
There are stainless steel finishes available that significantly reduce the smudge issue, true, but when you consider the possibility that the stainless-steel era is in its last gasp, you might consider these smudge-proof surface options too little, too late. This year, the new trend seems to be a return to white, call it a nostalgic throwback, although this time around with stainless-steel accents that our 90s models lacked. Like any fashion trend, stainless steel appliances could only remain stylish until they became ubiquitous, and how many kitchens these days have been remodeled to include granite countertops and stainless steel refrigerators?
The Most Important Part
The most important thing to focus on when considering purchasing new kitchen appliances should really be functionality and efficiency, but nobody wants an outdated kitchen. Fortunately, newer model appliances are becoming more and more energy efficient, which means you’ll save money on your bills and possibly qualify for a government rebate. Plus they work better too. It might not be something that you usually take time to think about, but consider the technological advances that have occurred in dishwashers since the 1980s.
Are stainless steel appliances worth the money? Not unless you’re in love with the way they look, and if you’re trying to stay current you probably won’t even like that in five years. Remember, that home warranty might fix or repair appliances that fail to work properly, but it probably doesn’t cover something that’s fallen out fashion. Instead, spend your money on a good-quality, high-efficiency appliance that suits your lifestyle, and you’re sure be satisfied with the results.
Featured image: Desire To Inspire
Written by David Glenn. David is a home improvement expert. He occasionally freelance writes about real estate tips, home maintenance, and DIY home repair.