Saying we “need” anything these days beyond our health, food, water, money, shelter, love, and Netflix isn’t really accurate. We could all survive on those things alone. So instead of placing value on what we “need”, I want to propose we should consume more by how much we USE something. For example, I have four raincoats and they all get so much use for different weather and walking occasions. Could I own just one and survive? Sure, but I’d have to either layer a lot under or leave unzipped based on the level of precipitation, the temperature outside, and how fast I feel like walking those dogs. So as I design and purchase I’m thinking far more about USE than need or want. This does not negate any desire to be less consumptive, it’s finding that middle ground between practicality (use) and luxury (love) – and by positioning “how often we use something” as the most valuable part of the equation, we are buying more for long term. And I’m not alone…
Lockdown changed how we cook, clean, and generally use our kitchen – with the quick conclusion being “A LOT MORE”. If the kitchen was the “heart of the home” before, then it became that PLUS all the guts. Thus the explosion of kitchen remodels with the goal of better cooking function, easier maintenance, more storage, and yes, while we are at it, more amenities to varying degrees of luxury and waste. While designing our kitchen I once again dove into what appliances are “new”, “smart” or simply just universally opted for these days – both for day-to-day function and maybe for those who entertain grandly. These “trends” are not just style or even color, but more function, operation, and layout. How many dishwashers do we really need? What exactly IS a speed oven? Are people still using a microwave? Let’s explore…
Turns out we aren’t alone on the induction range train (nor were we first on it). The movement towards non-fossil fuel ranges is coming at us fast with now New York and California proposing laws to ban gas ranges in new construction. Yes, you can boil water in a minute and it’s a very accurate, fast, and consistent heating but it is a learning curve for cooking (and we’ll need new pots and pans). For instance, Brian likely won’t be able to butter baste our steaks like Matty taught him to (which is a magically delicious way to cook steak). You see the heat disappears when the pan is not on the surface – it’s electromagnetic. For those occasions, we are getting a hot plate or will go out on the grill.
They are easy to clean, fast to cook, and better for the environment. Again, don’t throw out your perfectly good gas range, but if you are remodeling consider an induction range. You are not alone and the planet will hopefully someday thank you – if we are still here by then 🙂 We are getting this one. If you want to reduce your use of gas (if you already have a gas line) and still have induction there are many that do 1/2 gas and 1/2 induction. If your electricity goes out frequently and you don’t have a generator then having one gas source to cook isn’t a bad idea.
You also have the option of the induction cooktop and a wall oven – giving you flexibility on where you put them (the oven can be on an island with the cooktop on the perimeter if you like). It’s like moving to an electric car – don’t throw away your Toyota to buy a Tesla, but I’ve learned and want to share that we are all moving toward electrifying everything with clean energy quickly, so if you are renovating and replacing your range anyway, opting for induction (electromagnetic) puts you ahead of the curve and is better long term.
TWO Dishwashers In One kitchen
This came up over and over – with salespeople and other designers – two separate dishwashers in one kitchen. At first I was baffled, then did what I should always do – consider the other side, weigh the pros and cons, don’t judge! Part of my job, not to mention being a human being, is not dismissing something simply because it sounds wild. This obviously excludes having double appliances for religious reasons.
So after monitoring our lifestyle, our true “dirty dishes needs” I realized that no, indeed we do not need two dishwashers. For me, it falls in the “if you have it you like it and might use it, but if you don’t you won’t miss it” category.
For us, we have two kids, cook most meals at home daily, and run the dishwasher once a day at night, so we are covered. Now if we had 6 kids or entertained ALL THE TIME I could see the need, or desire I should say, for two dishwashers. I frankly don’t like it becoming a “trend” because it feels a bit excessive and once the wealthy decide that they/we “need” something it trickles down and then becomes a mass mainstream consumer problem. We all have versions of this – I just bought a fancy pair of tall dark brown boots that I don’t need as I have a shorter pair that works just fine, but I wanted a taller pair that I feel like will also get a lot of wear/use.
Just think about if it’s right for your lifestyle and monitor your current dishwasher patterns to see how often you’d actually use two dishwashers. Ask yourself honestly “will I use this often?” because you can convince yourself that you “need” or “want” anything. I personally think that one is enough for most families’ daily usage. At the same time, I think it’s relevant to point out that we are putting a small stacking washer/dryer on the bedroom floor of our home. So again, we aren’t innocent of these “convenience splurges”. I do feel that it will get a ton of use though as the bedrooms are far away from the laundry/mud room so this is what we have chosen to do. Nobody is impenetrable to the seduction of convenience – just make sure that it’s something you will USE, not just show off as something you “have”.
On the other hand dishwasher drawers (especially double, stacking) seem awesome to me and highly useful. They aren’t as popular yet here but are big in Europe. They are great for smaller households so you don’t have to wait until the whole load is filled to do a wash. But also good for bigger households where you want to stay more on top of it throughout the day. A good friend of mine with 3 small kids has double stacking dishwasher drawers and loves it because she has so many sippy cups and kid plates to wash from breakfast and lunch before dinner. So she doesn’t have to waste the water and energy to do only a half load, and instead just does one drawer quick wash per meal.
There aren’t that many brands in the states that make these, but I hope more and more will make them. Shavonda put them in her kitchen and LOVES them.
The Pebble Ice Machine
Ah, the pebble ice machine – likely my favorite unnecessary “luxury” appliance out there and one that is hard to go without once you’ve experienced the ease and beauty of these tiny little cubes in your kitchen and in your mouth. Again, if I didn’t use this appliance so much I wouldn’t be able to stand so thoroughly behind it. But I love it so very, very, very much and we use it all day every day (not just for parties). This could also be because my family believes in ICE COLD water, a trait that my siblings share – it must have been handed down from my parents. It’s also excellent for a home bar if you entertain a lot. But common sense tells me that it’s like having another refrigerator that runs constantly – i.e. more energy. So again ask yourself if you really would use it. Good friends of ours got one for their outdoor kitchen/bar and realized that they only used it one night a week when they were outside. Having the energy running was so wasteful so it sits empty and off and they wish they hadn’t gotten it. So make sure you are going to use it or it’s a waste of energy and space. Of course, if you have a lot of parties you never have to ask someone to “grab a bag of ice” again…
Double Ovens – In Wall or Range
This might seem obvious but after talking to salespeople about this it seems that due to lockdown double ovens – whether in-wall or under a range are skyrocketing in popularity. Essentially having the ability to cook two things at once, different temps and different times is highly useful to a lot of people. We used ours A LOT last year and still would if we had two (we don’t right now, which is a bummer) – and not just for special occasions. That’s why we chose an induction range that had a double oven beneath it – both smaller than normal wall ovens, but it gives us the ability to cook two different things on different temps/times. I think this is a sound purchase if you cook or entertain a decent amount.
Ah, the Appliance du jour. The kitchen’s golden boy. I have zero experience with this new-ish appliance and have heard varying reviews. Essentially a speed oven is both a microwave for reheating and a convection oven that heats up much faster than a normal oven and bakes things in 1/2 the time (fact check me on that – different sites said different things). It sounds smart, if not a bit intimidating (and yes people do complain that it’s not easy to figure out initially). It seems to me that if you have a double oven and a microwave you don’t need a speed oven, but if you are opting for a single oven (on a range for instance) then a speed oven could be great for cooking many dishes or baking desert and cooking dinner at the same time. We opted not to have one because having not had one we know that we can get along without one. Since we work from home, pre-heating isn’t a problem anymore, although I don’t love the waste that pre-heating can make. I suppose that “speed” isn’t really a problem for us since we’ve slowed our life down. We also know that if/when we redo the other Victorian house on the property we might put one in there instead of an oven. It’s nice it’s also a microwave and we could just use a hot plate for a stove when needed. Also, only 3 major brands currently make them so they are still pretty expensive. Secretly I want to try one and hope that when I do I don’t regret not putting one in at the farm (I would love to hear your experience with speed ovens).
On the other hand, Velinda used a speed oven in her ADU kitchen and it’s GENIUS for small spaces when it can be both microwave AND oven. I just think if you have both of those things already you might not also need a speed oven. But again I’m speaking as someone who hasn’t had one therefore I don’t think I’d “use” it often. You also don’t need a pebble ice machine (see above) and yet I have one, use it love it, so there’s that.
“Column Fridge” And Freezers
Since the pandemic many people are opting for more cold storage space in their kitchen than ever before – us included. Thus the popularity of the fridge and freezer “columns”. These are two separate vertical appliances with their own doors – one fridge, one freezer. You can buy them separately and yes even install one in the kitchen (fridge) and one in the pantry (freezer). They can be “normal” stainless/white, and panel-ready for the integrated look. For the farm, we are getting a 30″ fridge column and a 24″ freezer column, both panel ready (from BlueStar) to integrate into the cabinetry. After really looking at the food space, we now know that more freezer space was important as you can only hoard so much perishable fridge food. You can always freeze more leftovers or make/freeze batch food. We’ve always needed more freezer space so I’m excited to have this (and negates the need for the “garage freezer” that most of us had in the ’80s and ’90s).
I suppose another reason for the current popularity is how clean they look – no drawers or water/ice cavities to stop your eye. Many of these columns have water and ice capabilities inside the fridge, but they are up higher so kids can’t reach them easily, FYI.
Fast Beverage Or Speed Catering Commercial Dishwashers (In Your Pantry)
I’ve seen the uptick in this lately and I get it. If your “bar” is far away from your kitchen where the normal dishwasher lives and IF you use a ton of glassware or dishes frequently, then I could see this being a useful luxury. We put one in on the Portland Project at the wet bar that was in the basement and boy did we love the idea of it. I’m curious if the family really used it. I also know that because it was commercial it required more water volume which meant we had to upgrade some of the pipes on install. A few readers have DM’d about these speed dishwashers and how a 6-minute cycle (that’s right) can obviously benefit your life a lot if you entertain many people frequently. So far the ones I’ve found are very expensive and aren’t panel ready (you can’t hide them) which is probably why people put them in their pantries or likely “butlers pantry”. While I’ll likely never use this enough to “need” it, a 6-minute dishwasher cycle does sound DREAMY.
Appliance Garage FTW
While not a new appliance per se, the recent uptick in the “appliance garage” is revolutionary to visually unclutter our counters. This is an easy to access, yet closed-off cabinet that can house all your daily countertop appliances – microwave, toaster, ninja, blender, electric teapot, etc. I can’t tell you how grateful I was/am for our appliance cabinet at the mountain house that housed our coffee maker, microwave, and toaster. It not only eliminates the visual chaos of those necessary appliances but it keeps the mess (coffee grounds, bread bits) to one location – easy to clean. HUGE FAN over here.
It’s about time. Now many serious chefs love the stainless look of appliances – both fridges and ovens assuming they are a luxury brand (Wolf, Subzero, etc) that they want to show off. For the rest of us, we either want them to disappear or look less, clinical or something. Some colorful ranges have been available for a while, but there are more and more on the market in so many colors. BlueStar specifically (made in America) makes what feels like hundreds of colors and they are SO PRETTY. Cafe Appliances also has a few that are pretty. We opted for black because we have blue tile going on and the induction range that we wanted didn’t have the right color of blue for us, but I personally think this is a GREAT place to bring in color, whether its safer like white/black/green/blue/red or going more bold like pink, teal, yellow. This is such a personal choice, but it is a forever one so be sure you really love the color long-term.
On Counter Gas Burners
One of my best friends put these burners straight onto her marble and it blew me away. These are from Pitt and they are stunning. You must do your due diligence and research your stone to ensure it’s the right fit. Also, in case you think that cooktops allow for more cabinet space you should know that between the mechanics of the cooktop/gas and the mechanics of the downdraft that most of the cabinet space underneath is already taken. I love this look and if I were to opt for a gas cooktop I would seriously think about using these instead.
Now extra drawer fridges might seem like a luxury (and they are) but if you don’t have a “garage fridge” and you have people over frequently then you might need more space – I know that we did and do. So if you are renovating this is a good thing to think about. We used one of ours for adult beverages – beer, mixers, La Croix, and lemons/limes, then the lower for kids snacks, fruit, yogurt, juice, etc. Granted we didn’t have a huge fridge at the mountain house so I can honestly say that we needed this space (we didn’t have that coveted garage fridge). So yes, this is something we used a lot of and will opt for it in the future. Big fan over here.
Beverage And Wine Fridges
I love the idea of both of these for houses with A. a lot of entertaining or B. if where you entertain is far from the kitchen/fridge. We’ve had a wine fridge at the mountain house, but didn’t realize that they don’t get crazy cold because white wine is best drank at 45 degrees or higher. Well Brian and I enjoy extremely cold white wine, like we put ice in it, so we found that we use our wine fridge at the mountain house more like a “pre-chilling” place then transfer it into the fridge before drinking to get it super cold. This actually works when we have parties and go through multiple bottles a night, but if it’s just us then we could easily just keep a bottle or two in our actual fridge. Now in the Portland house we installed a beverage fridge and wine fridge in the basement because it’s far away from the fridge so this makes sense to me, too. But at the farm we don’t need one since our living room and family room are both close to our kitchen/fridge. If we get super into wine later we have lots of space in the basement which you enter through the pantry so we could set something up down there.
So there you have it. “Trends” are really just about giving us ideas and what could really work in our homes. But again, if we shift our mindset to “what will we actually use” versus “what do I think I want because it seems fun and convenient” we are going to all be happier. And by “we” I am us and mother earth:)
So now let’s talk about appliances? Any advice from first hand users??