Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Slate - The New "It" Color for Appliances

White, Black, or Stainless Steel?

Every decade or so ushers in a new “It” color in kitchen appliances. It often takes just a glance to pinpoint the time period a kitchen was built or remodeled. One major clue is found in the color of the appliances. Some almond colored refrigerators, for example, scream early 1990s.

Because many consumers want their major appliances to match, they prefer to choose one timeless color and hope it doesn’t date their kitchen too soon; as a result, they want to pick the next “it” color for staying power. Until recently, the main choices for a timeless look that blends with other kitchen accoutrements have been White, Black, or Stainless Steel.

Lately, consumers have questioned what color to choose when one of their major appliances goes out. On a forum that discusses the subject, one woman wrote this comment a year ago: “I haven't been following trends... I thought I was good on appliances for at least several years,” she lamented when her dishwasher needed to be replaced, then went on to question whether to purchase a white one to match her other appliances or buy stainless steel. Someone responded that she had a similar issue: “…my house had white appliances when I moved in 7 years ago. The fridge went a few years back and we got a white one to match. Then the microwave went a couple weeks ago and I was in a quandary because I just bought the fridge in white so I got the microwave in white too but now I feel like it will only be few years before I have to replace the stove and dishwasher and I'll wish I went with stainless for the others [sad face icon].”

The Popular Reign of Stainless Steel – On the Decline

Stainless steel has long been the dominant color in kitchen appliances. Though still very popular, experts say the market is slowing down. Common complaints include:

  • Much like the granite counter top trend, what was once considered a luxurious upgrade has gone mainstream. Any time that happens, people search for a way to make their kitchens stand out with the latest and greatest, while maintaining a timeless appearance. Inevitably then, stainless steel has seen the beginnings of a backlash.
  • Knock-offs have infiltrated the market, making the color, if not the actual materials, less prestigious. This article on states, “A number of years ago outfitting your kitchen with stainless steel appliances was like saying I have arrived. At this point stainless steel has become so ubiquitous…that it can appear cheap. This hasn't been helped by the cheapest appliances that claim to be stainless steel but actually are not.” These fake stainless steel models are difficult to discern from actual stainless steel, but they scratch more easily.
  • Fingerprints and smudges appear more prominently with stainless steel than with other colors.
  • Some consumers feel that stainless steel looks too cold and institutional; they want a warmer feel to their kitchen.
  • As living room aesthetics creep into kitchen cabinetry, moldings, and flooring, a stainless steel piece can seem too daunting to the overall atmosphere.     
For these reasons, stainless steel has become slightly less popular over the past year, and sent appliance manufacturers scurrying to promote a new universal look.

Slate Appliances Fill the Void for Pivotal Moment in Kitchen Design

The answer to the stainless steel conundrum is slate, a warm metallic gray with a matte texture designed to blend in with any color of appliance. The new slate line is currently available only through GE.

Brian McWaters, brand general manager for GE Appliances, stated in the new line’s press release, "During our conversations with designers and consumers, they expressed their strong desire for an alternative to stainless steel. With the launch of slate, we're offering a new finish that has a warm, rich look and feel that tested very well in our research."

In addition to their modern appearance, the matte finish on the exterior of the appliances is easy to clean and resists fingerprints. The new finish launched in September 2012 and included a full suite of appliances comprised of two French door refrigerator models, two free-standing gas range models, two free-standing electric range models, two built-in dishwasher models and an over-the-range microwave.

"As people transition their kitchen appliances over time, it was important to us to find a finish from a palette that is timeless and harmonious, yet distinctive," said Lou Lenzi,director for GE Appliances' industrial design operation, whose team of designers created the new finish. "Slate is a universal, neutral finish that will suit consumers who want a premium finish that can complement or even replace stainless steel."

The Wall Street Journal took note of slate’s new trend in this article, stating, “The new colors and materials, though not as vibrant as the avocado-green and harvest-gold of previous eras, try to blend in with their surroundings, rather than stand out like a trophy of technology the way shiny stainless steel tends to do.”

The Slate Advantage

  • GE’s modern yet warm Slate appliances were designed to make a statement by themselves or blend with other appliances. Slate also complements a wide array of other kitchen fixtures such as wall colors, flooring, counter top materials, and cabinetry.

    What this means for consumers who want to replace appliances individually – as opposed to purchasing an entire set at once – is that, with slate, they no longer have to worry about matching each appliance when one goes out; the color harmonizes the kitchen regardless. It will complement or even replace stainless steel.
  • This was deliberate on the part of GE. Lou Lenzi states, “Not every consumer is ready to completely change out their kitchen appliances. They don't see the need to swap that expensive range they bought a year ago."
  • Slate is timeless and universal, harmonious in its neutrality, and yet distinctive. The new line is exclusive, with no cheaper models on the market.
  • Slate’s warm, earthy color exudes refinement and sophistication while creating an inviting kitchen atmosphere at a time when the kitchen has once again come to represent the hub of family life in the home.
  • Slate’s matte finish, in addition to its brushed metal knobs and handles resist fingerprints and smudges. It’s also easy to clean. 

Slate is Here to Stay!

GE Slate French Door Refrigerator

Slate is the answer to giving consumers a classy look that isn't hard to maintain. But will GE expand its slate line?

“We have customers asking when there will be single and double wall ovens, free-standing double ovens, and more. The customer wants to know that GE will commit to the color so they don’t get caught with one slate appliance when it comes time to replace their other appliances. They want to be assured that GE will stick with it,” says Allan Pearson, Appliance Department Manager at Ernie’s in Ceresco, a large home furnishings store in Eastern Nebraska.

The store’s GE product representative was quick to respond, “You can assure customers that GE will be expanding the slate color to appliances at each new product introduction. GE is very committed to expanding slate.”

Stainless steel is too durable, elegant and versatile to be written off anytime soon, but if you’re looking to replace an appliance and want to buy the next “It” color, you’d do well to consider Slate.

Ernie’s in Ceresco has a large selection of Slate appliances in its showroom and warehouse. Located in Eastern Nebraska, Ernie’s in Ceresco is the largest family owned total home furnishings store in the state.

By Theresa Tvrdy


  1. Have you sold any of these products yet and, if so, any words on their reliability? Also, any idea when the wall ovens and possibly an induction cooktop might come out?

  2. Thank you for your questions!

    1) Yes, we have sold several of these. They are very popular.
    2) We've had no complaints or issues on this line yet.
    3) The wall ovens will come out in 2014. Probably second quarter.
    4) There are currently no plans for a slate induction oven.

  3. I can't seem to find information as to whether GE will be coming out with a freestanding, gas double oven in slate? Would you have any information on that?

  4. Thank you for your question. I have that information for you. GE will introduce their gas double oven in slate in the Fall of 2014.

  5. Will there be a slate range hood that is not a microwave combo?

    How about a less expensive bottom freezer refrigerator?


    1. There are currently no plans for a slate range hood; however, this can change from quarter to quarter.

      There WILL be a less expensive refrigerator with a top/bottom combo, however the freezer will be on top and the refrigerator on bottom.

      NOTE: In November, 2013, a top-to-bottom side-by-side freezer/refrigerator in slate will be out. This is not expected to be less expensive than the French door model currently for sale.

  6. Do you know if they are coming out with a slide in gas stove in slate and an over the range Advanitium convection/microwave in slate any time soon. I need to know in a hurry.

    1. There are currently no plans for a slide in gas stove or Advantium microwave in the near future. Again, this possibility can change from quarter to quarter, but currently there is nothing on board for these.

  7. I like the look of slate appliances; however, wonder how they would look against espresso cabinets?

    1. Slate goes with just about everything and would look beautiful next to espresso cabinets.

  8. Question: We want to purchase all new appliances in slate but we do not have 36" for a new fridge. When will GE or other companies be coming out with other options in slate?

    1. YES, GE has a narrower slate refrigerator coming out in November. There is no ice/water combo on the front door but it is narrower than 36". Call the store at (800) 288-1115 to order.

  9. Hello, we are redoing our entire kitchen and are stuck because we want a single convection wall oven in slate. How long will we have to wait?

    1. Leah, the earliest this will be available is December, 2013, but first quarter of 2014 is more likely.


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