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Small changes, big difference

Sleek appliances with touch panels and intuitive functionality that work as design elements are driving a new trend

Image Credit: Corbis
Remodelled kitchens use smaller, shallower appliances that are sometimes concealed

Small appliances are getting smaller! The biggest trend around these nifty gadgets for the home today is that they are coming to terms with their classification.

“Small appliances used to be bulky. A sandwich maker or a mixer grinder would cover half of your kitchen table. Now customers are looking at sleek and concise items. The smaller an appliance is, without losing utility and options, the better it is,” says James Paul, Senior Manager, Overseas Business, Channel and Corp Sales, Jacky’s Middle East.

Remodelled kitchens use smaller, shallower appliances that are sometimes concealed. These appliances make the kitchen look neater as they are designed to line up with the edges of counters. Appliances need to be a fine balance between fashion and function, says Nilesh Khalko, CEO, Sharaf DG. “The trend has changed from huge appliances to sleek gadgets that do not compromise on performance, functionality or sustainability,” he says.
In terms of technology, small appliances often follow the larger ones, which include everything and the kitchen sink. If you see new technology in a refrigerator, chances are it will show up in the toaster or coffee maker some years later. In sinks, manufacturers are using various materials and configurations — long, thin sinks, professional apron-front sinks and the ones that join countertops seamlessly. “Customers who choose white refrigerators are fewer. The stainless steel finish is increasingly sought after,” says Paul.
For homes with open kitchens, this styling becomes important. This is the reason why many designers are choosing to work with brushed nickel, stainless steel and polished chrome finish. They look sophisticated and go with everything. Along with refrigerators, matching toasters and stand mixers are available to complete the look. However, this also means the end of shopping lists and fridge magnets, since stainless steel is not magnetic.
Going retro
Metal finish brings a vintage feel to the kitchen, alongwith hand-rubbed finishes such as bronze tones, pewter and antique brass. The rustic look, harking back to the phenomena of seeking comfort in tough times, holds true for kitchens as well. The other ways in which this trend is expressed is in rounded edges or old logos.
“The design trends for appliances are governed by a number of factors and are now a part of the new lifestyle just like other elements of a modern home such as the interiors, furniture and home accessories. Small appliances also therefore, need to fit into the larger design concept of any modern home,” says Niranjan Gidwani, Deputy CEO, Eros Group.
While it may have impacted design, the global economic downturn, some say, has been good for the industry. “A huge chunk of the population has upgraded to larger houses given the drop in rent. This has resulted in purchases of new appliances to go with their new houses,” says Gidwani.
Durability has always been a factor when choosing small home appliances. “Along with technology and aesthetics, durability never went down from the list. The idea is that it should last for years, even if you can afford to change it,” says Paul.
He says appliances, which stay in the kitchen (out of sight), are not considered for upgrades. Appliances are largely finding their way out of the kitchen and into mini-suites in our homes.
One of the important trends in home remodelling this year is that many designers are mimicking hotel rooms — complete with kettle and mini refrigerator, instead of only a personal television. This is perfect for creating little niches in post-recession, blended, multigenerational families. 
Covering essentials
Technology is an important driver for style and utility. “Consumers now want intelligent appliances that cover the key basics — energy and water efficient, compact, ergonomically-styled yet stylish. These are coupled with zero maintenance requirements and self clean options,” says Khalkho.   
Paul also hints at the silence factor while choosing your appliance. “For instance, the juicer which used to stay in the kitchen earlier is now used outside. So a silent one is in demand.”
Mobile phones cut across various age groups, gender and social status, setting new standards in ease of use. Appliance manufacturers recognise that many consumers are using touch technology, memory presets, alarms and instant technological solutions all the time and will soon be looking for this functionality in the kitchen and bathroom as well.
In the past, you could only find these features in high-end, premium appliances. However, now they are being offered at the mid-range level. “You will find touch panels even on very small appliances such as toasters and blenders,” says Paul.