2018 Kitchen Trends – Black Stainless Steel Appliances

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Renovating a kitchen isn’t as easy as buying a new sweater, so it’s important to know which trends are built to last — and which ones to skip. Black stainless steel appliances are one to keep an eye on.

It’s not just countertops, cabinets and kitchen layouts that are subject to the changing whims of designers. Kitchen appliances are also redesigned every year, and their looks change to follow the latest fashions. Nowhere is this more clear than in the meteoric rise of black stainless steel appliances.

A Brief History of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel has only been around since 1913, when it was invented in England. It’s a combination or iron (used to make traditional steel) and chromium, which helps give stainless steel the classic silvery look that has become so popular.

Harry Brearley Inventor of Stainless Steel
Harry Brearley invented the first commercial stainless steel in the early 1900’s.
It’s called “stainless” because it doesn’t rust, and that made it a highly useful material in industrial applications. Originally sought after to keep war machines running well without corrosion during World War I, stainless steel quickly took over the world. It caught the eye of designers in the 1920s and 30s, when its shiny, silvery look was all the rage in Art Deco applications — including the top of the Chrysler Building in New York City.
After World War II, stainless steel began to make inroads into kitchens as more and more people began to build homes in the suburbs. Most appliances were white or finished in bright colors for decades, but serious cooks were starting to look for commercial- or professional-grade appliances. These were always clad in stainless steel because it is so durable and easy to clean. Any restaurant kitchen was a shiny place when it came to ovens and cooktops, and the look gradually made it into homes as well.
What really made stainless steel appliances take off, though, was basic cable. All those cooking and home improvement shows began to feature high-end stainless appliances for serious chefs, and regular people liked them and began to clamor for access to them. At the turn of century from the 1990s to the 2000s, manufacturers were offering stainless steel in everything from wall ovens and refrigerators to stackable washer-dryers and microwaves. It became the most sought-after look in new millennium.

The Arrival of Black Stainless Steel

Black Stainless Steel vs. Stainless Steel
A comparison of black stainless steel vs. stainless steel.
After a good two decades at the pinnacle of kitchen fashion, stainless steel might finally be starting to fade from its position as the premium finish. Black stainless steel is a relatively new look in kitchen design, one that appliance manufacturers believe has the potential to become just as popular as traditional stainless steel. Introduced in 2015, black stainless steel finishes are offered by several major manufacturers and available for a variety of appliances.
So what does it look like, exactly? For starters, black stainless steel isn’t exactly black. It’s more of a very dark gray, because there’s still a bit of a sheen to the metal. This provides more luster and interest than standard black appliances. Think of black stainless steel as a regular stainless with a dark patina — it’s definitely still metallic, but it’s more matte and has a richer, deeper look that provides contrast to other colors and finishes in the kitchen.

The Pros and Cons of Black Stainless Steel

Black stainless steel can be a great choice for those thinking about upgrading their appliances — a choice one that puts a kitchen on the cutting edge of interior design trends. Like any trend, though, it’s worth thinking about how the look will work in a space before diving in head-first.

The Pros

  • It’s durable. Just like regular stainless steel, black stainless appliances will resist rust, corrosion and staining for years. It’s a great choice for heavy-duty cooking and high-traffic areas where kids and pets roam free — or where serious cooks sling food around on a regular basis.
  • It’s fingerprint resistant. Manufacturers tout black stainless as a family-friendly improvement over traditional stainless because it’s less prone to smudging. Black stainless doesn’t require any special polishes to keep it looking good: just wipe it clean with a soft cloth. This is a major improvement over smeary traditional stainless steel.
  • It’s versatile. Because black stainless has a metallic luster, it’s possible to mix and match with traditional stainless if people are not looking to replace all their appliances at once. Likewise, they can be used side by side with standard appliances if planning a slow-motion renovation.
  • It’s high end. Because black stainless is relatively new, consumers are most likely to find it on higher-end appliances. That’s means they’ll likely be getting a reliable, durable appliance in addition to a great finish, since cheap versions haven’t made it to market yet.
  • It’s available in specialty appliances. If someone is looking to experiment with black stainless steel on a smaller scale, he or she could start with wine and beer refrigerators from NewAir. These will help in the design of a truly custom chef’s kitchen or bar and blend with other large appliances as well.

The Cons

  • The finish varies. Unlike traditional stainless steel, there are several shades of black stainless steel. KitchenAid’s version is darker, while Samsung and LG offer lighter hues. That means that locking into one manufacturer for those who want a guaranteed match for various appliances.
  • It’s still new. Though growing in popularity, black stainless steel isn’t everywhere yet. That means that if someone goes all in for new appliances and one dies an early death, there may some trouble replacing it if the finish doesn’t take off the way manufacturers think it will.
  • It’s hard to match accessories. Those hoping to incorporate black stainless across the whole kitchen will have to be patient. It’s not easy to find this finish in range hoods, faucets, sinks or drawer pulls just yet, so they’ll either have to be wait for those items to arrive in black stainless or opt for a contrasting finish for these items instead.
  • Resale value is anyone’s guess. Despite the rise in popularity of black stainless, traditional stainless steel is still hugely popular. It beats out other finishes by a mile when it comes to sales, and it’s still top of mind for most buyers when they’re looking for a new home. For those who are planning to sell soon, they could be putting themselves too far ahead of the design curve with black stainless.
  • It needs to be seen in person first. Most people have never actually seen black stainless steel up close yet since it’s so new. Therefore, interested buyers will need to shop around to compare finishes and get a sense for how the light plays with this finish — it’s an aspect of black stainless that doesn’t come across well in photos.
Of course, personal taste plays a big role in how people ultimately feel about black stainless steel, so they should pay attention to their gut reactions when they see these appliances on a showroom floor. If they love it, they should go for it! If they find themselves second-guessing or trying to talk themselves into it because it’s popular, that’s a cause for concern. At the end of the day, the appliance shopper is the only one who needs to approve the appliance choices.

How to Make Black Stainless Steel Work

Not sure how to incorporate black stainless steel into a kitchen design? Explore these ideas to make this hot new appliance finish work with a variety of decor styles.

Modern Magnificence

Newair AWR-290DB-B Black Stainless Steel Wine Cooler
A look so versatile it can be used in nearly any kitchen or home setting.
Celebrate the cutting-edge nature of black stainless steel in a totally modern kitchen. There are a few ways to make this work:
  • High contrast looks: Choose glossy white cabinets and countertops with an integrated sink to contrast with black stainless steel appliances. Integrated handles and drawer pulls on cabinets and a cooktop with a retractable exhaust fan will keep extra finishes to a minimum for a sleek look.
  • A pop of color: If a pure black and white color scheme seems too sterile, add a splash of color with two-tone cabinets instead. Make the kitchen island bright red, or go for cobalt blue lower cabinets and white upper ones. There’s also the option of choosing a countertop in a unique shade of manufactured stone for a one-of-a-kind look.
  • Industrial chic: The sheen of black stainless looks great with traditional stainless steel, especially in loft spaces with exposed brick, wood beams and other interesting textures. Consider mixing and matching a stainless sink and range hood with new appliances, or add a stainless backsplash or countertop for commercial flair.

Handsome History

Black stainless steel can work in older homes, too. In fact, its muted sheen and darker tones will often look better than shiny stainless in historic houses.

Newair AWR-290DB-B Black Stainless Steel Wine Cooler
Perfect for modern or traditional interior design.
  • Victorian bronze: Lots of 19th century touches have made their way back into interior design: oil-rubbed bronze finishes on switch plates and door hardware, black window sashes, copper fixtures and more. Black stainless provides a patina that plays nicely with these looks without pretending to be old-fashioned.
  • Traditional wooden cabinets: Medium- and dark-toned wood finishes for cabinets —think oak, cherry and walnut — are often overshadowed by traditional stainless steel appliances. Black stainless lets the wood take center stage while still providing an upscale look.
  • Farmhouse looks: In traditionally designed or bona-fide antique homes, the wide floorboards, original beams and quirky architectural details should be the main points of design interest. Shiny industrial appliances look woefully out of place in historic homes, and black stainless is a great option for appliances that won’t detract from historic details.

Eclectic Excitement

Most houses have a mix of old and new. In homes with a blend of elements and historic eras, transitional design can help bridge the gap and blend all the treasured items into a seamless whole.
  • Painted cabinets: Painted cabinets are hugely popular, and the latest looks are in muted palettes of neutrals, blues and greens. Matte finishes have also replaced glossy enamel for painted wood, but shiny silver appliances can clash with eggshell paint. Black stainless has a more matte finish, so it’s better for blending in with custom-painted cabinets.
  • Gorgeous gray: Gray is hot in interior design these days, seen in everything from kitchen cabinets and stone countertop to paint and paper choices. The most popular shades of “greige” contain warm tan or beige overtones, and these can clash with the blue-gray of traditional stainless steel. Solve that color woe with black stainless instead.
  • Custom entertaining: These days, a kitchen remodel often involves opening up a space to make one large kitchen/dining/living room center for family life and entertaining. The right combination of large and small appliances allow for the creation of a perfect wine bar, home theater and more — and it can all be tied together by choosing black stainless across the suite of appliances.
  • Non-traditional metallics: Though brushed nickel and stainless steel have been stealing the show for the past 20 years, other metals are making a comeback in kitchen design. Brass, rose gold and copper are all beautiful choices now available on a growing number of accessories and hardware options, but they can clash with silver. Black stainless appliances eliminate the silvery tones, allowing other precious metals to shine.

The Bottom Line – Black Stainless Steel Appliances

There are dozens of ways to make black stainless steel appliances work in an existing kitchen, and it’s even easier if the kitchen is being remodeled. Though many designers rave about the chic, modern good looks of black stainless steel, it’s still understated enough to work in older homes with traditional decor.

Many families will no doubt be drawn to the promise of fingerprint-free living, so back stainless is likely to appeal to younger buyers and renovators in suburban neighborhoods who like to keep up with the latest trends. As more people embrace the look, black stainless steel will become increasingly available on fixtures and decorative elements for the home. In another year or two, this trend will likely be firmly entrenched in American kitchen design.

Check out NewAir’s line of black stainless steel appliances, which are perfect for any kitchen or home application.  In two different sizes, each black stainless steel wine or beverage cooler makes the perfect complement to any home.  Learn more here:

  1. NewAir Small Black Stainless Steel Wine Cooler – 29-Bottle Dual Zone
  2. NewAir Black Stainless Steel Wine Cooler – 46-Bottle Dual Zone
  3. NewAir Small Black Stainless Steel Beverage Cooler – 96-Can Perfect Chill 
  4. NewAir Black Stainless Steel Beverage Cooler – 177-Can Perfect Chill
NewAir Black Stainless Steel Wine and Beverage Coolers
NewAir Black Stainless Steel Wine & Beverage Coolers.
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