Is black stainless the new avocado green?

There has been quite a bit of buzz in the design world lately about the newest appliance color to hit the market. A few companies (LG and KitchenAide among them) have launched new lines of appliances in what they are hoping will be the next must-have color – black stainless steel.

However, some designers think that matte black, stainless appliances will look dated and tacky sooner than later. We all remember the avocado and mustard appliances of the 1960s and 70s. My grandma even had a mustard sink and phone to match her fridge and stove, which was pretty high-society stuff. As top-of-the-line and beautiful as it all seemed at the time, those kitchens with their colorful appliances have become the butt of many jokes over the years.

Even though some designers think this could just be the second coming of mustard and avocado, I have to disagree. Black is still a neutral in the same way white and stainless are. So in the same way that your little black dress goes with everything, your little (big?) black stainless fridge can too.

Now you might be thinking, is black stainless really that revolutionary? Black appliances have been around since the 80s and are still readily available at every big box, and home improvement superstore. To that I would say, you are definitely not wrong, but I also think that’s what gives this option some staying power.

So while there are designers who argue that the look is too cold and too modern for most kitchens. I would argue that the same was said for stainless a couple of decades ago and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Honestly, I like the black stainless options I’ve seen so far; it’s a much cleaner look than the older models of plastic-like, shiny appliances. If anything, it’s nice to have another option besides regular stainless to consider.

In my humble opinion, regular stainless feels much colder than black. Black naturally has depth and warmth, and it also plays nicely with other finishes. Maybe you are the type of person who likes all of your finishes to match, so having stainless appliances pretty much limited you to brushed nickel faucets, hardware and even lighting. Now, as a designer, I would advise you that mixing finishes creates a much more interesting, custom and polished look; but for some people, that isn’t going to make a lick of difference. In these cases a set of matte black appliances allows you to pick any kind of finish. Gold? Oil-rubbed bronze? Copper? All are going to be A-OK in relation to black, but can be trickier to pull off with regular stainless. 

My favorite kinds of kitchens are the ones that have integrated appliances. Your eye can glide seamlessly across the room and not get snagged by large, garish boxes. However, completely integrated kitchens aren’t an option for everyone, and to that I say hurray for appliance color variety.

Thanks to LG’s handy kitchen simulator, I was able to create a few kitchen styles for us to look at together. One traditional kitchen with warm yellow and beige tones, one transitional kitchen with painted cabinets and dark flooring, and one ultra modern one for good measure. I created these kitchens in ways that represent elements that are quite typical of kitchens built or remodled in the 1990s or 2000s. I wanted to prove that even if you feel like elements of your kitchen might be dated and you aren't quite ready for a complete overhaul, an update to your appliances should fit just fine. Alright, that’s my disclaimer. On to the kitchens! 

Let’s start with the most traditional of the kitchens.

Here, you can see we’ve got warm, stained wood cabinets, beige and gold-veined granite, travertine floors and creamy subway tile. We also have one crazy out-of-place pendant light. I do not endorse that’s shiny, drum pendant, but also couldn’t change it. I digress. I used the options on the LG website to make this kitchen as similar as possible to one that may have been built in the 1990s. Many homes still have kitchens with these finishes, and it was with this gold and beige color palette that I thought matte black may be a problem. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it seems just fine.

On to the transitional kitchen.

Here we have creamy-white painted cabinets, colorful glass mosaic backsplash, a more solid quartz countertop and dark espresso floors. All of these elements have deemed themselves pretty popular in homes built or remodeled within the last 15-ish years. As you can see, this kitchen feels much brighter and airier (with the exception of those heavy, espresso floors) and yet the black appliances do okay in this space too. The contrast could be a bit much for some, but could be counteracted pretty easily by adding a few other black elements to the room.

Finally, our ultra-modern option.

Well, this seems like a no-brainer. Of course they seem right at home in this kitchen, which is what I think most people consider a typical contemporary style. Here we have vertical grain, black stained cabinets, pure white countertops, marble backsplash and greige floors. The look is high-contrast and a bit graphic, and the matte black of the stainless suits it well.

So what are your thoughts? Is black stainless a contender for you, or will it be as dated as the avocado fridge in your grandma’s basement soon enough? Let me know in the comments below!