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posted: 12/8/2013 1:00 AM

What's the next big thing in the kitchen

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The Washington Post

Lou Lenzi, industrial design director at GE Appliances, was the guest recently on The Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:

Q. I'm planning to make over my kitchen in the next year. What finishes look to be the big, upcoming trends? Is it still stainless appliances and granite countertops? If possible, I'd like to avoid dating my kitchen if a couple of years from now I need to sell my place.

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A. Overall the trend is warmer, muted grays. Stainless will be with us for a long time. However our new Slate finish has been very well received. Slate is warm, medium, metallic gray.

Q. What technology trend in the kitchen has been overhyped? And what trend has been mostly overlooked?

A. Steam cooking is a really hot topic -- pardon the pun. Will it stick? Maybe. I think convection has been overlooked. There are a lot of real consumer benefits with convection.

Q. I'm in the process of a total house renovation. I had a pro-style range that I really liked. The new design calls for a pro-style rangetop and double ovens. Do you see the trend toward these appliances continuing? Also, do you see the open kitchen as a trend that's here to stay?

A. The open kitchen plan reflects a trend toward the kitchen serving as the "hub" of the home. We hear this time and again in our consumer research across the country. As for the pro look, I think your choices are good ones. They'll look great.

Q. What's coming down the road in appliances?

A. Two big trends we see are connectivity and the integration of technologies. Connectivity will enable new services, control and remote notifications ("You left the fridge door open!"). Integration will reduce the overall "footprint" in the kitchen and laundry room.

Q. I recently bought a house and don't have the money to upgrade all of my appliances. What is a good way to decide on color and style for only upgrading a few pieces?

A. I'd find an "anchor" finish that will mix and match well with your personal color tastes. If you tend toward a lighter color palette, go white. It will mix well with a spot of stainless in the kitchen. If you prefer darker finishes, Slate or black will give you a good foundation color. You can mix in stainless or Slate. When we developed Slate, we wanted to find a finish that would look good with existing finishes. Not everyone can swap out an entire suite of appliances at once.

Q. Can you explain the price difference between free-standing and slide-in ranges? I'm in the middle of doing my kitchen. The designer wants me to do a slide-in, but the price difference is an issue with my budget.

A. There's a little more complexity in slide-ins. The controls, the overhanging cooktop that bridges the cabinet, etc. With the popularity of tile backsplashes in kitchens, a lot of designers prefer the slide-in. They don't hide the beautiful backsplash finishes. If you're going to splurge a little on the budget, go with the slide-in.

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