Lou Lenzi on choosing kitchen appliances and major appliance trends | Home Front

Nov 14, 2013

Lou Lenzi is the Industrial Design Director at GE Appliances,where he is responsible for all industrial design and user-interface design activities for GE, Profile, Cafe, Monogram, Artistry and Hotpoint lines of major appliances. Prior to joining GE Appliances, Lou has held numerous senior design leadership positions with IBM, RCA, Thomson, Audiovox, and GE Healthcare.

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Good morning everyone and good morning to Lou Lenzi. Thrilled to have Lou, who is the Industrial Design Director at GE Appliances, here today to answer your questions. Let's talk.

There’s a lot happening with kitchen appliances in terms of technology and design. The kitchen itself is evolving. I hope I can help answering your questions about choosing kitchen appliances and design trends in the kitchen.

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

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.

Recently, teams at GE gathered together to come up with some very innovative ideas on the future of appliances. How likely do you think some of those 2025 Home ideas are, and are you guys already working on them?

The Home 2025 concepts vary in terms of timing. Some could see the market in 5 years, others 7 to 10 years. Home 2025 has been a wonderful experience for us, allowing us to get real consumer feedback and direction.

How long do you see the extensive popularity of stainless steel appliances continuing? Michele Annapolis MD

Stainless wont be going away. It is around 35% of total units sold. However, stainless "fatique" is setting in with some customers. Fingerprinting is one issue that bugs some people. We launched an alternative finish to stainless called Slate Gray. Have a look:  http://www.geappliances.com/design_center/slate-appliances/?omni_key=PR_WPchatslate

I really love white kitchens cabinets and white appliances. But the colors do not seem to match enough for me. The appliances appear to be whiter and brighter. What paint color can I use on my cabinets so they will match?

Good call on white. It is trending up as a popular finish. Most white appliances tend be high gloss, snow white, which should give you plenty of flexibility. Try to find the brightest white paint you can find. 

I am finding it hard to find a frig that has some style. The few I have seen did not have a door handle (there was a hand size indention on the top side of the door so you could open it) and the plastic around the door was more artfully curved. Do you have any suggestions for a stylish frig in a low cost bracket?

We do! We just launched a new series of applainces called Artistry. It's a cool combo of heritage design cues along with modern lines. At a really reasonable price. The link:   http://www.geappliances.com/products/artistry/?omni_key=PR_WPchatartistry

In my tiny townhouse dining area, I have a 5-light rustic candelabra-style chandelier that uses candle-shaped bulbs, but the light is so glaring that I almost never use it, then we're eating in the semi-dark. Shades would not go with the style. The area is small, but it's open to the living room; one wall has a large mirror. I have a dimmer, so I think the problem is the quality of light -- it needs to be softer. What type, tone and wattage of bulbs might I try?

I don't know what wattage you are doing, but definitely go to like a 15 or 25 watt bulb and get frosted ones.

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

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

Have induction cooktops gained in popularity? Do users have any general complaints?

Slowly but surely! The biggest consumer drawback has been the requirement for higher iron content in their cookware. But once they see induction working, they're amazed by the level of control. Equal or better than gas!

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 towards these appliances continuing? Also do you see the open kitchen as a continuation of the living space as a trend that's here to stay?

The open kitchen plan reflect the trend towards 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!

How is the artistry line doing? I won't be remodeling my kitchen for a few years yet, but it is perfect for my 50s era home. Thank you for recognizing we don't all want stainless, high tech looks! I hope the line will be here to stay when I need it. BTW, my laundry stack is in my kitchen, and in addition to having no plans to undertake a major renovation to change that, I actually like it that way. I would probably upgrade to the Spacemaker. Do you know of any more streamlined options for a stack, or should I plan on having a cabinet built to house the laundry unit?

We continue to hear "small is beautiful" so you're not alone in your space choices. I think a cabinet would really enhance the overall theme you're looking for in your kitchen decor. It will tie everything together nicely

We have been really please with the reaction to Artistry. I've seen some designers mix and match with Artistry with some awesome results. 

Will GE ever consider outfitting appliances that can fit in the new tred of micro-apartments and small apartments? I live in a studio in the center of town and there's only one brand with a boring line that fits my place.

We're hearing this more and more often from around the country, and not just in the big urban areas. This is an opportunity I'm exploring with the design team here in Louisville! 

Lou, you mentioned the need for higher iron content in cookware used on induction cooktops. Could you explain more?

Induction is magnetic-based. The induction coils under the glass cooktop are used to "excite" the metal molecules in the cookware. 100% aluminum and low iron stainless won't take advantage of induction technology. Check out the cool demos on our youtube page to learn more.

I'm looking for a range with a double oven, preferably one(s) that can also be used for keeping food warm and proofing bread. It needs to be gas, and I think I'd rather 5 burners, with at least one powerful and one for simmering. Can I get all those features and not have to buy the upgraded stainless? What would you recommend?

Try a PB950SEFSS. Comes in black or stainless. If that doesn't work for you, please email eresponse@ge.com for other options. Thanks!!

Do you have any frigs without door handles?

Yes, we do have top feezers with what are called "pocket handles". Creates a nice clean look for someone with more "minimal" tastes. Easy on the budget too.

We will be purchasing a refrigerator for a vacation condo in Boise, Idaho. We plan to spend spring, fall and a few weeks in December there. We are looking at a top freezer Maytag with about 20.6 cubic feet. My spouse wants a side by side. I want one that has the least potential for problems when we are not there. (Our daughter lives in Boise and will be checking the condo). Do you have any words of wisdom?

From a reliability standpoint, both configurations are reliable. I'd base my choice on what works for you ergonomically and how you plan to use it (fresh food vs. frozen food).

What's coming down the road in appliances? Will there be a new category?

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.  

And no complaints! I just keep a flat magnet in my wallet. When I'm purchasing new cookware, if the magnet sticks, the pot will work on induction. Love the speed and so easy to clean the cooktop.

Wow. Great tip.

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?

I'd find an "anchor" finish that will mix and match well with your personal color tastes. If you tend towards 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!

Where are GE refrigerators manufactured?

85% are in the US. We have factories in Alabama, Indiana (go Colts!), Kentucky and Tennessee.

For anyone thinking of a double oven: I have a range in the Adora line that has a smaller oven and a bigger oven. I bake and cook a lot and have been very happy with that configuration. The bigger oven has never been too small, which was one of my concerns before buying it.

Thanks for writing in.

Can you explain the price difference between freestanding 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.

There's a little more complexity in slide-ins...the controls, the overhanging cooktop that bridges the cabinet, etc.  With the popularity of tile basksplashes in kitchens, a lot of kitchen designers prefer the slide in. They don't hide the beautiful back splash finishes. If you're going to splurge a little on the budget, go with the slide-in. You're kitchen will look great!

Hello...I have a GE Advantium microwave and it appears that it's unfixable....it's giving me uneven temperature...I've had a specialist come over to fix it, but doesn't seem to work. It under cooks sometimes and over cooks other times....What is usually a life line for microwaves?

Please reach out to eresponse@ge.com. Thanks!

I've always wondered about how large kitchen appliances like fridges, ovens and dishwashers can be designed to leave a smaller carbon footprint. How do you design sustainability into something like that? And what do I do with the fridge or oven I need to replace?

Two things: we have an amazing recycling center in Philly that recycles a fridge per minute and reduces landfill waste by 85%. We use it for a large part of the east coast. We're also looking at how we design our products so they are better recycled at end-of-life. Our new dish washers - made here in Lousiville - are more than 80% recyclable.

My kitchen doesn't have plumbing on the refrigerator's side of the kitchen, so no place to hook up an icemaker. I don't mind a bit because I use very little ice. But when it came time to replace my old fridge, the selection of refrigerators without ice makers was quite limited. How removable are ice makers?

We do make plenty without them. Check out geappliances.com.

Europeans seem to really like to have the refrigerator have the same front as the cabinets. Do you ever see that catching on in the US?

You're right, it's very popular in the high end here. We offer that look in our GE Monogram brand. Select GE Profile series refrigerators have that capability as well.

I dislike glass stovetops. Does GE make stainless stovetops?

Yes, in gas. 

Really great variety of questions today about appliances. This chat was really helpful - thanks Lou! We really appreciate your taking the time to address a lot of these issues. Appliances are a major investment and they last a long time so the more consumer information you can get, the better. See you next week when our chat guest will be:  Susan Feldman, co-founder and chief merchandising officer of One Kings Lane to dish on holiday shopping, entertaining and online shopping for home decor.

It's been a lot of fun. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Lou Lenzi
Lou Lenzi is the Industrial Design Director at GE Appliances,where he is responsible for all industrial design and user-interface design activities for GE, Profile, Cafe, Monogram, Artistry and Hotpoint lines of major appliances. Prior to joining GE Appliances, Lou has held numerous senior design leadership positions with IBM, RCA, Thomson, Audiovox, and GE Healthcare.
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