Q&A: Orion Creamer on kitchen design

Orion Creamer
Aug 09, 2018

Orion Creamer is one of the founders of Big Chill, a brand of kitchen appliances that started with energy efficient versions of mid century appliances that kept that retro look. Located in Boulder Colorado, Big Chill started with a 1950s style rounded fridge with a stamped metal body, stainless steel trim, and a pivoting handle in colors inspired by 1950s cars and kitchens. Now they do many kitchen products from cooktops to dishwashers in a range of styles and sizes.

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Good morning everyone. Doesn't the sight of a bright red or pale pink refrigerator make you smile? Orion Creamer is one of the founders of Big Chill, a brand of kitchen appliances that started with energy efficient versions of mid century appliances that kept that retro look. Located in Boulder Colorado, Big Chill started with a 1950s style rounded fridge with a stamped metal body, stainless steel trim, and a pivoting handle in colors inspired by 1950s cars and kitchens. Now they do many kitchen products from cooktops to dishwashers in a range of styles and sizes. Let's chat about kitchen charm and the power of color.

Hi everyone,

Thanks for showing up.  Looking forward to your questions!

-Orion

What colors do you think will be trending in kitchen design for 2019?

I'm seeing a lot of Turquoise and Brass in the kitchens we sell.

I have a 50s vintage formica topped kitchen table and matching chrome leg chairs. They were my grandmother's, handed down to my parents; this is a set I have spent my entire life around. The formica top is a bit scratched, and I should probably polish the chrome more than I do, but in all given it's age, it is in great shape. I know this is sturdy, well-made furniture that has stood the test of time, plus it has sentimental value to me. I have no desire in to have a retro kitchen though. Not my style and wouldn't blend with the rest of my house (open floor plan) if it were. We'll soon be redoing the kitchen and I know the issue of what to do with this set is going to be tough. I'd really hate to get rid of it and would love to find a way to keep it, anything from just use it in the finished basement and replace for the kitchen to maybe reupholster and/or slipcover the chairs, add some sort of table topper over the formica (is that a thing?). Looking forward to some ideas!!

Hmmm...I'd probably try to use it in the basement.  

If you want to spend some serious time on this project, you might try to remove the original Formica and upholstery and lay down a more modern looking pattern/ color.  With the chrome and retro design, I think this set will always have a vintage feel.  

Do you see Big Chill expanding into other product development other than just kitchen appliances?

I'd love to design for the rest of the house as well.  As long as it can be colorful!

How do you incorporate color for those smaller footprint kitchens without overwhelming the space or, making the room feel smaller than it is?

Good question.  I'd either use bold colors sparingly in small kitchens OR go with a lighter color palette.  Many of our customers, in this situation, will get a colorful Slim fridge (24" wide) to add a pop of color.

We really need to update our kitchen. We are in need of new cabinets and whatever we get we'd want to take them to the ceiling for a more modern look and more storage. Also this is the only way to then replace our fridge that's on it's last leg (total height where it's at now is 64 inches unless we raise cabinets to ceiling). Is there anyway to do this inexpensively? I know we'd then need to redo the backsplash. We were pricing everything out at Home Depot and it would still be around 6k before installation. If we go to a kitchen remodel store it's easily double that price. How bad would it be to only redo upper kitchen cabinets, leave the bottom as they are and not have a backspash? We don't plan on staying in the house longer than 3 years but need to do something now. Ideally our budget is only around 2k (not including new appliances). Are we way off our rocker to think we can hire out for this for that budget?

I know I've seen kitchen images where the upper cabs are a different color/ design than the lower cabs.  In design school, I learned a valuable lesson: "If you can't fix it, feature it."

I'm not an expert at cabinet pricing so I couldn't tell you if 2k is enough.

I'd do a google or Houzz.com search for other kitchens with a similar dilemma.

Do you see customers buying multiple products (such as both a fridge and a range) in different colors? Which is the bestselling color?

I've seen it, but it's rare.  I don't recommend it unless you really know what you're doing.

Our most popular colors are White, Red and Beach Blue.

 

Good luck!

 

What trends are you seeing in appliances across the board and how do they influence your design?

I think everybody wants a unique kitchen that shows off their personality.  Our customers use color to show their individuality.

When redesigning your kitchen, sometimes having no constraints can be the hardest dilemma of them all. Where do you begin? What do you do first?

I've spent quite a bit of time on sites like Houzz and Pinterest to gather ideas.  This is always where I start.  From there, I hone in on a direction.

How can someone incorporate color into a kitchen, but still keep the vibe classic​ and not too trendy?

In your situation, I'd just start with one colorful appliance and keep the rest of the kitchen classic.  We've got a bunch of ideas on our Gallery page.  www.bigchill.com/blog/inspiration/gallery/

 

Are there any new appliances on the horizon?

We're getting ready to launch a new fridge we've been working on for years now.  It's more of a vintage "ice box" look with an early American, industrial feel.  www.bigchill.com/classic-fridge

Read my article on bringing color to kitchens which includes products by Big Chill.

SOS - I live in a small apartment in NYC. What are your best tips for small kitchen design? Which item should I splurge on?

I'd keep the plan simple and clean (not a lot of clutter).  Maybe use a neutral palette with a pop of color.  If you're a Big Chill fan, I'd use the Slim fridge.

Will there ever be a bottom freezer, smaller-sized vintage style Big Chill that will fit in our cottage kitchen? Like many 1940's Chesapeake Bay cottages (built for summer only)... our kitchen is in an enclosed porch. I *love* Big Chill, but really need a bottom freezer. Thanks for considering this question.

Nothing small and bottom-freezer on the horizon but I'll put it on the list.

We've got an under counter fridge coming out later in the year, if that would work in your space.

To the outsider, it seems you basically put some cool colors on basic Whirlpool refrigerators, so you can explain why your refrigerators cost so much and why it takes a month or more to get to customers after they order?

Good question.  Our metal stamping process is what adds so much to the cost and lead times.  This is how they built fridges in the 50's.

It would be cheaper for us to build plastic or fiberglass fridges but it wouldn't be the same feel.

Appliances are an expensive purchase. I don't think I would want to commit to a color scheme for the life of the appliance. Have you considered appliances with interchangeable fronts?

I've always thought that would be cool.  Just haven't figured out an easy way to do it.

What is the most popular color for your refrigerators? And do you do custom colors?

Most people are shocked to learn that our most popular color is White.

Red and Beach Blue are second and third on the list.

We have 200+ custom colors available:  www.bigchill.com/custom-color-swatch.html

 

What is the most difficult challenge you face with integrating modern day tech into appliances that are meant to look vintage?

Great question.  My biggest issue is typically working around modern day sizing.  For instance, fridges in the 1950's were closer to 10 cubic feet.  Most families today are looking for 20 cubic feet of space.  

If you're looking for a bright, open and airy kitchen, what is the best color palette to chose from (from the appliances, to the flooring, to the furniture and fixtures)?

Our customers stick with the pastel colors for bright and airy kitchens.  Buttercup Yellow, Beach Blue, White, Pink, Jadite Green or Turquoise.

I like white oak for the flooring and furniture.

Will you be selling appliances in other countries soon?

We're selling across Europe currently.  We have big plans to expand from there!

What is your favorite color of all the different ones you sell? And what color do you think we'll be the hit for 2019?

My favorite color has always been orange, but it usually needs to be used sparingly. 

Turquoise is my best rec for 2019.

What are the areas in the kitchen where colors make the biggest impact? Is it paint? Appliances? Tile? All of the above?

I think any of these could make a big impact.  Just depends on budget.

I can tell you that a colorful, retro fridge or stove will make a big impact at all dinner parties.

My kitchen was updated about 10 years ago by a previous owner. The cabinets are very dark (and MDF, I believe). The kitchen is wallpapered in a lavender pattern that I love with a chinese red wood floor that I do not. Overall, the design is good but the cabinets give a dark feel to an already small room. I love fuchsia and am considering painting either the cabinets fuchsia or the floor. I fear that the cabinets would be a little much but the floor seems doable. Or should I remove the paint entirely and refinish it? Which would be the most economical way to achieve a fresh look without a lot of mess and $$?

Fuchsia floor sounds easier than the cabs.  If you don't like it, you could easily paint over.  

Hi, My kitchen is very narrow. How do I make the space feel bigger?

Hmmm...I'd go with a clean, minimal aesthetic.  Light colors.  No clutter.

If you could build your dream kitchen, what would it look like?

It would be very eclectic.  I like a little bit of everything.

If I had to pick a style today, it would be Industrial Farmhouse with a Classic stove (brushed brass and matte black).

Thanks for being on the chat today Orion. We look forward to seeing your new designs. Next week we will have Alexandria designer Todd Martz talking about keeping traditional design fresh. Until then, enjoy these last weeks of summer.

I love the idea of a bright-colored fridge, but I also believe that a room should have only one focal point, and in our kitchen it's the ceramic table we got in Tuscany. Would a classic-style (that is, plain lines, not retro) fridge in, say, green (the main color in the table) complement or distract?

I'd have to see a pic of your kitchen.  Maybe stick with a more neutral fridge color.

We are going to be repainting out kitchen shortly. We have white cabinets with darker granite and an ugly vinyl floor which is going to be replaced with tile. My husband and I were watching Brother vs Brother and one of the brothers did a darker paint color in the kitchen. I've been trying to find the name of the paint he used but no luck. Help!! We both liked the look and think it would good against an all white kitchen for a more sleek and contemporary look. First question are we crazy to go with a darker color wall in the kitchen? It's not an eat in kitchen. Second any idea the paint color name that was used. It was this last season when they were redoing the houses in California. And third what would be pro/con to a darker kitchen?

If you have a big kitchen I think you can go dark.  Personally, I'd start at Houzz for paint ideas. You can even ask questions.

I haven't seen that episode of Brother vs Brother so I can't help with an exact color.

HF9046

That was a blast.  Thanks for all the great questions.  Sorry I didn't get to all of them.

Have a great day,

Orion

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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