Dishwashers: Visible or invisible controls?

peter_njSeptember 25, 2010

We're remodeling our kitchen, and I'm trying to collect some data on what kind of people choose visible control dishwashers (the kind with the control on the front) versus integrated control (the kind with the controls on the top).

I love machines and would like to see the controls on the front. (If I could, I'd even get a dishwasher with a clear panel in front and would pull up a chair every evening.) My wife thinks the front-control kind is old-fashioned and is for the kind the kind of people who, in the 1980s, would have complained that they couldn't program their VCR.

Could you post whether you prefer visible or integrated controls and the reason for your preference.

Although it would seem as if people choose integrated controls for a sleeker, less industrial look, I've noticed that a lot of people get restaurant ranges with integrated-control dishwashers. This seems inconsistent, so the desire for a sleeker look doesn't seem to explain why some choose integrated controls. I also have a theory that visible controls on certain brands (e.g., GE) is a sign of cheapness, while visible controls on other brands (e.g., Asko, Miele) is a sign of pride in the machinery you've chosen.

FYI - we're getting a Miele Optima with a stainless front; we're just not sure whether we want to get it with visible or integrated controls. In our case, it has a lot to do with what kind of image each choice would convey; hence, we're very interested in why people prefer one or the other.

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We had a Kitchen Aid Superba before we remodelled the kitchen. It had the hidden controls. We didn't care for the hidden cotrols, Could not read them without glasses and you never knew how long the DW had left to run.

We went with Miele Optima with the front controls, when we remodelled. So much easier to use the controls and without glasses and we like the look of the controls and the digital readout--that always lets us know how much time is left.

Many people here feel like they havta "Totally Integrate" their appliances-- as that appears to be the latest Fad, Yet they will shout To the World "I have a Miele and it is the best" then they hide it, and will even spend "Tons" of extra money to do so----I recall the arguements on what was/wasn't a "Totally integrated appliance" (Refrigerators).

Myself, I'm a "Techie" like you. My reasons for panelling the Dishwasher and the fridge were not to hide it.
We had 2 primary reasons to go with panelled appliances.
(1) We like the look of wood--and with the ovens and cooktop, handles etc, we had nuff Stainless Steel showing.
(2) We had a Stainless steel fridge and Stainless Steel dishwasher---What a pain to keep clean--always water spots on the freaking DW. Our Panelled appliances are a "Piece of cake" to keep clean.

Not sure why, but many can't seem to grasp these concepts
That there are reasons to panel appliances rather than to have them hidden and "Total Integration".

Anyway, do what pleases you, there are plenty here that will "Follow the Jonese" We Didn't and we Won't!!!

Good luck with your decision!!


    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 10:24PM
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I like my controls showing. I like seeing where the machine is in the cycle, and I like being able to see which cycle is running. And I just like the way it looks. My kitchen is a craftsman style, stainless appliances and an induction cooktop. (If you like technology, you really do need to check those out...)

Have fun with the remodel,

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 11:36PM
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I like them not showing. I don't like plastic and the controls are pretty much always plastic. We got an Asko that's stainless inside and out--even the "blades" (whatever you call the whirling things that water comes out of) are steel--and I just like the look better. The Asko doesn't have a name plate on the front, so it's just blank, and I just like the simplicity of it. I don't mind not having a knob or whatever to remind me how long is left on the cycle... I'm not that "scheduled" of a person.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 11:45PM
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Sounds like some of us switch away from whatever we didn't like about what we had before.

With my ancient GE dishwasher, I kept bumping into its exposed front knob, turning the fool thing on -- and not noticing until I heard water running in it. So I was adamant about switching to integrated controls where there's no way that could happen again. Didn't even bother to check if they make front controls you can't accidentally turn on, now.

Next time -- thirty years from now -- I may switch back to front controls. By then, they might have holograms on 'em and I'll need glasses, anyway...

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 12:34AM
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The only problem I had with the hidden controls DW was the handle being in my way.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 7:20AM
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Love the hidden controls! My 3 small kids don't mess with it much, compared to before. Also, if I want to check, I just open it. If it's not done, I just have to push start and close it again. I can also mostly tell if it's done while closed (there's a clean light indicator in the top middle, so I can see with it closed if that's on).

I have a kenmore, and I love the look of it and am so glad that we went with hidden. That was pretty much my main criteria in a new dw.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 7:52AM
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A vote for exterior controls and read-out. We almost went the integrated look when we bought our Bosch DW in 2001 (we agree that the look is far sleeker) but realized that we really do rely on knowing how much time there is left in a cycle - particularly when we're entertaining and dishes are, well, stacking up. One knock against our Miele (Diamante Plus) is that it doesn't have a cycle countdown and relies instead on an indicator of where it is in the cycle - it's okay but we'd prefer something more precise.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 4:43PM
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Thanks to those who responded! This is very helpful.

I guess what I'm hoping to hear from appliance lovers everywhere is what you think the aesthetic difference is (if there is one). Here's how I think about it:

In the 80s and 90s, instrument panels on cars were tending Devo-style high tech. E.g., digital speedometers, buttons where there should be dials, etc. And now, the trend is simple, classic instruments - dials and needles that evoke the early days of aviation. What I think this says about style in general is a return to authenticity. You don't try to hide your cooktop or oven. And some people actually display their pots and pans. So why try to hide the fact that you have a dishwasher? Some people go out of their way to create an ersatz authenticity (!!) - e.g., "restaurant ranges" that actually have low-power sealed burners, but have big knobs and heavy-gauge iron grates. The really expensive ovens (e.g., the high-end Vikings and Thermadors) have dials and knobs, not the sleek digital controls of the lower models. And yet people put these dial-and-knob ovens and restaurant ranges in the same kitchen where they put a hidden-control dishwasher! What a disconnect!

A Miele dishwasher is supposed to last 20 years. I don't want it to look like a relic from the past now. But I also don't want people in 2020 or 2025 to look at it and think it looks like a silly fad from the 2010s. I'm concerned that in 10-15 years the invisible control dishwasher is going to look like a lava lamp or a tailfin - just some silly fad that didn't endure. The front-control dishwasher might look a bit staid, but I don't see it ever looking like yesterday's fad.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 4:59PM
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THe one advantage of being 68 years old, In twenty years I won't care if it looks out of date...

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 5:31PM
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I think that the design and feeling of the room should be one of the decision factors. A range is often a focal point. But on the sink wall, the sink, often centered under the window, is the focal point. The dishwasher is not a focal point design element and in fact can seem to "unbalance" the symmetry created by the window/sink. So, you camouflage the dishwasher and make it disappear into the cabinetry. If you're doing a wood panel, i.e making your dishwasher part of the cabinetry, it seems best to go all the way and completely hide it. If you want the controls to show, it seems more authentic to let the thing present itself as what it is -- a dishwasher -- and use a steel or black door. JMHO.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 7:02PM
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We're going with exposed front controls on our new Kitchenaid....salesman said there were some troubles with the hidden top mount controls as they were right beside the exhaust vent....FWIW. Plus the other reasons mentioned above.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 8:02PM
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"If you want the controls to show, it seems more authentic to let the thing present itself as what it is -- a dishwasher -- and use a steel or black door. JMHO."

This illustrates the point I made, "2) We had a Stainless steel fridge and Stainless Steel dishwasher---What a pain to keep clean--always water spots on the freaking DW. Our Panelled appliances are a "Piece of cake" to keep clean.
"Not sure why, but many can't seem to grasp these concepts
That there are reasons to panel appliances rather than to have them hidden and "Total Integration".

I guess if you enjoy cleaning , polishing and still more polishing to get the nasty water spots off the dishwasher, then "You" can't comprehend the reason why someone would not want that "SS or even painted". Wood is sooooo easy to clean, and it hasta really get dirty to actually show any dirt or spots. Since the Cooktop, Ovens handles etc are all SS, I think the addition of the SS control panel BETTER Balances things, I mean , You see the cooktop controls, You See the Oven Controls--why is it that "Dishwaher controls and panels are "So Obscene"?????

I also agree with billp1, I too am 68 years old, and I live for "Today"----I don't base my choices on what may/may not be "In Vogue" not 20 years from now and not even tomorrow. I design, build, buy and enjoy what I want NOW, as everyday that clock ticks faster and faster.

To comment on your comment, Will it stay in style or come back in style (paraphrasing) The answer is Yes and Yes.
The example you gave us, "the new cars having what appears to be "Conventional looking" Guages vs Digital guages", is a good example of how some things never go out of style(except for a temporairy amount of time) Same for clocks Analog clocks have made a huge comeback, both in cars and in the home. If you go to Many car shows, like I do, usually the most popular car there is a finned car (Usually a 57 Chebbie) and many of the young folks who weren't even a "Gleam in their Dad's eye, when that was built, show an intense interest in that car, as well as other Finned Cars (Christines) for example. I can recall in the 60's when many people would not touch a Finned car with a 10 Ft pole, now they command some of the highest car auction prices.
Anyway, good points, made by You, Just "Stay True" to what you like and let the "Joneses enjoy their "Hidden Goodies"!!!

It's your kitchen and your Money peter nj.

Enjoy it and the time you spend in it.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 8:46PM
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To Dodge59 - I was considering a stainless steel dishwasher until I read your post about keeping it clean. I'm much more of a function over form person. Don't want to constantly be cleaning. Might now be looking at a different option just because of this issue. Thanks for the tip.

Regarding Visible or invisible controls -- visible is the choice for me. Practicality again.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 9:20PM
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My pleasure, ajk5, It is entirely possible that the "newer stainless" is easier to clean, but looking at posts on GW, I'm not convinced.
Everytime a drop of water got on that stainless, it sank right into its "Soul". I tried every SS cleaner known to mankind, finally found that the polish I used for my cars worked the best--but still more work than this "old Boy" wants to do, anymore.
Another reason I'm not convinced that the stainless steel is any better than what I had is from posters that go to the showrooms and look at the appliances there. We see where they post that the stainless steel on those appliances is spotted and often scratched. At 68 years old, I'm just not willing to take the chance, besides, I would rather be polishing "One of my Beauties" in the garage, than the dishwasher----Ya know what I mean?
This is not to say to those that have SS and enjoy it that you shouldn't, or that my panelled appliances are any better than yours (Looks or otherwise)-----It's just with that "BIG CLOCK" tickin', I have to use my time the best I can and enjoy it!!!


    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 10:25PM
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@peter_nj - I just bought and installed a Miele La Perla II 2832sciss that has the front "buttons".

I wanted front buttons so I could see what was going on, how much time I had left, and the Miele will let you know in the front panel if your dw arms have been stuck. I can't say if the integrated one lets you know anything like that.

And it has been stuck several times. We both love this dw. It's fantastic. Glad you're getting a Miele and I'd get the front "buttons", though they are not buttons, they're just a touch panel.

You're going to love your new dw!!!! See my threads on what dw detergent I'm using.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 3:44PM
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Yale Appliance Blog has a post today about dishwashers (see link below).

If you are paneling the front, as Gary likes (and makes a convincing argument for doing), then European dishwashers work better because they don't protrude out from the cabinet line. American models stick out an inch or so -- more of a bother if the dishwasher is paneled.

Here is a link that might be useful: Yale Appliance Blog, 27 Sept. 2010

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 5:02PM
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Fori is not pleased

I just don't care.

It might be nice to be able to see when the cycle will be done, and I used to have that feature, but I don't miss it.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 5:18PM
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Personally, really like the plain front of the integrated models. As far as a wash goes, all I want to know is whether it is proceeding happily. The La Perla integrated models have an optical alert that tells you the machine is in operation. If an arm becomes blocked then the machine alerts the user with a blinky light. That's about all I really need to know.

If the dishes aren't done and I need something out of there, I just open it up and pull what I want out and finish it by hand. No big deal.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 5:22PM
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I got the 'quasi-integrated' KA model. The cycle selection buttons are along the top but the 'go', 'cancel' and count-down display are on the front.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 6:04PM
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I'm with Noellabelle - small kids love to push buttons and turns knobs, so why not dispose of an attractive nuisance? (And yes, I do know from experience, and yes, the recessed controls were worth their weight in clean dishes.)

Having said that, our new FP dish drawers have external readouts - doesn't bother me at all. They're stainless, not built in. Why? Because you can't see them unless you're in the kitchen and I wanted people to be able to find them. We did keep the old Bosch with the hidden controls, too, and when it dies we plan on replacing it with paneled, built-in, hidden-control, model. Why? Because you *can* see it from outside the kitchen and because it's a secondary dishwasher and confuses people ;-)

So, yah - what works for you. Do you want other people to find the dishwasher? Do you want them to leave it alone? Is your kitchen open to other rooms? Does that much stainless steel make you squeal with joy or swear at the cleaning wipes?

But that's me - the gal with the wood and chalkboard paneled Miele fridge - not exactly the hip, up-to-date choice. But I love it - the chalkboard is super useful, people can find the fridge, and I don't have to keep wiping fingerprints off of 28 sq ft of stainless.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 8:27PM
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Peter NJ makes a good point ("the trend is simple, classic instruments - dials and needles that evoke the early days of aviation. What I think this says about style in general is a return to authenticity. You don't try to hide your cooktop or oven.... So why try to hide the fact that you have a dishwasher?")

I totally agree, and I'm also a total sucker for that trend. Witness my Fratelli Onofri range--before buying it I actually had them go open the box in the warehouse and make sure the one they were selling me had the analog clock, not the digital one. Seriously, if this were the appliances equivalent of an al-anon meeting, I would have to get up and confess: "Hello, my name is Ideagirl, and I'm such a sucker for vintage looks that I spent hundreds of dollars more for THE EXACT SAME RANGE because the stores that sold it for less only had ones with digital clocks."

HOWEVER, here's the aesthetic reason we got integrated controls on the dw: because they don't seem to make dishwashers whose external controls look like simple, classic instruments. The controls are plastic, digital, etc. If they made a dishwasher with external controls that looked like the instrument panel of a 1938 biplane, I would have had to physically drag my husband away from it... except I wouldn't have, since I would've wanted it too. But they don't, at least not in any price range I would ever pay attention to. So, since those dw's don't seem to exist, we got something that looks classic in a different way: an Asko 5233 with the "towel bar" handle. It doesn't have ANYTHING on the front, not even the manufacturer's name. Looks classic enough for me.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 1:09PM
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To AJK5, some stainless appliances (Asko dishwashers for example) come with a special coating that's sort of like teflon except it's totally invisible. It prevents fingerprints, water spots etc. So if you like stainless, don't exclude it categorically--just exclude ones that don't have that feature.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 1:12PM
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I have a KA-- I like seeing where the dw is in the cycle. for instance, I have a "add a dish" indicator -- when lit it is not to late to add something and it will still get clean. I am always finding a stray dish or glass after I start the dw.

I do not see what is offensive about the control panel on the dw that it needs to be hidden.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 2:55PM
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