Form vs function/Practicality vs design in appliances

needinfo1December 11, 2012

I'm torn whether my first priority in choosing kitchen appliances should be function and practicality or look/design feature. (And, I am dealing with a husband who thinks it is ridiculous to pay extra for something like colored paint on a range.)

Here's my situation. I live in a fairly upscale older, urban neighborhood so, while I am not thinking of resale, I need to stay in line with what expectations are in kitchens here. I have a kitchen with 1920s birch cabinets in a honey tone (some original and some we had custom built) and hardwood floors. I have white appliances because I think they are more appropriate for the feel of the era and because stainless leaves me absolutely cold. I want the ambiance and feel (not an exact duplication) of a kitchen of that era rather than a current trendy kitchen. It is time to get a new range and new countertops; I am strongly thinking about soapstone countertops.

The range is what is problematic. Our current range is a 30" slide in, but if we spend a bit on carpentry we could figure out how to put in a 36". All of the white appliances are on different walls than the range.

Easiest and more practical would be to put in a good quality 30" stainless steel box (that is exactly what they look like to me) like every manufacturer sells. This is what my husband votes for rationalizing that stainless is fine, all manufacturers highlight stainless currently, we could get a true cook's range with high BTUs, and having a stainless range on a different wall from the white appliances would work well visually. Or, if I want to go little more design-oriented, I could get a stainless range with the colored front panel. This is what my husband thinks is ridiculous, and he can't believe I would pay more (around $600) for the same appliance just because it would be more aesthetically appealing to me. Or, the most impractical choice would be to get a 36" colored Aga Legacy we have found as a discounted floor model. The specs as far as burner type and BTUs on this aren't as good as the other more pro-oriented stoves that are real cooking machines we are considering. And, its oven sizes are miniscule, but I have a wall oven too so this is not a major consideration. So, the Aga would be a total trade off of performance for style and looks. But, it certainly is cute and appealing visually for the theme of my kitchen.

Has anyone faced a similar dilemma? What would you do? Should I be swayed by the promise of those mega-sized Bluestar or Viking burners? Or, would I be happier with a cuter but less real cook-oriented Legacy? I do cook, probably quite a bit better than most people, but am by no means a foodie or someone who is constantly turning out gourmet meals. And, even though he is resisting I think I can get my husband to go in whichever direction. It is just that I am not 100% certain myself other knowing that I really hate plain stainless. Thanks.

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I have an Aga, but not the Legacy, so cannot attest to it's cooking abilities. There are some Legacy owners here so perhaps they will chime in on it's merits. I love my Aga. It fits my look and my cooking style. Although the ovens look small, they are quite roomy and can hold a 27 lb. turkey. I would not say they were less "cook oriented". I would say that function should always take precedence over form, so if you need higher BTU, then go for that on a different stove. Certainly all stoves will work adequately for most cooks. Look for what you like and what is easy to clean!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 9:35AM
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Sophie Wheeler

They still make plain white gas ranges that don't come with a pro price tag. I'd pick that middle ground.

2K at AJ Madison, and probably less elsewhere. Special order at any box store or Sears too if you aren't in a big metro area.

GE Profile PGB930DETWW.
30" Freestanding Gas Range with 5 Sealed Burners, 19,000 BTU Tri-Ring, 5.4 cu. ft. Convection Oven, Self-Clean, Baking Drawer and Grill/Griddle Accessory

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 12:54PM
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For appliances, my primary goal is the functionality. That being said, my strategy has been to find the appliance that meets my functionality requirement and then I see what look options I can also get. A beautiful design can come with great functionality.. and if you look hard enough in retail stores as well online, you can always pay less than reatil. Sometimes way less.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 1:16PM
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Function above all ... if you've ever worked in a "showcase kitchen" you know what I mean.

while I am not thinking of resale, I need to stay in line with what expectations are in kitchens here Don't worry about resale or the local expectations. Get what YOU need for your life. Because the neighborhood is not using your kitchen, you are.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:06PM
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I say go for the AGA.

If it makes your heart sing, that is the most important thing. Every time you walk into your kitchen you will gravitate toward it.

I am a serious cook, and don't have a "practical" "workhorse" range. My good friend just remodeled her kitchen and chose a stainless Bluestar. It is a wonderful range and the function is fabulous, but when you walk into her kitchen you don't even really notice it.

If you want a range that fits in with the vintage look and comes in a great color and you love the AGA AND you have a wall oven...then you're golden.

As far as husbands go, they will never be convinced. But, when he sees how happy you are in a kitchen you love, he will probably not begrudge the extra money.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:48PM
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Sometimes you can get the color as a free upgrade. I did for my Bluestar range. At the time, if you attended one of their demonstrations, you got your choice of a free color upgrade or a free set of cookware. I took the color.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bluestar demonstrations

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 5:11PM
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I'm doing the Aga Legacy. I hope I like it, since I cook a lot, but there are no guarantees that I will. But the same can be said for any other stove.

The vaunted divide between cooks and looks isn't really so wide. Viking? Regarded as junk on the Appliances forum, and in many other places besides. Bluestar? Great hobs but there are one too many stories about the ovens that include phrases like, "wall of flame," "shower of sparks" and "out of my house now." Capital Culinarian? It simmers for a lucky few but not for the many. The arrival of the long-promised simmer burner may or may not precede the Second Coming. The new American range? Looks promising, but a little ugly and still unproven. Plus, while all of those ranges have open burners, which I like, they also deliver furnace-level BTUs, which I don't want. High BTUs require you to drop extra thousands in ventilation and, critically, make up air (MUA). I can't fathom what the heck I'd ever need that firepower for, unless I'm feeding Smith & Wollensky ribeyes to 35 tops a night.

The Aga Legacy doesn't have tons of reviews, but the ones I've seen are positive for its cooking ability.

In addition, if you really did decide on a pro-style firebreather, you can get a whole range of colors, not just white.

And, I'm sorry, but if a spouse who can afford a Viking ever told me that I couldn't have a color I really wanted because it costs $600, I'd tell them to start shopping for an appliance that accepts batteries. And I don't mean a stove.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 5:27PM
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Oh my God Marcolo....Can I quote your last paragraph...over and over and over again. I can't wait to unleash that one on MY husband!!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 5:42PM
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What about a cooktop over a wall oven? I once had a white Bosch gas cooktop that was simple and could fit the vintage feel.

BTW, my Viking is a very nice range, no issues.

Here is a link that might be useful: cooktop and wall oven

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 6:46PM
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Soapstone and a black induction cooktop over a oven could be an option. Induction is precise, powerful and does not throw off heat. Now number one in the top restaurants worldwide.
Viking appliances are mentioned in reviews in the Appliance forum. Their reliability has been variable.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 10:36PM
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This is really goofy. I wrote a long post last night and now it isn't here........Wonder if I forgot to hit submit after preview. Or, did it disappear into cyber space?

I really appreciate all of the advice, and I am still torn. Yesterday we went to talk to the Bluestar rep and to see it. It certainly is an impressive piece of equipment with those blazing hot burners, and yes there is even a visual difference between the flame size and level of the mega-sized 22K burners and the 15K. That said, I really need to spend some time reflecting on whether I truly need all of that fire power. The free color upgrade was offered to us and must be the incentive to get people in to talk to the rep. So, this would give me my color.....My husband was quite impressed with the build of the stove and the mechanics. But, I also keep thinking of all I've read of Bluestar problems with hot and sticking doors etc.

For anyone else considering a Bluestar or other high-powered range, we learned some new things about installation and safety that we had never heard from any of the other sales people we've talked with. A high- powered range like this needs to have a fire proof/resistant back wall if it is installed with the standard island trim kit. We have white subway tile as a four foot high backsplash and had assumed we'd be fine as is, but apparently this is not sufficient unless it is fire proof tile (I have no idea how one would know this) AND the tile needs to go down 6" below the top of the range. Otherwise, you need to buy at least the 6" high backguard. This is what we'll be doing if we buy this.

The dealer we visited yesterday had a cream colored Legacy on the floor. It was gorgeous and much more attractive than the white one we saw elsewhere. So, if you are looking for a light color Legacy, go for cream because it looked so much more rich and definitely not as cheap appearing as the white model. I still really like the Legacy a lot and can see pluses to it. First of all, it really is cute looking and would set an entirely different tone for our kitchen. We are empty nesters and those smaller ovens would be nice most of the time for what we cook for ourselves. But, I also know the burners are not as powerful as the more pro ranges (whether I need more power is a whole different story), and I really much prefer the open burners over the closed of the Legacy. While fine, I think the overall construction is a bit less sturdy than the Bluestar type models since the burners are aluminum rather than the brass of the Bluestar. And, one of the major concerns of ours is that the sides on this are not finished, so it can't stand with one side exposed. We would have to come up with having a carpenter build a teeny 4"-6" side piece to match our cabinetry.

The appearance of a white stove as suggested by hollysprings definitely fits in, but I am really sick of the white top and how after a while, no matter how much you try to clean and scrub, there are just some stains and discolorations that are always there. So, even if I go with white, I want something that is not white on the cooktop.

I have not even thought of reconfiguring and getting a new cabinet built to hold a cooktop and wall oven. My guess is that this would probably end up being even more expensive that a top end range.

GWlolo mentioned being able to get prices less than retail. I'd like to know more about this since this is one thing that is frustrating to me about looking at all of these appliances. They are all quoting the exact same prices whereas nearly everything else we buy has dealer discretion on pricing. I am aware of online buying to avoid taxes, scratch and dent options (these just don't seem to be available for many different or high end lines though and floor models. What other ways are there to actually get a deal?

The one thing I know is I refuse to put a stainless steel box in my kitchen!

Thanks all. If you have any more thoughts, I appreciate them.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 10:11AM
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I've only had my electolux icon for two months...but I love it. I've done a lot of cooking on it...and I am very happy with it. I don't do a lot of super-low simmering...but the simmer burner is fine with rice. And it came with a cast iron simmer plate...should I ever decide I NEED to do a super-slow simmer.

I really WANTED white appliances. Unfortunately I decided they "stopped the eye" too much with my cabinets. I am happy with my stainless...but TOTALLY understand your desire not to put a big stainless box in your kitchen. Here's how the range wall turned out:
From Daytime pics kitchen 1129

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:00AM
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Meant to add...the few times I had to choose between form or function...function won. I have celiac disease...which makes eating out a bit of a chore. (I have to vet my restaurants carefully.) Consequently, I cook. A lot. So function was primary concern.

We'd initially planned on a slide-in range...but decided with a free-standing when I realized that, sooner or later, I will have to replace the range, and the slide-in I'd chosen was going to seriously limit my choices down the road. Free-standing meant that ANY 30" range should fit when the time comes.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:09AM
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@mjee ~ love your kitchen it is so sleek. Looks great and functions well. Great combination!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 12:16PM
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I went with the vintage white legacy. It won't be installed until next month though. I really wanted more than one stove and this was the only way to get it. I originally looked at the Verona, but when I saw the AGA, I fell in love. A true splurge. And my husband totally agreed! I was thrilled!

I really love the look of the whirlpool ice collection. I thin JenAir has a similar collection. It is white and stainless steel.

Here is a link that might be useful: Whirlpool white ice collection

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 4:15PM
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If I were already spending a lot of money for a pro-style range, I wouldn't hesitate to spend a little more money to get it in the color I REALLY wanted. To me, function and form are inseparable and it's not fair to make yourself choose one over the other. And I especially feel that way with a range, which is the second biggest appliance in your kitchen. I mean, at the end of the day, you're gonna have to look at it, so you better like the way it looks and you're certainly going to cook on it so obviously it needs to do that well too.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 4:58PM
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mjsee--your kitchen looks lovely, and function obviously didn't compromise on the looks there.

kitchen maman--I'll take a look at the Whirlpool Ice collection. Perhpas there is something there that might work. I'll be anxious to know what you think of your Legacy. I am still strongly considering this.

sailor girl--Yes, I want both. But, I am having a difficult time deciding how to balance all of this out.

Thanks all.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 6:19PM
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