Of course no matter how terrific a kitchen looks, you need the right appliances to make it all work. “There’s no perfect setup,” says Fred Albano, president since 1997 of family-owned Albano Appliance and Service in Pound Ridge. “You have to find the one that best fits your lifestyle.” Albano points to the old family fridge as one appliance undergoing dramatic changes. Perhaps the most exciting trend is what he calls the “disassembling” of the unit. “Instead of the box getting bigger and bigger,” he says, “now, we’re breaking it up into pieces and putting them in all the places where they are needed, particularly ‘breaking off’ the freezer and putting it out of the main line of fire.” So instead of a 48-inch unit, for instance, he’ll recommend a 24- or 30-inch refrigerator-only column, with the freezer placed elsewhere in the room. Why? “The main reason is that the chef wants more counter space where all the work happens,” he says, “and while they might go into the refrigerator 10 times in one meal prep, they don’t often go into the freezer.” By switching out a 4-foot-wide fridge for a 30-inch one, a significant amount of counter space is gained. Other new refrigeration trends include the increased use of separate refrigerator drawers, fully integrated or hidden units (“You don’t see any compressor or hinges—it’s perfectly flush with the adjoining cabinetry”), and convertibility, or being able to convert parts of a refrigerator to a freezer or wine storage as needed.
Refrigerator “columns,” with units built into the wall, flank a wine-storage unit.
Exciting things are happening to other appliances as well. “The steam oven is the biggest revolution in the home kitchen,” says Albano. “It does everything that the microwave does except heat up a cup of coffee or make popcorn—but the quality of the food is much better. It’s particularly good for ‘refreshing’ food from the day before.” Traditional double ovens are primarily a thing of the past, adds Albano, whose preference is pairing a specialty convection oven—particularly good for baking and roasting—with a steam oven or a 240-volt microwave/convection combination. Albano adds that under-the-counter drawer configurations are growing in popularity for microwaves, where they are less conspicuous and take up much less room. He also notes an increase in the popularity of induction cooktops (“It offers the performance of gas—it’s as fast or faster than gas and as responsive in cooling off—with the easy clean up of electric”) and the return of a modular platform that might combine two gas burners with two electric coils, or maybe a barbeque or steakhouse-style griddle. And new for dishwashers is the addition of a second, smaller 18-inch unit in a butler’s pantry or wherever glassware is stored, a plus when entertaining. Finally, says Albano, every kitchen should include a wine-storage cooler for resale value.