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Home > About Abt > News > News Archive 2004 > "All The Range"

All The Range

High-End Appliances Blend Beauty And Technology

Chicagoland Publishing Co., a subsidiary of the Tribune Company

If you're planning your dream kitchen, or the purchase of a high-end kitchen appliance, you're in for a treat. Trophy kitchens are showplaces in luxury homes, and appliance manufacturers offer an amazing array of options, conveniences and technologies to dazzle the cook and non-cook alike.

They include commercial cooking appliances, quiet ventilation systems, multi-temperature food and wine storage, sanitized dishwashing, steaming and barbecuing capabilities, ovens that utilize both halogen and microwave technology, and much more. There also are specialized appliances you might not even know you needed, such as built-in coffee bars, wine cellars, steam ovens, under-counter icemakers, and warming drawers.

Stephen Weiner, sales manager of kitchen appliances at Abt in Glenview, has been selling the latest in upscale kitchen appliances for the past 13 years.

"I've seen an evolution of the high-end appliances take place," he says. "The products are yielding better performance, more versatility and vastly improved quality. And prices have gone up accordingly."

Harold Plass, president of Plass Appliance, says you can expect to spend about $10,000 to $40,000 on appliances for an upscale kitchen. "Some of the real big homes have two kitchens; one for the cook and one for the homeowner," he adds. "In some cases, people want a separate kosher kitchen."

Hot, hot, hot

Commercial ranges are the centerpiece of the trophy kitchen. Large ranges start at 30 inches and go up to 60 inches in width. They weigh more than 700 pounds, and usually have a stainless-steel finish. A 60-inch model will likely have two convection ovens, be self-cleaning, and feature a flexible arrangement on the cooking surface --six burners and a 22-inch grill or griddle.

"My favorite piece is the French top, which is a solid steel cooking surface similar to what you find in a restaurant," Weiner says. "It takes 45 minutes to heat up, so it's for people who are cooking for a period of a few hours. The temperature varies on different parts of the surface. It's nice because there is 100 percent contact with your cookware." A top-of-the-line 60-inch range by Wolf or Viking falls in the $10,000 range; less for the smaller sizes.

"We also have French-made ranges by La Cornue that look like they are from the turn of the century, in the $15,000-$35,000 price range -- even higher if you want to complement it with custom cabinetry or an island," Weiner says.

Of course, you'll need a very nice hood above your professional range.

"We have commercial hoods in the $2,000 range, and there is a company we work with called Abbaka that makes custom architectural hoods from $4,000-$25,000 in copper, brass, stainless steel, etc. If you can draw it, they'll make it," Weiner says.

According to www.kitchens.com, a consumer information site on kitchen design based in Chicago, it's not just about looks -- people want professional performance when cooking. They prefer convection ovens because they cook faster and more evenly, and keep in moisture better than conventional ovens. Professional gas ranges have greater temperature adjustability, so you can turn it up higher to cook a better sauté, or turn it down lower to simmer delicate sauces or chocolates without scorching.

In terms of hoods, a "quiet" ventilation hood or one with a baffle filter is preferred. The baffle filter vents everything out of the house by pulling the air through and collecting the grease and oil in a plate that can be thrown in the dishwasher. (The typical hood circulates the air using a charcoal filter that has to be replaced frequently.)

In the cooler

According to kitchens.com, the higher-end refrigerators have separate compressors for the freezer and the fridge so the food doesn't dehydrate and there's no odor transfer. You can spend up to $6,500 for a new refrigerator, with just about every price point in between. Options include drawers that have special seals to keep food fresh, and built-in water filters.

Smaller drawer-size, pull-out refrigeration units, such as those by Sub-Zero, are being used as secondary refrigerators. Under-counter models can be installed at child level in the kitchen. Miniature upright refrigerators by U-Line, for example, can be found all around the house. "They can go anywhere--kitchen, bedroom, den, party room," Plass says.

With more people collecting wine these days, long-term storage of quality wine has become more important. "A refrigerator is not a good long-term storage solution for fine wine," Weiner says. The wine storage refrigerator by Sub-Zero is made for this purpose. It's a refrigerated cooler with a glass door that goes in the kitchen, and holds 78 bottles of wine. It maintains two temperature zones and has humidity control, all for a little less than $5,000. Smaller units with fewer features also are sold for less, starting at about $2,000, Weiner says.

Plass says these kinds of coolers, sometimes called wine captains, are popular at Plass. "They're designed so you can store reds at one temperature and whites at another," he says.

Buy stainless, or hide it

According to kitchens.com, stainless steel is by far the biggest seller in terms of finishes, and it has been for a number of years. This is because stainless steel goes with anything, from traditional to modern decor. The Web site predicts that the stainless trend will grow even more pronounced before it goes out of style.

If homeowners don't want stainless steel, then they want to conceal their kitchen appliances. That means camouflaging them behind custom cabinet doors, and/or installing them flush with the wall. This is called the integrated look, and works well in a period kitchen, for example.

Kitchens.com predicts the fully integrated trend will also get bigger, moving beyond "hidden" refrigerators and ventilation hoods to warming drawers and microwaves.

Specialty appliances

Warming drawers or warming ovens are a handy place to keep dinner plates and chaffing dish trays warm. They're about the size of a regular drawer -- 24 inches to 30 inches wide, 10 inches high, and 23 inches deep. They typically have an adjustable humidity feature. If you're throwing a dinner party, they can keep a cherry pie warm without letting it dry out till you're ready to serve dessert. Dacor makes a good variety of these, in the $500-$1,000 range.

When you're ready to serve coffee, Miele has a built-in coffee system that doesn't even require a pot, for about $2,000. "You put your whole beans in, fill the container with water, and then put your mug under the spout, and it makes a cup of coffee just for you. That way, everybody gets a fresh cup," Weiner says. "Because it's steam-brewed, the oils don't enter into the coffee, so it gives you a flavor that is not bitter."

Oh, and don't forget kitchen entertainment. "People are buying 42- and 50-inch plasma television displays and installing them in their kitchens and their eating areas," Weiner says. No matter how luxurious the kitchen, "people still like to eat and watch TV."

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune