For Those Who Think Young

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GE has noticed something, something not a lot of companies are catching onto just yet: Millennials are starting to build homes. The twenty-something lot is starting to get established as adults en masse. They’re marrying, advancing in their careers, buying homes and cars and couches and armoires instead of (or in addition to) video games and music. And that means that this most aesthetically-oriented of generations is out there shopping for refrigerators. They’re furnishing their lives, and that means they’re furnishing their kitchens.

GE has responded with a simple, stripped-down line of beautiful machines: the Artistry series. With the tagline “Cool is back,” although we weren’t aware it had gone anywhere, these are undeniably slick and pretty appliances. They’ve got the clean lines and pure colors (exclusively in black or white for this generation raised on the iPod) that have so characterized design for the last five years or so, making them unstintingly, furiously modern, while carrying about them an unmistakably retro air; there’s something special about home appliances that betray that some thought went into making them lovely, they way the very first home fridges looked back in the forties and fifties. Those were luxury items, and they looked it, with Space Age styling, round lines and chrome handles. They were labors of excellent industrial design, and it showed. The GE Artistry series has the same sensibility, a smart move when you’re marketing to a generation as in love with the past as it is the future. SMEG is following a similar approach with fridges that are legit luxury items; GE, however, has set its sights on the masses, by mixing affordability and style, giving these young new homeowners the means to outfit a kitchen for under $2500, the price of a couple of Macbooks.

And the design sensibility is unimpeachable. These styles are the work of 27 year-old GE industrial designer Thomas DeLuna, who describes his work: “Making the critical consumer touchpoints metallic, and set against either a pure, white gloss or black gloss finish creates a look that is both familiar to our consumers, yet remains fresh and modern. That’s what makes the GE Artistry Series special; the design is authentic and contemporary with a nod to the past not currently offered in the marketplace.” It’s that attention, not just to the design of the products themselves, but to how their users — and intended market — will interact with them, tactily and emotionally. The end product — authentic experience, contemporary design that looks back even as it looks forward, familiarity — just about hits every single button Millennials have, making these appliances the perfect products for nostalgia-addled young adults who want to build homes that feel unique.

The fridge — the centerpiece of any kitchen — immediately grabs attention for its uncommon bottom-freezer configuration (which makes sense, because nobody is in their freezer half as often as they are their fridge, which is what should be at eye-level), and its shining, chrome handles and their startlingly-unique horizontal orientation, which immediately calls to mind vintage kitchen design. This is clean, cool design that seems almost timeless in its contemporaneity. The range, available in gas or electric, continues the retro vibe with its analog clock. This oven is not brimming with buttons and dials; it’s simple and sophisticated. And cavernous.

The dishwasher and microwave are less dramatic; there’s only so simple a microwave can be before you start sacrificing vital settings and tools, and dishwashers from a design perspective are already largely plain, unadorned panels. That said, this is a dishwasher with a very important luxury feature: integrated top controls, hidden when the panel is closed, which lets the dishwasher maintain the clean, straightforward look this collection is endeavoring to produce.

A fridge, a range, a dishwasher, and a microwave. Two colors. That’s the entire line. And you know what? I think that might be the most genius part of it. In the same way that Steve Jobs came in and simplified the entire Apple product line into two computers and the iPod, there is something to be said for curated excellence rather than a wide selection of options, and the GE Artistry series may just prove that point.

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