When electricity first came to the kitchen at the turn of the century, a whole industry sprang up around appliances that used it. Among the newcomers was the German company Miele, founded in 1899, whose initial products included a tub washing machine. In those early years, appliances were available in one color: white. But during the post-war economic boom, many manufacturers branched out, offering pastel pink ovens and poppy yellow fridges.
White never quite recovered—perhaps because people associated it with the past, or perhaps because it was so difficult to keep clean. It was the color of Modernism, yet most modern architects preferred to spec stainless steel appliances, which made the kitchen into a machine—a place where efficiency reigned supreme.
One of the major problems with white appliances in the past has been staining. White vinyl, white ceramic, and white paint tended to pick up the color of whatever touched them—coffee grinds, beet juice, and so on. Miele’s Brilliant White is faced in a layer of glass, which makes it easy to clean and virtually impossible to stain. It’s an incredibly simple design inference, but it wouldn’t have been technically possible a few decades ago. Another intelligent detail: Each panel is flush with the next, forming a surface unbroken by turned edges or dips, where grime tends to collect.
According to one manager at Miele, the monochrome palette isn’t simply about functionality. In fact, it mirrors a similar trend in product design. “We’re seeing kitchen design become crisper and cleaner,” says Neil Pooley, group product manager. “The Brilliant White Plus range has been heavily influenced by strong white color cues in other markets including cars and consumer electronics.” In other words, if the kitchen of the 20th century was a machine, this one is an iPhone.