Stainless Steel and Granite: The Harvest Gold of the Future?

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I'll have a post up on Europe soon.  For now, however, let's focus on something less weighty than health care costs, energy subsidies, or the future of the euro:  how long can a housing trend last?


I ask because I recently discovered HGTV, a channel I watched devotedly for about three weeks before all the renovations began to look the same to me.  Every young couple looking for a house wants stainless steel and granite countertops, and wants them RIGHT NOW.  Everyone redoing a kitchen wants the same, ASAP.  Which makes me think that these things must be on their way out.

My mother was an early adopter of the stainless steel appliances, largely through happenstance.  We had a huge used Sub-Zero fridge that she bought cheap off of someone who was leaving the building, and didn't want to pay to move it.  And a Viking range that I seem to recall was acquired under similar circumstances (the benefits of growing up in Manhattan).  I still think wistfully of those appliances--enormous workhorses that performed far better than my own ersatz versions.

Though I'm sure that there were even earlier adopters of the quasi-professional appliance, we were certainly on the early edge, because, well, Manhattan.  The early versions were made to look like restaurant appliances because it signaled that they were actually almost as large and powerful as restaurant appliances (minus the need for costly fireproofing of your walls).  And the professional versions were stainless because it's cheap and sanitary.

But as the mania for huge kitchens grew unabated, everyone started thinking of stainless steel as generically upscale.  And so it became a moderately pricey option on otherwise downscale appliances.  (I have to assume that it does not actually cost more to put a steel sheath on your appliance, since steel is presumably what the appliances are made of).  Now everyone but the very cheapest landlords has stainless steel, and laminate and various composites and synthetics do a very passable imitation of granite.  

My understanding of the luxury cycle is that as soon as everyone can afford a decent replica of high-priced items, the replicated qualities become passe.  By that metric, stainless steel and granite have to be on their way out; the only thing more ubiquitous in the American kitchen is the George Foreman grill.

On the other hand, maybe in 1948 I'd have been saying that wall-mounted cabinets were a passing fad.  So I throw it open to the moderate slice of my readership that is interested in these questions:  is stainless steel the new Harvest Gold?  And if so, what will replace it?
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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