German maker

Bosch, meanwhile, stands by stainless steel in the U.S. "We've seen in the last 10 or 15 years alternative finishes on the market, but they're not enduring," says Graham Sadtler, industrial design manager for the German company. "Similar to fashion, fads come and go."

 

Getting consumers to switch from stainless steel isn't easy. Jenn-Air launched a line of "oiled bronze" appliances in 2007; it has already dialed back availability of the finish in certain models. "We hoped that oiled bronze would take off," says Brian Maynard, Jenn-Air's brand marketing director. "It got a lot of attention and it sold quite well, but we've seen it wane a little recently. We're not disappointed with it, but it just isn't stainless steel."

#"People still want that connection between the restaurant experience and their own home," says Bob Martin, Electrolux's design director of major appliances in North America. "Stainless steel at the high end will be strong and stay strong for a long time."

"Other finishes haven't achieved the same level of sophistication in terms of aesthetic," says Stefano Marzano, chief design officer for Electrolux. Lately Mr. Marzano has been exploring possibilities made with stone, ceramic and enamel.

Stainless steel's staying power is partly the result of how Americans approach their kitchens, says David VanderWaal, director of brand marketing for LG's home appliances. "They start with the cabinets, then it's flooring, countertops, lighting and then finally it's their appliances." LG isn't offering alternatives, he says. "We don't see the trend of stainless steel appliances diminishing."