Image above, Smeg kettle and toaster, in collaboration with Italy’s Matteo Bazzicalupo and Raffaella Mangiarotti of Deepdesign Studio.
It’s hard not to fall just a little in love with the Smeg small appliance range or, as they are fondly termed, the ‘smalls’. Retro styled as a collaboration with Italy’s Matteo Bazzicalupo and Raffaella Mangiarotti of Deepdesign Studio, each of the appliances is delivered in 1950s pastels of baby blue, pale pink and pana cotta (cream), as well as the more flamboyant red or black and a fabulous silver chrome that sits firmly within the dark tones.
Realised as curved and tactile objects, they have a finish that is enamel-coated stainless steel. Again, the 1950s are clearly referenced with the form, and most particularly with the kitchen mixer. That said, it’s not your Nana’s mixer by a long shot. Rather, its 800-watt high-torque motor will zip you through 10 speeds from soft start (no splattering) to high power in seconds with the capacity to whip as few as two and as many as 14 egg whites (did somebody say ‘pavlova’!) The same goes for the toaster. It may look like a staple from Sophia Loren’s circa Scandal in Sorrento kitchen, but the technology can now do what was once just wishful thinking. Automatic width control for even toasting means crumpets pop out golden instead of in bits.
An unsegmented four-slice toaster allows the toasting of two slices of artisan bread, plus there is a range of settings, from defrost to robust enough for gluten free. The kettle rotates all the way around, the lid is soft touch and it’s silent for those considerate early risers. A variable temperature kettle is on its way, as is a 1.7-litre blender. What isn’t surprising is the quality and thought that supports this new range. Indeed, Smeg has been designing and delivering some of the best large domestic appliances for the past 65 years. What is surprising is the design direction.
Since the seventies, Smeg has worked with architects and designers to create products that speak to our interiors. It’s a clever approach, particularly in the interiors industry where a particularly strong aesthetic tone is not necessarily desirable in an appliance. So, the 50s… Does it work? The simple answer is yes. Taken as a group, the appliances have a very strong directional aesthetic. In isolation, however, the range of shades allows for a much broader reading.
The red kitchen mixer, for example, while resolutely 50s in form, is altogether too robust to deliver the retro ambiance without retro being explored elsewhere. To wit, a black or white kitchen will read the mixer as a bright splash rather than a thematic exploration. It is, in fact, extremely clever and very good timing. While kitchens have moved into another era, our appliances have largely remained trawling around in the nineties with either lots of steel or the resin brights of lime and orange.
There is some irony in this as it was Smeg that first brought us stainless steel stoves way back in the day. The kicker, however, is the fact that the appliances are very, very good – Good Design Award good (Chicago Athenaeum) – and certainly with more accolades to come and certainly well deserved.