Category: Trends

Micro-topics in a Macro-space

Written by Lou Lenzi, Director of Industrial Design for GE Appliances

I recently had the pleasure of visiting UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD) department located at the Hercules Campus in Playa Vista, CA, the site where Howard Hughes built the infamous “Spruce Goose” aircraft in the 1940’s.


The Hercules Building then

The Hercules Building now

The Hercules Building now

Ironically, I was invited to this cavernous space to talk with a group of post-professional Masters of Architecture students and faculty about micro-things, specifically our Monogram micro-kitchen concept for small scale homes and GE Appliances FirstBuild micro-factory.

The students are engaged in a year-long research project that explores what “community” will mean in the second half of the 21st century, factoring in rapidly changing developments in technology, communications, transportation, healthcare and other major societal forces. So it was fitting to visit and exchange ideas around the future of housing and the future of manufacturing.

As a designer, I find it beneficial to occasionally get out of the studio here in Louisville, spend time with design and architecture students and take a look at the world from their perspective. I often find myself becoming the student in these situations.

The design team here at GE Appliances is excited to see this project develop and I promised the faculty to stay close as their research project progresses. It shouldn’t be too tough to get the design staff to visit the class in Southern California – particularly during the winter months.

How many designers does it take to design innovative appliances?

As an Industrial Designer focused on appliance design, I pay attention to a wide variety of consumer product design. I look at design trends in interior design, electronic products, architecture, car design and even fashion.

Trying to predict the future of appliance design, particularly of controls, is really challenging, especially as technology evolves at such a fast pace. Our goal is to be innovative but never to lose sight of the consumer’s needs as they relate to simple, intuitive interactions with machines.

To this end, I have spent the last four months with a variety of people working on a project to predict the future of refrigerator dispenser controls. So how many designers does it take to design an innovative appliance? More than you’d think! Internally, I have worked with our awesome team of designers, Consumer Insights researchers, Product Managers, Engineers, Marketing Specialists, and Technology Gurus. But we don’t stop with the internal teams. The true experts are the people that use our appliances everyday, those who spec them for their clients, and the salespeople who sell them.

To get this valuable input, we started listening. We held a design summit with top interior designers at our Monogram Design Center in Chicago. We traveled to the northeast to talk to key retailers about how they sell appliances and what their customers are looking for. And most importantly, we went into consumer’s homes to study how they interact with their appliances and ask what features they’d like to have. As we continue to move forward on this project, we will build prototypes and put them in front of consumers for testing and validation of our concepts.

In the end, it isn’t just designers who design great appliances, it takes a village!


Design Summit discussion at the Chicago Monogram Design Center


In home interview


Industrial designers meeting

Trend: Mismatched Dining Chairs


Written by Kennedy Williams, Monogram Experience Center intern

Homearama1Since 1968, the Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville has given local residents the opportunity to tour more than 800 homes. Known as the annual Homereama showcase, these homes reflect the unique talents of area builders and interior designers. Throughout this year’s Homerama homes, many interior designers used mismatched dining chairs to provide a unique look.

This shake-up of traditional design became increasingly popular in 2015 throughout the design community. Mismatched dining chairs are featured on interior design websites including Houzz and Elle Décor, and even their own Pinterest board. As you can see in the photos below, designers have also included benches as an added decorative piece to the dining table.

Homearama2 Homearama3The mismatched dining chair trend gives you the opportunity to recycle those chairs used with your last dining table. Fall in with the trend and free up space in your storage unit!

If the recycling option is not for you, manufacturers now offer different colored accent chair and bench choices sold with dining tables.


Blue Ocean Traders: For the Trade and also the very curious!

A friend’s new job led us on a fun field trip to Blue Ocean Traders. Located in an old bread factory in Louisville, Kentucky; it is 100,000 square feet of curiosity and the unexpected, and all available For The Trade.

Photo1It’s hard to explain all that Blue Ocean has to offer, so I’ll quote their website: “Blue Ocean Traders specializes in the importing of the finest antiques and reproductions for home and garden. We are a trade only, wholesale source open to all types of retailers and interior designers. Whether you are looking to add variety to your store, or want that special something to accentuate your client’s decor, Blue Ocean Traders can help.”

Photo2Think American vintage furniture and accessories or one of a kind pieces from Europe, Asia or Egypt. There are rooms devoted to British war collectables or a whole area of nothing but antique rolled maps. Not only does Blue Ocean Traders work with Designers and Retailers, but they are also a source for television / movie studio props and commercial-themed restaurants and attractions. Need an Asian fisherman’s hut? They’ve got one.

Photo3 Photo4You can find Blue Ocean Traders at the four major American furniture markets in Atlanta, Las Vegas, New York, and High Point or at their warehouse in Louisville Kentucky. For more information, visit their website.

Let there be light

Written by Lou Lenzi, Director of Industrial Design for GE Appliances

French door refrigerators are the rage today. Everyone loves the experience of opening those double-doors and seeing a wide, unobstructed view of the contents of their fridge. Those panoramic views of your boxed wine and party trays are often enhanced by a collection of LED spot lights mounted in tiny “pucks” built into the side walls of the refrigerator case. So dramatic is the presentation, that we’ve actually witnessed homeowners hum a heavenly choral tune while opening their fridge doors.

We decided to take this experience to the next level with our new Monogram French Door Bottom Freezer Refrigerator by embedding a row of LED’s directly into each of the four adjustable glass shelves. This not only creates the visual drama worthy of a Paul Mottram movie soundtrack, it more effectively distributes lighting throughout the entire refrigerator space.

Wait a minute: there are LED lights embedded in adjustable glass shelves? So how do they plug in and yet remain adjustable up and down in the refrigerator?

Two of our industrial designers, Sally and Justin, got together in the Design Studio and figured it out. They created an electrical circuit that employs the metal bracket that holds the shelves as a low voltage “bus” and couple it with a tiny prong at the end of each of the 4 adjustable shelves.


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Is your refrigerator illuminating your food in its best possible light? Are such gastronomical theatrics worth it? We’d like to know.

Bringing the bake shop home

Written by Lou Lenzi, Director of Industrial Design for GE Appliances

While few of us really know our way around a professional kitchen, a lot of people like to be surrounded by that pro-kitchen look at home. The “pro” signature design details are obvious. Handles the size of a stove pipe (slight exaggeration here), barrel-size burner knobs, and crisp, folded and welded corners, all rendered in industrial strength stainless steel. It’s clearly aspirational for a lot of us wannabe chef’s and we kind of like the visual presence it creates in any kitchen.

So we’ve decided to take this aesthetic one step further and created this unique French door built-in wall oven.

Introduced last June in our GE Monogram product line, it would be a natural if you saw it in the kitchen of your corner pastry shop. We did, however decide to domesticate this design a bit in order to make it more consumer-friendly. After all, while we aspire to pro-status, not everyone is willing to give up certain conveniences. With that in mind, we did two things not typically found in true pro-products. We linked the doors together so they both open and close simultaneously, and we put a handle on each door – for either right hand or left hand operation. Good usability begins with great engineering. And speaking of great engineering, despite the big challenge of sealing two doors, we didn’t sacrifice the popular self-cleaning feature.

The result is the best of both worlds – a professional looking wall oven with the features and conveniences our customers expect in a high-end product.

Are you ready to go pro? Or is this a look best left at the bake shop?


New GE Monogram French door wall oven

New GE Monogram French door wall oven

FirstBuild is Louisville’s first microfactory

Louisville is quite lucky (for so many reasons!), but today I’m going to focus on the new FirstBuild microfactory that opened on the University of Louisville campus in July. A partnership between GE, GE Appliances, Local Motors and the University, FirstBuild is introducing the next generation of appliances – designed, built and sold using an online community co-creation and micromanufacturing model, which will revolutionize the way things are made.

The concept is a unique collaboration between a physical community and an online community whose ideas build upon each other to help design products and solve engineering questions. And the end result? Consumer-driven products in the market at a rapid pace. Until now, customization and speed to market presented challenges for mass appliance manufacturers like GE Appliances. FirstBuild not only enables customization through small-batch production, but also helps get these products to market faster than ever before without the cost and risk of traditional mass manufacturing.

FirstBuild community members will submit ideas, vote on which concepts become challenges or projects, and determine which products move on to production. Prizes and sales royalties will be awarded to community members who make significant contributions. To learn more, sign up at

Mary Beckmann, community lead, works in the FirstBuild lab where community members come together to build prototypes of next generation appliances.

Mary Beckmann, community lead, works in the FirstBuild lab where community members come together to build prototypes of next generation appliances.