They're remodeling a million-dollar tract house in Newport Beach or building a castle-style mansion in the South County hills. Sorry, but a Kenmore or Maytag in the kitchen, no matter how reliable, just won't do.
They want ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers that make a statement, that offer exotic features in packages that blend into the sleek facades of European-style kitchens.
And they're willing to pay the price.
Ovens for $4,000. Refrigerators for $3,500. Dishwashers for $2,100.
"Appliances in the last five years have gone crazy with innovation," said Terri White, who with her husband, Steve Salazar, owns Kitchens Del Mar, a firm specializing in designing high-end kitchens.
White and Salazar are well-versed in the world of high-end kitchen appliances, which is a lot like a BMW owner's manual--full of hard-to-pronounce German names (Gaggenau and Miele) and techno-jargon (turbo-thermic, catalysor, halogen zones, pyrolytic).
They agreed to guide a visitor through a survey of the latest and hottest in kitchen chic.
"This is the Rolls-Royce of dishwashers," White said, pointing to a machine that nestled in a display kitchen and purred at about the level of a whisper.
"It's so quiet you have to open the door sometimes to make sure the water is running."
The Miele Super Electronic model, at $2,100, is about three times the price of the best conventional dishwasher.
But the German appliance maker, which pioneered the world's first microcomputer-controlled dishwasher 11 years ago, has skimped on nothing.
The washer tub is all stainless steel. "That separates the men from the boys in dishwashers," Salazar said.
The computer-controlled console sports eight cycle options, including one for fine china and crystal.
It has a third spray arm (conventional washers have two) and has a third rack at the top for cutlery. Knives and forks can be laid out, washed and the rack removed and stored as-is in the cutlery drawer of the kitchen cabinets.
A set of three filters screens out food to prevent drain clogs.
The washer has a built-in water softener, an adjustable dispenser for spot preventer and, to further guard against those nasty spots, a turbo-thermic drying system that forces the warm, wet air out of the dishwasher.
The longtime king of the high end is Sub-Zero, an American brand.
While a standard refrigerator sticks out into the room, the Sub-Zero is not as deep. It is made taller and wider so that it fits flush with the kitchen cabinets. It's also designed to accept front cover panels that match the cabinetry.
Inside, no chrome in sight. Every glass and enameled steel shelf and rack is adjustable. The shallow depth puts everything in easy reach.
"It's especially popular with high-end people because it accommodates wide platters and party trays," Salazar said.
Compartment doors are equipped with airtight seals. Drawers ride on rollers. The cooler and freezer are linked to separate condensers so that cooling for each can be adjusted independently.
The freezer is surprisingly small. "People who buy these tend not to eat as much frozen food," Salazar said.
Price for the 48-inch-wide Sub-Zero model: about $3,500. The 36-inch model is about $2,900.
Two other companies are taking a run at Sub-Zero.
GE sells a refrigerator in its new Monogram designer line that is 42 inches wide--between the two Sub-Zero models. It also accepts matching cabinet panels and has an ice/water dispenser in the door, a feature Sub-Zero lacks. The GE refrigerator sells for about $3,000.
The most unusual high-end refrigerator is sold by Frigidaire in its Euroflair series and consists of 24-inch-wide modules that can be run either as coolers or freezers and can be arranged in the kitchen to suit the homeowner's needs.
"If the kids get into one all the time, you can crank that up real cold. The others can be set lower," White said. "You can have two freezers on one side of the room and two refrigerators on the other or two stacked on top of two. It gives you a lot of flexibility."
The four-module set costs about $2,800.
The ultimate cooktop uses light bulbs as a heat source. The bulbs are high-intensity halogen elements, to be precise. At the flick of a switch, a section of the glass cooking surface glows fiery red with heat.
"The problem with electric burners is that they take so long to heat up. This is instant, just like gas," White said.
Made by Gaggenau, a German manufacturer, a cooktop with three halogen burners and one conventional electric burner costs about $1,600. By contrast, a top-of-the-line conventional four-burner cooktop costs about $750.
But the truly current kitchens in Orange County feature customized, 48-inch-wide cooktops with two halogen burners, two heavy-duty gas burners and an electric barbecue/griddle unit. Such a setup costs about $3,000.