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Design Notes

New-Aged to Perfection

Retro appliances provide all the comforts of an old home with the conveniences of a modern one

October 03, 2002|JANET EASTMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some great minds have tried to deliver a reliable way to travel through time. But where H.G. Wells and Mr. Peabody--the brainy cartoon canine who invented the Wayback Machine--failed to bring their ideas to reality, you can succeed by stepping into your kitchen. Retro refrigerators, stoves, ovens, TVs and faucets are creeping into well-outfitted homes faster than cableless neighbors craving TV Land reruns.

People who study consumer motivation--you know, appliance manufacturers, market forecasters and grad students scrambling to justify their sociology theses--spout several theories on our need for nostalgia:

* We think things were built better in the good old days. And we're willing to spend more since we'll use them every day, and we hope they'll boost our home's charm value when we sell it.

* We like decorating with items that were popular when the house was built. How else to explain hula-girl salt-and-pepper shakers in postwar ranch tracts?

* As fatigued fast trackers, we crave touchstones to simpler times, when the fridge held frosty glass bottles of milk rather than boxes of liquid soy with a shelf life longer than Cher's.

* We find comfort in the pudgy shapes of the past. Rounded objects are seen in nature more often than the hard edges of our work pods. Another thought: In a brushed-aluminum world, old-school design is as impossible to ignore as a refrigerator painted flamingo pink.

Play It Cool

The Northstar fridge by Elmira Stove Works has a new, energy-efficient GE interior, but its standard flat top, sides and doors have been replaced with curves made of molded ABS plastic, fiberglass and steel. Fin-shaped handles and a logo plate reminiscent of the chromed-up cars of the 1950s complete the illusion that this "coolerator" was ripped out of a baby boomer's childhood home.

There is a choice of eight exterior colors, from creamy buttercup yellow to eye-rubbing candy red, or you can customize a color by mixing DuPont's Imron 6000 automotive finishes. The 18-cubic-foot fridge has four gallon-sized adjustable bins, glass shelving and an ice maker. Pop in the pimento-cheese celery and cocktail wienies, and you'll be ready to invite Ozzie and Harriet over.

The refrigerator costs about $2,700 and takes six weeks to be delivered. Contact Elmira at (800) 295-8498; www.el mirastoveworks.com.

Tune In

While you're in the kitchen, catch reruns of Julia Child's "The French Chef" on one of Brionvega's new-aged TVs. The Algol has updated digital components inside a console designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper in 1964. The space-saving, foot-wide portable has a tilted, polycarbonate 9-inch screen, metallic handle and a plastic case in sun orange, night black or moon gray.

The Italian company also offers a reproduction of a transparent, cube-shaped TV designed by Mario Bellini in 1969. The Cuboglass is 14 inches wide by 13 inches deep. Both color TVs (around $650 each) transport you warp speed into the present with black matrix cathode tubes for a sharp picture, broadband loudspeakers, video input, headphones, and--don't panic--a remote control.

For more information, visit www.brionvega.com. The TVs are sold exclusively online at www.design -italia.it (click "English version").

Toasting Yesteryear

DeLonghi's counter-top convection toaster oven may have you yearning for more of the Wonder Bread years. Its clunky, rounded body with a polished chrome housing and mirrored door looks like an early black-and-white TV. The enamel interior heats from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can warm your food, dehydrate it or cook it somewhere in between. At 9 inches high, the oven, which costs $300, fits most shelving. Call (800) 322-3848; www.de longhiusa.com.

Ode to Grandma

If the 1950s seem too complicated to you--after all, it was a time when the Cold War and Cheez Whiz were topics of conversation--consider taking your time machine back another century, when Franklin wood-burning cookstoves warmed hearth and home.

Several companies reproduce cast-iron stoves with nickel-plated Queen Anne-style legs and ornamental brass plates. But Elmira Stove Works of Ontario, Canada--yes, the '50s fridge people--tucks gas or electric ovens where wood used to burn. Also hidden are exhaust fans and oven controls. Burners are gas, electric or dual fuel. The Cook's Delight stoves come in two widths, 30 or 45 inches, and start at $3,545.

Water Works

If you want authenticity, get a bucket. If you appreciate the convenience of water on tap, Delta Faucet Co. has a new line of kitchen and bath faucets (starting at $228) that echo the curved lines and bronze finish popular in Victorian times. The swivel spout and base also come in chrome, stainless steel and a brass-and-chrome combination. Handles are made of matching metal or porcelain. Call (800) 345-3358; www.deltafaucet.com.

*

Janet Eastman can be reached at janet.eastman@latimes.com.

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