Courtesy of GE Appliances

GE Appliances is introducing a Café brand of appliances with matte finishes and customizable knobs and handles that it hopes will disrupt the $4.5 billion mass premium market.

The Louisville-based appliance maker is banking on unique finishes and a focus on design to draw upper middle class customers whose tastes have been refined in an era of Instagram, Pinterest and HGTV shows such as “House Hunters,” “Fixer Upper” and “Property Brothers.” Kitchen designs also are gaining importance as customers increasingly buy and build homes with open floor plans in which kitchens become gathering places for family and friends.

The Café brand previously existed as GE Café, but is being updated to be called just Café, in a continuation of the company’s strategy to move away from a single GE brand to a “house of brands” with separate identities and customers.

Courtesy of GE Appliances

While the company’s high-end Monogram brand targets the top 2 percent or 3 percent of customers, the Café line is geared toward the top 25 percent of customers.

It’s about “bringing luxury to the masses,” said Wayne Davis, senior brand director of Café.

The brand’s Matte Collection comes in white with bronze knobs and handles, while the black appliances are equipped with stainless steel hardware. However, customers also can order hardware in copper if they want to customize the look of their kitchens. Consumers also can update the appliance hardware if they update their kitchen.

The appliances, some of which are being manufactured in Louisville’s Appliance Park, don’t come cheap: A dishwasher costs about $1,749, while a refrigerator goes for more than $3,000. A dual-fuel professional range with six burners can be yours for $7,100.

The products will be available for order at retailers beginning Wednesday. Information on the appliances also is available at a dedicated Café website.

Davis, speaking by phone from New York City, where GEA officials were meeting with industry media ahead of the introduction, told Insider that in updating the Café brand, the company is tapping into insights GEA gained through conversations with interior designers, appliance retailers and consumers.

While the company declined to disclose market share information, Davis said the company expects the updated Café brand to attract new customers.

“People love talking about design,” he said. “This is a huge step for the business.”

Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.