GE wants to upgrade your kitchen’s buzzes and beeps


GE Monogram dishwasher model ZDT870SSF. Available February 2014 for $1,799. (GE Appliances)
December 16, 2013

The sounds of your kitchen can be very annoying: the beep of the fridge when you don’t fully close the door, the shrill alarm on a microwave timer, the buzz of the oven when it’s preheated.

Designers at GE are trying to make the kitchen a friendlier place. The company’s upcoming Monogram dishwasher will be the first appliance to feature its own special soundtrack; you’ll be notified with a classy piano number when your plates and glasses are ready to unload.

“We wanted something less machinelike and more social to fit in today’s open-plan kitchen,” says Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE Appliances. He says the goal is to get a “less industrial aesthetic” for appliances. “We wanted the sounds to blend in and be harmonious, replacing the buzzing and other jarring mechanical sounds.”

Lenzi and his team spent two years developing sonic palettes for each of the GE four appliance brands: Artistry, GE, Cafe and Monogram. According to Julie Wood, spokeswoman for GE Appliances, the company worked with a composer on long-form instrumental soundtracks for each brand. “Then the designers created interaction sounds — or snippets — from the long-form piece for actions such as power-on, power-off and end-of-cycle,” Wood says. Here’s the breakdown:

Monogram, GE’s luxury appliance brand, features sophisticated piano music plus plucked strings and a harp.

Artistry, the entry-level brand targeted towards millennials, plays a garage band-style mix with lots of guitar.

GE, the flagship brand, has upbeat brass and swelling wind instruments (think Aaron Copland).

Cafe, the all-stainless, more industrial brand, has electric synthesizers and wind instruments for a more techno vibe.

The new GE Monogram dishwasher (Model ZDT870SSF) will be available in February for about $1,800. More musical appliances are in development. Lenzi says he sees a further evolution to personalized appliance sounds, similar to having special ring tones on mobile phones.

Meanwhile, check out our embedded GE sound bites at left to see what strikes a chord for you.

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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