Builder’s Edge By Design

The homes you build deserve every advantage, starting with the kitchen.

“Our end goal is to make a new home look even better. We want everything in that home to shine, especially the kitchen.”

That comment should warm the heart of any local, regional, or national homebuilder. When it comes from the world’s leading manufacturer of major home appliances1 it takes on a whole new shine.

Meet Jessica McConnell, Senior Manager of Whirlpool’s Material, Color and Finish Studio, a powerful friend and advocate of homebuilders everywhere. Her global team includes design professionals from Europe, India, Brazil, Mexico, as well as the U.S., all focused on delivering appliances that strive to delight homebuilders and developers just as much as the home buyer.

Jessica McConnell, Sr. Manager, Color, Finish & Material Design at Whirlpool Corporation

Jessica McConnell, Senior Manager of Whirlpool’s Material, Color and Finish Studio

“My first project at Whirlpool was black stainless steel. We took a bold stance when we launched KitchenAid appliances with a black stainless steel option. The conversation around appliance finishes has blossomed from there,” McConnell says.


Color and Beyond

For homebuilders, that conversation presents a new dimension to home-selling appeal. The rising expectations that come with a winning design also obliges McConnell’s team to stay ahead of interior design trends and help homebuilders stay on top of constantly shifting consumer tastes.

“A lot of what we do is intended to serve a greater purpose than just observe a color trend,” explains McConnell. “Look at what we did with the obsidian interior of the JennAir refrigeration lineup. The idea there was to make something relevant, provocative, and consistent with the brand. The luxurious obsidian interior showcases food in a way that inspires and delights.”

Whirlpool designers also practice wholehouse, holistic thinking. “We think carefully about context. Our products must work with cabinets, flooring, and the countertop. The handles on our products must tie into other types of hardware. Whatever the builder’s kitchen looks like, we have a product that fits that style.”

To support a holistic philosophy, Whirlpool periodically convenes meetings with other building product manufacturers. “We’re very open with the people we share the kitchen with,” McConnell says. “We meet with cabinet, closet, and hardware companies and eagerly welcome their feedback.”


Continuous Change

One topic that is frequently discussed is changing tastes of the American homebuyer. The advent of personal technology presents an assortment of opportunities as well as challenges. “There is a social currency in individuality that wasn’t there before. People expect more. Appliance options are valued more than they used to be,” McConnell observes.


The Refrigerator Test

McConnell and her team are hard at work designing the appliances of tomorrow. The company constantly explores possibilities through full-scale prototypes, which are always refrigerators (“If a color works on a refrigerator, it works on everything.”).

McConnell isn’t permitted to reveal precisely what’s under review, but she can say “… there are many more exciting things to come. The kitchen will be an even bigger heart of the home.” For homebuilders, the message is clear: The best is yet to come.

To learn more about the exciting new colors and designs from Whirlpool Corporation, visit


Previously published in BUILDER magazine.


1 Among leading appliance manufacturers. Based on most recently publicly reported annual revenues.


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