It looks like this:
The amount of time that has passed since my stove navel-gazing started would be the first clue that I have totally succumbed to analysis paralysis. It's bad. After endless agonizing, I determined that this is my favorite stove (that would in any way be feasible for my current kitchen):
It's a little under $6000. Less without the window in the door, but hardly sufficiently less to be affordable. Also, I'm stretching the "in any way feasible" concept here, because it's 36" wide (they don't come in 30"), so I would have to reconfigure or maybe eliminate a cabinet, and also, they don't come in 100% natural gas, only dual-fuel and electric, so I would have to have an electrician install a high-voltage outlet for the power draw for the electric oven. And I stalked eBay and craigslist for over a month to see whether a discounted one would show up in my area. No such luck. Those of you in California may have more luck; that seems to be where discounted Agas come from.
I also determined that this is my second-favorite stove:
Compared to the Aga, it's actually prudent: it's just 30" wide and all-gas. This one costs about $6500, but you can save $300 by going with the stainless steel trim package instead of the brass. But, hey, what's $300?
Oh, and I have a third-favorite stove:
We've discussed this. It costs $4300. The Ilve and the Big Chill were both included in my frantic search for any marked-down versions anywhere I could get at them. Nada. Then I started pondering other things. I had the NXR (30" model at Costco) in my back pocket as the default for a while. There's nothing vintage about it:
But I went through my many kitchen photos on houzz, and I determined that in the vintage-style kitchens I loved, pro-style ranges (looking a lot like this one, although probably most of them were Wolf or something) were actually the most common stove option. Followed closely by super-high-end ranges like the Aga I love, followed by real vintage pieces (yes, preferable, but I've already gotten burned there once. I need time). So I figured it would suit the largest span of tastes. Although who knows for how long? By the way, it's $2000. (I never saw it for less.)
As you know, I considered the GE Artistry line. I liked the styling:
But I got a chance to see one in person at the big orange store, and learned that the broiler is in the bottom drawer, and it's tiny - just fits the included broiler pan. That means (a) I cannot broil a whole sheet pan full of - well, the many things I'd like to broil; and (b) that drawer cannot be used for storage, even though it is not a second oven. So, that was out on functionality. Though I did like the price. What I particularly complained about was that this is the only retro-styled stove from a "normal" maker. And then I realized I had been seeing this stove as I perused the Sears Outlet site, but discarding it because their other Maytag products had such awful reviews:
But its reviews actually weren't too bad. And it occurred to me that it does have retro styling - from the shape of the oven window to the layout of the control panel to the style of the burner grates. It's not an accident. It's self-consciously retro. But by this time, I had succumbed to the analysis paralysis hardcore. I even asked a friend whether it looked retro to her, or I was just seeing things. (She was kind. She said it did.)
Other things I liked about it that I had seen on some other stoves, but was not going to consider deal-breakers:
- a high-BTU burner (this one's is 16,000 BTUs, and some "normal" brands have as high as 18,000, including some with two high-BTU burners; BlueStars, which are pricey, have 22,000-BTU burners. So it's not tops in that regard, but not bad either)
- a self-cleaning feature - with more and less clean settings (self-cleaning is standard in "normal" ranges, but hard to find in high-end ones. Actually the variable clean settings are not standard but unusual, and that is my most-preferred self-clean option, so that's good)
- "slide-in" style, instead of a tall back. This isn't typical of real vintage ranges, so while I like the look, I have not considered it as a criterion. This one just happens to have it
- continuous burner grates (this is one of the things I struggled with most about vintage-style ranges. Real vintage ranges have very small burner grates, which I find less practical. Some retro-style ranges, including the Artistry and Elmira's Northstar, copy this feature. One thing I like about the Big Chill is that it has giant burner grates). In fact, what makes this particular stove special is that it has retro-style burner grates - curvy and shiny and spider-y, rather than chunky and square - and yet they go all the way across the stovetop. I literally have not seen any other range, at any price, with this characteristic.
- convection oven. If I can't have a double oven (and I finally gave up on that, since I couldn't have that and also something that looked acceptable), I figure convection is the next-best choice, because it heats faster and bakes faster - which will at least shave a little off the time my oven is on in the summertime.
- a comparatively high BTU on the main oven's burner. I assume that this likewise means faster heating time, and better baking. This is probably the element that I will lean on the most heavily, and it's not something they really even advertise to distinguish stoves! But at 18,000, this one is on the higher side for "normal" ranges
- a pan storage drawer. Of course this is standard on "normal" ranges, so not that exciting, but the Aga, the Ilve, the Artistry, and the NXR actually don't have it, and I use one now, so it will be good to continue to have that space for my cookie sheets. I hope it's as big as my current one!
- three oven racks, including a funky divided one (more cookies are better!)
- I guess an even-higher-BTU burner would be nice - or more than one of them.
- a few that I looked at (including the NXR) had dual simmer ring burners, which my 1952 Wedgwood had and I really like. Ah, well.
- a fifth burner. That's becoming more typical of middle-of-the-road modern ranges, and I think I would like it a lot for making brunch. On the other hand, I understand you can't use all five burners at once (unless you're using tiny pots), so it may not matter that much in practice. I have a good-sized griddle that works with a regular-sized burner.
- double ovens, of course
- a pretty color. Given its design, I don't think it would be that hard to paint (or maybe even line with copper) if I got a mind to, so I am hopeful it could survive the passing of the stainless steel trend more or less intact.
It better, because it's being delivered in nine days. I am hyperventilating a little.
Part of me wants to be flooded with relief that this chapter is finally over (please God nothing goes wrong). And part of me is horrified that - now that I have made a decision - I may have made the wrong one, and my options are now foreclosed. Even with the checkout window open, I was scouring eBay to see whether any of my high-end beauties had suddenly appeared on the market in the last 24 hours.
And then, as I was sourcing images for this post, I found a new front page on Big Chill's site. Telling me that there is now a pro-style Big Chill range. While pro-style is definitely my second place design choice after retro (and strictly speaking, what I actually bought is neither of the above - so sue me), it's something I've considered as a strong contender. I was particularly enamored of this sorta pro style option:
As others who squint at stove pictures obsessively will immediately note, that's a 36" range, but it does come in 30". Pretty, yes? Anyway, they also make them without all the fancy chrome, and I liked those too (and they cost a thousand or two less - still crazy expensive, of course). But I only really like the ones in colors. And now Big Chill makes that style with colors. Including this color:
That's "slate." As in, dark gray-blue. Like my cabinets. And it's $2399 - less than half of any similar-looking product by a competitor. (And $2000 less than their retro-style option.) It has 18,000-BTU burners, an oven burner with 30,000 BTUs, and Big Chill has an impressive reputation for quality construction. Delivered and installed, the stove would be less than our tax return, which was my absolute maximum for this purchase. What I actually bought was over $1000 less...which I am telling myself is important...and I think it is important. But...it's so pretty. I guess that's the only really important difference; well, that and the reputation for quality, which actually is important. Oh, and the price.
I hope someone else buys one and really enjoys it. And if Sears Outlet torpedoes my order somehow, I know what I'm getting instead. (Probably. That's still a lot of money.)