The past & future come together on kitchen products
Combine vintage styling with progressive thinking such as sustainability and energy efficiency and you have Big Chill, the Boulder, Colorado-based kitchen products firm Orion Creamer founded in 2003.
The idea for it came about by happenstance. Creamer, who had studied product design in college, was asked by his aunt and uncle in 2001 to help them find period-appropriate appliances for their vintage-style beach house in California. He found there were none that would fit the look. "They wanted appliances that looked old in their shape and color range, but were new inside and would defrost well, for example," he recalls.
And then the proverbial light bulb went on. Today, Big Chill offers more than 30 different products—from refrigerators to ranges, cooktops, dishwashers, microwaves, hoods, and more—in three period styles: turn of the century classic, mid-century retro, and a modern professional line. The two vintage lines reflect their time period’s shapes, stamped metal bodies, and dazzling palette of colors such as French blue, buttercup yellow, cherry red, and basil green. At the same time, they share a lot with the more modern line—and many other manufacturers’ hip models. All are highly energy efficient and their finishes have almost zero VOCs due to the powder-coated paint process Creamer uses which lasts longer than many traditional paint finishes do, he says.
Because the company is based in Boulder, one of the country’s most progressive cities for sustainability, Creamer has also been adamant about recycling any materials he can. One example is the Styrofoam in which the appliances are packed. It’s done through a program called CHaRM, which stands for Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials and is among the largest nonprofit recyclers in the country. "We’re one of the few that do this. What happens is that the Styrofoam is churned up and compacted into blocks that can be used again," he says.
Along these lines, Creamer keeps his eyes on ways to develop new products that fit his green approach and what’s happening in architecture and design. He now manufactures a highly energy efficient induction range and cooktop, the cooking method that’s considered more energy efficient than electric or gas. He’s also come up with a slim product grouping that fits smaller homes and apartments, as well as garages and basements.
Price wise his products fall into a middle, affordable range versus some of the best known high-end name brands. All are available through his network of about 20 to 30 dealers nationwide, or by placing orders through the company’s website. Big Chill is a direct-to-consumer company. There’s no wholesale network – which allows the company to maintain competitive pricing. Creamer has placed his company among the growing group of direct-to-consumer businesses such as Casper, Warby Parker, and Everlane.