I ended up looking at a lot more. Didn't reach any conclusions, but I've gained a lot more knowledge and I think with a little more Web work, and maybe one more store visit somewhere, I'll nail down most of the appliances. So, some semi-random Bits of Knowledge on the subject of appliances:
Washer and dryer: I don't want fancy. I do want a front-loading washer for the energy efficiency, and the plan now is to put a counter over the top of the laundry area. Good news, at least according to the salesman at Lowes: several models that are 36" high are adjustable to fit under a 36" counter. One removes the top cover of the machine, and puts the feet at the minimum height. If true, I've got a couple of choices that will do fine.
Fridge: I want a freezer-on-the-bottom model. It seems most of them in the price range I'm likely to look in are really built by Amana, and just have different nametags stuck on, like Maytag, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, and Whirlpool. (A little research shows most of these brands are owned by Maytag these days, and Whirlpool is proposing to buy Maytag...) My current fridge has a door on the freezer, but the new drawer-freezers look nice--as you pull out the drawer, the lower basket comes too, making most of the freezer contents very easy to access.
Dishwasher: almost certainly a Bosch. The must-have feature is "top-rack only wash", which for my single lifestyle will be a wonderful plus. No more washing the coffeepot by hand because there aren't enough dirty dishes to run the dishwasher...
I'm leaning towards Thermador for the gas cooktop and downdraft ventilation system. Wall ovens are yet to be researched.
Sinks: I want a 2 compartment sink, but with the compartments quite unequal in size. There are some choices by Kohler that my designer recommended--the question is whether they are work the extra $400 they cost over brands like Franke. More research is needed...
Instant hot-water heater: the one I like the design of has the smallest tank. Will 1/3 gallon be enough, or should I go to the uglier dispenser with the 1/2 gallon tank? Or the pricier model with the sleek appearance AND the 1/2 gallon tank?
So, I'm at the Confusion stage. The desk is littered with stacks of printouts on all of the above, and most things need more research, or more pondering, or another visit to see the item in a store. But I'm making progress.