I'm playing a Battle Smith artificer currently, and my DM is a very by-the-books kind of guy. When the question came up of whether or not I could change its appearance, he just said "if it's in the book."
From the entry for the Steel Defender, it just says that you determine its appearance and whether it has 2 or 4 legs. Given this, we can't decide if its appearance is static upon creation, or if it can be changed on a whim without creating a new one.
Can a Battle Smith artificer change the appearance of a Steel Defender after creating it?