Spectacular Spaces: 2nd Annual Kitchen & Bath Design Awards (KBDA)

by Diana Cleveland
kitchen design

At its highest level, good design isn’t just beautiful, or functional; it’s also thoughtful – and sometimes thought-provoking. Indeed, thoughtful attention to detail, creative and unexpected material choices, a harmonious balance of textures, colors and materials, unique ways of re-imagining spaces and the ability to tap into people’s emotional centers are some of the elements that take design to the next level.

All of these and more were on display in the winning projects honored in this year’s Kitchen & Bath Design Awards, an independent design competition that honors outstanding, innovative and thoughtfully designed kitchen, bath and other-room projects.

KBDN’s design awards, now in their second year, are open to kitchen and bath design professionals whose projects were completed between November 1, 2015 and May 19, 2017, with projects judged in nine different categories: Best Kitchen Over $200,000; Best Kitchen $100,000-$200,000; Best Kitchen Under $100,000; Best Master Bath Over $50,000; Best Master Bath Under $50,000; Best Powder Room; Best Kitchen Showroom; Best Universal Design Kitchen or Bath, and Best Specialty Project.

A panel of top design professionals judged the Kitchen & Bath Design Awards entries in a two-step process, with judging criteria including aesthetic appeal, functionality of the space, attention to detail, handling of unusual situations, originality, selection of colors and finishes and overall impression.

This year’s judges included: Richard Anuszkiewicz, Richard Living, Annapolis, MD; Diane Foreman, CKD, Neil Kelly Co., Seattle, WA; Cathy Sparling, CKD, CBD, C Spar Designs, Addison, IL; Cassia Wyner, CW Design, LLC, Brookline, MA, and Alan Zielinski, CKD, Better Kitchens, Inc., Niles, IL.


So what excited the judges? For Richard Anuszkiewicz, clean lines and bold color were stand-out qualities in the winning kitchens, and he notes, “I really loved a few of the winners that pushed the thought process of material execution.” These included the Gold winner in the Best Kitchen Over $200,000 category, which “showcased a brass transitional inset bead with shagreen leather drawer heads…that was special.”

He also cited the Bronze winner in the same category, which featured “an orange LaCornue range with navy cabinetry [that] was very fresh in color selection. And one of my favorites,” he continues, “was the [Bronze winner in the Kitchens $100,000-$200,000 category] which had an exotic linear wall paper – it was very fashion-forward in the bar area with leather cabinetry and hot-rolled steel wall cabinets that went down to the countertop.”

In the bath, he cites natural light, freestanding tubs and clean-lined tile as notable trends that were evident in the winning designs, adding, “There were a few contemporary baths that broke the boundaries or thought process of a typical bathroom space plan.” As an example, he cites the idea of having no formal doorways, but rather having the space “naturally divided by the placement of objects to provide privacy.”

Judge Cathy Sparling cited the mixed use of metals, bold use of color and wallpaper, greater attention paid to ceilings, the designers’ willingness to embrace architecture when selecting materials and “great use of space/unique storage applications” as key trends among this year’s winning designs.

Citing the Gold winner in the Kitchens $100,000-$200,000 category, she says, “I loved the balance, scale, colors. Turning a fireplace into a pizza oven and fitting it into the overall plan was wonderful.”

While not necessarily new trends, Cassia Wyner sees mixed metals and materials (brass, stainless, leather, mirrors), open kitchen spaces incorporating living space and attention to detail, with the use of interesting materials used in novel ways, as some of the prevalent trends from this year’s winning designs. She adds, “We all preferred the more sleek, clean lines. Even classic spaces were not cluttered or overly ornate.”

Citing the Best Kitchen over $200,000 Gold winner, Wyner notes, “I loved the brass drawer details and the leather drawer fronts, as well as the black patio doors. I thought the details, the contrast and the setting were all stunning.”

Judge Diane Foreman was particularly taken by the dual use of lighting as both “art and emphasis” in some of the winning projects, and also saw “clean lines, rustic textures and the glamour and sophistication of black” as hot trends evident in the winning kitchen designs.

In the bath, she points to “clean lines, curbless spa showers, bringing the outdoors in, fresh, soothing colors, warm finishes, lighting effects, geometric repetition and high contrast that added excitement to the spaces” as stand out elements.

For Alan Zielinski, a notable trend in the winning kitchens was the ability to rethink the classic white kitchen to give it something extra. He says, “Yes, white continues to be a ‘timeless’ trend,” but believes it’s important to look beyond just the white cabinetry. “Now it’s about shadow lines, how texture and pattern from lighting play on these designs along with the incorporation of similar and dis-similar materials, including metals, all pulled together by the designer to create the pleasing aesthetic.”

Zielinski was also particularly taken by “designs that incorporate safety and Universal Design, designs that [incorporate] innovative materials for depth and dimension – many times in smaller spaces, and the use of natural products that will bring the user closer to nature while integrating storage solutions into a spa-like environment.

“It’s all in the details,” he continues, citing the Bronze winner in the Best Kitchen $100,000-$200,000 category, in which “the window over the sink had a diffuser element integrating and balancing the design of that wall.”

Balance was also a key element of many of the winning designs, according to Zielinski, whether having ceiling and floor treatments be similar but with different textures, or blending old world and more contemporary features.

Ultimately, though, he believes it’s all about “attention to details, clarity and sharpness of lines, innovation of shapes and materials and elevating a project from just boxes hung on the wall to integration of truly good design.”

Expanded coverage of all of the winning projects with photos and details: Best Kitchen Over $200,000 GoldSilverBronze; Best Kitchen $100,000-$200,000 GoldSilverBronze; Best Kitchen Under $100,000 GoldSilverBronze; Best Master Bath Over $50,000 GoldSilverBronze; Best Master Bath Under $50,000 GoldSilverBronze; Best Powder Room GoldSilverBronze; Best Kitchen Showroom GoldSilverBronze; Best Universal Design Kitchen or Bath GoldSilver, Bronze; and Best Specialty Project GoldSilverBronze. For more insights from this year’s judges, see related story “Design Competition Judges Share Award Application Strategies.”

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