Winning Details

by Autumn McGarr

While it’s important to understand the principles of good design, the best-designed spaces are generally anything but formulaic. Nor is there a one-size-fits-all design solution for every project or every client. Sometimes, the rules of design call for a clean, elegant space that’s exquisite in its simplicity, yet other times, bold drama is the watchword of the day – and still other times, breaking all the rules is just what’s needed to create a design masterpiece.

Like any art form, design is very personal, and the best designs meld not just function and fashion, but also the tastes of the homeowners with the creative vision of the designer. And, of course, the details are everything – because in design, the little things are often what matter most.

When all of the pieces come together, the result is a design that offers a win-win for both client and designer. And in some cases, there’s a third win – such as the 33 designs that were named winners of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ 2019 Kitchen & Bath Design Awards (see related Editorial).

The nearly 300 projects submitted were judged in 11 different categories: Best Kitchen Over $225,000; Best Kitchen $150,000-$225,000; Best Kitchen $75,000-$150,000; Best Kitchen Under $75,000; Best Master Bath Over $100,000; Best Master Bath $50,000-$100,000; Best Master Bath Under $50,000; Best Powder Room; Best Showroom; Best Universal Design Kitchen or Bath, and Best Specialty Project.

This year’s entries were judged by a panel of top design professionals, with projects evaluated on the basis of aesthetic appeal, functionality of the space, attention to detail, handling of unusual situations, originality, selection of colors and finishes and overall impression. Judges also took the time to provide valuable design feedback to all of the entrants.

Judges for the 2019 competition included: Jonas Carnemark, CARNEMARK design + build, Bethesda, MD; Cheryl Kees Clendenon, In Detail Interiors, Pensacola, FL; Gail Drury, CMKBD, Drury Design, Glen Ellyn, IL; Dan McFadden, PB Kitchen Design, Geneva, IL; Mary Jo Peterson, CMKBD, CAPS, CLIPP, Mary Jo Peterson Inc., Brookfield, CT, and Ebony Stephenson, CAPS, Designs by Ebony, LLC, Newport News, VA.

Design contests not only showcase beautifully and thoughtfully crafted spaces, they also offer insights into what’s trending. In the kitchen, some of the hottest trends identified by the judges this year included layered countertops and more built-up edges, designs that feature high contrast, warmer grays or taupe-y shades, a greater use of organic elements, more targeted storage, open shelving, fewer wall cabinets and more windows, a greater focus on ceilings, full tile walls, both darker and bleached wood cabinetry and an increased use of metal.

In the bath, large-format tiles, lots of eye-catching decorative lighting fixtures, no-threshold showers, a greater Moroccan influence, an increased focus on the spa shower experience, the use of shiplap and plenty of white, blue and gray tones were cited by judges as trends seen in many of the entries.


While each of the winning designs offered different elements, certain commonalities were prevalent, including dramatic details, contrasting colors, clever organizational details, organic elements and clean and well balanced designs.

For instance, for the first-place winner in the Best Kitchen $150,000-$225,000 category, Clendenon mentioned, “It’s just well put together, incorporating a cool trend with the black, but some nice contrast, and incorporating organic elements.”

In the Master Baths Over $100,000 category, Peterson commended the first-place bath, stating, “This is really well done – I like the drama.”

Stephenson also noted the functionality of the space, saying, “Two people can shower, two people can use the restroom, two people can do hair or make up. It just works really well.”

Likewise, in the third-place-winning bath in this category, McFadden noted, “I think the organization in this space is just wonderful. I like how they reserved the appropriate space for the tub. It’s a big win in space planning.”

In the first-place winner of the Kitchens $225,000 and Up, Drury was taken by “the many interesting details in the design,” while Klendenon cited “the shiplap and the dark beams that match the stools” as elements that won her attention, and Peterson fell in love with “all the natural materials” that gave the space “a very organic feel.”

Carnemark appreciated the dimensionality in the second-place winner, while McFadden praised the decision not to put cabinets on the wall.

Indeed, the judges agreed that sometimes, the best designs are as much about what’s not there as what is. For instance, in the first place winner of the Master Bathrooms Under $50,000 category, McFadden notes, “They let a space be a space without jamming something in there. A little goes a long way.”

And in the winner of the Best Universal Design category, Peterson noted that the Universal Design elements “look so good, you don’t know they’re there.”


Other winning trends cited by the judges included:

  • A growing interest in statement or sculptural lighting, as well as more collections of interesting pendants in the kitchen;
  • Use of stone or stone-look fronts as well as stone walls in the kitchen to add textural interest;
  • More interest in using metal in the kitchen;
  • A greater focus on showing off collections with open shelves in the kitchen: thick wood shelves, metal shelves hanging from the ceiling, etc.;
  • Fewer wall cabinets and more windows, or even full walls of windows;
  • Simplicity of design, with clean lines and beautiful details making the space shine.

While different elements appealed to different judges, all agreed that the best projects showed a mastery of the details, balancing form and function, while offering a fresh take on today’s hottest trends.

See the links below for KBDN‘s expanded coverage of all the winning projects.


Best Kitchen Over $225,000

Best Kitchen $150,000-$225,000

Best Kitchen $75,000-$150,000

Best Kitchen Under $75,000

Best Master Bath Over $100,000

Best Master Bath $50,000-$100,000

Best Master Bath Under $50,000

Best Powder Room

Best Showroom

Best Universal Design Kitchen or Bath

Best Specialty Project

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