As the maxim goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. For this year’s winners of the National Contractor of the Year (CotY) awards, the fierce competition and hard work evident in their projects only meant a sweeter victory.
The Des Plaines, IL-based National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recognized projects in some 27 categories, ranging from residential kitchen and bath projects to commercial projects. National winners were chosen from seven regions nationwide and whittled down from 157 regional winners. The 2008 “Evening of Excellence” held in St. Petersburg, FL culminated in the CotY award ceremony. Several companies sponsored the contest, including Qualified Remodeler, a sister publication of Kitchen & Bath Design News. In all, more than 300 members of the industry elite attended the prestigious event.
Entrants had to have been in good standing with NARI between July 1, 2006 and November 30, 2007 for consideration in the competition. After the preliminary judging, held at the NARI headquarters in January, the regional winners advanced to review at the national level.
Entrants were judged on their project descriptions and before and after photos by a panel of industry experts. Of the stand-out projects, Northwest regional winner Salem, OR-based Olsen Homes & Renovations received the national award for a residential kitchen remodel over $100,000.
Kitchen over $100,000
The winning kitchen began as a dark and uncomfortable space. Using the home’s geographic setting for design inspiration helped create the distinct “Northwest Contemporary” style of the remodeled kitchen.
Designers Alex and Nick Olsen assisted the clients in bringing the outdoors in, which was one of the main requirements for the space.
“The clients have a three-acre piece of ground that overlooks the Willamette River and Albany Valley. It’s a very picturesque area. The clients have been working in their backyard on the natural pond and walking paths. They wanted a better connection to their backyard from their kitchen and dining area,” explains Alex Olsen.
As prominent figures in the town, the clients wanted a kitchen with a central focus on entertaining, as well. To create a larger footprint for the kitchen, the designers removed a centralized pantry, opening the area and connecting the kitchen with the dining space. The result of the new open floorplan was a better flow of traffic throughout the kitchen. With 5' of space between the wet bar and eating bar, the area for circulation became inviting instead of suffocating.
Employing materials naturally found in the Pacific Northwest anchored the design idea. For instance, the Douglas Fir slab-front cabinetry is simple and flat partially due to the vertical grain of the tree, which is found throughout Oregon. Using one set of upper cabinets and several lower sets reclaimed the storage lost by removing the pantry. Incorporating a floor-to-ceiling pull-out pantry in the room provided additional storage space.
A contemporary crown molding lines the cabinets, pulling the look together.
To visually connect the kitchen with the rest of the home, the designers kept a basalt fireplace in the family room as a focal point and integrated a similar style basalt face into the kitchen’s island. The island’s raised bar is in Wild West Green granite, and both the stone and shape of the island mimic the river outside.
To further keep the focus on the island, the perimeter countertops are topped with honed black granite. The designers dressed up the space with a downdraft range hood.
Sacrificing upper cabinet storage produced room for an additional window. After the pantry was removed, light was able to carry from the five dining room windows to the kitchen. Can lights and a row of pendant lights over the bar created definition lighting for the room. Undercabinet lights help to brighten the room during prep work.
Tigerwood flooring provided the finishing element for the kitchen’s award-winning design.
NARI presented three other projects with awards for residential kitchen remodels: Clive, IA-based Silent Rivers in the North Central region won for the Residential Kitchen $60,001-$100,000 category; Hicksville, NY-based Double D Contractors in the Northeast region won for the Residential Kitchen $30,001-$60,000 category, and Austin, TX-based Natalie Howe Design in the South Central region won for Residential Kitchen under $30,000.
For more about these projects, click here.