Competition Views Kitchen as ‘Live-In Room’

In today’s market, great kitchen design marries form and function. The idea of the kitchen as merely a room to prepare and eat food is long gone, replaced by the concept of the kitchen as central gathering space for eating, cooking, relaxing, working and socializing.

That “live-in room” idea is Electrolux’s interpretation of what the future holds for the kitchen. It was also the basis for the first Live-In Room of Tomorrow $110,000 Kitchen Design Competition.

The competition, sponsored by Electrolux Major Appliances and Interior Design magazine, was open to practicing designers, architects and students, nationwide. Applicants were required to submit a kitchen rendering that conveyed their interpretation of the theme.

Entries were judged on: application of the live-in room concept, visual appeal, creativity, elements and principles of kitchen design and innovative integration of a minimum of five Electrolux ICON appliances. The budget was limited to $100,000, and the room had to incorporate elements not typically found in the kitchen.

Judges for the competition included: Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine; famed designer Jonathan Adler; Geoffrey Zakarain, chef and owner of Town and Country restaurants in New York City; Mark Zeff, president and founder of Zeff Design, and Henrik Otto, senior v.p. of Global Design for Electrolux.

Jeff Jenkins, president/owner of Jeff Jenkins Design + Development in Alexandria, VA, took home top honors for his innovative indoor/outdoor design that encouraged social interaction, and garnered a $50,000 cash prize plus a suite of Electrolux ICON appliances valued at $25,000. The winning design was also presented at the Electrolux booth during the 2008 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Chicago last month, and will be featured in Interior Design’s July 2008 issue.

Creating the Concept

“When Electrolux announced the competition, I had already begun the process of building almost a duplicate of the Lyric kitchen kit of parts for a client,” Jenkins remarks on the kitchen system of his own design. “I was using the Electrolux ICON appliances in the kitchen, so it was a natural fit. I just reoriented the concept for the live-in room idea and modified the outdoor pergola, making it an extension of the kitchen.”

About the outdoor area, Jenkins adds, “I’ve always been fascinated with this idea of being able to open up the kitchen to the outdoors. I think it would be an ideal scenario when the weather is good or when you’re entertaining.”

In keeping with the live-in idea, the kitchen incorporates a lounge area, with a built-in custom leather loveseat in off-white, and freestanding furniture that would traditionally be seen in the living room. “On that side of the room, it doesn’t really feel like a kitchen,” stresses Jenkins. “The cabinets feature custom sliding textured fused glass doors that move horizontally to cover one side or the other.”

A mobile work table in the center acts as a gathering place for both food prep and socializing.

“On the other wall, we included a very functional kitchen for preparing food in an efficient way,” Jenkins notes. The main wall features Electrolux ICON appliances, including the 30" Single Wall Oven with glass front situated below the 36" Gas Drop-In Cooktop and 36" Downdraft Vent, as well as the series dishwasher. Fixtures include a rectangular sink from Blanco America, teamed with a Hansgrohe Axor steel faucet.

Elements of Style

Instead of traditionally constructed kitchen cabinets, both walls of cabinets and the work table are Jenkins’ Lyric kitchen system, a kit of parts that all go together using plates and posts, Jenkins explains. The main posts are square, solid maple legs, and on top of those are stainless steel plates that have been laser cut. The baskets and shelving are all adjustable.

“As a result, you can very easily take these components and adapt them to any kitchen – any space, really,” states Jenkins. “We’ve used them against the wall in this design, but they can act as freestanding furniture in the middle of the room.”

To finish the cabinets, Jenkins used Tried and True, an all-natural polymerized linseed oil wood finish. “It’s great over time, because it allows homeowners to repair it on their own,” he stresses. “It’s low tack, there are no harsh chemicals, and it builds up a really nice oil wax finish. It was applied directly to the maple on the cabinets.”

The fronts of the cabinets are stainless sheet material that has been bent and formed. The same sheeting is featured on the work table, as well as the backsplash behind the butcher block counters.

“We incorporated stainless steel elements throughout the design for obvious reasons,” offers Jenkins. “One, it’s very functional in a working kitchen, but it also integrates well with the Electrolux ICON series.”

However, he notes, too much stainless would have given the room an industrial look. So, to lighten it up, he incorporated a traditional butcher block countertop made from hard maple. The rest of the framework – the handles, pulls and the post and panel system, “all of the vertical supports” – are also solid maple, so it feels more like a living space.

Jenkins took a risk with the glass tile backsplash – a mix of vibrant orange/red and silver from Erin Adams Design called Zen Weave. “We used it for visual appeal, to really contrast with the stainless steel and maple,” he comments.

He notes that the colors were chosen for several reasons. “One, we had already incorporated a bright orange Maharam fabric on the Jasper Morrison stools by Cappellini that sit around the central work table. So, we didn’t want that to stand out as the only bright color in the space,” he explains.

Jenkins believes one of his greatest risks – in terms of the competition – was using a panel on the refrigerator. “We used the 42" Built-In Panel Ready Side-by-Side Refrigerator and covered the front with slate. Since the purpose of the competition was to design a room that would show off the Electolux ICON appliances, this was a significant risk,” he comments. “But, the slate works for this room, and the refrigerator acts as a chalkboard for writing notes and things.”

He adds that the same post and panel system was incorporated around the entire refrigerator, “so it comes off as a custom piece. Then, we floated shelving on the outside,” he adds.

To finish off the room, Jenkins used porcelain tile flooring by Incronta. “It’s similar to a slate, but it’s very durable,” he remarks. “It has beautiful texture, and that texture contrasts the other materials in the room.” The tile extends into the outdoor patio area, providing a unifying detail.

Outside, Jenkins situated a main dining table that can be moved indoors when needed. “It uses the same construction as the main work table and the cabinetry,” he comments.

For more about this project, click here.