Green Makes Splash in Design Showcase at K/BIS

CHICAGO— This year’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show displayed more green design than ever before, but no display took that theme more literally than the 2008 Design Showcase, sponsored by Woman’s Day Special Interest Publications and Merillat. The cabinetmaker constructed this year’s Design Showcase right in its booth, where visitors could experience the kitchen/mudroom/master bath combo firsthand

Designer Ingrid Leess was the principal designer of the space, and worked in collaboration with Mervyn Kaufman, project director/writer for Woman’s Day Special Interest Publications, Paul Radoy, project manager for Merillat, and Nellie Ondrovick, an interior designer for the cabinetmaker, to make her green-tinted ideas into reality.

Color and Contrast

Leess, of New Canaan, CT-based Ingrid Leess Interior Design, started with color as her guide. In a chance visit to CaesarStone last year, the firm’s Apple Martini color caught Leess’ eye. As a result, it appears on the perimeter of the kitchen, one in an array of vibrant greens.

“Green is the color that sets the tone,” she says. “There are a variety of shades; none of them match, but all are complementary.”

Mixing greens with an emphasis on organic shapes and a variety of materials, the designer was able to create, in her words, a “fresh” transitional style.

“I knew in advance some of the materials we’d have to work with,” she adds. “I knew there would be stone and so I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to give the space the feel of a reclaimed barn, to give it the look of being built around an existing stone wall?’”

The faux stone wall, which is Andante Fieldledge from Eldorado Stone, encircles a dining area with a banquette constructed of Laredo maple in Dove, part of Merillat’s Masterpiece series. The banquette is positioned beneath a fixed, circular 42-3/4" diameter Pella window. The window is meant to flood the room, and in particular the eating area, with natural light.

Leess says there’s a lot to love about the juxtaposing of texture and color in the space.

“I like the mix of the gloss of the tile and the roughness of the stone,” she says, noting that even the flooring, Cappuccino oak laminate from Alloc, has colorful nuances worth noting. “It carries the reclaimed barn idea – the plums and browns and white sort of running the grain. It looks like an old floor that might have been painted at one time but that’s worn down over time.”

Leess’ penchant for repetition can be seen in the repeating styles of the aluminum hardware on the Merrilat cabinetry, which mirrors the appliance pulls.

“The repetition of shape, as well as color and texture, threads the room together,” the designer says. “And it extends continuity between the kitchen, bath and mudroom.”

Ease of Use

The space was designed with a middle-aged couple in mind as the homeowners.

“It’s supposed to be a second home,” says Leess. “We imagined it to be like a weekend house, a place where the couple could come to entertain family and friends.”

With entertaining in mind, functionality was key. Two work zones abut one another: from refrigerator to sink to ovens, and from ovens to sink to cooktop. With a suite of appliances from Gaggenau including wall ovens, dishwasher, refrigerator-freezer and built-in coffeemaker, the “second home” lacks none of the comforts of the first.

Contained within the cabinets are a host of pull-outs, roll-outs and lazy susan amenities. Undercabinet lighting adds to the ease of use, as does the pull-out, lighted linen storage beneath the banquette.

Leess also included some areas of visual interest in the wall cabinetry, using Silver Screen translucent glass doors over stemware storage closets. When lit, whatever is in the cabinets creates a silhouette against the glass.

But looks aren’t everything: People who love entertaining need space to create, and Leess gave these homeowners ample room to work. The island is a smart, multi-functional work center, and the focal point of the kitchen layout. Staggered countertop elevations put the stainless steel, double-bowl undermount sink from Elkay just out of view for those eating at the banquette. The credit for the idea goes to Ondrovick, says Leess. If there were dirty dishes piled in the sink, the sink’s three-inch depressed countertop height would keep them from the view of guests at the table.

Beneath the sink is a waste disposal area and to the left is a counter-depth dishwasher from Gaggenau. At the end of the island is a stainless steel rolling cart with butcher block top from John Boos & Co., which fits snugly beneath the 39" tall countertop.

CaesarStone was used for all of the surfaces in the kitchen, in a variety of shades. Aside from the inspiring Apple Martini used for the perimeter countertop, Leess also chose a selection of whites.

To complete the “reclaimed barn,” Leess used a sliding barn door made of cypress stained yet another shade of green.

Barn Bathing

If the kitchen gives the suggestion of organic shapes, then the master bath takes that suggestion to heart.

“When you include organic forms, shapes from nature, people react to it and respond positively,” says Leess. “The bath needed to be fresh, familiar – not too modern and cold.”

Leess feels transitional is becoming the dominant style. “People seem to be straying away from strictly traditional or strictly modern designs,” she says. “They’re looking for a little of everything.”

Cypress panels stained green span the wall against which the vanity is placed, and repeat the materials and look of the sliding barn door.

Dual bronze vessel sinks from Elkay have a hand-forged look. The bronze bowls are paired with chrome faucets from Hansgrohe’s Axor Citterio collection, which feature a highly reflective surface, and appear to blend in with the wall mirrors from which they spring. The sinks sit on a countertop of half-inch-thick tempered glass underneath which is a collection of multi-colored stones.

The white Era tub from Jacuzzi is centered in the middle of the bath and is set in a wood base. Encased by a glass and stainless steel Teutonic enclosure from MTI Whirlpools, the shower is outfitted with an Arzo single-control and square overhead spray from Delta. The shower door is on slides and has the same open-close motion as the barn door.

An exterior wall-mounted towel warmer from Runtal picks up the chrome and stainless steel elements in the shower, while the teak shower tray repeats shades from the tub frame and the Florim Terra Nuevo shower tiles.

Overall, Leess thinks the design collaboration met everyone’s goals for the project.

“I don’t think we wanted it to be safe looking; we felt we could go a little more fun, putting up a big green wall, using lively fabrics and stuff, perhaps toning it down with the use of wood and the whites of the cabinetry, tiles and the island countertop,” she says. “It’s not too overpowering – it ends up looking fun and fresh.”

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