Designers Top Competition in Cambria Contest

Le Sueur, MN— Designers are always trying to top their best work – but the latest edition of the Cambria Lifestyles Contest asked them to be literal about it.

The supplier of natural quartz surfaces recently recognized 13 outstanding projects, including five residential kitchens and their designers, who topped the competition with attractive and innovative Cambria installations.

“Designers, installers and fabricators of Cambria use remarkable creativity and innovation, and this contest is our way of recognizing the exceptional work that they do,” says Tom Annexstad, Cambria’s senior v.p. of sales. “Each year, we are impressed by the variety of uses of Cambria and the skilled craftsmanship our partners demonstrate.”

The winners of the contest, which is open to Cambria certified installation and fabrication partners, designers, builders and retailers, are featured in the 2008 Cambria Lifestyles Contest Calendar.

Elevated Design

Jim Smith, principal of La Porte, IN-based Custom Cabinets & Woodwork, said the decision to enter the contest was easy.

“It was a very nice kitchen,” Smith says simply.

With homespun charm and luxury touches, Smith’s winning kitchen was the result of an unusual peninsula shape, careful material choices and attention to detail. The Cambria fabricator on the project told Smith about the contest during the final installation. Part of a whole-house remodel, the kitchen was relocated to another part of the house, and built from the studs up.

Blending warmth with practicality, Smith chose cabinetry by Decorá and added sleek commercial touches, including a stainless steel farm sink, a 70/30 double bowl from Houzer’s Epicure series.

“The homeowner wanted commercial-style everything,” Smith reports. To address that, he chose a range and other appliances from Wolf, and refrigeration from Sub-Zero.

But perhaps the most interesting elements, Smith notes, were the various elevations that the clients requested and that the designer cites as the biggest challenge.

“Angles and elevations make the kitchen really stand out,” he says.

Among the various elevations, Smith included a work station area with a desk, flat-screen television and seating, perfect for someone set to organize their day.

The kitchen revolves around the homeowners’ own unusual freestanding butcher block, an antique procured on a trip to Michigan, which has a decorative waved face that can be flipped over for use as a practical cutting board.

Smith’s kitchen graces the March page of the Cambria Lifestyles’ Contest Calendar.


Designer Phil Sander describes this kitchen remodel, completed in early 2007, as “full of character.”

After expanding the footprint to approximately 250 sq. ft., Sander, of Littleton, CO-based Sander and Sons, Inc., set about creating signature details while fulfilling his clients’ requests.
“The ceilings are quite high, about 10 ft.,” says Sander. “In the old plan, there was a gap between the top of the cabinetry and the ceiling.”

Sander specified Woodharbor Cabinetry and placed 18" glass-front cabinets on 42" boxes to reach the high ceiling. To add further usable space, the designer removed an unused pantry to create space for additional open cabinetry in a darker shade for contrast. The color palette was a prime consideration; in addition to the competing Cambria colors and the dual-shade cabinetry, Sander took up the existing tile floor in favor of hardwood, and added a tile backsplash that highlights colors speckled in the countertops.

Other details include turned posts, raised-door panels and four-piece crown moldings. Sander added can lighting and pendants over the island. The undermount sinks in the countertops are from Blanco America with faucetry by Delta Faucet Co.

“The amount of detail takes center stage, such as the bump-outs for the sink and the base for the Viking cooktop,” says Sander. The clients kept their existing appliances, which include a Viking double oven and refrigeration from Sub-Zero.

When asked why the designer chose Cambria, Sander says, “The clients were looking at a number of options. They had originally asked for granite, and while I deal in that as well, it’s just not right for every project and every client.”

Sander’s kitchen appears as the July entry in the Cambria Lifestyles Contest Calendar.

The Divers’ Kitchen

For the July kitchen, Sander worked with area contractor Troy Valdez of Highlands Ranch, CO-based Troy Valdez Custom Construction and Remodeling. The pair collaborated on another Cambria prize-winning project, which is featured in September in the Contest Calendar. For this kitchen, Sander provided the cabinets and countertops while Valdez did the primary design work and space planning.

“I’m a scuba diver, and that’s how I met the homeowners,” says Valdez. He collaborated with his adventurous clients extensively to make this massive, open-plan kitchen into the central hub of their home. “No matter what people come to the house for, it seems as if they always end up in the kitchen.”

The previous kitchen felt dark and closed-off, and the homeowners desired a lighter, open format that would be more conducive to entertaining. Valdez opened up a number of walls to add natural light and flow, creating a kitchen-centric Great Room in the process.

“Lighting was priority one,” the designer says, so he designed a scheme that uses a mix of cans, pendants, uplighting, task and indirect lighting.

The focal point is undoubtedly the 19' Cambria-topped island in Windsor, and the enormous 50" custom wood hood with a Vent-A-Hood liner. The island contains a GE Monogram 48" commercial-style range. Other appliances include a double oven, integrated refrigerator and undercounter wine cooler, also from GE Monogram.

The ceiling adds to the rustic charm, with 1'x6' tongue-in-groove wood panels that give the room a lodge-like feel, and match the cabinet finish.

The stunner of this design, though, is the lack of wall cabinetry. “The format manages to be extremely functional while keeping the wall cabinetry to a minimum,” says Valdez, who notes that of the RockGlen cabinets specified, only two are wall-hung.

Valdez added a number of Blum’s Blumotion glides and other roll-outs and pull-outs to create smart storage, as well as a corner pantry.

For ease in food preparation, the kitchen features both a vegetable sink in addition to the main one and a Tapmaster hands-free foot pedal to turn on the faucetry.

The New Year

Elisabeth Aiello’s kitchen was chosen to ring in 2009. Aiello, of Highlands Ranch, CO-based Kitchen Distributors, Inc., describes the kitchen she confronted heading into the remodel as “10 pounds of kitchen in a five pound bag.”

The Centennial, CO kitchen was cluttered, as an understatement, with an ill-fitted peninsula, an abundance of appliances and pot racks everywhere. Despite the 32'x22' layout, the space suffered from a lack of proper lighting.

Her client loves to cook, so Aiello’s biggest challenge was fitting in all of the appliances her client required while creating a logical flow to the room.

Among the features specified were cabinet pull-outs, mixer lifts, refrigerator drawers, a double oven and 48" range from Wolf, a Sub-Zero 736 integrated refrigerator, an induction cooktop, a steamer and two dishwashers.

Each of the two Franke sinks are positioned next to a dishwasher for ease during transfer.

The overall theme was highly traditional for the 23-year-old original kitchen. The original cabinetry was from Wood-Mode, and the homeowners again chose the company for their new installation.

“We kept Wood-Mode for its traditional charm, but chose an updated door style to bring the kitchen current,” says Aiello.

Aiello’s clients were looking at quartz surfaces for their durability, low-maintenance and consistency of pattern, and settled on Cambria for the colors the company offered. Cambria is also featured in the bar area, where Aiello took out a desk/work station and created the space from scratch with seating, wine storage and an icemaker.

For more about this project, click here.