Contest Gets Designers Thinking ‘Inside the Box’

Orlando, FL— Staying “inside the box” has come to mean abiding by the status quo, avoiding risk and generally staying in the mainstream. For three prize-winning designers, however, staying inside the box was all about creativity, problem-solving and using their talents to make their clients’ dreams come true.

The winners of the inaugural Diamond Designs Contest were challenged to submit their best completed kitchens using Diamond Cabinets’ “Diamond Logix” inserts and pull-outs in three kitchen-user-inspired themes: the Gourmet Cook, the Busy Family and the Entertainer’s kitchen. The call for entries asked designers to submit an original, completed design for a remodeled or a newly constructed room. Designers across the country entered before-and-after shots of their projects along with design statements.

Judging the competition was a panel of industry professionals including Kimberly Sweet of, Linda Ohm of CabinetMaker and Leslie Plummer Clagett of Woman’s Day Kitchens & Baths. The winners in each category were awarded a $5,000 prize and will have their work displayed on Diamond Cabinets’ Website.

The Gourmet Cook

Diane Gewirtz, principal of Chesaning, MI-based Interiors by Diane, Inc. received the contest announcement from Diamond in the mail and after reviewing the criteria, knew a recently completed project would be a perfect fit for the Gourmet Cook’s Kitchen.

Her client, a restaurateur, requested commercial-grade appliances, better and more plentiful storage and smarter work space. Prior to the remodel, the kitchen was a tight, enclosed 8'x11' space. Recognizing her client’s desire for a design that would naturally flow into the adjacent living area, Gewirtz opened up the kitchen, enlarging it to 15'x11'. After selecting her design for first prize, the judges noted that they particularly liked the designer’s ability to make less seem like more. “She made particularly good use of a relatively small space,” according to Diamond’s judges.

“I think what made this project stand out was that this area, even after the remodel, is not a huge area, but a lot is packed into the space,” says Gewirtz. “Diamond’s Logix solved the storage needs, so it was easy for me to focus on a beautiful look.”

Luckily, no structural elements posed a problem for the design.

“It was a great relief when the builder and I walked through the floor plan I designed and he confirmed that, structurally, the walls could be moved,” says the designer.

“The window had to remain,” Gewirtz continues, “and the wall I wanted to open up to the dining area is load bearing, so the wall was beamed and a column was incorporated for support, which adds a great architectural detail.”

The only real challenge that the project faced was simply fitting in everything the client wanted. In addition to his gourmet ways, the client also wanted entertaining space and associated accoutrements such as a Manitowoc icemaker.

A wine cooler, refrigerator, range, hood and dishwasher by Jenn-Air were complemented by an Elkay sink and faucets by Moen. Sitting atop Diamond Cabinets’ Sullivan base cabinetry are countertops by Cambria in Nottingham. The cabinets, in cherry, are finished with hardware from Amerock.

“This whole project was great fun,” Gewirtz concludes. “My client pretty much gave me free rein.”

The Busy Family

The process of remodeling a kitchen can often seem like a perfect storm, where all the elements come together in an improbable way to form a perfect outcome. For one Florida designer, the phrase took on a new meaning when, in the middle of completing a Parkland, FL kitchen remodel, Hurricane Wilma bore down on Florida and knocked the lights out for three weeks.

Coming back from that, winning the Busy Family Kitchen category must have seemed like a snap.

“We were waiting on the countertops when the electricity went down – all of Broward County was dark for a few weeks,” says the designer, Laurene Schwenke.

Schwenke, the owner and principal designer of Parkland, FL-based Stonewater Kitchens, felt she had the perfect fit with a recent job she’d done. So when the call for entries arrived in her mailbox, she “just decided to go for it.

“My client was a busy mom and PTA member who really needed a better organized kitchen,” says Schwenke. “She also wanted the appliances relocated to create a more efficient work center.”

The challenges, apart from the hurricane, were plentiful. In the old kitchen, the oven had been across the room from the rest of the appliances and work areas. In the new kitchen, Schwenke endeavored to group all the major appliances and work areas together into a more cohesive center. To do this, she needed to move the island and, consequently, the plumbing. A new trench was dug beneath the floor to house the relocated pipes and connections.

Competing angles of the oblong room also had to be overcome.

“Not one of those angles were the same, so we had to figure out how to make the room balanced,” adds Schwenke.

To accommodate these new changes, the dimensions of the space were expanded from a 16'x17' layout to a roomier 20'x17'.

“We knocked out a wall that separated the kitchen from a hallway. It was a useless hallway,” the designer says. That space was appropriated into the new kitchen.

The high-hat lighting was in the hallway and, in the redesign, now in the way of the new cabinetry, so the first job was to move it out of the way.

The redesigned room is more open than its previous incarnation, but done in comfortable tones, accented by Juripa Gold granite countertops and tumbled marble on the backsplash. To create that all-important functionality for the busy family, the designer specified KitchenAid appliances for the new-and-improved work triangle. The cabinetry features many pull-outs, roll-outs and inserts.

“The mantelpiece was everyone’s favorite,” says Schwenke. “We dressed it up with corbels and other architectural elements.”

The Accomplished Entertainer

The contest announcement from Diamond was a kind of serendipitous coincidence for Denise Laridaen, owner of Mauston, WI-based Cabinet Creations.

“I was just finishing a project that seemed to fit the contest rules and thought, ‘You can’t win if you don’t enter’,” says Laridaen, referring to the remodel she did of a local kitchen, which was awarded first place in the Entertaining Kitchen category.

The project, which involved a remodel and a new addition, took six months to complete in the winter/spring of 2006. The project had a personal side, too, as one of Laridaen’s best friends grew up in the house, so the designer was familiar with the old kitchen. 

“It was rewarding to see the transformation, from the ’70s decor to current trends,” she says. “I’ve since attended parties there, and the kitchen is  definitely the focal point where people converge.”

“The owners wanted a large kitchen with seating for guests, a prep island and a desk area,” she continues. “They specifically asked for a stone arch around the commercial-style range.”

It was this stone arch, resembling a traditional hearth, which caught the judges’ attention. According to Diamond, the judges “thought that the hearth was a gorgeous focal point.”

The designer, too, cites the stone arch over the range as her overall favorite element.

Before the redesign, the original kitchen was approximately 14'x11', expanding to 18'x23'. Laridaen created a separate pantry complete with Diamond cabinetry, sink, freezers and open shelving.  

“The biggest challenge was working around existing architectural elements, such as doors, hall and plumbing,” says the designer. “The owners had also selected several appliances that needed to be worked into the design, such as a separate ice maker and a cook sink.” 

Incorporated into the design are Cambria quartz countertops in Welshpool Black. The same quartz surfacing was used for the fireplace surround and hearth. Appliances from Jenn-Air were specified such as a 48" gas range, refrigerator and built-in microwave oven. A Kohler CookSink was added at the owner’s request as well as a KitchenAid under-counter icemaker, wall-mounted pot filler and stainless steel sinks by Elkay topped with faucets from Delta.

Finishing touches include new task, accent and undercounter lighting. Of the Diamond Logix system, Laridaen used pull-out trash/recycle bin bases, tray divider roll-outs, a TV shelving unit, tall microwave cabinet with breadbox, pull-out bread board and cutlery inserts to complete the look.