Four Open-Plan Kitchens Garner Top Prizes in Competition

LAS VEGAS, NV - The 34th annual National Kitchen & Bath Association Design Competition stood "wide open" this year as four kitchens placed in the category of Open-Plan Kitchens. Winners in Category 4 were announced for the first time during the NKBA Board of Directors' Gala held here during K/BIS in May.

The competition, which is open only to NKBA members, "recognizes excellence in the field of design, paying special attention to kitchens and baths, but also covering other projects which reflect the scope of work accomplished by association members," notes NKBA.

A panel of past winners, all CKDs and/or CBDs, judged this competition. They first scored each project in each of the competition's 11 categories against NKBA's 40 Guidelines for Kitchen Planning or 41 Guidelines for Bathroom Planning. Those entries that advanced to the final round of judging, and placing in each category, were evaluated for presentation of plans, design solution, creativity and overall aesthetic value.

The Category 4 winners met the criteria and demonstrated innovation, notes the NKBA. Here, Kitchen & Bath Design News highlights the four winning designs.


Space and natural lighting in this kitchen, which took top prize in Category 4, was enhanced with corner windows that offer a stunning view, according to Liz Firebaugh, CKD of Signature Kitchens in Petoskey, MI. She designed this kitchen with the help of fellow Signature Kitchens designer Amy Dixon.

"Carrying the theme of the arched window throughout the kitchen led to the creation of a dramatic, curved-front bronze hood, which complemented the thick, curved bronze countertop on the island," says Firebaugh. A small bronze shelf she installed behind the range further enhances the details. Adjacent to the range, she matched the tall pantry in detail to the fully integrated refrigerator.

Firebaugh later repeated the curved detail with the tall, curved, glass dish storage cabinet, curved wall and base cabinetry, and a 42"-high seating countertop.

"Limestone brick-layered tiles pull the warm cherry wood and metal materials together and carry the look above the arched window," she adds.

A cleverly hidden desk and message center sits in the back of the dish cabinet, while a small bonus area with angled corners and an exterior entrance offers a cozy table and bench seat, she concludes.


Sandra Steiner-Houck, CKD of Steiner & Houck, Inc. in Columbia, PA placed second in Category 4 with this Georgian kitchen.

"The clients were seeking an open-plan kitchen with various work zones for a family of five in the renovation of their very 'Grande Georgian-style' home. The breakfast area was nestled into the new large bay window nook with the 'Grande' turret above. A custom window seat and table were designed to conform to the space," explains Steiner-Houck.

In addition, the fully accessorized cooking hearth, flanked by the two 30" stainless steel ovens, makes a "Grande" statement on the main wall of the kitchen, contends Steiner-Houck.

She created multiple multi-level islands "to enable good flow throughout the space and provide the separate work zones the clients desired." She then located the deep clean-up sink and dishwasher in the island containing the breakfast bar to add more function.

Steiner-Houck also symmetrically positioned lighted, hand-leaded glass display cabinets by one entrance to the kitchen to maintain the formality of the space. Completing the room, she nestled the lower baking countertop into the back of the main island with a built-in mixer lift and custom glass front bins for baking supplies.


Paulette Hessinger, CKD of Designs for Living in Erie, PA created the kitchen that placed third. But it was not without challenges. As she describes: "The clients' decision to build a 35'6"X21' addition for their new kitchen and dining room didn't solve all of their problems. The former kitchen was dark, centered in the house with a small dining room viewing the yard."

Hessinger's solution involved constructing a divider wall with the dining room surrounded by windows on the farther side and the kitchen on the nearer side that allowed a break between the two areas without restricting light.

A horseshoe-shaped island mirrors the range wall, supplying worktop space with a raised snack top that hides work surfaces.

Hessinger also installed 30"-deep countertops at the sink to expand the space behind the Manor House-style faucet. "[This] allowed the curved, extended cabinet sides to drop to the countertop without restricting the work area.

Slate-style tile with black inserts complement the grey/green granite used for the work countertops, snack counter and full backsplashes.

Finishing the open design, Hessinger installed Shaker-style cherry cabinets that feature inset-style glass and grid door accents, and custom-built a black accent hutch piece with a beaded cherry panel behind the open shelves.


Alan Freysinger's open-plan kitchen scored an honorable mention in Category 4. Freysinger, a designer with Glendale, WI-based Design Group Three, Inc., explains: "The owners wanted to create a kitchen/living center that allowed them to interact with the family, while remaining faithful to the period and style of this 1921 Craftsman Bungalow-style home."

It was a challenge for Freysinger, but "fortunately, the kitchen had not received any significant remodeling before," he says. So, it was a clean slate, and contained some original touches that he could work with. There were also touches that he needed to work around.

"The vintage and worn cast iron wash basin still remained in its original location, [and] typical for

a home of this era, the kitchen, pantry and eating spaces were divided into a series of small rooms with many doorways between, so that was where the space needed opening up," he explains.

Other challenges Freysinger overcame were related to the clients' budget and their desire to retain their already small yard.

"It made it necessary to contain the kitchen within the existing space," he recalls.

His solution involved removing walls to open up the kitchen and allow enough wall space for significant storage and countertop space.

"The elimination of the walls meant rerouting the mechanical system and load-bearing walls. These new load-bearing points were transferred to new interior and exterior walls, and had to be accounted for in the basement level, as well," Freysinger relates.

The designer also leveled the ceilings. "They sagged significantly due to settling, so I had to create a level plan that would accept a crown that lay even with the ceiling," he concludes.