Lessons From the Classroom

Understanding what kitchens and baths are truly all about involves far more than simply gaining expertise in design, construction principles and product specification.

Experienced designers understand that full well. They understand the critical, and changing, roles that kitchens and baths play in people's lives. They understand what kitchens and baths truly mean to 21st-century American homeowners.

It's reassuring to be reminded that students about to enter the kitchen and bath industry have a firm grasp on those key insights, as well.

That much is evident from the essays of leading design students who participated in the 2005 "Student Designer Scholarship" program, co-sponsored by Kitchen & Bath Design News and the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The scholarship program, aimed at assisting the educational endeavors of promising kitchen/bath design students at 45 NKBA-endorsed or supported colleges, is being offered for the fifth consecutive year in 2005. Winning students are being presented with $5,000 worth of scholarships at a luncheon ceremony during the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) in Las Vegas this month.

In order to be considered for a Student Designer Scholarship, applicants were required to submit an essay on the topic: "What role do you see kitchens and baths playing in the 21st-Century American home, and why?"

The essays, in the vast majority of cases, reflected enormous insight and sensitivity - not only into key design and product trends, but, even more importantly, into the American psyche.

Students wrote about changing American lifestyles. They wrote about evolving household compositions. They wrote about the impact of technology on people's lives, and about how kitchens and baths need to be rethought and redefined in light of an aging population.

They also captured the true essence of the modern-day kitchen as the multi-functional command center - or heart - of the home, and the true role of the modern-day bathroom as a luxurious and highly personal sanctuary from the stress of the outside world.

On this and the following three pages, Kitchen & Bath Design News presents excerpts from several of those scholarship essays. They offer both experienced and
neophyte kitchen and bath designers some interesting food for thought.
-- Eliot Sefrin

A Return to Our Roots
Recent events in our country have reminded us to value, even treasure, our families again, and we are returning to our roots. We realize that the home, and specifically the kitchen, is the logical place to retreat to. As a large number of the American population is getting older, we are seeking ways to stay in our homes and age gracefully.

Spending more time at home will mean the size of the most popular rooms of the house will increase to accommodate socializing and relaxing. As family and friends gather, walls will be moved back. More seating and preparation space will be needed. More refrigerated appliances, including drawers and beverage coolers, and larger cooking/baking space will be required, as well. Extravagant bathing facilities - including spa-shower treatments, jetted or soaking tubs and heated towel racks - will be considered a necessary way to relax and rejuvenate. Technology and entertainment will become standard, too. Safety, and "aging in place," will continue to be an emphasis. Time management will continue to be critical, and as our health consciousness rises, there will be a shift from fast food and drive-through to home cooking done quickly.

Because kitchens and baths are the gathering locations in our homes, they will continue to be the most important rooms we live in. New technology and inventions will allow us to be more productive, energy efficient and safe, as we raise our families and age gracefully in our homes. Good design is critical to making these rooms a place we want to be. Ultimately, the role of the kitchen and bath in the 21st century will be to bring the family back home and foster feelings of warmth, love and friendship.
Jan Ferrell
Arapahoe Community College
Littleton, CO

Spaces That Inspire
There are three main factors that will influence the role of kitchen and bath design in 21st-century America. First is an abundance of wealth and resources. Second are future advances in technology and environmental awareness. And third, an emerging psychology of space that is unique to this generation of consumers. The kitchen will emerge as a social center and living space, and the bathroom as a private retreat. Ultimately, humans want to surround themselves in spaces that heal and inspire. This is the role that future kitchens and bathrooms must fulfill.

The 21st century is promising for the kitchen and bath industry. Resources and technology will overwhelm designers with unlimited possibilities. Environmental awareness means consumers will be more and more conscientious about what is specified in their personal spaces. They will want to use these materials and concepts in their kitchens for entertaining, and bathrooms for relaxing and enjoying quiet and privacy.

The roles of our kitchens and bathrooms in the 21st century will be to inspire quality of life.
Andrea Walker
Brigham Young University-Idaho
Rexburg, ID

Reflecting Our Passions
Because interior spaces have the powerful potential to influence how we live and how we respond to life, they are becoming a reflection of our priorities, personalities and passions. The 21st century has witnessed a surge of enthusiasm in the design world, and architects, designers and homeowners alike are expressing a keen interest in creating multi-functional, aesthetic spaces that can be utilized to their fullest potential. This fusion of functionality, visual allure and sensory experience is becoming the driving force behind the kitchen and bath industry today.

Centuries of home construction have proven the kitchen to be an indispensable interior space. This "heartbeat of the home" is a place that caters to a vast range of human senses, providing a means for physical sustenance, fellowship and entertainment. With such a wide palate of tastes to provide for, however, it is only within the past decade that the design industry has seen the benefits of satisfying these appetites.

A growing need for functional requirements to co-exist with aesthetic and relational ones is making it a priority for today's designers to create spaces that assist people in establishing a "pulse" for their homes. In the 21st-century American home, the kitchen is the ideal candidate for fusion and innovation because of the versatility it offers, and the opportunity for originality and development that exists around every corner.

The 21st-century kitchen is a place that feeds our need for efficient living. It also facilitates our need for togetherness. It is a space that is intended to bring us home again . . . to a familiar, restorative atmosphere.

[At the same time], the 21st-century bathroom is being defined as a space that is intended to delight our senses, calm our state of mind, and bring relaxation and order. The 21st-century bathroom seeks to turn this room into an experience, offering guests and homeowners unforeseen luxury and a fresh new indulgence.
The roles that the kitchen and bathroom play in the 21st-century American home are rapidly being re-examined and redefined. These areas are finally assuming their rightful place as trend-setting, stimulating and inspired spaces.
Kristen Johnsrude
Lakeland College
Vermillion, AB Canada

The Past as Prologue
The role of the 21st-century kitchen and bath in America will make it clear that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Over several decades, and into the foreseeable future, both rooms, and especially the kitchen, have come to embrace an enormous portion of a household's activities, innovative design, sophisticated and environmentally-conscious technology and, most importantly, the wide variety of individuals and families who flourish in them.

Kitchens and baths already host myriad household and family activities. As we enter the early years of the 21st century, kitchens have become centers for cooking, meals, entertaining, television-watching, homework, scheduling, playing, and technology management.

Similarly, metamorphosing from their utilitarian roots, baths now offer space for bathing, child care, exercise, television-watching and even socializing. In both instances, the kitchen and bath have become the focal point of not only homeowner expenditures, but also status, prestige and pride. Both [spaces] have become completely customized and personalized to meet the tastes, whims and needs of all who use them.

As kitchens and baths moved from the fringes to the central part of the home, consumers in all price ranges demanded better and more attractive design options. No longer can kitchens and baths be strictly functional; now they must be beautiful, as well.

The global and domestic political situation has also made Americans more home-oriented . . . [and have] refocused Americans on what is truly important to them. Renovations no longer simply add glitz, but offer convenience, technology and functionality nestled in settings compatible with the home's age and original style.
The current century will see even more incursions of technology into American kitchens and baths, [which] will embrace a wider variety of home dwellers than ever before.

So if the past is prologue to the future, Americans can anticipate that their kitchens and baths will be both familiar and new. Americans have become accustomed to creating intensely personal, customized, beautiful environments in their homes. They have come to expect that new technologies will constantly change their lives and the way they perform familiar chores. They have begun to define "home," "family" and "household" in ways that are broader than ever. Most of all, they have been accustomed to embracing change since the beginning of American history - while preserving what is valuable to them from their pasts. While the crystal ball's vision of the entire 21st century is inevitably somewhat murky, it is nonetheless clear that the paths we will follow in our kitchens and baths will have begun with steps we first took in our past.
Deborah Bedell
Lord Fairfax Community College
Middletown, VA

Fuel for the Economy
As we advance through the 21st century, I foresee American kitchens and baths playing not just one, but multiple roles. As people's lives become busier and the world around them more precarious, I predict our homes will continue to evolve beyond mere shelter to become both our personal headquarters and our ultimate sanctuary.

Kitchens and baths will function not only to sustain their occupants through their daily grind, but to provide them solace from it. Kitchens will no longer be rooms where we just cook and eat. They will be media-rich, multi-functional, high-tech command centers for maintaining daily life. They will serve the roles of food storage and preparation center, home office, dining space, entertainment space and laundry area. Bathrooms will become luxurious, spa-like retreats, in contrast to the functional, Spartan realm they once were. More than just an area for maintaining personal hygiene, the bathroom will become our personal haven.

Twenty-first-century kitchens and baths will also serve to bolster financial security. As the real estate market continues to skyrocket, savvy investors and homeowners will focus on real estate as their prime investment. Eager to enhance this investment, these individuals will turn to kitchen and bath renovations to increase their property values and maximize their equity. [In this way], kitchens and baths will play the role of economic catalyst. Having seen beautiful new kitchens and baths, consumers will want these for themselves. Propelled by a proliferation of design and remodeling shows on television, and an array of magazines, consumers will become more and more sophisticated regarding kitchen and bath options and new products. The more they see, the more they will want - and the more they will buy. In this way, 21st-century kitchens and baths will serve to fuel not just our imaginations, but our economy as well.
Nancy Giunta
Century College
Minneapolis, MN

A restful Oasis
The kitchen is the anchor that holds the family together, while the bathroom provides the place to relax and unwind after the day's flurry of events.

No matter where its location, the kitchen is like the hub of a wheel - it is the center upon which all other rooms radiate from. Like a magnet, it draws people to gather together after a frenzied day, and assures us that we will encounter other family members at the end of the day. It is here that we report the day's activities, share news and reconnect after a long, busy day. It is the place where we know we'll find nourishment. In it, we may do homework, pay bills, work on the computer, display our children's artwork or list a calendar of events which keeps family members informed of daily schedules and activities.

While the kitchen serves as our "center," the bathroom is our oasis. With such a hurried lifestyle, Americans need a place to relax and unwind in the privacy of their own homes. The bathroom draws us in and begs us to shut out the cares and responsibilities of the day, and take time to reconnect with our inner selves.

The kitchen and bathroom have evolved . . . into not only rooms, but experiences we create to keep us grounded and centered in a world that seeks to pull and tug at us in every direction. Our kitchens and baths have become very personal expressions of not only "who" we are, but "how" we can reconnect to our families, friends and ourselves. They are our oasis from the world outside - an oasis that allows us to reinvigorate and renew our minds, bodies and souls.
Michele White
Seminole Community College
Sanford, FL

A New American Dream
The kitchens and baths of the 21st century will be the focal point of the home, designed specifically for the individual needs of the people who reside there - a place where they can spend time with their families and escape the rigors of everyday life.

The kitchen is a place to spend time with family and friends, and it is the hub for all activities in and out of the household. It has taken the place of the formal dining room, living room and office; it is now being used to pay bills, plan the future, play games and entertain guests. It is the place where hopes and dreams are planned out and realized, where friends can get to know each other over a glass of wine, or where families can greet each other at the beginning and end of each day. The 21st-century kitchen is the foundation for personal and family interaction. It reinforces relationships, and provides space to share in activities. It defines the personalities and values of the people who reside there.

The bathrooms of this new millennium are increasingly being seen as retreats, instead of just a place to get clean. Large and elaborately designed . . . the 21st-century bathroom is the epitome of luxury and functionality, providing [users] with privacy and peace.

The world is sometimes an overwhelming place, and consumers want to come home to a kitchen that is welcoming and a bathroom that takes their stress away. They also want their kitchens and baths to be user-friendly to everyone in the home.

The new American Dream is not only to possess a beautiful home and family, but to have a warm, functional, uniquely designed bathroom and kitchen.
Carrie Kohles
Montana State University
Great Falls College of Technology
Great Falls, MT

A Well-earned Reward
Kitchens are the "heart of the home," and they are the friendliest room of the entire house. Your kitchen is an open book and expresses the feeling of your entire home. Today's kitchens are not just beautiful showpieces, or merely a location to prepare and eat meals. The kitchen is a "room of all trades," encompassing food preparation, dining, homework, paying bills at the built-in computer desk, playing games around the table, watching television, entertaining friends, or just sitting down and sipping a cup of chamomile tea. The kitchen is where the action is for every member of the family. And we are learning that the possibilities are endless!

The bathroom, on the other hand, is the most private room in the house, rarely seen by anyone but immediate family members. The room is just for you.
Americans are willing to spend lots of money on pampering themselves, and for this reason, the bathroom should be as luxurious as can be imagined. With the right design, it can become your refuge and your personal sanctuary. Pleasing and relaxing colors should flood the walls. Let the beauty of nature refresh your body and soul. This is your much-deserved reward.
Katherine Azouz
Bryman College
Chatsworth, CA

Baby Boomer Product
As has been the case for the last four to five decades, the baby boom generation will do more to drive 21st-century kitchen and bath trends that any other group. As boomers retire and move into their "last house," they will correct all the bad features of kitchens in which they've lived at some time in their past, and finally get everything they want that they couldn't afford before.

Kitchens will be sort of a status symbol, equal to the BMW in the driveway. The kitchen will be the place to show off while entertaining one's peers. It may even be useful in impressing a client in a business meeting, as more and more people work from their homes.

Boomers will want their kitchens to be adequate in size and amenities for entertaining family and other gatherings, but with a design that is easy to maintain and clean. The kitchen will blend seamlessly into the living space, so that conversation can flow between [grand]parent and child, or homeowner and guest. The challenge to the designer will be to create a kitchen perimeter that hides the mess, but doesn't constrict human interaction.

Unlike their parents, some of whom are still washing dishes by hand, the boomers are computer savvy and will take to the "smart appliances" that are coming to the market. Younger families will use their kitchens as a multi-purpose room. In order to keep tabs on the kids' online browsing and homework, a computer center will be integrated, or located close to, the kitchen. The cell phone will ultimately "talk to" the appliances and the computer system, and meal preparation may be more automated. Multi-generational co-habitation will mean that Grandma and Grandpa, living with their children and grandchildren, might need the kitchen to be fitted for their special limitations.

Kitchens and baths will continue to reflect the latest advances in technology and products.
Charlotte Battles
Lord Fairfax Community College
Middletown, VA