Winning projects for the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s (NKBA) 2012 Design Competition exhibited equal parts practicality and imagination. Whether a compact kitchen or a master bathroom, submissions were suffused with an energy and vision that gave no hint of an industry slowdown.
Stylistically speaking, entries ran the proverbial gamut of looks, from flamboyant powder rooms (always a popular platform for personal expression) to sleek, suave and elegant modern kitchens.
But while styles varied widely, the large number of transitional designs supported the key findings of an NKBA survey conducted in the last quarter of 2011, which found that a hybrid of traditional and contemporary design is now the dominant trend.
In the winning designs, color palettes trended reliably toward the middle of the road. In natural wood cabinets, medium and darker tones were prevalent. Not surprisingly, white continues as the leading color choice for painted cabinets for the kitchen and the bath. The NKBA poll results definitively point to gray as the up-and-coming hue: Its use in both bath and kitchen environments has doubled in the past two years.
Contest submissions showcased numerous surfacing materials, with designers strategically employing them to ratchet up the visual impact of their projects, as well as ensure durable performance in kitchens and baths. Despite slight declines in use, granite and quartz-based materials are still the top picks for counters, with solid surfacing showing an upward usage pattern. For backsplashes, ceramic tile and stone remain leaders, with glass also coming on strong.
Some common threads in storage solutions were apparent in this year’s winning designs. In kitchens, drawers markedly prevailed over cupboards in base cabinets, and floor-to-ceiling pantries – some with double doors that broke with the design of the perimeter door styles – kept ergonomics in the picture.
The NKBA design survey also identified some interesting trends in plumbing that were borne out by the competition entrants. Among the winning projects, pull-down faucets were nearly ubiquitous in kitchens of all sizes, suggesting that the detached side spray (and, to a lesser extent, the pot filler) has been decisively supplanted by this multipurpose fitting. While a range of finishes was represented this year – oil-rubbed bronze, copper and brushed nickel among them – the NKBA poll indicates that in the future we’ll be seeing a surge in polished silver finishes at the sink.
Innovative lighting plans were very much in evidence in both kitchen and bath submissions. Attributable to the increasingly versatile formats and improved color-rendering capabilities of light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, winners’ designs incorporated not only ambient and task lighting, but also eye-catching cove and toe kick installations.
Nearly 500 submissions from across North America were received for this year’s Design Competition. Entries were evaluated by a panel of eight judges: design professionals who hold either CMKBD (Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer) or dual CKD/CBD (Certified Kitchen Designer/Certified Bath Designer) status. Projects were scored on safety and ergonomics, design planning and principles, creativity and presentation.
The winning designers are scheduled to be announced at the Design Competition Awards Ceremony, to be held on April 24 during the NKBA’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) at McCormick Center in Chicago.
Sponsors for this year’s Design Competition included Jenn-Air, Silestone, This Old House, Waypoint Living Spaces, The Home Depot, Delta Faucet, 20/20 Technologies and HGTV Remodels.
There were some notable changes in the submission categories this year for the design competition, made with an eye on the evolving conditions in design and lifestyle. Two of the three categories that have been included in previous competitions – Open Plan Kitchens and Master Bathrooms – were effectively absorbed into other existing categories.