2016 KBCULTURE Awards

And here we are, the seventh annual KBCULTURE Awards. A pat on the back to us all, I say, as we have made it to the close of a most tumultuous twelve months.

Looking at this year’s entries provides a bit of relief, actually. For better or worse, design in the kitchen and bath world has stabilized; the industries are in a period of product refinement, not revolution. The romance between appliance manufacturers and the Internet has cooled; in a sign of maturity, both parties are becoming more selective about how far to take connectivity. It seems that innovation for the sake of novelty is obsolete, regardless of the warp-speed pace of the tech world.

Similar to the holding pattern the engineering side of the business is experiencing, aesthetics are in a state of transition, too. Cabinet styles are mostly stuck in neutral. The obsession with ersatz industrial design has subsided, and at the other end of the spectrum, gilded and glitzy looks have quieted down, as well…maybe a subliminal response to income inequality?

Not to view this year’s awards through a political lens, but given the uncharted territory we’re about to traverse, maybe ‘normal’ is what we need or want design to provide at this point in time. Personally, while I appreciate the respite, I’m looking forward to creative pursuits resuming in full.

Thank you—and congratulations—to all our award winners!

—Leslie Clagett, Editor

KITCHEN CABINETS
Winner: Miuccia by TM Italia  
Mixing rose copper, stone, and midnight blue lacquer, this collection of freestanding cabinets and islands is a tour de force of color, texture, and materials. Appliances are housed in the tall armoires; on the islands, the sink and cooktop can be concealed by sliding counter-panels. An enchanting, exciting, wholly original design.

COOKING
Winner: TriFuel Range by Tecnogas Superiore
In an appliance that will excite culinary overachievers, this 48-inch range is topped by four induction burners, an electric griddle, and two gas hobs. The combination is a first-to-North-America design. Oversize windows that comprise almost the entire area of the ovens’ doors make a style statement that’s on a par with the super-sized performance.

Honorable Mention: Custom Color Program by Ilve  
With a palette of more than 220 hues, the color-matching capability of this program is impressive. But wait, there’s more: It’s also possible to customize the trim package for the Nostalgie and Majestic range collections, as well as the leg details, with plinth, claw foot, tubular, and wrap-around toe-kick designs offered.

REFRIGERATORS
Winner: Distinctive 36-inch Counter-Depth Refrigerator by Dacor  
It can be challenging to find a counter-depth French-door refrigerator that offers a full complement of features and operates efficiently; it’s a bit of a technical trade-off, as manufacturers strive to balance amenities with quantifiable performance. This design successfully delivers 22-cubic feet of storage, a water dispenser, dual-zone cooling—and an EnergyStar rating. Party animals take note: the appliance can produce 11 pounds of ice per day.

DISHWASHERS
Winner: DishDrawer DD24SCHTX9 by Fisher & Paykel   
This design doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the various product improvements are noteworthy. The cosmetic overhaul of the appliance—the integrated handle has been re-contoured and slimmed down, allowing a control panel to fit on the front—is well done and solidly modern. Performance-wise, the new model clocks in at 44 decibels, shaving 2 dB off the previous generation of dishwashers. While the slight difference might not be aurally appreciable, even incremental movement toward a quieter world [I’m thinking the post-election environment, here] is a good thing, indeed.

KITCHEN FITTINGS
Winner: K2002 by Cinaton  
This faucet elevates touch-free design to new performance levels; 13 of them, to be specific. Using five strategically placed infrared sensors, a wave of the hand controls not just on/off functions, but also water temperature, flow rate, and pause, as well as a temporary disable setting that’s helpful for when you’re cleaning the sink. In a feature rarely seen in touchless fittings, the faucet also features a dual function pull-out spray head and a swivel spout.

Honorable Mention: Beale Touchless Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet by American Standard  
Sometimes a ‘convenient’ feature is more of a mandate than an option, with end-users essentially forced to adapt their behavior to the design. This kitchen faucet is truly egalitarian, as it allows one to easily switch between hands-free and hands-on operation by simply sliding a small panel on the front of the spigot, blocking the motion sensor instantly.

SINKS
Winner: Ikon by Blanco   
With their strong form, apron-front sinks have always had potential to play a leading role in contemporary kitchens—but the limited material options of ceramic, fireclay, or metal often curtailed that possibility, relegating them to traditional-style rooms. This design, made of a hard-wearing, granite-based composite, delivers assertive color in a modern matte finish that’s at home in the most forward of spaces.

Honorable Mention: Infinity Pedestal by Stone Forest  
Monumental. What other description could there be for a solid stone pedestal sink that tips the scales at 800 pounds? Hand carved from a block of cumulo granite, the oval basin is a mesmerizing study of the interaction of intricate pattern and massive form.

BATH CABINETS

Winner: Edge by Falper  
In minimalist design, there is no room for error or miscalculation—especially when working with such an unforgiving material as glass. The precision seen in the Edge vanity’s fabrication is masterful, with its tempered glass exterior bonded to a wooden carcass. Available in 28 colors of satin-finish glass [it’s fingerprint resistant!] and six sizes with one or two soft-close drawers, the wall-mount vanity makes a sophisticated style statement.

Honorable Mention: Vento by Ronbow  
Pairing a highly contoured sinktop [think rolling sand dunes; vento is Italian for ‘wind’] with straight-lined cabinets gives this vanity a distinctive presence. Studio Pininfarina [best known for its design of sleek Ferraris] created the piece. Vento is offered in a metallic finish and a warm wood model.

BATHING VESSELS
Winner: Addison 5 by MTI Baths  
As architects can attest, successful design often turns on a matter of millimeters. Owing to the moldable yet strong engineered stone that comprises this tub, its walls are a mere one-inch thick, which allows the freestanding model to fit into the 60-inch space that is standard in many bathrooms. Measuring a full-size 58 inches in length, the tub can be fitted with air jets, if desired.

Honorable Mention: Pescadero by Victoria + Albert  
An incised band echoes the curving lip of this tub, a detail that adds a little flair to the fixture. Fabricated out of an acrylic/limestone composite, the lightweight material not only retains heat [no more tepid baths!], but it can also be painted with oil- or water-based pigments, posing artistic opportunities not often found in the bath.

TOILETS
Winner: ActiClean Self-Cleaning Toilet by American Standard
Behold: Brushless cleaning comes to the commode. Concealed controls and a cartridge of liquid cleanser are easily accessible in the tank lid. With a push of a button, a dose of cleanser is jetted into the bowl through a dedicated channel, for either a one-minute treatment or a ten-minute soak. At the conclusion of the cleaning process, the bowl is automatically siphoned, rinsed, and refilled with clean water. The battery-powered cleaning system runs independently from the normal toilet operation, meaning the toilet will always flush, even if the cleanser cartridge or batteries have run out.

BATHROOM FITTINGS
Winner: Linear SteamHead by Mr. Steam  
Steam showers are a delight to the senses, with one exception: the hardware is typically an affront to the eye. The steamheads—usually shiny, puck-like protrusions surface-mounted on the wall—are incompatible with the tile layout, disrupting the pattern as well as clashing with the ceramic or stone material. Long and narrow, this linear model installs flush into grout lines, making it virtually invisible. Performance is enhanced, too: steam is emitted sans sinister hiss, and in aesthetic billowing clouds rather than perfunctory jets.

Winner: U by Moen   
More than 70% of Americans keep their smartphones within reach while they sleep—a statistic that poses some interesting possibilities. A boon for spa aficionados or big families, this powerful WiFi shower system lets you tap in 12 personalized presets to remotely control up to four devices [such as body sprays, showerheads, and hand showers]. Set a shower start time, temperature, program, and duration; there’s even a snooze function, a feature bound to be especially appreciated by some [ahem]. A graphic interface lets bathers track the temperature of the water from their phone, with the screen changing colors from light blue at 60º to red at 120º. The digital valve has an optional battery backup.

LIGHTING
Winner: Origami by Troy Lighting   
Just like a sculpture, the view of this geometric fixture changes from every vantage, with the folded frame—in bronze with a gold-leaf interior or graphite with a silver-leaf interior—selectively revealing metallic highlights. The two-tone armature wraps a frosted globe that houses either a LED bulb or a dimmable incandescent lamp. The pendant is available in a vertical or horizontal version, as well as a coordinating wall sconce.

SURFACING
Winner: Forgotten Detroit Collection by Wilsonart  
This family of 19 laminate patterns is inspired by the textures and materiality of the Motor City. Spanning concrete, metal, and stone, the collection finds beauty and authenticity in the weathered, distressed, and time-worn patina. Part of the manufacturer’s Virtual Design Library, the product is delivered in a quick two to three weeks from the date the order is placed.

Winner: Calacatta Gold from Neolith by TheSize   
These gold- and grey-veined slabs are available in end-matched or book-matched patterns that are virtually seamless when installed, as grout lines are minimal. When it comes to performance and maintenance, the mineral-based material is everything that marble is not—stain- and scratch-resistant, non-porous, and super durable—making it a practical as well as pretty choice for the kitchen or other hard-working space.

HARDWARE
Winner: Tableau Collection by Atlas Homewares  
This clever design just might be the next best thing to custom-fabricated cabinet hardware. The base and handle components are offered individually, to be assembled in the configuration and color combination you desire. In four finishes, four sizes, and four handle/base elements, that’s more than a million different looks. [That’s not hyperbole—we did the math.]

OUTDOOR
Winner: Kulm Artisan Fire Bowl by Eldorado Stone   
This vessel’s elegant elliptical shape gives it an orientation that circular fire bowls lack, making it a stronger design element when at the center of a furniture grouping. In four colors, smooth or textured finish, and two sizes, 40- and 60-inches, the 65,000 Btu bowl can be fitted to accommodate either liquid propane or natural gas fuel.

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