2017 KBCULTURE Awards

What a year! And I don't just mean the occasion of the eighth annual KBCULTURE Awards—although that is an accomplishment worthy of note.

The past twelve months have seen some major changes across the industry. Several cabinet manufacturers, including Alno and Allmilmö, filed for bankruptcy. SieMatic and Poggenpohl were sold. Sears and the Whirlpool family of appliances parted company. These developments follow other significant moves, such as Samsung acquiring Dacor.

Yet in the face of such global shifts, the evidence for collusion between quality and innovation remains quite strong, as happily reflected in this year's crop of competition entries. As a new generation of consumers makes its priorities known, manufacturers and designers are beginning to identify and address its tastes and budgets—and that is cause for celebration.

My thanks and congratulations to all—
Leslie Clagett, Editor

Winner: Ego by Abimis
Reading as much as furniture as a kitchen cabinet, this quasi-retro stainless steel unit is well suited for open floor plans. Detail options abound: Doors can be inset or overlay; their corners can be rounded or squared. Handles are offered in finger-pull designs or with applied external hardware. Even hinges exhibit variety, available as concealed or prominent elements. Ego avoids the buckling, wobbly quality found in lower-grade metal cabinets by virtue of a steel honeycomb core inside each door. Designed by Alberto Torsello.

Honorable Mention: Edison Heights by Wood-Mode
While it has roots in the Craftsman style, this collection is compatible with both traditional and contemporary architectures. A large inventory of components—all of them customizable—complement the most modern of kitchen appliances, from pantry-sized built-in refrigerators to wall-mounted steam ovens and sous vide cookers to sleek induction cooktops.

Honorable Mention: Professional 5 Series Range by Viking
A host of updates and improvements—the range's window size is increased by 20%, control knobs are redesigned and illuminated for better readability, all doors are soft-close, and the oven capacity for the 36-inch model is expanded—gives this stalwart appliance renewed appeal to serious home chefs.

Honorable Mention: True White Electric Range by Verona
There's a lot of cooking capabilities packed into this 36-inch all-electric range, including a true European convection oven and five-burner ceramic cooktop. Icing on the proverbial cake is the exquisite styling, tellingly Italian in its attention to aesthetics. From the feet that taper instead of splay outward at the floor to the runway-chic color to the precise proportions [look at the window on the door and the frame around the top], the appliance is industrial beauty.

Winner: InstaView Door-in-Door Refrigerator by LG
Knock, knock. Who's there? Pardon the disembodied arm in the photo, but it's the best way to convey one of this fridge's features: tapping twice on the tinted-glass door panel renders the window transparent and illuminates the interior, providing a view of the contents without opening the door. Elsewhere in the appliance, a CustomChill drawer can be tuned as needed to one of four settings [including a soft-freeze mode], increasing the refrigerator's functionality.

Honorable Mention: HW 8000 by Liebherr
Dimmable interior LED lighting, a soft-close door, telescoping beech wood racks, and two temperature zones—it's a sweet package in which to coddle up to 80 bottles of wine. And to do so in a slim, space-conscious 24-inch, 8.9-cubic-foot, vibration-free cabinet is all the better.

Winner: LG QuadWash LDF5545ST by LG
Equipped with four spray arms—that's twice what a typical dishwasher offers—this appliance angles water jets into crevices to dispatch dirt with alacrity. An energy efficient, direct-drive motor ensures a powerful wash as well as a quiet one; the machine clocks in at a mere 40 dB.

Winner: TWINWash with SideKick by LG
At last available in the US, this petite washer-in-the-pedestal can operate simultaneously with and independent from the full-size washer. If visualizing the unit's 1.0 cubic foot capacity is a problem, think of it in terms of weight; the tub holds about about three to four pounds of laundry. For those who covet this accessory appliance but already own a standalone front-loader, the six-cycle SideKick is compatible with many of the manufacturer's washers dating back to 2009.

Honorable Mention: FabricSmart Front Loader by Fisher & Paykel
A direct-drive motor keeps this washer both mechanically simple and quiet without compromising its performance. As far as the latter is concerned, two innovations stand out: a 20-minute steam function pre-treats clothes for more thorough cleaning, and the 'Add a Garment' feature lets you throw that eternally errant sock into the wash in mid-cycle. The 24-inch design offers the handy option to stack the appliance.

Winner: Double Tiered Workstation by Ruvati
This 45-inch kitchen sink—and its passel of professional-caliber accessories—assertively becomes locus of prep work, keeping the counters free for other tasks. Two stainless steel colanders and a pair of reversible hardwood cutting boards rest on one of the two rims that run around the interior of the 10-inch-deep bowl. The boards are milled of sapele wood, which has a neutral tone that's compatible with dark and light color schemes. One terrific detail [typically overlooked in similarly scaled sinks] is the strainer cup at the drain: extra deep and with a bail handle, it's been proportionately designed to contain a large amount of waste.

Honorable Mention: Profina by Blanco
Traditional material, traditional styling, contemporary performance. This 36-inch apron-front sink is made of fireclay, a material that, unlike conventional ceramic, can be worked very thin—the walls of the bowl measure a mere 3/4-inch in thickness. Such malleability also allows an integral ledge to be formed on the inside of the basin, where it supports a chopping board and other optional accessories.

Winner: Essence Semi-Pro Faucet by Grohe
Either as a carefully coordinated design element or an out-of-left-field bit of chromatic craziness, this faucet delivers the goods. Swapping out the flexible silicone hose is an easy, above-the-counter operation; the most difficult part of the process might be selecting one of the nine colors on offer. The fitting features a 360-degree pivot, and the sprayhead snaps back into place via a magnetic connection.

Honorable Mention: Arbor Pulldown with MotionSense Wave by Moen
This faucet is right at home in a world where the swipe is the gesture du jour. A quick wave of the hand starts and stops the flow of water; no physical contact with the fitting is needed. Positioning the sensor on the side of faucet prevents any accidental activation—a nice touch [or lack thereof], indeed.

Winner: Lux Island by Zephyr
Stretching a substantial 63 inches across the ceiling, this flush-fit vent uses perimeter capture to pull up to a powerful 1,100 CFM. The three-speed unit is remote controlled, although an air-cleaning cycle is automatically activated every four hours. In a nod to detail-oriented purists, the Lux is available in a white finish, as well as stainless steel.

Honorable Mention: Ravenna by Zephyr
With a chimney of black stainless steel [a new finish] and a minimalist canopy of smoke-grey glass, this hood's bold yet understated appearance can update a transitional kitchen or keynote a contemporary room. Equipped with energy-efficient LED lighting and concealed touchpad controls, the five-speed unit is available in 30- and 36-inch sizes.

Winner: ASA-D2 by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens
Solid and symmetrical, this culinary center brings a contemporary sculptural element to any backyard setting. Fabricated of powder-coated steel, the cabinet comes in four looks [marble, weathered steel, matte black, glossy white], each coordinated with a different compacted quartz/porcelain/glass counter material [Dekton by Cosentino]. The 20,000 Btu Caliber gas grill is available in 42- and 48-inch sizes. Designed by Daniel Germani.

Winner: Pinna Paletta by Kallista
Artisanship is at the heart of how this 36-inch vanity melds the natural with the manmade. The tight grain of the white oak is a fine foil to the cerused [aka, limed] finish as it keeps the balance between light and dark in check. A sweet detail not visible in the photo is the connection between leg and carcass; the solid brass is bent and proportioned in an elegant echo of the faucet handles. Available in white lacquer, too, with a choice of black or white marble top. Designed by Laura Kirar.

Honorable Mention: DuraSquare Metal Console by Duravit
This understated armature comes in a chrome or matte black finish, and the glass shelf is available in six sophisticated colors. An integrated towel bar preserves the minimalist design while expanding the console's functionality. A plus: the unit's height can be adjusted to fit the bather and the bathroom. Also offered in a wall-hung model.

Honorable Mention: Avant 620 Vanity Collection by The Furniture Guild
Gleaming metal bands add both decorative and structural detail to this substantial wall-mounted cabinet, which blends rustic wood with a modern form in a very engaging way.

Winner: Luv by Duravit
Offered in freestanding, corner, and back-to-wall models, the Luv tub takes its aesthetic inspiration from the humblest scenario: a bowl of water set on a table. Fabricated of warm-to-the-skin DuraSolid A, a mineral-based composite, the soft, matte finish of the tub contributes to its serene presence. Designed by Cecilie Manz.

Winner: Veil by Kohler
Departing from the rectangular norm, the organic form of this tub's bathing well invites long, lingering soaks in its 16-inch depths. An integral lumbar support only adds to the appeal. When—or if—one must leave the comforting confines of the Veil, a toe-tap drain makes short work of emptying the vessel.

Winner: Corbelle by Kohler
Offering both enhanced performance and water conservation, this comfort-height commode scores high marks. Powered by a canister valve that boosts the velocity of the water as it swirls around the bowl, the gravity-fed mechanism uses 1.28 gallons of water per flush. The installation process has been [pardon the pun] retooled, as well, requiring no drilling into the floor.

Honorable Mention: Malibu II by ICERA
Compact in footprint [it's specifically designed for those tight, ten-inch rough-in conditions] but big on style, this skirted toilet is a most attractive choice for small bathrooms. With a sleek, eminently cleanable profile; color matched floor-bolt covers; soft-close lid; elongated, ADA-compliant seat; and 1.28 gpf, it's a tremendous value.

Winner: Dutchmaster in Midnight Floral by Kohler
A collage of stunning, National Geographic-worthy close-up photos of flowers embellish round and rectangular lavs from the Carillion collection. Rendered with intense colors set against a pitch black background, the visual effect borders on the surreal. Designed in collaboration with 'florography' artist Ashley Woodson Bailey.

Winner: Spectra+ eTouch Showerhead by American Standard
Not with a twist, but a touch—that's how bathers switch spray patterns on this showerhead. A tap on the rim of the 7-inch fitting delivers a choice of four modes: jet, drench, massage, and sensitive. An additional convenience is the remote control module, which can be mounted at any accessible spot on the wall. Two versions of the showerhead are available, one with a 2.5 gpm flowrate, another with a 1.8 flow.

Honorable Mention: Raindance Select E 300 Showerpipe by Hansgrohe
This all-in-one fitting features a handshower and overhead shower, push-button controls, and a glass-topped shelf for storage. The spray is super aerated, which boosts bathing coverage and minimizes water consumption. The elegantly modern assembly is self-contained, so there's no need to break through the wall to make multiple plumbing connections. Designed by Phoenix Design.

Winner: Integrated Lighting Program by Wood-Mode
While illuminating cupboard and drawer interiors is universally hailed as a great idea, it's also universally considered a pain to implement; typically retrofitted after the cabinet installation, the process is time-consuming and technically challenging. This program moves that work to the front of the process, allowing designers to specify Häfele LED components at the same time cabinets are ordered. Wire paths can be routed at the factory, and recess profiles are pre-installed, as well, eliminating the hassles of the past.

Winner: Curated Luxury Collection by Wilsonart
From planked woods to rare stones, vintage metals to raw concrete, these laminates give kitchens and baths a spectrum of luxurious looks that are as durable as they are design-oriented. Heat-, impact-, and scratch-resistant, the material is also eco-conscious; it's certified GreenGuard Gold.

Honorable Mention: Rustic Edge Cutting Board by John Boos & Co.
As a work surface in the kitchen, there's little that compares with natural wood. These boards, in American cherry, hard rock maple, and American black walnut, are single, solid slabs whose manufacture cuts 25% off the carbon footprint produced by fabricating edge- or end-grain boards.

Winner: Itai Bar-On Collection by Ann Sacks
These handcrafted concrete tiles surprise with their three-dimensional design. A peeling corner or undulating surface can harbor a hidden light, a contrasting color, or even a profound void. In white, grey, or black, the wall-rated tiles have a subtle texture. Designed by Itai Bar-On.

Winner: Portofino by Vives, a Tile of Spain company
With its aggregate pattern described as stracciato [translated loosely as 'ragged' or 'torn'], this large-format porcelain tile recalls classic terrazzo flooring—but eliminates its multi-step, time-consuming installation process. In four neutral colorways, the 60x60cm, 80x80cm, and 60x120cm tiles come in polished and matte finishes; a rectified design allows a seamless appearance.

Honorable Mention: Flourish Mosaic Collection by Artaic
A portfolio of a dozen designs, the abstracted botanical motifs of these mosaics can be rendered in a palette of 50 colors in opalescent, metallic, or glossy finishes using 3/8-inch glass tesserae. The digitally-developed patterns are infinitely adaptable, and can be cropped, flipped, or flopped for a custom look.

Winner: Privacy Barn Door Lock by INOX
Securing a barn door typically involves an unaesthetic amalgam of surface-mounted hardware that detracts from the simplicity of the door; it's literally an add-on. This privacy lock avoids that ugly fate through an innovative design: the bolt is installed in the jamb, and slides into the door's strike plate with an easy twist of a thumb turn.

Honorable Mention: Firesky by Vesta
In design, letting nature take front and center is always a wise decision, as this collection of cabinet hardware confirms. Discs of mesmerizingly colored and patterned stones such as tiger's eye, lapis, calcite, and Carrara are set into simple bezels, creating complements to both painted and plain cabinet fronts.