2018 KBCULTURE Awards

In a year marked by more disagreement than constructive discourse, it's a relief to see that design is still a way to bring people and places together. This year's crop of entries to the ninth annual KBCULTURE Awards provided gratifying [and on occasion, edifying] proof of the power of creativity: to solve practical problems, ranging from finessing installation processes to more grand, environmentally-responsible gestures; to recognize and fulfill the need for beauty in an imperfect world; and to persist in doing ever-better work.

My thanks and congratulations to all who designed, engineered, and manufactured these outstanding elements for two of the most meaningful places in the home: the kitchen and the bath.

—Leslie Clagett, Editor

Winner: +VENOVO by Poggenpohl
Designed by Sören Jungclaus and Mathias Knigge as a response to the twin demographic trends of mobility and urbanization, this wholly portable kitchen doesn't need walls to work. +VENOVO comprises an island unit and high- and low-boy freestanding cabinets—no hanging or fixed base cupboards. The elevated section of the island worktop adds a nice bit of dimension to the design.

Honorable Mention: Archetipo by L'Ottocento
An asymmetric island marked by postmodern forms and colors is the public face of the kitchen; the floor-to-ceiling classic boiserie cabinets conceal storage and appliances. It's the contrast in styles that gives Archetipo its visual appeal.

Winner: 48-inch Dual-Fuel Range by Signature Kitchen Suite
Complementing the induction unit and gas burners on the cooktop, this range features a built-in sous vide bath: an industry first. Down below, the 18-inch oven combines steam and convection cooking, further stretching the impressive functionality of the appliance. Device-devotees will appreciate the convenience of being able to preheat the oven remotely, via a WiFi connection.

Winner: Freedom Induction Cooktop by Thermador
Not only can this 36-inch induction cooktop handle up to six pans, it automatically transfers any programmed settings to a new location on the surface, should you need to swap the saucepan with the saute skillet. The appliance can be synced with the range hood to activate lighting and ventilation when the cooktop is in use.

Winner: 36-Inch Built-In French-Door Refrigerator by Signature Kitchen Suite
A storage drawer in the cooling section can be tuned to any of five specific temperature settings—for chilled wine, deli foods, meats and seafood, cold drinks, or freezer—expanding the performance of the unit. Of course, there's an app for commanding several of the fridge's functions, such as ice making and temperature settings.

Honorable Mention: 24-Inch 7 Series Integrated Column Refrigerator by Viking
The proprietary Bluezone purifying process removes all sorts of nasties [including ethylene] from the air circulating inside the refrigerator, significantly increasing the shelf life of fresh produce. A literal nice touch are the electronic controls that use capacitive technology, which allows for precise temperature settings.

Winner: Glass Care Center by Thermador
Equally appealing to committed entertainers or large households of vinophiles, this appliance offers a tine-less solution to the timeless chore of washing copious quantities of stemware. The rubberized lower rack is dedicated to keeping up to 26 large wine glasses stable throughout the loading, washing, and drying cycle while specialized caddies on the top rack houses bar accessories, small plates, and other party necessities. 

Honorable Mention: QuadWash with TrueSteam by LG
In an upgrade from earlier models of this four-spray-armed washer, jets of pressurized steam are injected into the cavity, resulting in dishes that sport 60% less water spots—meaning no more furtive, final wipe-downs in the kitchen.

Winner: LG Styler with Smart WiFi by LG
Now boasting WiFi connectivity, this reboot of the closet-like clothes steamer has been certified asthma- and allergy-friendly for its chemical-free performance in reducing allergens.

Winner: NovaGranite Apron Front Sink by Lenova
The high granite content of this 30-inch composite sink makes it resistant to heat, scratches, and stains, while its high style makes it at home in kitchens of all decors. A ledge running beneath the rim lets optional colanders, drain boards, and cutting boards fit seamlessly into the basin, increasing its functionality.
Winner: Precision R0 by Blanco
The manufacturer-exclusive material—more than twice as hard as conventional stainless steel, and with a sophisticated matte finish that repels fingerprints—gives the classic undermount apron-front sink both a distinctive look and superior performance.

Winner: Retrofit Drain by QuickDrain USA
The design of this linear drain makes it a smart solution for converting a step-in bathtub to a walk-in, zero-threshold shower. Because it fits within the 3/8-inch depth of a typical tile bed, it's not necessary to cut into the subfloor during installation. Beneath the grate, a sloping trough efficiently channels water into the drain, eliminating the hazards of stagnant water.

Honorable Mention: Cardano E0CU25 by Ritmonio
Designed by Davide Vercelli, this intelligently articulated kitchen faucet swings easily into use and pivots completely away when full access to the sink is needed. The extra-long lever can be grasped or wrist-bumped [always a popular option!].

Winner: 24-Inch Indoor/Outdoor Refrigerator Drawers by Thor Kitchen
Because there's a lot of special engineering and fabrication that goes into a machine that's exposed to weather, outdoor-rated appliances typically come with a skyhigh price tag; often higher than their indoor counterparts. These 24-inch refrigerated drawers offer a wallet-friendly alternative while delivering a full package of features for fun in the sun [or shade].

Winner: XSquare Collection by Duravit
With aesthetic storage—check out those chrome frames, which sleekly support a full range of cabinets in 28 finishes—coupled with technology that serves, rather than ensnares, the user, this collection is a smart nucleus for the bath. Medicine cabinets feature illuminated mirrors that have adjustable light levels, not only in intensity, but in tone [warm to cool], as well. Designed by Kurt Merki, Jr.

Honorable Mention: Canto Vanity by ICERA
Completely constructed of solid wood—no mushy MDF here!—this 36-inch vanity brings a bit of moderne to the bath with its dramatic angled profile. Deep, soft-close drawers utilize every inch of space for storage.

Winner: Vibe 5828 by BainUltra
This freestanding acrylic tub measures 58 x 28 x 21, making it suitable for small apartments, tiny houses, and all the otherwise snug spaces we are increasingly calling home in the modern age. But its amenities are full-scale: the tapered tub can be fitted with massage- and chroma-therapy features, providing additional comfort in a too-often cold world.

Honorable Mention: Pembroke Tub by Victoria + Albert
Note how the flaring lines merge with the crisp rim treatment; an offbeat elegance defines this tub, which can seat one or two bathers. Made of a blend of volcanic limestone and resin, the soaker is available in seven finishes. Designed by Meneghello Paolelli Associati.

Winner: Zero Newflush by Catalano
The gold exterior brings luxe into the loo, but this toilet is more than an eye-catcher: its rimless bowl and a dirt-shedding glaze combine to make cleaning the commode a snap.

Winner: The Siren by Curiousa & Curiousa
Layered dinner and dessert plates serve up an unexpected look for this luminaire. An Edison bulb anchors the fixture, which gets high marks for an imaginative take on upcycling as well as design.

Winner: VersaLite Stone by The Tile Doctor
A highly flexible, fabric-backed stone veneer [that can be cut with a mere carpet knife!] is one of the material choices in this collection of surfacing that brings hand-split slate, sandstone, or quartzite to curved or flat planes; it's also available in conventional panels and light-weight, translucent thicknesses.

Honorable Mention: Ironside TundraBrick by Eldorado Stone
Trapped in a soulless space with no sense of history? The rich, nuanced colors, matte finish, and authentic texture of this brick veneer can bring a proper time-worn industrial aesthetic to an outdoor shower as easily as an indoor kitchen backsplash.

Winner: Byzantium by Walker Zanger
Those trusted geometric standbys—squares, triangles, ovals—are rejuvenated through recombining into fresh patterns and the creative selection of stone, such as colorful Antique Violetta and Aegean Sea marbles. Then add a dash of gold or silver leaf as an accent, and old Byzantium is new again.
Honorable Mention: Duquesa Cement by Walker Zanger
This concrete rendition of a collection that was originally in glazed terracotta brings a clarity and crispness to the pattern that the hand-painted version lacked. It also expands the application of the tile to high-traffic floors and freeze-thaw settings.

Winner: Bradbury Collection by Atlas Homewares
These bar pulls, round knobs, and cup pulls pair a retro flavor with contemporary proportions and finishes, making them complementary to cabinets of all styles.
Honorable Mention: Art Deco Series by INOX
Interesting syncopations of details—notches, incised lines, bevels, and more—animate this hardware collection, which is available in aged brass, polished nickel, and flat black.

Winner: Geometric Wave by Bianco Bianco
Designed by architect Giorgio Canale, these [once] massive blocks of marble are sawed into a series of graduated solids and voids. In this wine bar design, bottles and glasses are sequestered into concealed storage niches created between the slabs, in a dramatic example of the modern stone-cutter's art.

Winner: Integrated Deck Designs by MTI Baths
Until now, storage and the freestanding bath have been rather opposing concepts, with tub caddies being the most popular [and often obtrusive] means of keeping toiletries organized and at hand. This design, a partial tub surround, preserves the sculptural forms of the vessel while providing ample and stable areas for accessories. In various lengths, the decks can be fitted along the short or long side of the tub.