In September of last year, I found myself in Scottsdale, Arizona, attending the Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest Summit and Gala. This event represented the culmination of almost two years of partnership with Sub-Zero and Wolf as I was granted access to the judges, and the judging process, of its 2013-2014 Kitchen Design Contest in its 22nd year. During these past two years, I spoke with the judges, interviewed chefs in their own kitchen, discussed evolving kitchen design trends, talked to student designers, and investigated the role that the kitchen plays in the house. This has been a wonderfully enlightening journey and I am grateful to have been a part of something this big and impactful to the kitchen design community.
The fact that this last adventure was basically a big celebration was certainly a nice way to put an exclamation point on the process.
The day I arrived in Scottsdale, there were already people pouring in from around the world – kitchen designers, interior designers, and architects from literally everywhere were in attendance to not only receive their award recognizing their individual achievement, but to find out who would be taking home the overall grand prizes in major categories of: Contemporary, Traditional, Transitional, Designers’ Choice, and Best First-Time Entry. Basically this was a giant cocktail party which was a considerable amount of fun to attend. All the entry boards where printed out and on display, and there was a lot of design talk going on (the sort of design talk that might garner an eye-roll from people outside the profession). Since I was there as a spectator, I didn’t feel any pressure from having some of the best kitchen designers scrutinize my entry. We all know that designers are a critical bunch and you can probably imagine the intense conversations that were going on, yet everyone was friendly.
In other words, they were awesome!
I also have to disclose that the vast majority of the award events occurred during the evening hours – which meant that there were the sort of networking activities taking place during the day. I chose to take the tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, and take a tour of the production facilities for Sub-Zero and Wolf. This is the second time I’ve toured one of their manufacturing plants and they do not disappoint.
These were the judges who reviewed over 1,700 entries from 48 states in the U.S. and 16 countries worldwide. As you can imagine, the task to pare down the 1,700 entries to 53 regional winners – and then winnow down that list to eight global winners, took a considerable amount of time. As I understand it, all the judges met in Madison, Wisconsin (headquarters for Sub-Zero and Wolf) for several long days to evaluate this contest’s kitchen entries and determine the 53 regional winners. They reconvened in Arizona just prior to the summit and gala, to pinpoint the global winners.
One of the really wonderful things that took place happened the morning after the global winners were announced – Sub-Zero and Wolf had a panel with the judges and they responded to questions from the group on the decisions they made, design elements they looked for … they even identified the things that detracted from design during the judging process. I was really happy that the judges were made available for this question and answer session as it was incredibly valuable to hear their insight. The level of scrutiny that separated one design from the next was high, and in some instances the defining detail was something extremely minor.
But enough about the pre-parties, between parties, and post parties, what I think you should be looking at are the winning kitchen designs that were selected as the 2013-2014 Global Winners.
In the category of First Place Contemporary Kitchen, Dovide Secter of Secter Design Limited (Winnipeg, Manitoba) was named the global winner and awarded $20,000. Of the winning kitchen, KDC judge Friedemann Weinhardt stated, “This delightful kitchen had all of the judges fall in love with it…We were impressed by the clever cabinet designs, which allowed the kitchen to be clean and serene when not in use, and busy and functional when this kitchen is reclaimed by the young family.”
In the category of First Place Transitional Kitchen, Mikal Otten of Exquisite Kitchen Design (Denver, CO.) was named the global winner and was awarded $20,000. Kitchen Design Contest judge Doug Durbin said, “The flow of the spaces and the concealment of an additional pantry and wine room was a great surprise and as we took these elements apart, layer by layer, this was clearly our winner.”
In the category of First Place Traditional Kitchen, William Suk of Suk Design Group LLP (New York, N.Y.), with Bryan Eure of EureHome, took top honors. Suk was awarded $20,000. KDC judge Matthew Quinn said of the kitchen, “The execution is flawless. Every connection, every alignment, the integration of the Sub-Zero and Wolf product – it’s all done so well; it’s exemplary. Light and bright cabinetry, countertops, room expanding beams, polished nickel accents – all of these are the finishing touches and complete the design.”
In the category of Second Place Contemporary Kitchen, Sandra Agurto of Cabinetry Creations, Inc. (Orlando, FL.), with Phil Kean and Rob Turner of Phil Kean Design Group, and Jose Cabrera of CL Studio, Inc., was named the winner. Agurto was awarded $10,000. Kitchen Design Contest judge Cristina Menezes noted, “The simple plane allows sophisticated overlap between dining and kitchen, kitchen and breakfast area, and the outdoors.” Judge E.J. Meade added, “The kitchen was exceptionally edited…It was masterfully executed as an example of ‘just enough.’”
In the category of Second Place Transitional Kitchen, Joel Kelly of Joel Kelly Design (Atlanta, GA.) was named the winner and awarded $10,000. Kitchen Design Contest judge E.J. Meade said, “It’s a striking composition of color and material…Fittingly it also offers a whimsical addition of a series of mechanical screens and ladders that literally allows the kitchen itself to be a transition.”
In the category of Second Place Traditional Kitchen, Courtney Ziething of CC and Company Designs (Newport Beach, CA.) was named the winner and awarded $10,000. Kitchen Design Contest judge Vasi Ypsilantis noted, “Its seamless use of many monochromatic textures created drama and at the same time, maintained warmth and remained a very inviting space.”
The Designers’ Choice award recognized an outstanding project as determined by the design community. Nearly 1,000 members of the trade participated in the online voting process, which spanned the month of July, eventually naming Courtney Ziething of CC and Company Designs (Newport Beach, CA.) the Designer’s Choice winner for her traditional-style design. She was awarded $8,000. Judge Jamie Drake commented that the winning design hits on some of the most timely trends today; “Unusual and distinctive finish, stone, the color gray, auxiliary space behind the pantry, outdoor kitchen, multiple dining options, artisanal lighting, and personality-driven furnishings.”
In the category of Best First Time Entry, Steven Comisso with co-entrant Mary Ellen Lynch of Lynch + Comisso: Architecture and Light (Toronto, Canada) was named the winner and awarded $8,000. Kitchen Design Contest judge Jamie Drake said, “The qualities we look for, as judges in selecting the first-time entrant prize, are design that is surprising, fascinating, out-of-the-box, and with a deep conviction to its vision. Our selection this year had all of these qualities as evidenced in its monolithic but truly transparent cooking center. Its wood-clad archway is lined in sensuous stone and its open back frames a mysterious wall full of portals, fitting in this Boathouse Kitchen.”
The entire cycle for the Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest requires two years, and it’s time to start the next KDC process. There are a couple of changes that will take effect, changes that I think will reflect the scope of work that is currently being done in the marketplace. There will be ten winners in all but the breakdown will consist of:
Three (3) 1st Place Global Winners
One (1) 1st place Winner per design style
Three (3) 2nd Place Global Winners
One (1) 2nd place Winner per design style
One (1) First-Time Entry
One (1) Student Entry
New Category: One (1) Small Spaces Kitchen
New Category: One (1) Best Outdoor Kitchen
The competition is open to all kitchens designed and completed within the months of January 2015 and December 2016. Folks that are interested in participating will have from February 2016 through January 2017 to submit their projects and the judges will meet sometime in the Spring 2017 to select the 10 global winners.
I was very grateful to have been included as a team member with Sub-Zero and Wolf during the past two years and I am looking forward to watching how this contest evolves. After seeing so many entries and knowing how the judging process works, I am looking forward to entering in a few of my own kitchens this next time around!
Cheers – and may the best-designed kitchen win!