The fourth annual awards, put on by kitchen and bath blog KB Culture, recognized the best products from kitchen cabinets to appliances, bathroom fixtures, lighting and more.
This year’s judges included KB Culture editor Leslie Clagett and Janice Costa, editor of Kitchen & Bath Design News, the industry's top trade journal.
“After reviewing this year's competition entries, I'd say it's been time well spent on the part of manufacturers,” said Clagett. “What was once new has become the norm in several areas of kitchen and bath products—look at induction cooking, hands-free faucets, low-flush toilets, and wifi controls for proof that change not only happens, but takes root, as well. I think I spy some embryonic trends among the submissions, but it is time, not me, that will tell that tale.”
And the winners are:
S3 Kitchen by SieMatic—More than 200 variations of shelving units, pantries, drawers, and other storage solutions give this system impressive design versatility. Giving lie to the notion that contemporary kitchens must be monochromatic spaces, storage cubbies, cabinet interiors, and the reveal between cupboards can be rendered in contrasting colors.
Built-In Wall Oven by Thermador—soufflé fans, take note: This oven has a hydraulic soft-close mechanism that puts an end to both slamming doors or inadvertently leaving them ajar. While that feature is unique in the industry, there is more to recommend this appliance on a performance basis. The 12 cooking modes include a Speed Convection setting, which shaves cooking time by 30%.
Mega-Capacity French Door by LG—To quantify the colorfully vernacular name of this fridge, it has a capacity of 33 cubic feet. This spaciousness is due to some forward-thinking design, including the use of vacuum insulation panels [a slimmer, more efficient form of insulation] and relocating the ice maker to the door. Another innovative tech component is the linear compressor, which is a compact, oil-free, and continuously-operating alternative to the conventional compressor.
Star-Sapphire by Thermador—By using preheated water, this machine can whip through a full-wash cycle in a mere 20 minutes—an invaluable asset if you're short of dishes and need to restock the buffet or holiday table. Keep tabs on the progress of that fast-track wash by looking down; an illuminated digital countdown clock is projected on the floor near the base of the appliance.
Smart ThinQ Laundry Suite by LG—Refinements both high-tech and mechanical make this a formidable laundry pair. A package of smart features, including remote control via wifi or cellphone, comprise the ThinQ technology. The conventional belt-driven motor has been replaced with an efficient direct-drive unit that's connected to the washer's drum, spinning it faster and more quietly. This is the first top-loading washer to offer a steam-cleaning option, and it can be incorporated into any cycle.
70CC by Elica—Look how this hood fits so well into a stretch of horizontal hanging cabinets: it's been designed and dimensioned to fill that gap in a way that's far superior to the incongruous shapes of ordinary wall-mount or chimney-style models. Adaptable for island or wall-mount installations, the 70CC collects vapors on three of its sides, using either a perimeter- or direct-capture method.
Sensate by Kohler—A pass of your hand—or pot or pan—under the spout starts the flow of water from this truly touchless tap. Magnets keep the pull-down spray head securely in place. The faucet's hard-wired, AC power source has a manual override, which keeps the fitting operable during power outages.
Palomba by Laufen—Just looking at the flowing form of this 72-inch tub, designed by Ludovica+Roberto Palomba, is cause for relaxation. Maintenance is worry-free as well, as its cast, solid-surfacing body is impervious to staining and calcium deposits.
Modex by Blanco—While not steel, this sink nonetheless proves its mettle in a busy kitchen. Made of an abuse-proof granite/polymer material, it comes in white and two shades of grey. Rising three inches above the counter, the sink stakes out a work zone that spans clean-up and prep tasks by virtue of its integral, self-draining drip tray and ash-wood cutting board.
Halcyon by Native Trails—A humble material—bamboo—meets high style in this compact vanity. Thought has been given to practicalities as well as appearance in its design. The open shelf not only holds towels, but also provides an access portal for the plumbing. And a french cleat [typically used to hang paintings] makes installation a literal snap.
SensoWash C by Duravit—The updated version of this shower toilet focuses on the unseen. Water lines and electrical connections have been concealed within the unit, freeing the form [designed by Philippe Starck] from extraneous conduits and exposed outlets. The washing and warming functions of the seat are regulated by newly-miniaturized components that are also out of sight.
Axor Starck Organic by Axor—The fluid form is certainly pleasing to the eye, but designer Phillipe Starck figuratively pushes the user upstream when it comes to this faucet's functionality. Reversing the normal operations, temperature is set at the top of the fitting, with the flow [either 1GPM or 1.5GPM] controlled at the opposite end. It's a subtle—or subversive?—way to minimize wasting water.
Artisan Fire Bowl by Eldorado Stone—Fueled by either natural gas or liquid propane, this three-foot-diameter fire bowl takes the chill off alfresco entertaining. Offered in several colors, the Infinite model is made of glass-reinforced concrete. When not in use, a hardwood top transforms the piece into a table.
Anniversary Collection by Formica—In its commemorative centennial collections, Formica gives a nod to its pattern-filled past, but with a twist that shows off the latest in printing techniques. Design firm Pentagram developed 12 patterns; one of them, 'Elipse', is a graphic riff on the Formica logo. The shape is manipulated into a pattern that repeats not in the typical 50 inches, but in over a mile.
Absolute by Ceracasa—Because it's fired at extremely high temperatures [in excess of 2000ºF], most porcelain tile has a matte finish. What gives the Absolute collection its ultra-glossy look is a top layer of silicate that can be polished to a smooth-as-glass finish, without compromising the tile's strength or porosity. It's available in six colors in sizes up to 18x38.
Verdera Medicine Cabinet by Kohler—An integral magnifying mirror glides up or down the edge of the door of this medicine cabinet, swinging outward as needed; it folds flat against the inside of the door when not in use. An optional open shelf can attach to the bottom of the surface-mounted, aluminum cabinet, providing quick access to frequently used items.
Maestro Occupancy Sensor CL Dimmer by Lutron—Technology that seamlessly improves life, without inflicting a learning curve on its users? Yes, please. That's accomplished in the latest iteration of the Maestro collection of light controls. This motion-sensitive model turns the lights on when a person enters a room only if it detects a low level of ambient daylight in the space. Bright, energy-saving idea!
RQ Home Magnetic Wall Plates by Questech—For the aesthetically obsessive, even the smallest of details can make a big difference. Case in point: the common light switch and its all-too-visible, infallibly ugly silver screw heads. These ingenious plates camouflage the fasteners beneath a magnetic cover. They are offered in a variety of metals and decorative patterns.
Click here to view all of the winners and images as well as honorable mentions.