K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Oct 15 2014

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Designers Discuss Favorite Trends & Products

October is National Kitchen and Bath Month, and we thought it would be interesting to ask designers what they thought were some of the most significant trends and products in kitchen and bath design today.

Outdoor Living Environments on the Rise

“There is growing interest in bringing the comfort and hominess we love indoors outside,” said Grace Kelly of Kitchen Designs. “At Kitchen Designs we are also noticing a major upswing in demand for creating outdoor environments, especially outdoor kitchens.” When you specify for the outdoors, it’s important to consider quality components that can withstand the elements.

The Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and BLANCO kitchen sink and faucet are featured in this outdoor installation by Kitchen Designs.

The Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and BLANCO kitchen sink and faucet are featured in this outdoor installation by Kitchen Designs.

Timeless Elements Inspire a Sense of Permanence

“In new construction, there is a movement toward traditional kitchens, with an emphasis on quality that inspires a sense of permanence,” said Drew Lang of Lang Architecture, designer and developer of Hudson Woods. “Today’s homebuyer – whether it’s their first, second or third purchase – doesn’t want a trendy kitchen that will need a refresh in five years; they are looking for timelessness, and Hudson Woods evokes precisely that sentiment. Our kitchens are built to last with handcrafted finishes and cutting-edge accouterments.”

Hudson Woods architect Drew Lang sought a timeless look with SMEG appliances.

Hudson Woods architect Drew Lang sought a timeless look with SMEG appliances.

Blending Traditional and Modern Elements

Many clients are looking for the comfort of classic styles but at the same time seek to be fresh and contemporary. “I look for something ‘different’ that has not been over used and is on trend yet [with a] classic style,” said Cheryl Kees Clendenon of In Detail Design. “Just the right blend of traditional and modern.”

Tile of Spain manufacturer Porcelanosa offers just right blend of traditional and modern for this In Detail Design bathroom.

Tile of Spain manufacturer Porcelanosa offers just right blend of traditional and modern for this In Detail Design bathroom.

Another tactic to blend old and new: Use contemporary finishes with traditional hardware patterns by Top Knobs as featured in this In Detail Design kitchen.

Another tactic to blend old and new: Use contemporary finishes with traditional hardware patterns by Top Knobs as featured in this In Detail Design kitchen.

Layered Conversations – Designing for Multi-Uses

”Kitchens these days are all about a layered conversation,” said Christopher D. Martinez, Poggenpohl Paramus, N.J. “How are all the individual pieces working together as a whole for the end user and their guests? The kitchen should communicate both functionally & aesthetically.”

Clients want spaces for storage, cooking and entertaining. Defining workspaces for each, homeowners can prepare meals and remain part of the conversation with guests and family.

Defining workspaces helps homeowners to prepare meals and remain part of the conversation for this Poggenpohl kitchen.

Defining workspaces helps homeowners to prepare meals and remain part of the conversation for this Poggenpohl kitchen.

Baths Are a Calming Getaway from the Stress of Daily Life

Michael Adams recently designed a bathroom space for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. While he was designing for the many families in crisis who will be using the space, the need for a calming getaway from the stress of daily life is certainly a trend today in everyday bathroom design.

“I wanted to create a contemporary space that was serene and calm for the families who are staying there,” said Adams of Michael Adams ID. “Kartell by Laufen offered me the look and the functionality for this space where so many families just need a clean environment and a pampering break where all their needs are met in this time of crisis. The fixtures are pure, simple and highly designed. They rise up to meet the need while maintaining the clutter free and calming space I was hoping for.”

The need for a calming getaway from the stress of daily life is certainly a trend today in everyday bathroom design, according to Michael Adams of Michael Adams ID.

The need for a calming getaway from the stress of daily life is certainly a trend today in everyday bathroom design, according to Michael Adams of Michael Adams ID.

 

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Oct 10 2014

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K&B Talent: What Potential Employers Are Looking for in YOU

Image by of Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is much talk about not being able to find reliable talent in the kitchen and bath industry. This LinkedIn discussion asks professional what they are looking for when hiring talent. What qualifications do they desire? What level of experience is required? What kind of experience – marketing, tech, business savvy, design – is necessary?

Anne-Marie Harvey, Kitchen and Bath Design Consultant

One thing I learned in my previous career is that having the correct pedigree is not a guarantee for success in any given field. Having the right disposition, as well as the ability to use your entire brain, is crucial for success in this business. I encourage business owners to take a chance on hiring people who chose kitchen and bath design as a second career and graduates of NKBA-endorsed kitchen and bath design certificate programs.

As in any other career, the process of staying up to date and maintaining your proficiency is ongoing. Talent is overrated; some people with tons of talent waste it because they lack the work ethic required stay on top. If you have someone with a true passion for what they do and the aptitude and work ethic to improve, they are likely to be successful.

Rex G Hirst, CKD Au, Interior Designer at Let’s Talk Kitchens & Interiors

What we all do in this profession very much requires a right brain, left brain set of skills, which are REALLY hard to find. We recently sent out an advertisement that stated: If you are a qualified CKD, CBD or interior designer with loads of experience in the K & B sector – with a minimum of five years of REAL commercial experience – then we should talk. What was interesting when I placed this advert was the sheer number of applicants we got from all around the world, (about 60) and the very few who could meet the criteria. It’s not that the applicants aren’t there; it’s the fact that most just don’t have the skills.

Something else that I believe is critical in anyone looking to work in a creative discipline is the desire to do great work, not just make money. 
If you are good at what you do, the money will automatically follow your success. The word “passion” comes to mind. It’s not findable on the resume, but if it’s there, you’ll see it in an interview and the way they talk about past projects.

Cathy Osborne, Designer at Auer Kitchens

Within a 150-mile radius of Cincinnati where I am, most of the design firms are small, family-owned businesses – particularly at the high end. The hardest thing to find is that intangible “good fit.” A personality that meshes well with the other five – 15 people within the company, complementary (not identical) personal goals and expectations, a similar amount of “fight” in their souls, background that provides experiential balance for the company. 
Those may seem like trivial or frivolous qualifications, but the secret weapon of a small business is having team members pull their weight more-or-less equally, who genuinely respect, trust and support each other and who are willing to seek recognition for the group, not for the individual.

Growing a respected company name has immense value, and one poorly chosen person can set a company reputation back years. I could overlook a few weak spots in the credentials if I saw, for example, “five-year volunteer for Habitat for Humanity” or “PTA president” on the resume. As time consuming as it is, the interview is far more enlightening than the resume.

Nina Green, Principal Interior Designer at NGD Interiors

I would first like to see somebody who has an interior designer degree. This lets me know they have had the basic technical/space planning training that I am looking for. (I am willing to overlook this if there are other strong qualifications/credentials as in years of experience/certifications, etc.) I am also looking for skills that can’t necessarily be taught, i.e., organization, attention to detail, a sense of aesthetics, enjoys being around people/communication, etc.

The rest depends on the level at which I am hiring them. If I want a junior designer/assistant, I would prefer them to have basic interior design skills, some kitchen knowledge experience, and I would guide the rest. If I am looking to bring on a designer at the senior level, I look for designers who are at my level or higher who prefer to be independent, preferably with a CKD/CBD.

I think it is important that designers understand the business/sales side of things, but I have found through guidance/role play this can be refined. I do prefer that the designers have had training/experience selling to low-middle markets & high-end markets, as they require different skill sets. In terms of marketing, business, etc., I would typically outsource these to consultants that only do that function.

Amy Britton, CKD, Founder, Owner & Principle Designer, Artisan Kitchens LLC

Honestly, I almost think I would prefer to train someone from scratch. The character traits I would look for are: true artistic tendencies (eye for color a plus but not mandatory), bright engaging personality, eagerness to learn, superior attention to detail, good computer technical skills, literacy and organizational skills (!) and ability to work with people. All of those can be shaped into a competent K&B designer with good training and mentoring. And yes, we are all “designers,” but there’s also a sales component to what we do, and someone who is reclusive or introverted ultimately isn’t going to be a success.

Nava Slavin, President of The Creative Edge, Inc.

Designing a kitchen requires some very specific knowledge. You need to understand space planning, circulation and the overall use of the space. One needs to understand the requirements for appliances, electric, venting and plumbing.
We need to have product knowledge, know how different floors will affect heights in the room and how symmetry or asymmetry will look. Once you have all the technical knowledge, you need to understand the best ways a kitchen

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Sep 29 2014

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The Tiles of Italy

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Cersaie, Italy’s ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings show, which took place in Bologna. After two planes, two trains, and a taxi ride, I found myself immersed in an immense show crowded with what seemed like hundreds of different cultures, languages, and most of all—tile.

Corrosioni from Oikos

Corrosioni from Oikos

The part of the show I loved the most was that each company seemed to have their own take on a trend. The hand-painted looks that each manufacturer recreates appeared in different ways, like Del Conca’s tiny traditional tiles or Oiko’s sustainable, textured tiles. Tangina’s new Diamond collection of tiles changes the plain square frame by skewing the inner square, and Cermica Sant’Agnostino’s Native Beige, which recalls a rustic look of Tuscan homes.

Native Beige from Ceramica Sant'Agnostino

Native Beige from Ceramica Sant’Agnostino

The show focused more on ceramic tile than anything else, but there were several interesting bathroom furnishings as well. A glimmering sink and shower, manufactured by Ambiance Bain, display a new type of glamour, while the sink from Florentine boasts a modern take on a historical design. Two tubs caught my eye—a luxurious black tub from Hydrocarbon with metallic gold accents, and a completely contrasting gray tub from Flamina with simple, modern lines.

Alba from Ambiance Bain

Alba from Ambiance Bain

Italy’s beautiful tiles of course come from a country of beautiful landscapes and good earth. On a free afternoon, I found myself face to face with one of these inspirations—the Basilica of San Luca. Simply put, the view explains quite a lot about where these designers and manufacturers find their inspiration.

The Basilica of San Luca

The Basilica of San Luca

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Sep 17 2014

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Sustainability in Kitchen and Bath Fixtures: The Next Frontier

Image by Dan, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Dan, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just a few years ago, it seemed as if everyone was talking about reducing the water usage of plumbing fixtures and fittings as being the best way to conserve water. We still hear this from time to time, mostly when a particular region is devastated by drought, but mostly those concerns have dissipated.

Critics may assume this indicates that consumers no longer care about water efficiency, but those of us in the center of the water industry have seen a shift in – not a lack of – concern. Let me put it this way: When was the last time you saw someone shop specifically for a non-Energy Star home appliance? They don’t. Consumers don’t look for Energy Star-rated appliances; they expect that the appliance is Energy Star-rated. It is just that commonplace.

We’ve seen this shift with WaterSense-labeled and water-efficient products – homeowners want a great faucet or toilet and they simply expect it to be as efficient as possible without having to think about it. The 2014 EcoPulse Survey, conducted by The Shelton Group, shows that consumers expect that leading brands are designing great products, and efficiency is just one aspect of greatness. Choosing a water-efficient product used to be considered the “better choice” but with this shift in consumer mindset, “better” takes on a different meaning.

What has replaced efficiency in this discussion is a more holistic take on what it means to be an eco-friendly product. There is a groundswell of consumers demanding to understand more about the products they purchase and consume – they expect manufacturers to provide that information in an easy-to-understand way.

We see this first in products that are consumed (food and beverages), then in products that are applied (cosmetics, personal care products) and finally in products that people buy for their homes (furnishings, building products). Consumers want to understand where the product came from, how it will affect them while it’s being used and what to do with it when its useful life ends. Professionals helping consumers make the choices in their product selection need suppliers to provide information on those products, with some hard data behind it.

Take the food industry for example – the overwhelming demand for locally sourced food supply isn’t going to disappear overnight. In fact, it is growing exponentially, in part due to the rising interest in “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) programs. Restaurants and grocery stores that have embraced this trend see increased profits and customer loyalty.

And it doesn’t stop there – consumer electronics have become more transparent in the materials used and end-of-life plan for the products. This, too, will make its mark on the plumbing industry, and those who want to succeed need to be ahead of this wave. Consumers will undoubtedly become choosier about materials and products, conducting much more in-depth comparisons of products and manufacturers, and they will expect that trade professionals are just as educated as they are, if not more.

Fortunately, there’s a document that provides this information. An Environmental Product Declaration, or EPD, is a third-party-certified document that conveys the manufacturer’s understanding of the environmental impact of a product over its entire lifecycle, including raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, service life and ultimate disposal or recycling.

So rather than just talking about one feature of product, such as how much water or energy it uses, the EPD also includes information on what the product is made from, how much water and energy it took to obtain the raw materials, many other environmental impacts of those processes and what the impact is upon disposal. An EPD is like an environmental scorecard – the first one that attempts to count everything.

Further, EPDs for similar products can be compared with each other. Each type of product has its own special rules for how the environmental data is to be collected and presented. In theory, one can look at EPDs for toilets from several brands and get an idea of which ones are better overall from an environmental standpoint.

But a word of caution: Collecting all of the environmental data to produce EPDs is complicated and time-consuming. When actual process data isn’t available, manufacturers rely on published databases to fill in the gaps. Since EPDs are relatively new – at most 10 years, and much less than that for plumbing products – manufacturers are working to create and improve the data in them. It’s definitely a work in progress, and I fully expect the quality and presentation of information in EPDs to improve in the coming years.

Why is all of this important? For consumers and specifiers who strive to make better environmental choices, EPDs can help them decide. An example is building owners who are looking to earn LEED certification. While LEED has always included points for reducing water and energy use in a building, it’s evolved to be holistic about all environmental impacts.

In LEED v4, which was launched in November 2013, projects can now earn points for including products that have EPDs. The intent of this credit is to create a market incentive for more building product manufacturers to provide environmental information about their products. Transparency about what goes into a product will drive companies to eliminate the bad stuff and spur innovation in materials and process development, which will lead to products that are better for the environment while still delivering the experiences consumers expect.

So consumers today expect efficiency. And they expect manufacturers to be doing the right things for the environment. EPDs and the broader movement toward full transparency will harness the power of the market to reward product manufacturers who do both. Specifiers can aid this process by learning more about environmental issues and helping their clients make informed choices.

- By Rob Zimmerman, Senior Channel Manager of Sustainability at Kohler Co.

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