KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for September, 2015

Sep 25 2015

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Three Steps for Slab Selection


Selecting a slab – be it for a countertop or a backsplash – can be daunting and frustrating. Kate Sterling, creative director of AKDO, provided useful insight into how designers can make this process easier.

1. Do Your Research
Before you begin, decide the maintenance level that best works for your client.  Different materials have different needs, and it’s important to decide what the client would like out of the new countertop.

However, don’t always believe the rumors; if a client loves the look of marble but is scared away by stories of staining, remember that some of the world’s great buildings, like the Taj Mahal, are made of marble. Talk to the experts and do your research before discounting a look a client loves.


2. Plan It Out
Now that you’ve educated yourself, it’s time to make a plan.  Natural stone slabs can dazzle you with their beauty, so before getting too carried away, take a few things into account:

•    Focal Point of the Room:  Do you want a stunning countertop, or an eye-catching, patterned backsplash? Pick your focal point first and design the rest of the room around it.

•    Slab Size:  Some stones can only be quarried in small blocks and are not suited to long countertops or kitchen islands. Get the plans for your room from the contractor and talk to your fabricator about adding seams to the countertop so you know what size slabs you need and how many.

•    Natural Stone Slabs are Unique:  Natural stone slabs are quarried from the earth, making each piece of stone one-of-a-kind. Be aware that some stones have naturally occurring specks or irregularities, and the veining and color can vary so it’s important to choose the exact slab that suits your client’s taste.

•    Be Specific: Your fabricator will make a template to determine the exact size pieces to cut out of your slab. This can only be done once your cabinetry is in place, since walls are not all straight. A good idea is to use blue painter’s tape to indicate the places the slab will be cut, to make sure it includes your favorite parts of the slab. Remember, you can only cut a slab once.

olive-maroneOlive Marone

3. Get Creative
This is the fun part!  Your slab can be a statement piece in the kitchen – the most oft-used area of the home.

•    The Slab as Art: Since many slabs have breathtaking, dramatic movement, they are perfect for making a statement. Slab backsplashes create a seamless, rich look and can act as very elegant and enduring “wallpaper.”

•    Remember the Trim:  You have to buy slabs whole, so make the most of them! Ask your fabricator to use the leftover pieces of slab not needed for your counters to create complementary trim details in the room. Long, thin pieces can be used to create saddles for door trims or shelves in a shower nook. You might even have enough to elegantly top an occasional table. Everything must be templated prior to cutting the slabs.

•    Don’t Lose Your Edge: Your countertop edging is an important detail.  More modern spaces will typically go with a simple straight edge, while more ornate profile details suit a traditionally designed space.  Fabricators can make the slab edge appear thicker by stacking extra layers of slab along the edge of your countertop.

•    Have Fun!  Put aside the renovation stress and soak it all in. Some slab yards are more like galleries, with hundreds of works of art created by Mother Nature. Allow yourself to get lost in the natural beauty created by ancient layers of seashells, lava and crystal formations.

crema_antarcticaCrema Antarctica

Sep 23 2015

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Snaidero Designer’s Award-Winning Kitchen


Shawna Dillon, principal at Studio Snaidero DC, recently won a 1st Place North American and International Regional Winner award at the Sub-Zero/Wolf Kitchen Design Contest (KDC). Her “Bachelor Pad Perfection” design features Snaidero’s Code style in ice white, high-glass lacquer and dark ash and was transformed from drab and outdated to spacious, functional, and beautiful.

K+BB got a chance to ask Dillon some more in-depth questions about her winning project.

What were the renovation goals and how were those carried out? 

My main design goal is always to create an end product that looks stunning while improving the way the kitchen functions for the client.  The client, a bachelor, approached his design/build firm, Centaur Interiors, with two major goals: to turn a rather drab penthouse he recently acquired into a landmark property and to create a space that would function well as both his primary residence and a large-scale entertaining venue for professional functions that he frequently hosts.

Since this particular project boasted such a large, open plan, it was also my goal to maintain a cohesive expression that would complement the other half of the room. The kitchen had to be the perfect balance of sophistication and quiet elegance to complement the minimal interior and allow the view beyond the windows to be the star. The contrast between the high-gloss white and coffee brown wood cabinetry promotes drama without overwhelming.


What were the issues with the previous design? 

The existing space possessed a lot of challenges. There was a very large wall separating the living space from the kitchen, which made the penthouse feel dark and cramped but also impeded the lake-to-city view that was the highlight of the property.

Once we removed the wall to create one large, open plan, the space immediately transformed. The view was stunning and the main living space felt extraordinary, but the impressive size created a new set of challenges. I had to scale the kitchen to be intimate enough to feel comfortable for one person to use but balance the space so that nothing felt cramped once it was filled with people and caterers.



Lastly, a very large support column for the building fell exactly in the apex of the main workspace, promoting an awkward layout. I used this challenge to my advantage and created four different work/prep/storage zones within the kitchen, using the column as a divider between two zones. This approach gave the client a multi-purpose kitchen – one that could perform well for a large team of caterers, yet function just as well for a single person preparing a simple meal.

Were there any challenges overcome during the project? 

The client acquired the 48-in. Sub-Zero refrigerator, 30-in. wine storage and 30-in. Wolf double ovens when he purchased the property. Knowing the longevity of these appliances and the type of cooking and food storage that would be required, we proposed that the client maintain these appliances and supplement them to complete the package. Thus, these specific appliances influenced the design almost as much as the view. I knew right away I wanted the ovens and the refrigerator to act as bookends for the main work zone.


The type of entertaining that was required warranted the large-scale professional-type cooking and food/wine storage, but since the space was open to the formal dining and living room, I did not want the appliances to overwhelm the room. I designed the height and width of the cabinetry to balance the size and placement of the appliances so the scale between all the materials would be harmonious.

The induction cooktop gave the client the efficiency of a gas cooktop, while maintaining a sleek aesthetic. The flush inset installation allowed for a continuous plane on the island, so if the cooktop wasn’t needed, it could be locked and function as part of the counter surface. The drawer microwave gives the client all the cooking he needs and functions easily under the counter so we did not have to interrupt the horizon level.

Appliances: Sub Zero Refrigerator and Wine Storage, Wolf Cooking, BEST Ventilation
Cabinetry: Snaidero CODE and WAY styles
Countertops: Caesarstone

Sep 21 2015

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Behind the Scenes at Sub-Zero Group


Based out of Madison, Wis., Sub-Zero Group, Inc. is a rare third-generation, family-owned company that was founded as the Sub-Zero Freezer Company in 1945. Since then, the company has made innumerous leaps and bounds, not only on a corporate level, but from a design perspective as well. Having acquired the residential side of commercial kitchen company Wolf in 2000, the company is bigger than ever with a host of newly announced innovations still on the way.

“It’s a family business, and family is at the center of everything we do,” said Jim Bakke, president and CEO of Sub-Zero Group, Inc. in a statement announcing the company’s 70th anniversary. “That sets us apart in the appliance industry. Since my grandfather, Westye F. Bakke, established the company, it has operated on the belief that if you make the highest-quality product, you’ll always have customers.”

But what makes Sub-Zero- and Wolf-branded appliances any better than the mélange of other options inundating the market today? That’s exactly what I set out to discover when I attended a tour of the company’s approximately 400,000-sq.-ft. Arizona manufacturing plant – held last week during the company’s 2013-2014 Kitchen Design Contest.


1) As several industry notables and I were led into the impressive desert facility, we couldn’t help but notice how starkly clean it was, despite churning out an estimated 350 units/day – a big jump from the approximate 180 units/day the location was producing when it debuted in 2011. The factory was built to replace a 165,000-sq.-ft. plant just outside of Phoenix.


2) The plant tour began in the fabrications area, where we were introduced to the handcrafted process behind Sub-Zero’s product. With the exception of various small parts, all Sub-Zero appliances and components are made at one of the company’s several U.S. factories. This in and of itself differentiates the manufacturer in a day and age where all too many have resorted to outsourcing.


3) Run by an advanced computer program that allows it to make style changes in seconds, a massive machine in the cutting facility uses five lasers to cut steel sheets. These will form the bodies of various refrigeration units.


4) An expansive area is dedicated solely to plastic fabrications. Here, skilled tradesmen create door liners, face frames and small parts that are molded and trimmed before being sent to assembly.


5) Falling in line with the company’s sustainability ethos, plastic scraps are fed into a grinding unit that pulverizes them into pellets that will be melted down and reused.


6) New-generation units are made with coiled steel, which is shaped using an automated system.


7) A rectangular slot is cut to mark the impending placement of glass sheets that will front refrigerator doors. This steel cutout is also recycled.


8) In the assembly-line area, workers begin putting together the pieces they have made while paying close attention to detail. Any misjudgment at this stage of the process could result in an entire unit needing to be scrapped (though they assured us this rarely happens).


9) Doors are assembled and equipped with insulation.


10) Before they can move forward with the assembly process, units must be tested to ensure they are fully operational. If an error is found at this stage, the unit must be repaired and tested again. Because of the high level of detail-oriented craftsmanship that goes into their creation, approximately 95 percent of units test successfully on the first try.


11) Toward the end of the tour, we were guided through an immense storage area where parts made elsewhere are kept for use at a later date.


As my group and I waited for those remaining to complete their tour, I found respite in the reception area, where fiery red, glass-like chandeliers hang in reference to the company’s Wolf-branded ranges. These elegant fixtures were only a modest foreshadow of the location’s true boon: a streamlined plant with a real-time order system that feeds directly into the assembly line. With thoughtfully sustainable products made right here in the U.S., this family-owned company is really on to something.

This video (link or embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm1AMm-O49g) from the group’s recently launched “Reclaim the Kitchen” initiative perfectly sums up the company’s mission: to help families get back to the heart of the home with appliances as unique as the people who use them.

Sep 10 2015

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Bathroom Design: ’80s Flashback Reimagined


What was it that made us designers (including myself) so crazy about big whirlpool tubs in the 1980s and well into the 90s? Was it Julia Roberts’ bubble bath scene in Pretty Woman? The image of Al Pacino in Scarface in his gigantic bubble bath? Or perhaps the cheesy ads from the 70s and 80s for honeymoon resorts with those red, heart-shaped tubs. Maybe they fed a fantasy and created demand for the massive whirlpools with acres of tile deck around them that dominated the “luxury” bathrooms of 20 or 30 years ago.

Luckily, those relics of a bygone era are now being rethought, like this one, built in 1992 in a Denver suburb. The tub and deck ate up most the room, while the shower, with its 80s brass trim, was squeezed into a small corner. The shared vanity was pushed to another side, where the homeowners fought for control of the counter space between their two sinks. Lighting consisted of a brass Hollywood light bar over the mirror and two giant cans spotlighting the tub.

Another deficiency was that the bathroom was open to the master bedroom, and the view consisted of a messy vanity. In the bedroom, a three-sided fireplace was meant to be the focal point, but it was off to the side of the bed, as was the television.

Philip Wegener Photography

Philip Wegener Photography

My associate Don Gibson and I tried several floor plan options before hitting on this one. We closed off the bathroom from the bedroom, repositioned a new gas fireplace and moved the access point to a door in the corner where the shower used to be. This last decision opened up a large corner for a luxury mega-shower, with his and hers controls and heads. There’s also a bench for shaving or sitting. The tile floor has an electric heat mat beneath on a timer control. This year, Denver had a cold, wet spring, so the homeowners used that feature well into May.

Philip Wegener Photography

Philip Wegener Photography

One aspect of the design that the clients particularly like is the south-facing skylight. We offered the option of a moveable shade, but they declined, not minding the “hot spots” that the clear glass skylight throws on the bath below.

Finally, the new Victoria + Albert tub sits under the corner windows, with an elegant Brizo faucet and hand shower standing behind like a piece of jewelry. The elimination of the tub deck allows the floor to flow under and around the tub, incorporating it more into the room – it’s a feature that is both retro and modern.

Lighting was redone, with frosted 2,700K LED sconces mounted on the mirrors to either side of the user’s face. In addition, two high-intensity LED downlights now sit above the shower, plus one surface LED fixture by the closet door.

Philip Wegener Photography

Philip Wegener Photography

All fixtures have their own dimmer switches for precise control. In total, for this small room, there are five lighting circuits with dimmers, but the owner reports, “Most of the time we don’t even turn on the lights during the day since the skylight is enough.”

– By Doug Walter, AIA, reprinted from Professional Remodeler


Design: Doug Walter, AIA, and Godden Sudik Architects, Centennial, Colo.
Interiors: Kevin Dunn, Elements for Design, Denver
Remodeler: Chris Beasley, Aspen Builders, Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Cabinets: Design-Craft
Countertops: Cambria “Minera” Jewel Collection
Floor Tile: Rex “Taiga”
Sink: Kohler Ladena Collection
Sink Faucets: Hansgrohe
Tub: Victoria + Albert
Tub & Shower Faucets: Brizo
Wall Tile: Mandala “Brio Piel” Sharkskin color #1138