KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for February, 2016

Feb 29 2016

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Revisiting the Kitchen Debate

IMG_1437                             The American National Exhibition in Moscow

This past weekend I had the opportunity to preview Make-Believe America, a new exhibit at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). The exhibit explored U.S. cultural exhibitions following the Cold War and how design was used to rebuild international relationships.

It’s been ages since my last history class, and I honestly didn’t even remember that the U.S. went to any effort to get along with the Soviet Union. Turns out we did quite a lot – including showing off to the Russian public.

IMG_1433New York Times Magazine article on the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959

It started with an official trade show where different countries would display primarily cultural items to explain more about their own societies. The American pavilions showed off its architectural designers, like Herbert Bayer, Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and R. Buckminster Fuller, with complex exterior structures. Inside was everything from a moon rock from the first moon landing to Babe Ruth’s baseball jersey.

Of course, the most interesting part for me was the kitchen displays. As all of these exhibits happened in the mid-century time period (1955-1975), there’s not too much to brag about compared to today. But the Russians – who were used to having no choice in what color refrigerator or dishwasher or whether they wanted laminate counters or stone – were awed by the choices Americans had and that they could afford them in the first place.

IMG_1438  A domestic appliances section in the American Exhibit

My favorite display talked about the “Great Kitchen Debate,” when Vice President Richard Nixon and Premier Khrushchev toured the U.S. exhibit in Moscow together. The model home in the exhibit was dubbed “Splitnik” because it was split down the middle to allow visitors to walk through (talk about underlying spite). Tensions had already been rising between the two when this exchange happened:

Nixon: American houses last for more than 20 years, but, even so, after 20 years, many Americans want a new house or a new kitchen. Their kitchen is obsolete by that time. The American system is designed to take advantage of new inventions and new techniques.

Khrushchev: This theory does not hold water. Some things never get out of date – houses, for instance, and furniture, furnishings – perhaps – but not houses. I have read much about America and American houses, and I do not think that this is exhibited and what you say is strictly accurate.

Nixon: You can learn from us, and we can learn from you. There must be a free exchange. Let the people choose the kind of house, the kind of soup, the kind of ideas that they want.

Khrushchev obviously need a remodel.

IMG_1436            Nixon and Khruschev in the kitchen exhibit

Feb 22 2016

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Open House Reveals Ideal Model Home

My boyfriend Scott and I recently went to see a model home in a new neighborhood close to where we live. He had actually been a handful of times already, but whenever we wanted to go together – it was not an open-house weekend. We are not exactly ready to start actively looking, but this home has all the things we are both looking for and then some.


The kitchen is part of an open floor plan on the main level, flanked by a dining area and across from the living space. Ample cabinets and a nice, big island with seating run circles around the kitchen we have now. And the island, countertop and backsplash break up the never-ending white that seems to be so popular these days.


To the back left of the kitchen is a mud room space that leads to the outdoors, and on the other side is a large pantry. The more casual dining space is lit up with an expanse of windows, while a smaller, more elegant dining room is closer to the front door for more intimate gatherings. I didn’t take a photo of that space because there were potential buyers in there meeting with real estate agents, but I loved that the table was round with arm chair-style seating.


The master bath on the second floor features his-and-hers vanities on either side of the space, as well as a huge soaking tub and a shower big enough for multiple people to sit in. I am not usually a “tub” person, but this one looked very inviting, and I loved that it was near the windows for natural light.



The basement level was decked out with an entertainment space with a wraparound couch, a bar and a bistro table for two. All in all, the space was perfect. There was even a home office/library as soon as you walked in the door. I might change a color here and there – I do like my color – but I wouldn’t have to make many changes too soon. I wonder who the designer was?


Feb 11 2016

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Going Blue with Tile

Blue - lifestyle                                                      Blue
Sacramento, Calif.-based designer Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab decided to spread her wings and launched a collection of tiles with Tile Bar. The collection, Blue My Mind, consists of eight tile designs with a blue-and-white palette. KBB spoke with Kelly to find out more on her inspiration and how she started her collection.

How were you involved in the design?
KK: Our design process began by reviewing photos taken from our recent travels to Milan, London, Nice, New York and of course, California. We then formulated our concepts in CAD, applying layers of color and materials. Once we submitted the designs to the TileBar team, we discussed wanting a variety of price point for the consumer market. This is where we started picking and choosing which designs would receive glass, marble or porcelain applications.

Catch My Drift                                                    Catch My Drift Tile

Where did the inspiration for the design come from?
KK: Our team came up with designs based on our favorite jewelry pieces, accessories and silhouettes from recent travels.

How does this go along with your design work?
KK: This collection blends seamlessly with our day-to-day design specification. The color inspiration was originally based on our blue Silestone Albedo countertop, created with Cosentino. To now be able to call out tile for our client projects that provides color, pattern and a classic aesthetic is invaluable to our process with clients.

Take the Plunge - lifestyle                                                      Take the Plunge Tile

How/when did you design this product?
KK: I met the TileBar team at KBIS in January 2015. We were designing the collection by March and launching our prototypes in New York at ICFF by May 2015. And now we celebrate the official launch to public this month!
What advice would you give another design who wants to start their own line?
KK: The answer is “no” until you ask! The TileBar team is such a young, fun, hip, savvy company, that if you have a good idea, they are ready to listen and possibly collaborate with you, too.

Feb 08 2016

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KBB’s Editorial Advisory Board Talks Favorite Products and Trends at KBIS

Opening Photos

Kitchen & Bath Business’ Editorial Advisory Board walked the KBIS 2016 floor in search of creativity, sustainability and innovation. See what impressed them, and be sure and check out our upcoming February/March issue for even more of their findings and photos.


Dekton Aura Bookmatch

Amy Ahearn, CKD, CAPS, Ahearn Cabinetry Designs, Bernardsville, N.J.

Consentino has remarkably done what the market demanded: create engineered natural material surface slabs that are bookmatched to each other, heretofore the exclusive domain of natural stone, specifically marble. Other properties include high resistance to heat (you can torch your crème brûlée right on the countertop), non-porous and not subject to thermal shock, which can affect traditional quartz tops. Dekton is not new (it debuted in late 2012), but it did have a great presence at the show. Not limited to countertops, Dekton – dubbed the “ultra-compact surface” – can be used for cladding, flooring and interior and exterior surfaces. A unique blend and proprietary recipe comprised of porcelain, glass and quartz, the realistic veining and bookmatching of the slabs might even have fooled Michelangelo himself!


Nar Bustamante, Nar Fine Carpentry, Carmichael & El Dorado Hills, Calif.

This Kallista shower fixture (above) brought the feeling of classy yet something I could probably pick up at a plumbing supply store in Mexico City in the 50s. I loved the timeless simplicity and commanding elegance of this piece

Chemetal (below) has come a long way with some awesome finishes for its products. This line will do very well with the modern market. They had some great metal patinas and a variety of eye-catching, multicolored concepts.


Paula Kennedy, CMKBD, CAPS, Timeless Kitchen Design, Seattle

Paula noted several trends at the show, including:

– Transitional is more widespread
– Growing confidence in color
– Desire to simplify lives and reduce footprint
– Healthy home, healthy living
– Wireless controls in the bath & appliances
– Appliances to fit “smaller living”
– Auto, tech & fashion-driven design
– Gun metal, mirrored and brass finishes
– Industrial chic growing/deepening


From top left clockwise, Paula’s favorites from KBIS include ROHL’s new Mink finish, Flash Freeze & Blast Chill by Irinox and GE’s Monogram Pizza oven.


American Standard’s Coastal tub

Michelle Henderson, Banner Plumbing Supply, Buffalo Grove, Ill.

There is a demand for freestanding tubs, but in most cases the tub is either a solid surface like material and a higher price point, or the more competitive tubs tend to be a double-walled acrylic. Because of the nature of acrylic and the backing required, the tub walls are thick and therefore have very small interiors. Somehow American Standard has made these tubs of cast acrylic, but they are only slightly thicker than their solid surface competitors. And here is the kicker… they’ve managed to offer a reasonable price point.


American Standard’s Sedona tub

The Coastal (oval) is $2,799, and the Sedona (rectangle) is $2,599. Both of these tubs have integrated drains that consist of a finished slotted overflow and a toe tap closure. Many of my clients are ripping out their oversized built-in tubs they never use so they can expand the shower to a more luxurious size. When they do so, they want to keep a tub in the bathroom for resale, and the freestanding tubs are a perfect solution. The only catch is that price is very often a consideration because they never used the original tub, and this new one is just for show. The price point of this tub is perfect for that client, and the product looks great.

*Fairmont Designs

Fairmont Designs’ Belle Fleur

The simple yet elegant design of this vanity makes it a perfect fit for a formal powder room or a girl’s bath. Bow front, Queen Anne legs and glass knobs typically scream old world, but this piece is the perfect example of how something very traditional can be simplified and lend itself to a more transitional palate. The vanity features fully concealed soft-close hinges, as well as a hidden soft-close drawer perfect for a blow dryers or tissues. There is a coordinating blizzard white quartz top available and a very complementary white oval mirror.

Christopher Grubb, Arch-Interiors Design Group, Beverly Hills, Calif.

I’m seeing a lot of gold. Some manufacturers even said they showed a few pieces last year and because of demand and expanded the finish into other products they have for a more complete collection.

Last year I saw several items with or in black (faucets etc.) This year feel it was universal from a lot of manufacturers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see black cabinetry in both contemporary and traditional styles making a resurgence.

Gray continues as a popular finish; like the shiny gray on appliances for those who are suffering from “stainless fatigue.”


From controlling your appliances to Wifi switching in the home, technology continues to expand in unheard of ways. Legrand (above) has Wifi switching, and what I like is this is transitional in look so it will fit in more design projects.

*Laundry Vignette

Rachel Roberts, Kitchen & Bath Galleries of North Hills, Raleigh, N.C.

I loved all the laundry vignettes. Often it seems to be an overlooked area for displays, so it was great to get some inspiration for designs for these spaces –whether as a separate room or part of a closet.

Toni Sabatino, Toni Sabatino Style, New York


Left, clockwise: Richelieu has done great cabinetry inserts, as well as surfaces and hardware. Emmevi Rubinetterie, Italy, featured a Pinnochio faucet with water coming out of his nose when you move his arms. Thompson Traders’ Artisanal sinks and accessories – this is really stunning handwork.