The 2003 Watermark Awards: BUILDER's first kitchen and bath contest Power Station

As the pace of family life picks up to warp speed, manufacturers of home appliances are striving to keep pace. Their challenge: to develop new products that cook faster and offer ever more power.

Take the new ultra-high output gas cooktop from Newton, Iowa-based Jenn-Air. At 36 inches, it has five burners, including one with a whopping 17,000 BTUs, the most power available in a non-commercial-grade cooktop, the company says. It will, the manufacturer claims, improve the quality of stir-fried and pan-seared items. While such power can be found in expensive commercial-grade cooking products, it has never been available in a unit in this price range--starting at $749--the manufacturer adds.

While consumers crave speed and power, they also want products that are easy to use, says GE's Leslie Redford. "They want to save time, but they don't want to complicate their lives." GE's new Profile ovens combine thermal, convection, and microwave energies in one cooking unit. Easy-to-use controls automatically convert traditional recipes. Enter the type of food, time, and temperature, and the appliance takes it from there.

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool, which is also getting in on the power play, recently introduced the G2Microven SpeedCook. It combines the speed of a microwave with the bake, broil, brown, and grilling results of an oven. It uses a 1,100-watt halogen bulb with a 500-watt quartz bulb that cooks food from the top. A non-stick interior makes clean-up easy.

Family Style O'Neil Residence Kitchen, Baltimore

Best kitchen in a remodeled home

After almost a century of standing, any house could be expected to fall victim to bad remodeling work. That's the situation architect Rob Brennan inherited when he signed on to update the look and layout of an 80-year-old, Tudor-style home in Baltimore.

Designed in the 1920s, when it was typical to have a family wing and service wing, the kitchen connected to other rooms through small hallways and doors. A 1970s renovation added bright school-bus yellow cabinets, among other things. Yikes.

The clients wanted a larger space, a more efficient layout, and a better flow to other rooms in the house. Brennan reworked the kitchen to create a basic triangle. Then he added a small breakfast bay that opens to the backyard, pushed the sink to a window wall overlooking the kids' playground, and added a desk complete with Internet hookup and overhead shelving for cookbooks.

The kitchen's former breakfast nook is now home to a cozy window seat. The light-filled, out-of-the-way spot is surrounded by the original leaded glass, steel-framed casement windows, which the owners wanted to keep. Brennan added interior storm and screen panels.

Anne Gummerson Photography

The kitchen's minimalist appearance stems from stainless steel appliances, pale maple cabinetry with contemporary hardware, granite for the sink area and raised countertop, concrete for the cooking countertop, and a slate backsplash. Warm wood flooring serves as a welcome contrast to modern finishes. "We try to recommend [wood flooring]," Brennan says. "It's soft underfoot, and if you use enough polyurethane, moisture is not an issue."

Brennan, whose firm does a lot of high-end remodeling, finds that upper cabinets are slowly disappearing. "Clients may want one run, but, in general, they are trading uppers for windows," he explains. In place of that wall storage, architects are carving out spaces for larger pantries. Brennan also notes that lower drawers are replacing under-cabinet shelves, and customers are opting for lower ovens instead of wall ovens to create more counter space and a more open look.

Entrant/Architect: Brennan + Company Architects, Baltimore; Builder: Kodiak Construction Co., Baltimore; Interior designer: Roselind Cronin Sulin Interiors, Oella, Md.

Personal Touches

Price Pfister's Catalina Collection faucet has 1/4-turn ceramic disc valves and is available in popular brushed finishes.
Courtesy Price Pfister Price Pfister's Catalina Collection faucet has 1/4-turn ceramic disc valves and is available in popular brushed finishes.

A special faucet, something with some flair--that's a relatively inexpensive way to personalize a bath. Chrome finishes are still popular. But color accents, along with brushed and dark finishes, are now in vogue as well.

"As consumers see color used in creative ways in other parts of the home, it's only natural it would extend to the bath," says Delta's Dick Wolfe. Delta launched the colorful e-Flow faucet a couple of years ago. It recently expanded its color options with the Botanical Bath Collection. The line features optional interchangeable accents in a rainbow of colors to go with an assortment of spout and handle styles.

Botanicals, the company says, fit almost any bath decor from traditional to contemporary. Each faucet was named after a flower that inspired its distinct spout design. Two handle options are available. Each comes with interchangeable, colored accents.

Botanicals Collection faucet and accessories allow home buyers to personalize with color.
Courtesy Delta Botanicals Collection faucet and accessories allow home buyers to personalize with color.

Price Pfister, based in Lake Forest, Calif., reports that dark tones are hot right now. "Oil rubbed bronze is a very versatile finish that can help create colonial themes (popular in the Northwest) or Spanish-style settings (popular in the Southwest)," says Joel Williams, a representative for the company. "Copper, especially the antique (brushed) copper finishes, work to complement copper cookware, range hoods, and kitchen accessories."

The company's Catalina Collection features 1/4-turn ceramic disc valves and cast brass spout construction. In addition, the collection offers finishes such as brushed brass, polished chrome, and brushed nickel.