Four industry pros recently spent a day at our office deliberating for the 2014 Watermark Awards. The jurors—Maria Casarella, Cunningham|Quill Architects, Washington, D.C.; Jay Endelman, Guild Craft Homes, Bethesda, Md.; David Mitchell, David H. Mitchell & Associates, Washington; and Patricia Wynkoop, Miller and Smith, McLean, Va.—talked at length about why winning projects should not only demonstrate design excellence, but also push kitchen and bath design forward by innovation and trendsetting. There were a few animated exchanges on the finer points, but our panelists found common ground in determining overarching themes among the winning projects, which we highlight here.
1. Smaller Spaces Kitchens continue to be a hub and homeowners want open areas with strong ties to adjoining rooms, but smart compact layouts are replacing copious square footage. Even in kitchens and master baths, clients are prioritizing quality over quantity. “People can survive with less storage if it’s well-organized,” the jurors agreed. “Young people can’t afford big houses with monster-sized kitchens, and empty nesters are downsizing.”
2. Materials Luxury is being incorporated through high-end finishes. “Adding texture, visual interest, durability, drama, and bang for buck through material choices is a common theme,” said the jury, who noted the popularity of natural, raw materials. “Exterior materials are being used inside, as well as cool technology like the project with an image behind a glass backsplash.” Plus, “eco-friendly textiles appeal to younger buyers and follow fashion trends.”
3. Natural Light/Views/Link to Outdoors Targeted glazing to protect privacy appears in unexpected places like the shower or above the tub and brings added light and a feeling of space to these petite baths. “Even on suburban, tight lots, many of these projects place windows in ways to protect privacy while providing daylight, frame views of treetops or landscaping, and use high or low windows and horizontal bands instead of vertical shapes for glazing,” said the jurors.
4. Good Stewardship Our jurors came to the realization that the projects they gravitated toward all touched on what they called the biggest topic of sustainability: water conservation. “All had big ideas that push design forward, core philosophies of good stewardship, and water conservation is key. The project of the year is all about water—the bathroom is the hub of the house and is used to highlight water use.”
5. Pay Attention to the Ceiling “The ceiling often is the largest plane in the room and usually ignored,” according to the Watermark Awards panel, “but many of our winners added detail to this large expanse.” One way to enhance the ceiling’s effect is through lighting, noted the jurors. “Judicious lighting placement completes a nicely composed space without distracting from the architecture.”
6. Spatial Flow/Layout Many of the projects focus on extending views from the kitchen into other areas, and consider what the view into the kitchen will be from nearby living spaces. Extending the view outside also adds perceived space. “Using the kitchen to connect to the rest of house or creating interconnectivity and impact beyond the kitchen with the layout is apparent in many of the winners,” said the jury.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.