MERIT—Best kitchen in a single-family detached remodeled home—3,000 to 5,000 square feet WHEN ARCHITECT ROBERT Nichols set out to remodel his 1950s split-level, he made sure to place the kitchen in a central location. That's pretty typical of most renovations, but for this architect, wanting plenty of open sight lines went beyond mere aesthetics. Nichols is hearing impaired, so it's vital that he be able to look out from the kitchen to a number of vantage points. “Visual communication” is how he puts it.

That's the reasoning behind a second-floor bridge that connects to his wife's art studio and overlooks the kitchen. Above the kitchen, leading into that same studio, is a square wood panel that can be pivoted for a full or partial look down into the kitchen. Of course, visual cues aren't the only benefit—plenty of light filters in through these openings, too. An abundance of windows, skylights, and a wall of gleaming white tile in the kitchen all add to the wide-open effect.

Project: Nichols Residence, Washington; Entrant/ Architect: Nicholls Design Associates, Washington; Builder: Renovations Unlimited, Washington