Now You're Cooking!

By staff October 1, 2004

The Oscars. The Olympics. The Grammys. You name it. A host of special awards celebrate strong performance and style in a wide range of categories. And kitchen design is no exception. National and local associations recognize exemplary kitchens for their talent in combining beauty with performance, even under the pressure of the final act of a dinner party for 12 or cocktails for 60.

What makes a kitchen an award winner? Kitchens come in all shapes, sizes and styles; but whether they are contemporary or traditional, Oriental or eclectic, they need both good design and functionality. Winners combine beautiful materials and textures with an appealing, cohesive theme. And winning kitchens are often innovative; they're among the first to apply new techniques and products.

Since a kitchen is, above all, a workspace, efficiency earns points. The floor plan must have a traffic flow that saves steps and makes chores easier on the cook. The practical L-shape has long been considered one of the best designs, since it ensures that work surfaces and appliances are within convenient distance of each other. Today's larger kitchens stretch the rule by creating multiple work areas. With casual lifestyles, an open floor plan usually incorporates dining and entertainment space, frequently opening up to a family room.

The open space and open-door policy for visitors who chat with the cook has encouraged kitchens to go upscale. Cabinetry and accessories look like finished furniture, integrating the kitchen with the other rooms in the home.

The well-equipped kitchen combines preparation, cooking, and clean-up essentials with enjoyable extras that fit the homeowner's special needs, whether it's an extra-wide pizza oven, double spice drawers for the master chef or a microwave at counter height to suit the petite cook. Good lighting is essential, and today's lighting does double duty as an aesthetic highlight. Pendants, chandeliers, spotlights and interior cabinet lighting add luminous or dramatic effects in the evening.

These award-winning Sarasota kitchens have all earned kudos for extraordinary beauty and functionality. Enjoy the ideas they offer and apply the ones that work for you. That way you can award yourself the kitchen of your dreams.

Winner: Best Open Kitchen Design in North America/Overall Excellence

This condominium residence at Longboat Key Club's L'Ambience proves a kitchen doesn't have to be royally sized to have winning ways. It took first-place honors in the Open Kitchen category of the National Kitchen & Bath Association 2004 Design Competition, which attracted 334 entries from throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, judges selected this kitchen from among all the first-place winners in 11 design categories to receive the James H. Foster Jr. CKD Memorial Award for Overall Excellence.

EuroTech Cabinetry president David Asher worked with interior designer Anne Folsom Smith on the contemporary design for the combined kitchen/breakfast room and family room. The condominium is a vacation home for clients who are part of a large Italian family that loves good food and get-togethers. That means cooking for a crowd.

"The project was challenging because the area isn't large, but the owners wanted a comfortable private space for everyday cooking and dining," says Asher. "We scaled everything down but managed to fit in a lot of appliances and set it up so that the owner can cook in the style she's accustomed to." That also explains why a pot-filler over the range pulls out to provide water for all those pasta dishes.

Italian cooking also drove the choice of appliances. Asher found space for an extra-wide, 36-inch Gaggenau oven that's wide enough to fit a pizza-and comes with a stone specifically designed to cook it well. Another conventionally sized Gaggenau oven is located under the island; but it's hinged at the right side, rather than the bottom, so that the cook doesn't have to bend down.

Convenience also dictated the placement of the microwave oven, which is located above the counter but lower than the norm in order to make it easier for the petite homeowner to reach. The 21-cubic-foot Sub-Zero refrigerator holds the masses of fresh food needed for big Italian meals.

Stainless steel makes a contemporary statement throughout the kitchen. A General Electric cooktop has a Best ventilator hood with a stainless steel housing that was custom built to fit the space and décor. The under-mounted stainless steel Franke sink is complemented with a stainless steel backsplash. The latter is more than practical. It makes an incredible design statement, especially at night when low-voltage puck lamps under the cupboards reflect slashes of light onto the surface, lending modern-art flair.

The Bosch dishwasher is ultra-quiet, essential since the kitchen opens to the family room. It's completely integrated with the cabinetry thanks to controls hidden inside the door.

Despite the compact size, the area now has an inviting, open feeling that was further enhanced by adding curves to the design. Asher gives the credit to interior designer Anne Folsom Smith. "The space was a typical rectangle, but Anne is a master space planner and she wanted to give the space some soft, flowing, architectural interest," he says.

Tall cabinets and appliances are arranged in the efficient L-shape. A unique multilevel island ties the kitchen to the family room by providing kitchen workspace on the upper tier and dropping a level to become a sofa table on the other side. The island also incorporates a freestanding breakfast table that can be easily moved to allow for additional seating.

The creative interplay of woods, stone, metal and lacquered finishes brings visual interest and warmth. Many of the custom furniture pieces were created by EuroTech in a natural finish on quartered block mottle anigre; the kitchen work areas consist of maple cabinets with two different finishes, one natural and the other with a charcoal gray paint called anthracite. Countertops are made from Zodiaq R, an engineered quartz surface by DuPont?, and black star granite.

But the star of the scene is still the condominium's location on the Gulf. Careful organization of the functional elements of the room keeps the window wall unobstructed, letting family and guests cook and dine with a dazzling waterfront view.

Winner: 2004 Parade of Homes/Best Overall Kitchen & Best Kitchen $775,000 to $834,000

Ever wanted your own wine cave? That's just one of the extraordinary aspects of the kitchen in Todd Johnston's Wilshire model in University Park, which won Best Overall Kitchen in the 2004 Parade of Homes presented by the Home Builders Associations of Sarasota and Manatee counties. Separated by a scrolled, wrought-iron gate that could have come from a French country mansion, the wine cave contains not just one, but two individual wine chillers for storing both red and white wines at their ideal temperatures.

Ted Frank, senior designer at Finecraft Cabinetry, carved the winning wine cave from under the staircase next to the kitchen. Today's clients expect bigger and better kitchens, he notes. The Wilshire provides multiple traffic patterns and multiple workspaces, including two sink areas, one on the main peninsula and the other on the island. "Kitchens are now two to three times the size they were," says Frank. "The traditional triangle layout only functions in the old 80-square-foot kitchen. With kitchens that are 250 square feet or more, we need multiple work areas."

Rich architectural detail abounds in the award-winning Wilshire. The rich tones of cherry wood in the10-foot cooking hearth match the cabinetry. Below it, a commercial cooktop would make even a professional chef happy. The heavy, high-end unit features six gas burners with high BTUs.

Storage is ample, from the glass front cabinets and cupboard to an array of specialized storage units. The island holds what could easily be considered the ideal spice rack. A door opens to reveal row upon row of narrow shelves ideal for organizing spices in single lines, keeping each within view.

Next to the double sink is an ASKO dishwasher perfectly camouflaged by a finish and handles that integrate with the cabinetry fronts. Stainless steel appears in the Dacor oven and microwave. The Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator matches the cabinetry but adds stainless steel detailing to tie it all together. Two refrigerated drawers in the peninsula provide more chill-space for children's snacks or party preparation. And the wet bar incorporates a U-Line refrigerator with ice-maker for entertaining.

A curved ceiling detail above the wet bar repeats the same shape as the curved cabinet that holds the sink. Another curve graces the peninsula that visually ties the kitchen to the family room beyond. Small details ensure that the two areas maintain the same theme: The top of a chef's desk matches the kitchen's granite counters, and a cozy window seat nearby provides extra seating. The family room's built-in wall unit matches the cabinetry to hold TV and display artwork on open shelves.

Winner: 2004 Parade of Homes/ Best Kitchen $980,000 to $1.1 million

Traditional design reaches a whole new level of sophistication in Lee Wetherington's Addison model in Lakewood Ranch. "Kitchens are getting so elaborate that they are blended into the house. People like it, and the Addison is our best seller. We've sold 20 since the model opened in October," says Wetherington.

The Addison actually has two complete kitchens, since an outdoor kitchen on the lanai incorporates living and dining space and a fireplace. The indoor kitchen includes several different work areas and two full-size GE dishwashers. One is located on the oversized island, where a prep sink easily lets the cook chat with family or guests. The other is in the main kitchen area with a larger kitchen sink. Wetherington considers the two dishwashers necessary at this price level. "One dishwasher just isn't enough for very big dinner parties," he explains. The island dishwasher hides well; the controls are within the top of the door so the full-face front completely integrates with the cabinetry.

Two ovens, three if you consider the microwave, allow the busy cook to manage time and crowds. The GE Advantium oven is a speed cooker that takes 25 percent less time to cook, but a regular GE convection oven is also included.

The refrigerator is an extra-large, side-by-side Sub-Zero faced by wood panels that match the cabinetry. For entertaining, the dining room buffet holds a wine cooler and another refrigerator.

A host of fine design details are incorporated, chief among them the range hood. Located over a stainless steel GE cooktop, it captures attention through an ornate stone tile design. The diamond pattern above it is subtly repeated in the diamonds of the stone floor tile. A tile and stone backsplash makes what could be a merely practical area into a stunning design statement.

A columnar design on the island corners flanks several open bookshelves that are ideal for cookbooks and collectibles.

As in many of his other kitchen designs, Wetherington staggered the heights of the cabinets. The stepped effect adds fluidity and flair. Glass-fronted cabinets alternate with the traditional solid cabinetry to add even more variety and interest.


Nine nifty kitchen products.

Retro-styled Refrigerator.Elmira Stove Works combines rounded corners, chrome and bright '50s colors with modern features like ice dispensers- definitely not available in the be-bop era.

A Range That Cools and Cooks. Just put your meal into Whirlpool's PolaraT Refrigerated Range and it will keep it cool all day until the timed-setting tells it to begin cooking.

All-in-One Cooktop, Range and Microwave. Sharp Electronics saves space with a 30-inch electric, freestanding or slide-in Insight Range that combines a ceramic cooktop, a choice of conventional or convection oven, and a microwave drawer.

Wall-integrated Range Hood. Faber creates Concept, a ventilation panel that integrates into the wall, with a heat and vapor sensing system that provides remote control operation and four speeds plus power burst.

Zodiaq® Engineered Quartz Countertops. DuPont'sT newest premium surface is man-made to incorporate the strength and beauty of natural quartz with radiant colors-and it's stain, heat and scratch-resistant.

Ultra-quiet Bosch Dishwasher. So quiet, it's hard to believe it's working, but the SHU68 model offers powerful cleaning and a stainless steel interior.

Slim Richelieu Recessed Halogen Light. The emphasis these days is on beautifully lit cabinets; this 20-watt recessed fixture with polished aluminum reflector bulb fits easily with a depth of just 5/8."

Viking Warming Drawers. Stylish, under-counter drawers adjust for moisture control and temperature from 90 to 250 degrees to keep plates warm or dinner at optimum temperature.

Fast GE Advantium Oven. Revolutionary speed cook technology requires no preheating and cooks up to eight times faster than a conventional oven. 

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