kitchen design sub-zero and wolfIf anyone knows anything about amazing kitchens, it’s the guys at Sub-Zero and Wolfe. And ever since my designer friend had a successful entry in Sub-Zero and Wolf’s Kitchen Design Contest a few years back, I’ve studied the winning designs with great interest.

After all, these are the world’s top kitchen designers on display!

The kitchen design contest gets hundreds of entries from “the best of the best” in kitchen design, worldwide, and drops a load of valuable hints about what materials, appliances and overall design tones will soon be most in demand in new and renovated kitchens across North America.

For its most recent contest, Sub-Zero and Wolf enlisted seven of the country’s top design professionals and architects to judge the 1,046 entries. Here are some of the trends spotted by the judging panel:

International Feel

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Nationwide, designs are incorporating more of an international feel, with simpler and more sophisticated aesthetics. Jamie Drake, MaryJo Camp and Wendy Mendes all mentioned their surprise at finding very modern, contemporary kitchens – ones that would fit perfectly in a cosmopolitan home – in the heartland of America. Drake noted, “While America’s kitchens are predominantly traditional, even the traditional design entries reflected a modern approach that was cleaner and less fussy – an approach that we typically see in international designs.”

Mixed Materials

There is greater acceptance of a more component-like approach to the kitchen, in which materials are mixed to create a custom-styled space that can be used however the homeowner wishes. For example, multiple cabinet styles and finishes can be paired with several countertop surfaces and backsplashes to create a kitchen with separate zones for cooking, officing, etc. – what Robert Schwartz calls “a multizoned style for a multifunction area.”

New Age Materials

Materials including crystallized glass, terrazzo and quartz are replacing traditional granite surfaces. As Matthew Quinn noted, “More emphasis is being placed on material quality, texture and color rather than simply big size, high cost and quantity.”

Green Design

The trend toward green is influencing not only the choice of energy-efficient appliances but also the choice of environmentally conscious materials used in kitchen design. Patti Weaver commented on this trend: saying further, “Homeowners want sustainable, renewable and eco- friendly resources used in their homes. This trend leads to increased marketplace visibility of recycled-glass products, cast-stone products made from recycled marble and limestone, and renewable woods like Lyptus and bamboo.”


Embellishments in the kitchen have evolved into a reflection of the homeowner’s personality, with designers incorporating intricate details such as mosaic flooring and ceilings and textured paints. Colorful accent pieces and other accoutrements including collectibles and antiques are also making appearances in a growing number of kitchens.

As well, a few “timeless trends that are still demonstrating great design influence and staying power” came to light. For example, appliance integration was a common component in contest entries, as increasingly modern designs call for a seamless, clean-lined approach. Specialized appliances continue to show up as a reflection of the homeowner’s lifestyle, such as refrigerators with extra-large crisper drawers and countertops with integrated steamer units for those who focus on a healthy lifestyle.

More and more designers are creating a free flow between the kitchen and the rest of the house, as kitchens are increasingly designed as the centerpiece of the home, used as much for social gathering as for food preparation.

I was quite surprised to note that the stainless-steel-appliance trend continues, for some reason, in contrast to the natural materials and warm personalization that’s taking the rest of the kitchen by storm. Stainless steel, of course, emerged as part of the “gourmet” trend towards a more “professional” or commercial feel…

Nevertheless, the judges estimated that more than 65 percent of the contest entrants used stainless steel appliances in their design schemes, confirming that although new materials are increasingly sought-after, stainless steel remains in high demand.

It will be interesting to see if that trend continues through the next Kitchen Design Contest, which Sub-Zero and Wolf are planning to take place in 2006/2007. For more information, and inspiration, visit

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