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Tucson design team wins national kitchen award
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Tucson design team wins national kitchen award

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When Lori Carroll started the initial design sketches for a kitchen in a new Foothills home in 2012, she had a good feeling, and told co-designer Debra Gelety she thought there was something special about the project.

That feeling turned out to be justified, as Lori Carroll & Associates recently won the 2016 Best Kitchen award from the National Kitchen & Bath Association for the design.

“It takes a team of people to produce this type of kitchen. … There’s a host of people that put all their design expertise together to create this,” Carroll said, citing the work of cabinet fabricators, granite installers, electricians and others.

The collaboration reaches back to before construction started on the house, homeowner Barbara Goldberg said, with an initial meeting between various contractors involved in the project.

“One of the reasons that we had such an extraordinarily wonderful experience with the entire building of the house was we had a fabulous contractor, an amazing landscape architect, a wonderful architect and a fabulous designer. So the whole team really worked,” Goldberg said.

The NKBA judges rate designs based on functionality, quality, durability, flexibility, aesthetics, style and innovation, Carroll said.

A few elements likely set this kitchen apart:

The countertops are made of two different materials: Tortuga quartzite and ice-age granite. The latter is also used for the backsplash and a wall feature in the connected dining area.

While the clients wanted a clean, contemporary design, they also wanted warmth, Carroll said, so the kitchen was completely wrapped in afromosia, a wood she characterized as having beautiful, exotic qualities.

Thick glass cabinets allow those in the kitchen to see through to the mountains beyond the property, which Goldberg said “makes it feel very open.”

Connected to the pantry is a “garage” for storing appliances. It has an automated door, allowing easy access and eliminating counter clutter.

The best-looking projects are not necessarily the winners; designs must also exhibit functionality and safety and meet the needs of the client, according to NKBA evaluation criteria.

The client was not interested in a kitchen just for show. Previous commercial work Carroll did for Goldberg and her husband established trust and familiarity, which allowed the designer to create a kitchen with her clients in mind, one with form and function in equal measure.

“She uses every inch of her kitchen,” Carroll said of Goldberg.

“I think that’s one of the things that really rings true about the kitchen is that it’s beautiful … and it’s being used,” Goldberg said.

The NKBA is the premier association for kitchen and bath professionals, according to the nonprofit’s website, and has more than 60,000 members. Over 400 projects from the United States and Canada vied in several categories for honors in the 2016 competition.

In 2006, Lori Carroll & Associates earned the NKBA’s Best Kitchen and Best Bath awards, which qualified as the Pinnacle of Design distinction.

Only NKBA members can enter the competition, and Carroll is quick to point out that the name of her company on the award could obscure how important collaboration was in the execution of the design.

“I’m honored to be part of these teams. It’s just a nice feeling. It’s even a more rewarding feeling … when you hear how much (clients) love the finished product. That to me is worth all the energy.”

While Carroll declined to say how much the award-winning design cost, she said the price of a kitchen design or remodel can vary widely depending on the scope of the project.

Professional touch-up and remodeling projects can start at around $15,000, while the costs of ground-up designs virtually have no limit, she said, adding that the choice of appliances, counter materials, furniture and lighting can alter the price drastically.

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