Designer    Feature 16 Feb 2017

What makes for an award-winning kitchen or bathroom design at the Designer Awards?

So what makes for an award-winning kitchen or bathroom design? We asked a few people who know more than a bit about this subject – past winners of the Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Awards, as well as judge Renee Mascari – for their advice on how to give yourself the best chance of success when the awards open for entries again in a few months’ time…


Darren Morgan, Designer Kitchen by Morgan

The Designer Kitchen and Bathroom Awards celebrate innovation, creative thinking and problem solving, so if your project has all these qualities you could be in with a chance of winning. There is no secret formula to winning one of these prestigious awards but having the right client can certainly help your chances. Clients who are prepared to trust your ideas and run with them can invigorate your creativity allowing you to reinvent your own standards and raise the bar of design.

When faced with a challenging brief it can be about imagining beyond what is already available, about creating something unique that has a purpose or solves a problem. And when you have travelled that extra mile and delivered something that exceeds even your own expectations you may then have a chance of impressing a panel of industry experts.

A picture is worth a thousand words! We live and work in a visual world so if your imagery isn’t right, you’ll not be able to project the innovative qualities of your design qualities. All the flowery language in the world will not express the visual impact of a design but once hooked on the imagery the judges will want to delve deeper in order to fully understand the complexities of your design. It’s therefore important to support your images with clear written details about your project focusing on the innovative qualities of your design.

To be recognised by your peers is a great honour so if you are lucky enough to become a finalist or even a winner at the Designer Awards it can seen as a clear indicator that your work and business values quality and strives to deliver excellence.

Industry recognition can also reward a designer’s passion and dedication to a discipline that has been continually undervalued by the wider design community. It is only though events like the Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Awards that we will continue to showcase the quality of work within our industry, raising the bar and ultimately present KBB design as a serious design influencer.


Dorian Bowen, Project One

Set aside ample time to do your project justice when entering. A rushed entry won’t show the full attention to detail that you actually gave the project when creating it. Professional photos are not a requirement as such, but being able to present clear images of what you have worked so hard on is a must.  If the only way to really achieve this is with a professional, then I would say it is very much worth the cost. Finally, write, edit, write and edit again. Chances are you missed a significant detail the first time around or maybe have thought of a better way to phrase what you want to say more succinctly. Do all you can to help the judges understand what you have done and why you did it that way. Don’t make them have to work to give you the award!

Ultimately, the effort is worth it; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain as it can bring recognition and affirmation as well as helping to highlight the standard of work to potential clients.


Robert Burnett, Holloways of Ludlow

In order to stand out from the crowd, there needs to be something about the design, and how it evolved, which captures the imagination of the judges. Perhaps it was an unusual client brief which produced an individual and creative design solution, or an unusual use of materials. Perhaps there was an opportunity to make the most of a particularly striking space.

To successfully communicate why the kitchen is worthy of an award, it’s often important to have the right photography. In terms of the other details submitted, try to capture your thought process from receiving the client’s brief, through to delivering the end solution. Why were your solutions better than those another designer may have thought of, and how did the client benefit as a result?

In an industry which lacks any recognised qualification, credibility is key. Winning an award from well-respected magazine provides a level of confidence and reassurance to customers which is otherwise almost impossible to achieve.


Matt Podesta, Podesta Design

Generally projects that show initiative, great design, new materials and a clever answer to the brief stand a stronger chance. It may have been on the tricky site, access was awkward, or there were interior hurdles that needed to be addressed. If these details are highlighted, then the design will be given greater consideration. The judges are all seasoned designers themselves and in my view are not just looking for fresh ideas and concepts, but also the practical aspects that all designers have to consider when delivering to their client. 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!

In terms of the actual submission itself, you need to package the presentation really well. This needs not only to be in terms of drawings and good quality images, but a well written piece explaining the brief, how you tackled the project, what issues you may have encountered and how you overcame them. Try and remember that the judges may not know you, therefore you are presenting blind so if you keep it sharp, eye catching and inventive then it will stand a better chance of catching their eye.

I think a lot of designers, especially less experienced ones are nervous of having a go. My advice is to try and send out at least one a year, the more you try, the better you will get and eventually the recognition will come. Remember, it is not about winning (although this can be very pleasant of course!) but taking part. Even if your design doesn’t reach the final stage, it may well get recommendation and a piece of paper to hand above your desk to remid you that actually you are damn good!

Ultimately, finalist or winner doesn’t really make much difference, they both look good and carry lots of kudos. I have found that it really gives clients a boost to think they have an award-winning designer coming to them; they are likely to pay you more respect (not always shown!) and take your proposals more seriously. With commercial clients it is a massive bonus because they can claim they have ‘an award-winning designer’ on their project and if you are a part of a business, then you can let the accolade filter over the whole team. On a personal level, it’s just a nice feeling to have, especially when your friends and peers say well done and this boosts your self esteem. You also get to put it on your email signature so you can remind someone every time you mail them!


Diane Berry, Diane Berry Kitchens

When I design a kitchen I try to make sure that each one would stand up to being judged, not particularly looking at fancy things, but more about making sure the basics are perfect; so safe, adequate space storage and work surface heights are right for the client and all their needs are dealt with from choosing the right extractor to vent the room to noise of appliances when open plan. So getting all the basics right are essential for considering if it is worthy of sending in. Then once we have all this sorted  then materials, flair, colour, light all add to my list of ‘do I think the job is special and will stand out in a crowd’.

Things to consider once you have chosen the one to enter are that firstly, professional photographs help show the room to its best, and secondly, write about your clients truthfully/ If they wanted something and you don’t like what they wanted, just say that as you are providing judges with an understanding of how you pushed your clients to choose better ideas than they ever dreamed of. Sometimes  we have to give the client what they want and accept this detail was important to them – even if not to our liking – but it’s important to give the awards judges this insight into the project.

So what does winning bring to a designer or a business? Well, as a designer it helps raise your profile and could help you open doors if you choose to move jobs or even negotiate a pay rise. Any business would love to be able to shout about the fact that they have an award-winning designer.

I believe every designer should make time to enter the awards. I hear so many times ‘I just didn’t have the time I am too busy.’ How can we be too busy to email a plan and visuals of a kitchen we have already drawn, take photos of a kitchen we have already fitted and visited (we all have cameras in our pockets these days) and then write about something we know all about with a restriction on the number of words? I usually spend one evening doing my entry and that’s it otherwise I wouldn’t have time to look after my clients.

The list of benefits that winning awards bring to a business is almost endless. The more I have won, the more I appreciate their importance. It has opened so many doors for me. I have travelled all over the world doing design and installs in Barbados, South of France, Scotland, Wales, Italy and I have been invited to present at conferences on design and interviewed for national and local press.

So entering awards has been, and will continue to be, a huge part of my business and I can’t thank the companies who run them enough as it really has helped to elevate the kitchen business from a business all about closing a deal and selling, to one that has a large part of the industry respecting and striving for design first.

My first thought – and the starting point for any potentially award-winning scheme – is how can I design the very best kitchen for my client and not how can I sell them something. The sale will follow if all else is done well.


Colin Wong, Development Direct

I think that a designer will instinctively know at heart when a project is unique and as soon as they have this special feeling then these projects are often noticed by the judges.

Work closely together with the client to ensure that the whole space and not just the kitchen comes together holistically and then ensure the photos show all your essential detailing. A true designer’s role isn’t finished after the kitchen is done. Have design ownership over the whole space/

No matter how weak the space and brief are, face each design with a positive mindset that strives to create something unique and inspiring. Some of my most successful scheme derive from the most testing of spaces – and often the most blinkered of clients. This design journey can often result in the most rewarding and unique schemes. Never allow client negativity to suppress your design.

The Designer Awards have been special part of my design life and being open to all designers throughout the kitchen and bathroom industry – including architects – makes them especially satisfying. I still fondly remember all my successes at these awards and they certainly changed the dynamics of my business. clients now come from far afield and often give me a blank canvas with no design restrictions. My design work has subsequently become so much more enjoyable with an air of freedom where design is at the forefront instead of the normal mind-numbing commercialism that can so often taint real design.


Renee Mascari, Mascari Design

Having been honoured to judge industry design awards for some time, it has always fascinated me to see how a forum of judges arrive at a collective decision. So what is it that a judge is looking for? Living spaces have changes significantly over the past few years and so have client lifestyle and expectations. As judges we are looking for designs that represent current styles and trends, considered ergonomics, how the designer deals with architectural constraints, as well as current regulations and compliance. Designers must demonstrate that they understand the value of working to a client brief and budget, able to present their design concepts to a high standard and in a lot of cases, project manage the entire project.

They are expected to deliver a complete design solution; it can never just be form over function. No matter how fabulous a design looks, at the end of the day a kitchen or bathroom design includes live services, it has to function correctly and ultimately, and must deliver on the clients’ aspirations. Open living spaces need to stimulate the senses, create the mood whether it be cooking, dining imbibing or socialising, incorporate the passion for living, eating and relaxing in one informal space in both a functional and creative design solution.

Why enter for a design award? Well, winning informs your clients that they are in the hands of a skilled designer who represents the very best in creative and innovative talent our industry has to offer.

Published in Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Magazine