Students Use Lighting to Set the Mood in National Kitchen and Bath Contest
March 7, 2012 - 4:28pm

He likes sports; she likes romance. He wants a bar in the kitchen; she wants a breakfast nook where the kids can play — once they have kids.

How do you design a home to appease both the yin and yang of a newly married couple and come up with a concept that’s fresh and innovative? That was the challenge presented to college students across the country this year as part of the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 2007/2008 Student Design Competition.

Students were asked to design a functional kitchen and bath concept for a fictional newlywed couple building a Spanish ranch home in Texas. Hundreds of students entered the contest, but only eight winners were chosen to receive a total of $10,000 in scholarships.

Lighting took center stage in both of the first-place designs.

Danielle Mohlman, 22, a senior at the University of Nebraska who came in first place in the bathroom category, says she used two different lighting concepts to symbolize the two different personalities of the fictional homeowners.

Mohlman used the Spanish dessert flan as the inspiration for her bathroom, and she used Spanish-style wrought-iron wall sconces from Bellacor to embody the warmer, more romantic personality of the wife.

“The sconces have curly cue wrought-iron so it’s kind of a rustic feel, but also romantic,” Mohlman explains. “They’re not a very bright light; they’re very warm and calming and romantic. I placed those within the separate compartment of the bathroom area, but also above the whirlpool tub to kind of set the mood so they can kind of get in there and relax.”

To appease the cooler personality of the husband, Mohlman incorporated recessed lighting near the vanities and used a Lutron lighting system in the window-less room to allow the fictional couple the ability to control the lights so they could have brighter light in the morning while they were getting ready and dimmer lighting at night if they were in the mood for a romantic bubble bath.

In the shower, Mohlman chose a Kohler WaterTile, which can light up in various colors.

“It’s supposed to be entertaining and kind of really enhance the mood when you’re showering,” Mohlman says. “I chose green because it’s a very healing and rejuvenating color, so it can relax and refresh you when you come out of that shower so it feels like a brand new day, and you’re ready to go off and work and have more energy when you’re working during the day.”

In the kitchen category, first-place winner Tanja Uzar, 33, a junior at Bringham Young University-Idaho, also varied her lighting techniques to accommodate the different personalities of the couple.

In the outline of the project, the husband said he wanted to have space in the kitchen for a bar, as well as a place to display sports memorabilia, and the wife dictated that she wanted a place to have breakfast and romantic dinners. And the couple also indicated that they wanted a place for a washer and dryer, recycling area and pantry in addition to the regular area of the kitchen with a refrigerator, sink, stove and cabinets.

To accommodate the various functions of the room, Uzar had to use many different lighting techniques. She used flush ceiling-mounted lights in the laundry room and recycling area, LED rope lights underneath the cabinets in the bar area and different groupings of recessed cans over the rest of the room.

She also used lighting to differentiate among the various areas of the room instead of using walls to divide the space.

“I designed it so that if you were in the kitchen area, you could turn the recessed lighting off in the bar area and just concentrate on the bar area,” Uzar says.

Still, Uzar wanted the entire room to feel unified, so she hung amber-colored wine bottle-shaped pendants from Meyda Tiffany in groups of three in the bar area, the kitchen area and in the breakfast nook.

“Because the spaces were so different, I wanted to use color and also lighting fixtures to unify the space, so I had to use lighting fixtures that would be flexible enough that would go with all the areas and would add to the harmony of the space,” Uzar says.

Both Mohlman and Uzar, who are both majoring in interior design, say it’s an exciting time in terms of lighting, but they say it’s difficult for interior design students to become aware of the different types of lighting that’s available in the marketplace.

“I think we would love to learn more about sustainable lighting, but we just don’t know where to turn,” Uzar says. “To really know which products are sustainable and what kind of light they render… I would really love to learn more about it.”

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