Liz Hansen, the daughter of Paul and Francis Hansen, formerly of Storm Lake, has taken top honors for kitchen design from The National Kitchen and Bath Association.
A graduate of Storm Lake High School, Firebaugh received her marketing degree from the University of Northern Colorado. She has worked in the design field since 1980 and now works for Signature Kitchens in Petoskey, Mich.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) awarded Firebaugh its 2005 Pinnacle of Design award. The honor is in recognition of the best overall design project in the 2005 NKBA Design Competition. Firebaugh, also an Online Voters' Choice recipient, won for one of her latest kitchen designs in Bay Harbor, a well-known luxury community just south of Petoskey.
Firebaugh took first-place honors in the Open Plan Kitchen category (great room, breakfast nook, and dining room), one of 11 total categories in the competition. Her winning design was then chosen as best overall for the Pinnacle of Design honor. Besides the Pinnacle prize and features in major consumer publications, Firebaugh was honored at the NKBA Board of Directors Gala in Las Vegas on May 9. Accompanying Firebaugh to the awards ceremony was co-designer Amy Dixon.
A panel of noted designers, editors, publishers, and industry professionals judged the entries. Award criteria included visual appeal, creativity, elements and principles of design, presentation, and basic safety and ergonomics.
The Pinnacle winning kitchen design was particularly challenging for several reasons. First, the nine-month timetable was comparatively short; Firebaugh had to move quickly from concept to finished room.
Second, the space itself was unusual in that it was part of a very open floor plan created to take advantage of spectacular water views.
"There weren't very many walls to position things," Firebaugh said. "We (Firebaugh and Dixon) had to take advantage of every wall space we had."
Third, the client needed an environment that was equally suited to small and informal family meals as well as large catered affairs. The result was an elegant mix of function and style.
Dark Cherry cabinets, massive but not overwhelming, anchor either side of a rich, bronze-topped island. Limestone tiles behind the stove add a textural counterpoint. Dual microwaves, dishwashers, and refrigerators are located to serve family needs as well as social functions. Overall, the project was a happy combination of necessity and creativity.
"I was fortunate," Firebaugh said. "I had a trusting, decisive client, a great space to work with, and the opportunity to shape it."
Firebaugh is no stranger to attention-getting designs. Her kitchen and bath creations have earned a steady stream of industry-wide attention, accolades, and awards. In the last 18 months alone, she has been featured on three national magazine covers and in nine extensive editorial features. Women's Day, Better Homes & Gardens' Kitchens & Baths, and Midwest Living, to name a few, have all taken notice in their pages.
The Pinnacle of Design award was conceived by the NKBA to honor overall design excellence. The NKBA, originally founded as the American Institute of Kitchen Dealers in 1963, has evolved from a representative of product dealers to a multi-faceted association with more than 8,000 voting members in 50 states and seven Canadian provinces. In addition to representing its professional members, the NKBA promotes research and standards, fosters student programs, and hosts one of the nation's largest trade shows. Its Pinnacle of Design award is recognized as the benchmark for professional achievement nationwide.