You no longer need to be an early adopter to enjoy the benefits of tech in the home, but bridging the gap between digital innovation and a beautiful, seamless user experience is still an ongoing process. While some helpful one-off updates have caught on en masse, others have brought on backlash. But, as current-day progress proves, thoughtful design will go a long way in continuing to bridge that gap. To explore the connection between technology and human living, interior designer Ghislaine Viñas — a contemporary of Design Hunting editor Wendy Goodman — headed up the tech-and-design challenge for our fellowship.
Specifically, Viñas asked fellows Selin Kurun, Nick Ozemba, Ajaee Shepard, and Spencer Sight to design a kitchen island (and surrounding room) that integrates technology in a way that elevates the user experience — paying special attention to the senses, and drawing from a personal experience with water. As a springboard for the fellows’ creative process, they inspected the Delta Esque® Kitchen Faucet with Touch₂O® and ShieldSpray® Technologies: A modern fixture that starts and stops water flow with a simple touch, and includes a “ShieldSpray” setting to avoid splatter. The group also visited The Senses Exhibit: Design Beyond Vision at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum as a research exercise. Watch the video above to see the challenge in action. Then, learn more about each kitchen design below.
“My inspiration came from the water fountains found in Islamic architecture. While traveling in Istanbul, I noticed these beautiful features throughout the city, outside of mosques and in the middle of courtyards, and how people interacted with and around them. People would drink from a fountain or wash their hands and face; those strolling by in conversation would slow down and stand by one before continuing on. For me, they served as a reminder to pause. With Ghislaine’s direction in mind, I thought back to how the fountains seemed to serve as gathering points, much like kitchen islands are at home.
Incorporating technologically advanced products like the Delta faucet allows the user the freedom to move throughout the kitchen seamlessly, to be in the moment. My multi-functioning design gives users the option to gather around the island or transform the space into a dining area with the push of a button. The island disguises the high-tech appliances for an elegant, uninterrupted look. Evoking the senses, an integrated water feature trickles water down to the pool. All setting the tone for the ultimate, serene outdoor experience.”
“The natural wonders of the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge in Melbourne, Australia — made up of large stacks of limestone and caves caused by erosion — sparked my idea for a tech-driven island. I positioned the Delta Touch₂O Esque Faucet in the center of it as a focal point, and crafted the organic shape to resemble the limestone pillars, leaving it with a raw limestone finish to deliver a strong sense of touch. The front of the island is occupied with a subtle crack of changing LED light, highlighting my concept of the Stone Age colliding with new-age technology.
Another interactive sensory element is found on the island’s top surface. Placing a hand in a handprint molded in the stone — like handprints found in caves — plays music based off the user’s mood. An integrated hydroponic system also grows fresh herbs and small vegetables; users can view its hydration and nutrient levels through a tech-powered monitoring system. With a touch, the soilless vertical garden elevates out of the island; while not in use, the plants live in an incubator beneath the surface, viewable through a glass cutout on the front of the island. Growth-facilitating LED lights in the incubator change color based off the plants’ circadian rhythms.”
“Summers in the landlocked Midwest are brutally hot. My parents have a pool in the backyard of their home, and it’s an oasis for our friends and family, where we come together to find relief from the heat and from societal pressures. My goal was to create a kitchen island within a pool house that carries on that ethos. My island is contemporary but comfortable, outfitted with custom modular cabinets, folding up to accommodate additional seating, and accessible from inside the kitchen or perched up behind the pool.
It was exciting to figure out how to incorporate cutting-edge technology that helps enhance the environment, recreation, relaxation, and rejuvenation. I designed a way to grow produce in the kitchen, so you could take vegetables directly to the grill, and a humidity-controlled, refrigerated grow chamber sits vertically to the left of the island. A 3D printer built into the island can provide an additional place setting or a uniquely shaped spatula. The walls are covered in pressed rose petal wallpaper that’s aesthetically and aromatically pleasing. And antique nautical light fixtures echo the shape of the Delta Touch₂O Esque Faucet, providing smart lighting that can also be touched on and off.”
“This kitchen is inspired by the bold flavors of the sun-drenched fishing villages along the Mediterranean coast. I designed the island as a free-standing piece of furniture with an integrated bench that can be paired with any dining table. The structure reflects the idea of artistry, and allows two chefs to prepare meals simultaneously, with easy access to appliances and pantry storage directly behind it. I designed the surface with dual prep surfaces, and it includes integrated storage, as well as pull-out waste receptacles for easy removal.
I wanted colorful, farm-fresh cuisine to stand front and center in this kitchen, and it pairs beautifully with the understated, neutral-toned counter. High-CRI lighting is fixed above, illuminating produce to their truest colors. And I added a decorative and ambient light fixture above the dining table that adjusts to different settings, providing the perfect ambiance for every meal.”
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