Kitchen Design Planning : Reporting back from JENN-AIR

This summer I had the amazing opportunity of being invited by the JENN-AIR brand at the gorgeous World of Whirpool Corporation in Chicago. Other design specialists and myself were flown out to the windy city and treated to an intensive training forum on state of the art kitchen technologies. Chicago Airport | Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch   I was mesmerized by the psychedelic lights in the Chicago airport corridors! Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch

Whirpool clearly knows how to treat their guests. They have their own chef on site and employees get to eat gourmet meals every day..Sigh. Delicious lunch on the rooftop terrace at Whirpool Headquarters | photo Barbara Elza Hirsch 2014-07-08 19.55.52 All dishes prepared by Whirpool Chicago’s Corporation chefs | Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch

It was a good thing the food was nutritious as there was a lot to learn about in a short visit. Here’s what I learned. JENN-AIR was founded in 1947 and is the inventor of down draft technology, a form of ventilation on the cooktop. They are also the first brand to have offered convection ovens in the USA. After going through a dark phase, it was aquired by Whirpool in 2006. Relaunched in 2009 as a luxury brand, JENN-AIR is considered a step above the Kitchen Aid, Maytag and Whirpool brands. Whirpool did some strategic thinking to figure out how to define and place each of their brands so as not to compete with each other. It was great fun to walk through the Whirpool training center and showrooms and see Maytag washing machines, Whirpool fridges or Kitchen Aid mixers. 1919 Kitchen Aid Mixer | photo Barbara Elza Hirsch The first Kitchen Aid mixer (1919) came attached with this cabinet and was wheeled by saleswomen door to door! Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch

JENN-AIR now offers a full suite of beautiful streamlined appliances. General Manager Steve Brown-an architect by trade-brings to the designs European flair and a great sense of clean and appealing design. Kitchen Design Considerations: Ellen Cheever of Ellen Cheever & Associates was a tremendous speaker and source of knowledge. I’d like to share some tips she shared which are essential in today’s kitchen design. -Kitchen planning standards have changed. Start with selecting appliances before you select cabinets. It helps with issues such as clearance rules or installation differences which one wants to be prepared for before specifying cabinetry. -As much as possible, try to select a suite of appliances so to offer clients a cohesive design look. -Two sinks is ideal but if there is not enough room, try to specify a multi-configuration sink. -As much as possible, try to invest in a small under counter ice machine. It makes the best clean ice, at an ideal temperature. -The height of appliances is extremely important. Design with your client in mind. -People are interested in new technologies such as an integrated coffee machine, a steam oven, induction ovens, etc.

Below are a few features on some of the newer technologies I saw in action and was most impressed with:

Induction cooktops have made tremendous progress. In the 80’s and 90’s induction burners used to steal power from each other. Modern induction burners offer a very responsive source of heat and offer the advantage of doubling up as an extra work surface. Today’s induction cooktops are 90% efficient compared to electric (60%) or gas (40 to 50%). Jenn-Air Induction Cooktop, 36" JIC4536XS JENN-AIR offers an induction cooktop that has a sensor boil option: it boils the water automatically for you and lets you know with a beeping sound when it is ready. The induction cooktop has elements below the burner surface that send electromagnetic forces to heat conducive pots. This allows for a safe cooking surface, as human hands being non-heat conducive, they cannot burn. Middle burners are today’s prime piece of real estate on any cooktop. It’s where the strongest heat source is located. JENN-AIR offers an exclusive 5000 wattage (36000 btu) middle burner.

Another fascinating technology was ventilation:  This Jenn-Air® luxury telescoping downdraft ventilation offers minimal design and powerful performance right at the cooking surface. The sleek telescoping downdraft vent appears at the touch of a button, and elegantly retracts back into the countertop when not in use. An unexpected refinement in ventilation, each Accolade™ Downdraft Ventilation System is individually crafted and hand-polished. Its graceful movement is matched by its singular performance: It powerfully, quietly, beautifully clears the air, then disappears on command. It’s truly at the forefront of design and performance. JENN-AIR has beautiful ceiling ventilation such as this beauty (offering high clearance, ideal for taller individuals): JENN-AIR ventilation | photo Barbara Elza Hirsch  The average home kitchen releases 1 to 5 gallons of grease per year, hence the importance of ventilation! One should never underestimate the importance of adequate ventilation. Ideally, a ventilation system should be 6 inches wider than your cooktop. it is ok to have it the same width, but some states have different code regulations regarding this matter.

I was pleased to hear downdraft vents (vent is on the cooktop and vents downwards) have much improved over the last few years.

Steam Oven cooking grabbed my attention and I sure wish my kitchen had room for this 24 inch Steam/Convection oven: Jenn-Air 24-Inch Steam and Convection Wall Oven JBS7524BS This versatile wall oven uses steam to preserve nutrients in vegetables and tenderness in meats, and convection for evenly-baked pastries and roasts. One can use steam and convection together for food that’s tender inside and roasted or crisped outside.

The steam/convection oven offers 11 preset food categories in its steam options, 89 presets in all! These can be used manually or automatically. It operates with a water reservoir that needs to be refilled (but never mid cooking). With steam cooking,  there is 0% odor transfer between foods being cooked. This means you can easily cook salmon, baked beans and dessert all in one!

The eco-focused Whirpool facility we trained in was built at this Chicago historic landmark building using locally-sourced construction materials; materials made from recycled, renewable and/or recyclable content; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and low VOC coatings. Even the construction waste was carefully recycled throughout the project. The location uses extensive day lighting, and includes a large outdoor space with an herb garden providing fresh ingredients for cooking demonstrations and events. Housed in Chicago’s Reid Murdoch Center, it offers a fantastic clock tower with offices inside the tower: Inside the Whirpool Tower, chicago | Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch

Views from the tower were amazing:

Chicago | photo Barbara Elza Hirsch  | photo Barbara Elza Hirsch The outdoor terrace of the Whirpool Facility as seen from the tower.

A really cool brick detail of the inside of the renovated tower:

Inside Whirpool Clock Tower | photo Barbara Elza Hirsch

I’d like to share a final fantastic new JENN-AIR product called the obsidian refrigerator:

Obsidian fridge

 The Obsidian Refrigerator by JENN-AIR: The dual evaporator system creates two distinct and independent climates for enhanced food preservation. Offering LED lighting throughout the interior, the Obsidian minimizes shadows and reflects against the black interior to dramatically display ingredients. Saw it in person: as cool as it sounds!

Technologies are constantly evolving and it is so helpful for us to see what is out there. I truly enjoyed my time in Chicago, the kind hospitality of Whirpool and JENN-AIR. I came back with a better understanding of what one needs to consider in today’s kitchen designs.

Brizo In Memphis and a Powerful Partnership for Children

This summer I had the opportunity to gather with an extraordinary group of people, all “alumnis” of the Brizo Blogger19. As you may remember from my January and February blog posts, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend a workshop organized by Brizo-creators of stylish plumbing fixtures- in New York during Fashion Week, where we also discovered Jason Wu’s glorious designs. Since 2010, Brizo has been inviting an elite group of designers, architects and influencers, which has since grown to include nearly 130 leaders in their fields, and from all over the globe. While diverse in their aesthetic, the Blogger 19 are all united by a shared experience at New York Fashion Week, hosted by the premium faucet brand Brizo.

A primary sponsor of fashion designer Jason Wu, Brizo believes high-style applies not just to the clothes we wear but is a lifestyle that extends to our aesthetic at home. Hence their innovative creations in stylish plumbing!!!

It was quite moving to be reunited all together at once, and we met many peers we had only spoken to long distance, via social media. I cannot stress enough the importance of a community in the Design Industry. We help each other grow, learn, think, exchange, and everyone benefits.

Memphis, as seen from Peabody hotel | Chez Elza                

View of Memphis from my Peabody Hotel bedroom. Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

This trip was particularly meaningful to me.

We learned about Brizo’s ongoing partnership with Memphis’ St Jude’s Children Research Hospital : Since 2010, Brizo has been a national sponsor for the St Jude Dream Home Giveaway, donating more than 1 million dollars to date in furnishings and fundraising efforts.

We were invited by the Brizo management to visit the hospital on site.

A few notes about the hospital:
-St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® opened in 1962 and was
founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas.
Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
A small exhibit on Danny Thomas is hosted inside the Arabic inspired cupola. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch
Photo Credit Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza
Thomas was of Lebanese origin and Lebanon was extremely supportive of his project. Photo Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch
PhotPhoto credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza
Beautiful detail of the cupola where we listened to speakers and had breakfast before the tour. Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch 
-St Jude’s mission is to find cures for children with cancer and other deadly diseases through pioneering research and exceptional care.
-No family ever pays St. Jude for anything.
-In 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, was 4 percent. Today, the survival rate for this once deadly disease is94 percent, thanks to research and treatment.
-The daily operating cost for St. Jude is $1.7 million, which is primarily covered by public contributions
-St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world
-St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted to children.
-St. Jude researchers are published and cited more often in high impact publications than any other private pediatric oncology institution in America.

We spent a day visiting the hospital with Brizo managers and employees, touring the facilities, even meeting with patients and families.

It was hard. It was moving.

The hospital’s multidenominational chapel.

All of us have been touched by cancer directly or indirectly: to witness the spirit of St Jude’s daily battle and incredible tenacity and optimism is truly a gift. Nobody wants to hear about illness or dying, but the reality is, it’s part of life.

As a designer reporting about the hospital, I tried to also approach this visit from a design perspective. Color and architecture, space planning and art were central elements all around the hospital.

Some say design is superfluous. It’s not. It is a central element in our surroundings. Appealing and inviting spaces make us feel loved and comfortable.

I commend St. Jude hospital for designing facilities that make being sick a little less grey and scary:

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

A colorful playgroundPhoto Credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch

rbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Art tables await much anticipated artistic expressions.

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza2013-07-17 11.29.53

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza                  

Above : Hallway exhibits, murals and messages abound at St Jude’s Children Research Hospital. Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch.

Below, common rooms and family apartments at Target House, where some of the families are lodged:

Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

Above: The Brad Paisley common room. The artist donated the room and its decor. Like many artists, celebrities and sponsors, everyone becomes part of St Jude’s  community. For example, artists will come regularly and spend time with the children, or play music outdoors for the families.

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

An outdoor common area at St Jude’s. Photo credit: Barbara Elza Hirsch.

Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

The Shawn White Family Room. Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza.

Photo credit: Barbara Hirsch | Chez Elza

Messages of hope abound at the Target  House. Photo credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza

Later, we were allowed to interact with some of the children patients and their families to work on an art project. Understandably, photos were not allowed to respect the families’ privacy.

This was truly a very awe inspiring visit and experience and I felt privileged to  have toured such a unique research hospital.

Thank you, Brizo, and thank you, St Jude.