Susan Bates, co-owner of The Rutt Collection on First Street, a kitchen design showroom and service, has won first place in the National Kitchen and Bath Association's 1997 design competition.
Her kitchen design was chosen from several hundred entries from around the country.
It's easy to appreciate Bates' versatility - the showroom displays seven different kitchens, all designed by Bates and complete down to their smallest details.
Bates' winning kitchen is the last one on the left side of the showroom, a clean, peaceful combination of pale maple and cherry cabinets, black lacquered columns that pull out for handy storage, and a striking diagonal wall treatment of gray Corian. She chose a gray ceramic tile in a variety of sizes for the floor and stainless steel door pulls and cabinet accents, creating an overall effect of calm efficiency.
"Our primary function is space planning, but we want a kitchen to look smashing, too," Bates said.
Each showroom kitchen at The Rutt Collection displays a different "look," ranging from the arts and crafts style to country French.
"We want people to come in, walk around, and start thinking about all of their choices in things like counters, backsplashes, flooring, appliances, and lighting," Bates said.
"We help them make the choices and protect them from themselves, because it's important to combine things harmoniously."
At the back of the showroom is the display area for The Rutt Collection's amazing array of sample wood finishes and hardware. As one of seven Rutt Collection showrooms in the U.S. - and the only showroom not located in a major design center - the Los Altos firm offers Rutt cabinetry which is custom-made in Pennsylvania. Phares Rutt, the Amish cabinet-maker who founded the company 50 years ago, is still alive. His daughter now works for the company, creating imaginative computer-aided kitchen designs, according to Bates.
"Phares Rutt's first cabinet design was called 'Georgetown,' made of cherry wood, and it is still a best seller," Bates said.
"The men are the ones who are the most emotional about kitchens these days," Bates laughed. "Today, it's not how many horsepower are in the garage, it's how many BTU's your gas stove has."
"Ninety percent of our customers are adding new space to their homes to build all-new kitchens, not remodeling existing kitchens. They can choose among professional cook tops which are now as powerful as commercial models but much easier to clean.
"And people are cooking with their friends as part of the evening's activities - so they build additional work stations for their friends."
Bates has been designing kitchens for 19 years, formerly in Burlingame at Signature Kitchens, and she and co-owner Michael Klopka have clients from Hillsborough to Carmel. Using The Rutt Collection cabinetry, they also design living rooms, libraries, and entertainment centers, as well as kitchens.
What is Bates' personal kitchen philosophy?
"I believe that less is more," Bates replied. "Clients can get carried away and over-design, but it's best to keep the kitchen looking clean and restful."
Her award-winning kitchen is a prime example of this philosophy - translated into functional reality.
The public is invited to view Bates' winning kitchen at The Rutt Collection.