The 2023 Judging panel is a prestigious line-up of some of the biggest names in the industry. Each judge brings to the table an in-depth knowledge of kitchen and bathroom design and understands what it takes to achieve excellence in design. We are proud to introduce our judges for 2023 and thank them for their commitment to the NKBA and our industry. 

Natalie Du Bois, 2022 NKBA Designer of the Year and owner of Du Bois Design 
Natalie won the trifecta at the 2022 Excellence in Design Awards, taking home Designer of the Year, the Supreme Kitchen Design Award and the Supreme Bathroom Design Award. The wins are the icing on an incredible career, spanning more than 20 years, that has seen Natalie win multiple international design awards, work overseas in South Africa and England and achieve DNKBA’s Elite Designer Status.

Having judged the NKBA Excellence in Design Awards before and a consistent contender, Natalie is no stranger to the awards process and doesn’t underestimate what it takes to enter and win.

“I have entered the NKBA awards for many years. As a previous entrant, I can appreciate how much work goes into each project and the time it takes to put an entry together. I can’t wait to see the new and exciting projects that everyone has been working on,” says Natalie.

Natalie reveals she is looking forward to the judging process and exploring designs that are unique with clever and thoughtful details.

“A design needs to be practical first and foremost, but a design that has had a lot of thought and detail go into it, will always stand out. This year I am looking forward to judging the Creative Excellence Kitchen Design entries and all the bathroom categories. For me, the bathroom is an opportunity for designers to really be creative and challenge this very utilitarian space. I am also looking forward to the Character Kitchen Design category as this can be a tricky space to get right, to ensure the space is in-keeping with the architectural style of a home, and also ensuring the classical design elements look authentic,” she states. 

Click here for more on Natalie Du Bois and Du Bois Design.  

Gavin Hepper, multi-international award-winning designer and owner of ‘Concepts by Gavin Hepper’ based in NSW Australia.
KBDi Certified Kitchen Designer, Gavin Hepper CKD Au, has almost three decades of trade and industry experience. As the Creative Director of bespoke interior design studio, Concepts by Gavin Hepper, Gavin has received multiple notable awards including the 2022 HIA Australian Kitchen Designer of the Year and the 2021 TRENDS International Designer Kitchen of the Year Award. Gavin is the Vice President for the KBDi and was an esteemed judge of their 2019 National Awards. 

Gavin is delighted to be a judge of the 2023 NKBA Excellence in Design Awards and is approaching the judging process with no pre-conceived ideas.

“This is my first time judging in New Zealand. I believe New Zealand is home to some great designers, so I am hoping to be inspired and to see some innovation in design and use of materials. I am very proud to be sitting on the judging panel, as giving back to the industry is something I am very passionate about. As my work has been recognised internationally, it felt right to spend more time on the other side of award’s process as a judge,” said Gavin.

To grab the attention of Gavin, he says projects will need to meet the brief and have balance.

“I will be analysing how well the entrant has met the design brief, then consider if the space has the perfect balance of design flare and functionality. A space that makes me go wow, will need to be designed with intent, while also applying design restraint,” shares Gavin.

Click here for more information on Gavin Hepper and Concepts by Gavin Hepper.

Wim De Bruin, Managing Director and Principal Designer of AVÉORA Luxury Kitchens and Cabinetry.
AVÉORA’s Principal Designer, Wim de Bruin, is well-known in the architectural and interiors sector, with a career that spans almost every segment of the industry. Wim represented NZ at the World Youth Skill Olympics before studying at the London College of Furniture on an AGC Young Achievers scholarship. He returned to New Zealand to establish a significant manufacturing business that catered to the top end of the architectural market.  After the sale of that business, Wim co-founded AVÉORA Design Studio where he continues to design kitchens and cabinetry for the luxury market.  Wim is the inventor of the AXILO™ Cabinet-levelling system which won the prestigious international Red Dot Award in 2019. As a designer, maker and specifier, Wim brings this depth of experience to the 2023 NKBA Excellence in Design judging panel.

Wim joins the judging panel for the first time in 2023.  He says he is looking for carefully considered designs that meet the client brief well, deliver essential practicality, while also being eye-catching.

“I will also be looking for innovative use of materials and exemplary designs with an ‘X’ factor that relate well to their architectural context. Consideration of technology is also important, as the role of smart devices increases,” says Wim.

There is a wide range of categories for entrants to showcase their best work and each has something special.

“I am looking forward to seeing the fresh perspectives that first time entrants bring to the awards.  I also enjoy seeing the interpretation of luxury trends in a more accessible form in the mid-level price brackets, especially when utilising new materials.  The supreme and luxury kitchen categories are naturally of particular interest to me.  It’s where designers often have more scope to push the boundaries,” shares Wim.

Click here for more information on Wim de Bruin and AVÉORA Luxury Kitchens and Cabinetry.

Damian Hannah, NKBA multi award winning designer and Lead Designer and MD of German Kitchens.
Damian Hannah is Lead Designer at German Kitchens, Wellington’s longest established imported kitchen company. The company has been designing, selling, importing and installing German manufactured kitchens since 1991. Damian has won many awards for his incredible projects over the 23 years he has officially been a member of the NKBA. This is the second time that Damian has been asked to judge the NKBA Excellence in Design Awards and in 2022 Damian was on the panel of judges for the Australian Gaggenau Kitchen of the Year Awards.

Damian says that after a great innings entering the awards, he is happy to be on the other side.

“Over the past 23 years I have picked up numerous awards that have enhanced my career, it felt like it was my turn to give back to the industry. The NKBA Awards are an exciting opportunity for designers to be compared alongside and judged by your peers. Entering is a great way to know how you are progressing in your field and you can learn from the competition and what separates you from the winners. Most importantly, winning an award gives your clients confidence in your abilities and helps you to achieve great exposure. It is a wonderful awards programme, and I am thrilled to be involved,” confirms Damian.

For 2023, Damian says he is excited to see how designers have dealt with the post-covid kitchen market.

“With more people working from home and spending a lot more time in their kitchens, there is a whole new level of interest and attention on the kitchen design industry. Homeowners, more than ever, are carefully considering the appliances, working spaces, functionality, seating and break out spaces. The post-covid kitchen is quite different to the past and we are now designing bigger, better and more functionally. I will be very interested to see how this has formed this year’s entries,” says Damian.

Click here for more information on Damian Hannah and German Kitchens.

Celia Visser, NKBA Fellow, international award-winning designer and owner of Celia Visser Design.
Celia Visser of Celia Visser Design has been in the design and construction industry for more than 30 years.  Celia is an Elite Designer of NKBA, a member of DINZ and a long-term ambassador and board member of CDS. She is a multi-award winner and a passionate designer with an unwavering dedication to improving the professionalism and recognition of the design industry.

To the judging panel, Celia will bring an extraordinary level of experience and a careful and knowledgeable eye to the process.

Celia, who has won more than 40 awards, says the experience gained by entering helps designers grow and develop their craft.

“You learn so much and you grow through the experience. As you get further on in your career, it helps as a designer to know you are competing with the best and that you can win against your peers,” says Celia.

As a third time judge of the awards, Celia is looking for innovative designs that make her go wow.

“It’s an overall feeling when you step into a space, it’s the element of surprise and delight at the same time. The style doesn’t matter, or whether it is on trend, it can be minimalist or industrial, instead it’s an emotional response that evokes my reaction,” says Celia.

As a past winner of the creative small space award, Celia enjoys viewing the entries in this category.

“I love the creative small space category because you have to be very clever in spatial design and every dimension counts. I also love seeing the spatial innovation design because if you don’t get the space right, the kitchen or bathroom will never work, regardless of how beautiful it looks. You need to be clever, and I love seeing the before and after photos and the transformations the designers have made for their clients,” she says.

Click here for more information on Celia Visser and Celia Visser Design.

Judging Day will be held on 9 June in Auckland. The winners will be announced on 8 September at a gala awards ceremony In Auckland.