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As a first-time entrant into the 2020 NKBA Excellence in Design Awards, Hannah Withy of HM Design had a gut feeling that her bathroom had potential.

“I just had butterflies when I thought of the project. I knew it was a little different, a little special, and I thought it might potentially get somewhere if I entered it. The level of entries from other designers was incredible and so I was still absolutely shocked when my bathroom design took out three awards. To be a first-time entrant and to win, it was an awesome surprise,” says Hannah.

The bathroom in question is Hannah’s dark, cave like, bathroom that won the Wanaka designer the 2020 NKBA Excellence in Design Southern Chapter Kitchen & Bathroom Recognition Award, the 2020 NKBA Excellence in Design First Runner Up Supreme Bathroom Design Award and the 2020 First Time Entrant Award.

Located in a five bedroom architecturally designed home, on a one-of-a-kind plot of land, overlooking Lake Wanaka, the bathroom draws inspiration from the Wieliczka Salt Mine Chapel Cave in Poland. Sophisticated and modernist, the bathroom’s walls and floors are in a natural stone finish. The space features a double walk-in shower, a bath, a crystal chandelier and views of the vast mountains and lake.

The NKBA judges said the brooding bathroom was fitting for its beautiful alpine location.

“There is a sense of rawness to the design with its tactile quality and textures. It is creatively different and absolutely meets its brief. These lucky homeowners have a special bathroom space with a view of the mountain range, what more could you ask for,” said the judging panel.

Though it all sounds like a fairy-tale for the talented young designer, if we rewind a few months before the big award’s night, Hannah was working away at her entry, unsure of the process involved and with many questions for the team at NKBA.

“Though it was a relatively straight forward process to enter the awards, due to the tight entry criteria there were still many considerations to navigate through with the help of Suzie and Rachael at NKBA. To put my entry together required at least 40 hours of my time. This was a huge time commitment and included getting the photography together, making sure the drawings were technically up to scratch, that the 3D renderings were slick, that the files were well organised and named correctly and that my written entry was cohesive and captured the essence of my project. It was certainly a lot more work than what I had envisioned and so I am glad I gave myself plenty of time to get it done right,” says Hannah.

Leaving enough time to execute a well-thought-out entry is one of Hannah’s biggest learnings from her 2020 awards experience. That, and making sure you work with the right photographer and don’t rush the process.

“I was lucky enough to work with an amazing photographer on my 2020 award’s entry. However, I did plan too many photoshoots in one day and it added unnecessary stress. It was really important to capture the bathroom in the right light due to its dark and moody aesthetic. We ended up having to come back a second day to get what we needed as we ran out of time. It was a learning curve for sure,” says Hannah.

Hannah says that with two small children, one of who was only a small baby at the time of the award win, she didn’t do as much as she could of in terms of leveraging her wins. However, she says the awards will definitely pay off in the future.

“I think the awards will be important to future clients, as the recognition will help to build credibility. From a personal perspective, the award wins have certainly helped to build my confidence in what I do and the value I add as a designer,” says Hannah.

And Hannah’s advice for those first-time entrants entering the 2021 awards?

“Don’t do yourself a disservice. Read the criteria in detail. It matters and there are no second chances. If you aren’t sure what to do, don’t leave it to the last minute, ask Suzie or Rachael at NKBA for their advice and support.”