Piecing Together The Perfect Kitchen

The kitchen is considered the heart of a home. And for good reason. A space built for cooking, eating, and conversing, the kitchen sustains families by providing a spot for daily connection. It’s the first place we connect in the morning, often the first place we come to decompress after work, and it sees many-an-evening filled with homework, good smells, toasts, and entertaining. In many ways, the kitchen binds families together, and, as we learned from our kitchen specialists, it does the same for homes.

the Evolution of Furniture Kitchens

Woodland furniture

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Sometimes it’s better to learn the long way. Such is the case for Woodland Furniture’s cabinetry business. Using unconventional methods from the start, Woodland has evolved through experience to produce kitchen cabinetry that clients cannot find anywhere else in the country. Their journey has been one defined by insight and adjustment, as can be expected from a business that produces a one-of-a-kind product that pleases many different clients.

Lynn Harker is the CEO of the 23-year-old business. Having been with Woodland from its start, Harker has seen its evolution from the driver’s seat. “The cabinetry was incidental to our furniture business,” says Harker, who notes that when one advertises for woodworkers, resulting applicants are generally cabinet builders. “We were doing high-end furniture with custom finishing almost exclusively for interior designers. When we had designers request that we create cabinetry to match our furniture finishes, we said we could build whatever they wanted.”

And build it they did. Woodland began their cabinetry business with the same methods that they used for furniture: milling and sanding lumber to shape into custom artistry with Woodland’s signature finishes. “In other words, we were building furniture-grade cabinets, making a kitchen the same way we made furniture,” says Harker. “We were making furniture kitchens.”

Although many clients desire the custom finishes and aesthetic of Woodland’s work, not everyone is especially concerned with solid lumber inside of their cabinets. Harker realized that despite the pride he and his team took in their workmanship for the entire product, there were few homeowners willing to pay thousands of dollars per linear foot for lumber cabinet interiors.

“Nobody else in America was building cabinets the way we were,” says Harker. “And they had good reasons not to.” Furniture kitchens, as coined by Harker, are incredibly labor- and time-intensive, and can put money where customers don’t see value, namely, inside of the cabinets.

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“In other words, we were building furniture-grade cabinets, making a kitchen the same way we made furniture all these years.”
–Lynn Harker, CEO, Woodland Furniture

This realization came in 2007 when Woodland faced a dilemma: how could they reduce cost and labor but still produce a final product that met the quality standards of their original work? Harker says, “At the time, we were just furniture guys proud that someone wanted our furniture in the kitchen. So we decided to get into the cabinet business by understanding the customer rather than asking the customer to understand us.”

That is, they searched for ways to find a middle ground when clients did not necessarily seek furniture-grade cabinet interiors. They understood that there were people with enough income to afford excellence who were perfectly happy with different materials inside their cabinets. “We found that because of our furniture background, we could still do work on cabinets that no one else can do: put fabulous finishes on wood,” says Harker. With that conviction, he found his middle ground.

Woodland’s business model is not to value engineering at the detriment of quality and trust in the product. Rather, it is to meet the expectations of the business while helping clients increase the value of their homes through an experience in which they feel prioritized and heard. Harker illustrates that point by asking, “In the end, when a homeowner walks through her kitchen years after building it, is she going to celebrate the good deal she got on cheap cabinets or the investment she made in long-term beauty and quality?”

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Today, Harker and his team are still learning. While they continue to produce furniture kitchens for select clients all across the country, they also produce furniture-grade finishes and aesthetics that have made them the go-to selection for premier homebuilders in Jackson Hole. Harker, for one, is grateful that they took the path they did.

“When you walk into ten houses, filled with ten different cabinetry brands, Woodland will still be the singular most outstanding,” he says. “We know that from the ground up it will be beautiful, and know that the other brands can’t compete because they simply never had to learn how to create this kind of quality. For that, we are incredibly proud.”

“In the end, when a homeowner walks through her kitchen years after building it, is she going to celebrate the good deal she got on cheap cabinets or the investment she made in long-term beauty and quality?”
–Lynn Harker, CEO, Woodland Furniture

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discover something exceptional

Architectural Stone & Tile

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There’s a hidden gem in Jackson’s commercial area south of town—just head down Elk Avenue to the Architectural Stone & Tile showroom to see it. The entrance isn’t obvious from the road, but when you enter the showroom, an expertly filled, comfortable space, you might be surprised by the scenic view onto Wyoming’s public lands. The visit will be well worth the quick three-mile drive south of town.

“It’s a showroom worth finding,” says co-owner Alicia DiMarco. She understands that beautiful things come from uncommon sources. She found work and wonderful friends in the mountains 27 years ago when she came to the Tetons on a whim to escape the bustle of Chicago. She never intended to stay, but the energy of the people and the land kept her here. Years later, she and her husband, Joe, eventually bought Architectural Stone & Tile.

The opportunity to buy the business came at a good time. After more than 20 years in business administration and accounting, DiMarco yearned for the creativity and expression she had when she began college as an art major. “My first interests were in art and design,” she says. “I like to see art used in a constructive way. I’ve always loved design, art, architecture, and homebuilding.”

“Our showroom is full of glass tile, terra cotta, cement, porcelain, large-format, mosaics, and countertop samples. If we don’t have it, we’ll find it for you.”

–Alicia DiMarco, Co-Owner, Architectural Stone & Tile

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That creative spirit, blended with her husband’s expansive masonry and tile experience, made investing in Architectural Stone & Tile an easy decision. When they took over the business, they nurtured a service that had more than one ideal client. From concept to final product, they offer services for homeowners, tile-setters, contractors, designers, architects, and everyone in between. DiMarco quickly points out that although a big portion of their business is installing tile, they don’t want to take business away from other installers. “When a client comes in the showroom to buy tile, we assume that they’ve already selected someone to install their tile. If they ask for installation services, we’re happy to provide a quote.”

In all aspects of their business, client experience is paramount. Take the tile selection process as an example. Although Architectural Stone & Tile may be known for its installation services, they also sell product and support countertop and tile sourcing. When clients enter the showroom looking for tile for a kitchen space, they are welcomed with as little or as much guidance needed to make the best choice for their project.

“We want our clients to enjoy the entire experience of selecting and installing tile,” says DiMarco. That process starts with walking into the showroom, where tile specialist, Angie, welcomes each new person with the same sense of humor and warmth. “We really want everyone to feel comfortable knowing that we’re here to help them find exactly what’s right for them.”

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Architectural Stone & Tile also stocks tile-setting materials. Their team of expert installers is always willing to answer questions about installing tile. “Certain aspects of tile installation are tricky; we’re happy to help people when they come to us with questions,” says DiMarco.

With tile, the possibilities are nearly limitless. “Our showroom is full of glass tile, terra cotta, cement, porcelain, large-format, mosaics, and countertop samples,” says DiMarco. “If we don’t have it, we’ll find it for you,” she says. Being a small, locally-owned operation, Architectural Stone & Tile has the ability to flex for its clients. If a guest likes a certain style of tile, but it doesn’t fit their budget, DiMarco’s team will try to find the same look in a less expensive tile. “We want to help people find both the price and the look they want.”

When it comes to design, DiMarco notes a rise in colorful styles. Many clients love bright pops of color, but sometimes still choose to go with timeless neutral tones. Some kitchen backsplashes are simple, but more often than not, they require some thought on layout to navigate windows, electrical outlets, and cabinets. “We sell tile from an installer’s perspective,” she says, meaning that Architectural Stone & Tile has a sense for what shapes, consistencies, thicknesses, and materials of tile will coincide with the look a client needs.

From installation to design to service, the business operates on a theme of friendliness. As a local business, Architectural Stone & Tile works to bring large city services to the Valley to give residents an easy, trustworthy option at home. “Buying locally means investing in your community—we appreciate the opportunity to offer competitive prices and service to make the decision to invest here easy and fun.”

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Transformative Lighting

with Hammerton

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Utah-based Hammerton has watched the evolution of the kitchen space from a front-row seat. Two decades ago, the custom lighting manufacturer put itself on the map by building rustic pinecone-laden steel chandeliers for luxury ski homes going up across the Intermountain West. But the lighting industry has changed dramatically since that era, and Hammerton has been on the forefront of this transformation. Today the company’s work emphasizes contemporary designs, artisan glass materials, and LED—all designed and handcrafted in their 50,000-square-foot Salt Lake City facility.

Hammerton founder and VP of Design Levi Wilson has unique insights on the paradigm shift in kitchen lighting here in the West. “The kitchen has literally become the ‘heart of the home,’” says Wilson, noting the growing popularity of open floor plans and custom design. “So a kitchen lighting plan is no longer just about function. Fixtures need to integrate with the overall interior design and help connect adjacent spaces. They must be beautiful and visually engaging, as well as functional.”

“a small space with a visually engaging lighting plan will be far more livable and enjoyable than a large space that lacks the same attention.”

–Levi Wilson

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Getting kitchen lighting right, as Wilson explains, involves several considerations that are frequently overlooked. First, there is the issue of scale and proportion. “Today’s kitchens are larger than ever, but most off-the-shelf fixtures are way too small for these spaces,” says Wilson. “All too often we see massively scaled kitchen islands with tiny pendant lights floating overhead. That’s a total missed opportunity for elevating the overall kitchen design. At Hammerton, we’re not afraid of bold fixtures that make a statement and appropriately fill a space.”

Lighting materials and finishes provide a means of extending or integrating design elements across an open kitchen plan. But rather than repeating the same fixture style throughout, Wilson recommends a more inspired approach. “For large, multi-use areas, we typically recommend a series of unique lighting designs that each stand on their own but collectively nod to particular textures, colors, motifs, or other elements of the interior plan,” says Wilson. “That’s vastly more thoughtful and visually intriguing than repeating identical fixtures throughout a space.”

Also overlooked is the height at which lights are hung. Historically, the standard rule of thumb positions ceiling-mounted fixtures at 30” above a kitchen surface or sink, but an open kitchen often dictates otherwise. “It’s important to consider the overall space design before finalizing height,” Wilson explains. “Hanging fixtures too low can impact the visual flow between spaces, and also obscure scenic window views.”

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Ultimately, a successful kitchen design requires planning ahead and giving the same thought to lighting as the rest of the space. “Particularly with high-end projects, the biggest mistake is not thinking about lighting until construction is well underway,” says Wilson. “When homeowners spend big dollars on custom cabinetry, luxury appliances, and the like, and then neglect to give similar consideration to lighting, it shows in a big way.”

“Decorative lighting is basically jewelry for the home,” adds Wilson. “So a small space with a visually engaging lighting plan will be far more livable and enjoyable than a large space that lacks the same attention.”


Filling in the Blanks

Mountain Land Design

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Mountain Land Design is a born-and-raised western entity with national influence and a regional heart. With showrooms in Salt Lake City, Provo, Boise, Sun Valley, and Jackson Hole, they are rich with resources for getting their clients exactly the appliances, plumbing, and hardware they seek.

Hardware manager Steve Stockfish joined the company in 1994, when the company was a small boutique showroom in Park City. Today, its success and commitment to quality is known throughout the Mountain West.

When it comes to kitchens, decisions on appliances rule functionality, while hardware selection decides eventual aesthetic. “We have the opportunity to update our showroom every year because we have a huge annual clearance sale,” says Stockfish on how the company keeps up-to-date on the latest and greatest installments. “We also get new enhancements every six months so we have the best options before our clients even know they need them.”

Included in these choices, about which many homeowners know little, are induction cooktops, steam ovens, and built-in coffee makers. “Induction is a cooking process that uses magnets to transfer heat right into the pot, rather than through the burner,” explains Stockfish. “Essentially, your pan becomes the burner. The temperatures aren’t as hot, it’s easier to clean, and doesn’t deplete at higher altitudes like gas. I have an induction cooktop at my house and I will never go back to gas.”

“We have the opportunity to update our showroom every year because we have a huge annual clearance sale.”

–Steve Stockfish, Mountain Land Design

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Sometimes specific appliances can be overlooked initially, leaving potential challenges with crucial kitchen elements such as ventilation. Mountain Land Design works with architects and designers early on to make sure that kitchens are designed effectively. With Mountain Land Design’s expertise and experienced salespeople, there is always a solution.

Mountain Land Design can fill the needs of an entire kitchen. In luxury mountain environments, that might mean equipping more than one cooking area, with several different uses and storage plans. The Mountain Land Design team works with each individual buyer by applying industry expertise to the needs of the client. They help create a beautiful kitchen by collaborating with representatives from other trades such as cabinet makers, counter top suppliers, and lighting specialists.

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Once appliance selections are complete, the hardware in a kitchen is the finishing touch. Mountain Land Design specializes in door and decorative cabinet hardware with options tailored to any living space. “There’s been a real resurgence of satin, antique, and lacquered brass,” says Stockfish, naming styles that fit into traditional and contemporary spaces. “One of our lead designers in the area recently highlighted the importance of brass kitchen hardware in one of her speeches to the construction community.”

When it comes to hardware, the details make the difference. From calculating hardware quantities for an architectural plan, to selecting specific pieces, all the way through to delivery and installation, the Mountain Land Design team works hard to make sure the hardware is finished correctly the first time.

The Mountain Land Design team is the best in the business. Most of the staff has been with Mountain Land Design for over a decade—that’s over a decade’s worth of weekly training, countless hours of customer service, and years of building relationships. Visit one of their showrooms to help inspire your dream project!