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.
finding flow through form and function:
Five Star Kitchen & Bath
When Jennifer Conrad moved to Sun Valley, she came for the snow and for family. Her brother had already lived in the famed ski town for several seasons when she arrived from Connecticut. A fine arts student at Green Mountain College in Vermont, Conrad needed to find work in the Valley that suited her creativity. She married a contractor and discovered a knack for reworking floor plans.
“I cook all the time, so naturally I loved working on kitchen designs,” she says. “I saw that there was a need in town for kitchen design so I went back to school and got a design degree. I then purchased Five Star Kitchen & Bath and grew it from there.” And grow it, she did. Five Star Kitchen & Bath is now a full-service design firm that creates spaces from concept through construction in rooms all over the house. Drawing upon skills from her fine arts degree, in conjunction with her National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) degree, Conrad aims to merge the beautiful with the practical.
“I really love to focus on the places where form meets function,” says Conrad, noting that beauty and efficiency are one and the same. “What I love about the design world is that you can get inspiration from everything from textiles to the outdoors to fashion. I design for a timeless aesthetic. If you’re going to put time and money into your kitchen, it should stand the test of time.”
Timeless designs include mixing materials in a way that feels current and simple, minimalist yet rich. Conrad and her team use a lot of manmade countertop materials like quartzite because they are easy to maintain and are very consistent in their patterns and colors. The Five Star Kitchen & Bath team makes sure to match whatever countertop their clients choose with specific types of wood to create a consistent look. When it comes to appliances, Conrad says that stainless is the most timeless option one can choose.
Kitchen design needs to flow from year to year as well as from space to space. “We have more open kitchens now, which have become the hub of the home,” says Conrad. “Everybody is in the kitchen after school and work, so we design kitchens that allow for face time and connection that lend nicely to family living and enhance open floor plans.”
In order for a kitchen to flow well, it must be organized in a practical way that efficiently organizes workflow throughout the space. Conrad’s NKBA degree lends to this organization, which focuses on the concept of the “working triangle.”
“You need to have your cooking area, refrigeration, and clean-up station in a working triangle where there aren’t too many steps from one to another.”
“You need to have your cooking area, refrigeration, and clean-up station in a working triangle where there aren’t too many steps from one to another,” explains Conrad, noting that many old-school ski houses do not follow these guidelines. “You also can’t have the space be too tight, and you have to consider details like direction of movement from the sink to the dishwasher to the silverware drawer.”
Where the real skill comes in is combining these practical measures with visual balance. Conrad and her team layer kitchen design with considerations of heights and depths of cabinetry, texture of materials, and symmetry or asymmetry of the space.
“We do an extensive survey with new clients to get an idea for what they want,” says Conrad. She notes that the world of kitchen design is so vast that a series of questions can help clients sort out what specifics are best for their aesthetic and practical tastes. Every client is different, and Five Star Kitchen & Bath prioritizes individual needs through personalized service and focused conversation.
“In this day and age, it’s all about efficiency. It’s about ease,” says Conrad. “We want to make it easier to use a kitchen, so you’ll spend more time there cooking and spending time with family.”
Taft Design Works
Jim Taft has been working in the trades for 42 years. And he has spent 40 of those years working for himself. His entrepreneurial spirit has taken him to different corners of the construction industry—from custom work in California, to general contracting in the Wood River Valley, and back to custom cabinetry—this man has seen it all. Such a breadth of knowledge in the industry enables him to use a hands-on philosophy with his projects and work collaboratively with other professionals in the field.
“I came into this business for my love of woodworking,” says Taft on a busy afternoon in his spacious Bellevue workshop. He speaks to the joy he gets from spending time creating something both beautiful and useful.
On the walls of his office hang framed photos of his projects. In particular, a set of wooden boats stands out. “I started building those during the Recession,” he says, pointing out the details of each boat. “I love to fish, which is why I built my first one. By the time I’d built a few they were in the art show in Ketchum and gaining some good attention.”
Crafting a wooden boat takes time, focus, and serious attention to detail. The final product not only needs to be beautiful, with connecting lines and a perfectly finished outside, but it must also be practical. The thing has to float.
Taft carries these attributes into his custom cabinetry business as well. He keeps his hands in the pot from the start of a project through until its finish, collaborating with architects, designers, and builders along the way.
“I’ll start by being involved with the drafting and design,” says Taft, describing his process with his clients. “I’ll create a design and deliver a quote, then work in some value engineering to make sure that the project fits into the client’s budget. Then I’m paying attention and staying involved every step of the way through fabrication and installation.”
Nothing quite satisfies Taft as well as a job well done, although the process of problem-solving and overcoming challenges along the way is something he loves about his work also. “I love the challenge of custom jobs where you can’t do prefabricated cabinets,” he says. Though Taft Design Works does provide extensive prefabricated options, the custom work is most exciting for him and his team. “You can do all kinds of beautiful stuff. You have finishes no one else has ever had, or fit a specific shape or size of a wall.”
“I love the challenge of custom jobs where you can’t do prefabricated cabinets.”
In contemporary designs, angular and linear themes often call for custom work to fit a space. Additionally, traditional mountain wood will never go out of style, so Taft still gets to work with knotty alder. “There are some really cool laminate products out there that can go from contemporary to rustic really easily,” he explains, showing an example of a weathered barn door look. “I love wood and traditional style, but these are still really fun to work with.”
Taft collaborates with other local professionals to bring the best final product into being. For example, he connects with other local businesses to produce custom cabinetry for their clients. He also works with local fabricators to produce quartz countertops and solid surfaces, which is just one of a growing list of his products.
Above all else, quality is Taft’s number-one priority. “I need people to be happy and the quality to be high,” he says, noting that he offers options in several different price ranges to suit the needs of his clients. Word of mouth and a trusting community is his best form of advertising, which comes from a habit of following through on promises. “If you say what you’re going to do and help as many people as you can, you’ll do well.”
Entrepreneurship takes resourcefulness, communication, skill, and creativity. One look at Taft’s custom design work will speak to the value of his background in producing only the best final products for his clients.
Taking on Tabletops
Terry Murphy lives for tabletop design. The owner and operator of Bellissimo on Sun Valley Road runs her business like she sets her table: with flare and a personal touch. Walking into her shop, clients are transported to places all over the world. Her dishes, napkins, and accessories come from such places as Paris, New York, Germany, Prague, Peru, and craftspeople from all over the U.S.
Years of collecting tableware gave Murphy a sense for selection, and a spark for creativity. “I’m a table addict,” she says. “I’ve been collecting dishes for 30 years and always make sure to have new selections of mats, napkins, and plates available to encourage people to try new things with what’s on their table.”
Working alongside clients and designers, Bellissimo helps select pieces that will last in a kitchen all year round, or enliven it for one special event. Especially during the summertime, the possibilities abound for what can rest on your table. As we open our doors and entertain more regularly, the themes of the tabletop can change, morph, and shine as you see fit.
“Anything belongs on a table,” says Murphy. She dives into tales about using tin foil and LED lights to awaken a sushi party, or children’s wooden blocks to spell out names at the kids’ table. Toys, flora, trinkets, and art can all be incorporated as accessories to a beautiful table setting. “Of course there are napkins and dishes specially made for summer but you can truly make anything look special. For example, I like to tuck rosemary or thyme into my napkin rings to bring a sense of freshness and aroma,” Murphy says.
What better season to get creative than during the summer? Murphy isn’t shy about her preference for the season. “I love summer. I love to cook. I love to entertain,” she says. She tells stories of bringing people together, serving many meals outside or with the doors and windows open. She sees how kitchens and entertaining ties people together. Just so, a well-formed tabletop will tie together a room.
In some ways, Murphy has go-to pieces that she loves to collect. Dishware from Juliska Dishes and Christian Lacroix are two favorites. Yet, she also has a sense for finding something out of the ordinary. Twenty years ago, she walked into a tiny shop in Paris called Astier de Villatte and discovered hand-made dishware that she still sources today.
“The great thing about dishes and accessories is that you can change them as often as you want. You can mix and match. You can completely change the feel of a room based on what you put on your table.”
“The great thing about dishes and accessories is that you can change them as often as you want,” says Murphy. “If it breaks, you get a new one. You can mix and match. You can completely change the feel of a room based on what you put on your table.” In other words, tabletop selection can be fun and free. Although you’re not going to change your major installations every season, why not change what’s on top of them?
Murphy’s shop has an open-door policy. Even if you’re just strolling past, you (and your dog—there are treats ready for any furry visitors) are welcome to dip in and see what inspires you. Face-to-face interactions allow for the best possible selection. In a world dominated by online commerce, Murphy cannot stress enough the value of holding goods in your hands.
“It would be wonderful if we could use the Internet to find and visit small businesses rather than bypass them,” says Murphy, whose own online business is often driven by people who have visited her shop and live elsewhere, or those who are seeking inspiration through her blog. “Even if it’s easy to find online, knowing what a plate feels like in your hand—its texture, size, and weight—is so valuable in finding the right goods.”
For her part, Murphy looks forward to another inspiring season of bright lights, popping color, and finding the perfect pieces to bring life to her table. Lucky for us, she helps others do the same.
Filling in the Blanks
Mountain Land Design
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
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.
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!
Connecting the Dots
Arianne Heyser and her team at Topnotch Fine Furnishings on Sun Valley Road have made a name for themselves in classic mountain interior design. The full-service design team works with every room in the house, focusing on traditional and ski-inspired designs to create the perfect mountain space. Their expertise extends beyond cozy bedrooms and rustic living rooms into the space where families spend most of their time: the kitchen.
“When I first got out of design school I worked for a kitchen and bath firm,” says Heyser. “I’m so glad I started there. In the kitchen, like all design, form follows function. My first boss had so much inspiration and drive for kitchen design that once we had a feel for the functional parts of a space, I really got to run free with the aesthetics.”
With kitchens in particular, designers get to work with clients through the entire process, from start to finish. They are the liaisons between contractors, cabinetmakers, and clients, helping to achieve a personalized final product. Heyser loves this process because it allows her to really get to know her clients over time.
“When we were working on one house in Colorado, we were able to be present through the framing and construction phases,” she describes. “We took them to kitchen demonstrations and cooking nights to see which appliances worked best for their families. The kitchen is such an experiential space, and there are so many new products out there. Getting to test before you select is a huge plus.”
Once the functional selections are in order, the fun starts. Heyser loves selecting textures and colors that add warmth, giving a welcoming feel to a kitchen. While much of the market abounds with contemporary style, she knows there will always be a place for the relaxing environment that a traditional mountain space provides. “I love sleek and beautiful, but I also love having a warm space where my kids can spill tomato juice. Kitchens are meant to be fun, filled with laughter, and open. Finishes with texture, movement, and color bring that to life for many people,” she says.
Describing several of her favorite projects, Heyser explains how mixing a lot of different elements make a kitchen both inviting and interesting. You can mix contemporary materials, like glass and flat color, with traditional looks of barn wood and rustic hardware. The end result creates a space that will last for decades. Built into her job is a sense for detail, and Heyser will help select pieces based on what her clients’ personalities portray, like Thermador blue cooktop knobs.
“There’s so much going on in a kitchen, but also a strong technical aspect,” she notes, describing how she dials in designs, down to the tenth of an inch. “You need to tie together everything to have symmetry, depth, color, and warmth, as well as basic functionality to suit the client.” She notes that other aesthetic elements might include drawer coverings, hidden appliances, as well as rethinking a working triangle for the cooking needs of a homeowner.
In addition to communicating and project managing, Heyser’s job is to tie together the final pieces of a kitchen. A final touch comes in the form of accessories, and Topnotch Fine Furnishings has plenty from which to choose.
“Special accessories placed just right is the final touch,” says Heyser. Clients bring old pizza stones, antiques, and, of course, a rooster or hen for good luck to their new spaces. “We love to help them find the perfect home in their space. Kitchens and mantles are tricky accessory places. We tie accessories to color schemes, and group them aesthetically in our clients’ homes. They can choose what they want to leave or take.”
Heyser and her design team have found their niche in designing kitchen spaces. Whether between contractors and clients, function and form, or the final details of a space, they connect the dots, resulting in warm, open spaces for all to enjoy.
“There’s so much going on in a kitchen, but also a strong technical aspect. You need to tie together everything to have symmetry, depth, color, and warmth, as well as basic functionality to suit the client.”
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.”
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.”
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.”