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Five Under 40: Kitchen & Bath Designer Chris Awadalla

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles' Class of 2018



Portrait by Jennifer Olson

CLIENTS WHO HIRE Chris Awadalla, principal of Sanctuary Kitchen + Bath Design in Denver, may well breathe sighs of relief upon realizing they’re placing their trust in a man who has done it all when it comes to kitchens and baths. “I’ve built and installed cabinets,” he says, beginning his impressive litany of experience. “I’ve framed kitchens. I’ve plumbed sinks. I’ve wired electrical. I understand how a design comes together, so what we put on paper is actually achievable in the real world. Our installations go very smoothly, because they’re drawn correctly.”

What Awadalla might not always add is that, after graduating from Syracuse University in 2001 with a degree in information management and technology, he also worked some four years for Dreyfus mutual funds. But, realizing that his “need for visual gratification when a job is complete” wasn’t being fulfilled, he quit the investment world and apprenticed himself to a master carpenter in Westport, Connecticut, who manufactured cabinets and performed installations for respected interior designer Beverly Ellsley. “I strapped on a tool belt and instantly became happier.” His career contentment multiplied with a move to Colorado in 2009 and then again when he launched his own company in April 2014. “I love the license to be as creative as I can be,” says Awadalla. “Somebody’s paying me to come up with beautiful, functional ideas for them. That’s pretty cool.”


A Boulder kitchen with a mix of walnut and zebra woods. [Photo by Teri Fotheringham]
What sets me apart is I’m comfortable with many different styles. We’ll design everything from classic looks, like traditional white or stained cabinets, to ultramodern kitchens or baths with minimal details.” — Chris Awadalla

THE MOVE WEST: “My wife, Sharon, and I were 29 or 30, with no family in the northeast apart from my sister in Albany, and neither of us particularly wanted to raise kids in New York City. I had learned to ski in the Cascades during high school in Richland, Washington, and we both loved the idea of being near the mountains and having wider vistas. So we said, ‘Let’s give Colorado a shot!’ We moved to Denver, and I got a job as a kitchen and bath designer with Interior Intuitions in Cherry Creek.”

ADVICE FROM DAD: “My dad is from Cairo, Egypt. He came here in 1970, earned a Ph.D. from Duke and worked as an engineer. When I told him I was starting my own company, he said, ‘Remember: Your clients are your lifeblood. Take care of your clients.’ I really do try to do that, to the point that I’m picking out everything that goes into a space, from the floors to the lighting, the paint colors, the tile, the cabinets, the plumbing.”


A butcher-block island anchors a Ken Caryl kitchen. [Photo by Teri Fotheringham]

ARCHITECTURE AFICIONADO: “I love traveling, and I love good architecture. For example, my wife and I were in Boston for a wedding at the landmark Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel, which opened in 1912, and I spent a whole afternoon just walking around the building, amazed at the architecture. When we go to New York, I love how varied it is, with 150-year-old brownstones next to sleek glass skyscrapers. In Denver, I’m more into the neighborhoods and residential architecture. When I go into a house, I’ll spend some time looking at the exterior before I walk in the front door, thinking about what the original architect would have imagined.”

GUY NEXT DOOR: “If you met me at a dinner party, I don’t think you would immediately think, ‘oh, he’s a designer’—though that’s literally all I have done for the past 16 years. I’m a pretty approachable, down-to-earth, regular guy who happens to be really good at designing kitchens and baths. And I’m really passionate about it.”

See the rest of the 2018 Five Under 40 Design Award Winners.SaveSave

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