2016 Circle of Excellence: Kitchen Designer Angela Otten

Our Circle of Excellence awards pay tribute to five pioneering professionals who have paved the way for Colorado's design evolution. This year's recipients continue to enhance their legacy in our local landscape. Here, meet: ANGELA OTTEN, Professional Kitchen Designer, William Ohs, Denver

Portrait by Jennifer Olson

If the kitchen is indeed the heart of the home, then Angela Otten is one of the most skilled heart surgeons around. Otten has been designing kitchens since 1999 (12 years for Denver-based William Ohs), working on everything from budget spec houses to ultra-custom high-dollar homes, and she has built a reputation as one of the top kitchen designers in the country. “We like to work with Angela because she can do any genre—modern, country, traditional, whatever,” says Steve Whipple, president of the Aspen design and development company Whipple & Brewster. “And she has good taste, which is something you either have or you don’t.”

Farmhouse-style kitchen in Castle Rock [Photos by Emily Minton Redfield]

How she got started in design: “As a child, I wanted to be an artist without really knowing what that meant. But I was skilled at painting and drawing, so in college I studied art. My first job out of college had a big title: ‘architectural specification representative,’ which really meant I worked in laminate sales. After that, I began working in a ‘small box’ design store. No lie—I would have people lined up five deep, and I could design a kitchen in an hour and hand it off to them. But I found that space planning came naturally to me—I immediately loved it.”

Cherry Hills Country Club kitchen [Photo by Emily Minton Redfield]

Dream project: “I’ve worked on small Craftsman bungalows, mega-mansion contemporaries, urban lofts, and mountain houses. But my favorite thing to do is custom work, creating something totally original that appeals to a client’s individuality. I also like organizing a kitchen so it works like a well-oiled machine for many years of heavy use.”

An ode to white in Cherry Creek North [Photos by Emily Minton Redfield]

Her design aesthetic: “I would call my style ‘eclectic’ because I find all forms of design interesting. I get bored doing the same thing over and over again. When I first came to Colorado in 2004, almost every client wanted ‘mountain rustic’ or ‘Tuscany.’ Slowly but surely, that aesthetic has gone by the wayside—now people want more clean and classic. I find it all challenging in its own way, and I like challenges. I just did a kitchen that is 100 percent glass—the trims, the legs, all the fronts and sides; that was a really big challenge.”

Cherry Hills Country Club kitchen [Photo by Emily Minton Redfield]

Building a kitchen from the ground up: “I start by interviewing the client: How many people are in their family? Do they like to entertain? Do they have kids or grandkids? How often do they cook? Then I focus on function, placing appliances and accessories to create zones for prepping, cooking, cleaning and entertaining. Next, form takes over and I look to decorative elements like adding legs, or a backsplash, or interesting hardware. All those little elements are like the jewelry of the kitchen—a few key touches that top off the entire outfit.”

Favorite contractor: “My husband, Steve, also works at William Ohs and almost always does my installations for me, which is great. He knows my design style—how I put things together. He says he can tell one of my kitchens even without knowing that I designed it.”

Best compliment ever: “A builder I work with in Aspen, who has collaborated with designers all over the U.S., said he would put me in the top five in the country. Hearing that made me blush.”

Categories: Stylemakers