A Kitchen Expert’s New Dream Home Kitchen
Mikal Otten, zen master of Colorado’s luxury kitchens, shares 10 things to consider before revamping your kitchen
Mikal Otten is a zen master of Colorado’s luxury kitchens. The owner of Exquisite Kitchen Design (EKD) founded the company in 2005 with a major goal: to bring the show-stopping kitchens of the world’s most famous cities to the Front Range.
“A lot of clients were going to Chicago or New York and L.A., so I had this idea: Why can’t we create a beautiful showroom with these high-end products here, so they don’t have to go to other metropolitan areas?” he recalls.
Now, EKD is a household name in Colorado and beyond, with 17 employees (including five in Otten’s own family) and 10 subcontractors whipping up some of the most jaw-dropping kitchens ever seen, both in Colorado and far-flung lands—from San Francisco to the Virgin Islands.
With some 600 kitchens (many for megawatt celebrities and athletes he can’t name) under his apron belt, Otten reflects on lessons he’s learned—and applied to his own newly remodeled Greenwood Village cook space.
“I’ve found myself telling people it’s our grownup house,” he says of his new kitchen, which he shares with his wife, Lisa, co-founder and partner at EKD. “We’re empty nesters now. Our lives are different, so we’re trying to set it up so we can entertain and have clients and friends over in a really casual, comfortable atmosphere.”
Here‘s how he made his own kitchen the definition of exquisite—and tips on how you can do the same.
10 Things to Consider Before Revamping Your Kitchen
FORGET TRENDS Otten went for a sleek yet dramatic look that would be very at home in the Museum of Modern Art. “I am glad that we’re through these time-period-inspired kitchens—Tuscan Italian or French Country,” Otten says. “There’s this whole push toward authenticity right now. A refrigerator can be stainless; it doesn’t necessarily need to have these doors that enclose and disguise what it is.”
KITCHENS NEED INTERIOR DESIGN “Oftentimes we wear all different hats; we’re not just kitchen designers—we’re interior architects, interior designers,” Otten says. “We know the art of feng shui. After it’s all put together, it’s a piece of art. Where do you want the eye to rest and be comfortable?”
For example, in his own kitchen, the range’s custom graphite-marble and chevron-textured hood is only one focal point, balanced by the visual weight of the room’s original mantel, Arteriors pendants and a Sub-Zero Pro 48 fridge.
“In any kitchen, a range hood is just a piece of the puzzle,” he says. “All the elements go together to create something beautiful.” Otten also enlisted his friend, designer Beth Armijo, to bounce soft-finish ideas and paint colors off of.
ADD LIGHT For a truly cinematic kitchen, abundant daylight is absolutely necessary (just look to the cook spaces in Nancy Meyers’ movies for proof). “This was an old Tuscan-style kitchen; it was dark and dreary,” he says. “We added a bunch of new windows and increased window and door sizes to let light through. Light is the most important thing I look for in kitchen design.” They sanded the existing red-oak floors down, then bleached and oiled them, for an airy look.
COMBINE WARM AND COOL Steely-hued, custom matte-metallic-finished island cabinets and gray-stained walnut cabinets could be considered a sartorial mishmash, but here they go together like pinot noir and Gruyère. “I’ve always loved this play of warmth against cool. If it’s all one, it gets boring and it’s not very interesting. These two play really lovely together. It’s part of what it takes for you to walk into this kitchen and say, ‘Oh, I love this! What is that?’”
GO FOR HARD-WEARING COUNTERS On the island, Otten opted for iceberg-quartzite countertops that scatter light to keep the space bright, while being able to take a beating. “That’s the workhorse,” he says. The counters straddling the wall and range are graphite marble with a leathered finish, which adds to the room’s eye candy, layered effect.
MAXIMIZE EVERY SPACE “I never can get any of my clients to think about doing a table off the island; everyone wants to sit in a row. Finally, I had this spot where I could do this impromptu dining area.” Hosting in the heart of the home gets infinitely easier with a setup like this; you can load it up with a buffet or charcuterie bar, all within easy reach of food and drink.
HIDE YOUR CLUTTER By tucking away serving-piece dishes (in a pegged drawer inspired by age-old European kitchens) and oils, vinegar and frequently used spices (in a drawer by the stove), Otten ensured a streamlined look that’s a calming sight at the start of the day. “In our last kitchen, we had all the oils up above the stove; it was a complete mess all the time!”
GET CREATIVE WITH LIGHTING “The ceiling height is 12 feet; we added a soffit detail with indirect lighting so at night the ceiling glows,” Otten says of the artful touch. Lisa is the main chef in the house, and he kept her lighting needs top of mind when choosing the efficient downlighting. Walls painted Benjamin Moore Classic Gray with an eggshell finish ricochet daylight around.
EMBRACE THE FUTURE The latest appliances are something the Jetsons could never have dreamed of—and all tailor-made to maximize nutrition in each dish. “We have quickly become in love with the Wolf steam oven,” Otten says. “That thing gets used nine times out of ten. It takes five minutes to heat up instead of thirty. And adding that moisture—whether I’m going to reheat a loaf of Italian bread or chicken—is phenomenal.”
A few other favorites? Their Sub-Zero beverage drawers for bar service, a built-in Miele coffee maker hooked up to a water line (“It’s so easy; you push a button and get a cup of coffee”) and the Sub-Zero fridge, which adds visual weight to offset the mantel across the room.
SPLURGE! Timeless kitchens like these are meant to go the distance, so bear that in mind when you’re remodeling. Often, EKD clients will try to trim $10,000 off the kitchen budget by sacrificing the quality of cabinets or appliances, but they quickly grow to regret it, Otten says. “Clients look back three years later and think, ‘That was the stupidest thing ever! Why did you let us do this?’ I know it’s expensive, but why not make the right investment now? You’re going to enjoy it for years and years.”