MOUNTAIN BLISS

Regional Award Winner KDC 2013-14
1st Place Transitional Award KDC 2013-14

Third time’s the charm with Mountain Bliss

Twice before, Mikal Otten has been a regional winner in the Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest (KDC). What made his Mountain Bliss project a global-winning design in the 2013-2014 KDC?

"My entries the other years were very much in the mainstream," Mikal says. "They were all Denver homes, in the 'white beautiful kitchen' vein. This kitchen was different – up in Vail, in a beautiful setting with a pond and other natural features. We were challenged to create a kitchen space that brought some of that natural feel indoors, and fit the relaxed lifestyle of the client's family."

He is humbled by his win: "To be recognized by this panel of judges – people I've admired for years, real rock stars in the business – is amazing."

But Mikal comes by his humility naturally. His father was a kitchen designer in the Minneapolis area, and as a child Mikal saw his dad working long hours – and loving it. "One thing he taught me is, don't ever settle. When you feel like you are at the top of the mountain, keep going. So I want to keep growing, keep challenging myself to take each project to the next level."

"My dad is German and a super perfectionist," says Mikal. "It was tough living up to his standards. He came out for a visit not long ago, and was super impressed with our showroom at Exquisite Kitchen Design. We got to talking about how we the way we do our design work. 'What kind of measuring do you do, in the field?' he asked me. I said, 'I measure to 1/16 of an inch.' He said, 'I always measured to 1/32 of an inch!'"

When you see "Mountain Bliss" and other kitchens Mikal has done, all multi-layered and full of distinctive finishes, you realize that he has inherited his father’s perfectionism, and that’s one reason he has become such a regional and even national force in kitchen design.

But there's more to his success. "It's all about relationships," he explains. "When a client is comfortable with you, they want you to work on all their projects. So I might do a house in Denver, then do a mountain house, like Mountain Bliss, then even do something out of the country – all for the same client."

We wanted to know more about "Mountain Bliss," so this is how our conversation went:

What were some of the challenges with the project?

First off, the grand scale of the room required special attention to proportion. So we created new windows that extend nearly to the top of the fifteen-foot ceiling, bringing in natural light and a stronger sense of the outdoors. Then in proportion to the windows, we built a grand modernized ventilation screen above the Wolf 48" range. What you don't see in the photos is that opposite of the range, there's a huge stone fireplace, some twenty feet high. That gives the room a wonderful balance.

What led you to put in the hidden pantry?

We wanted the space to fit the family's relaxed, outdoorsy lifestyle, so we wanted good flow throughout. The disguised pantry entrance eliminates congestion between kitchen, dining and wine storage areas.

It's unusual to see curved lines like that of your island in any of the KDC kitchens.

Everything is usually so clean and angular nowadays, even in most of my kitchens. But as I thought about the way the family would use the space, the way they would relax and entertain, the curved island just began to make sense.

Tell us what you did to bring the outdoors in.

Well, first the windows, which bring in so much natural light, and provide the wonderful view. But the rustic, outdoorsy feel also comes from the finishes we used: rough sawn walnut flooring, brushed rift white oak cabinetry, clean polished White Macaubus stone. In the pantry, we used a European textured laminate that’s super durable and easy to clean, but has a fencepost look to it, so it works well with the other finishes.

Is using organic materials like this a growing trend?

It's becoming more and more popular, as people look for ways to make their kitchens more authentic and more distinctive.

What other kitchen trends do you see?

One interesting one is that the interiors of cabinets are becoming as important as the exteriors. You may have noticed, there are no wall cabinets in the entire "Mountain Bliss" kitchen, which frees up the natural light to flow. So the base cabinets have to provide the most functional storage possible. We have all kinds of customized storage options in our showroom, and they've been very well-received. Each drawer almost becomes like a little jewelry box, in the way it stores and displays its contents.

Mikal, what would a dream project be for you?

What makes a dream project is when a client can articulate what they like and enjoy, then just let you go for it. "Mountain Bliss" was really that kind of project.

In This Kitchen

  • 30" Integrated Column Refrigerator with Internal Dispenser - Panel Ready

    IC-30RID

    $7,425

    View Details

  • 30" Integrated Over-and-Under Refrigerator/Freezer with Ice Maker and Internal Dispenser - Panel Ready

    IT-30CIID

    $7,945

    View Details

  • 30" Freezer Drawers with Ice Maker - Panel Ready

    ID-30FI

    $4,395

    View Details

  • 48" Dual Fuel Range - 6 Burners and Infrared Griddle

    DF486G

    $13,435

    View Details

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Kitchen Design Contest 2010-2012

U.S. & Canada Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero and Wolf in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.

International Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero and Wolf in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.