Jackson Hole, Wyoming – It’s a given that a kitchen must function well to fit the homeowner-chef’s personal cooking style, says Rush Jenkins, co-founder and creative director of WRJ Design. But the award-winning Jackson Hole interior design firm’s recipe for creating style-setting kitchens goes beyond function, or even the careful selection of materials and finishes. “Perhaps more than in any other room in a home, function and love are tightly intertwined in the kitchen,” says Jenkins.
“This room is the heart of the home,” Jenkins explains. “It’s a place that’s welcoming for everyone, the gathering place where the family’s heritage unfolds through recipes presented and passed down, and where the creativity of the chef of family is revealed and also embraced.”
Kitchens are highly complex. To get to the details that properly personalize a space, WRJ starts with a questionnaire they’ve created to understand the extensive and different uses and needs the client will have – “every kitchen design decision we make for the client is rooted here,” says Jenkins. Discovering who acts as primary and secondary chefs, exploring personal cooking routines and the homeowners’ entertaining style all come into play. At the same time homeowners are asked to identify pieces that are particularly meaningful – perhaps family china, sentimental cookbooks or a piece of art – to help tell their individual story.
Lighting, both natural and task-oriented, are a key to WRJ’s successful kitchen designs. “I think people love to work in light-filled kitchen spaces, and so we look at that as a prime part of the room’s aesthetic,” says Jenkins. “We’ll incorporate big picture windows that go behind the sink and down to the counter for wonderful natural light. Then we’ll bring in gorgeous accent lighting and beautiful pendants because we feel that using a variety of lighting sources enhances a kitchen both functionally and aesthetically.”
Jenkins’ pre-WRJ experience as Director of Design at Sotheby’s New York City auction house, where he led the design of exhibitions for collections, provided experience with a favorite design element that has translated well to client kitchens: “I love to incorporate the use of exposed, floating shelves with accent lighting below to display beautiful serving pieces, elegant vases – those family pieces that are works of art and should be displayed with reverence and love.”
Some key choices that help determine the design direction a WRJ kitchen will take are the countertop and the range and hood. The most prominent material in a kitchen, the countertop “is what we want to run our hands across and touch,” says Jenkins. WRJ focuses on that work surface – typically an island and its surrounding areas – tying it both to the type of work it’s most likely to be used for and to a client’s personal style in terms of color and finish, with some clients preferring a softer surface that shows wear and tear while others might prefer a highly polished worktop. “We love to source stones – exotic, and in different colors; they make a stunning statement in the kitchen,” says Jenkins. Equally important is the choice of range and hood, which become a focal point that WRJ treats as “a piece of art.”
In terms of the flow of the home’s interior, WRJ works with architects to keep the kitchen as close as possible to the garage or mudroom to avoid trekking through the house with bags of groceries. The team also remains conscious of how the room is viewed from adjacent rooms and its fit with the aesthetic flow of the house. For instance, they might source a custom-designed stove hood in bronze to tie in with other bronze in the home or choose a color in the countertop stone to weave through the home’s interior palette.
Often what sets a WRJ Design kitchen apart is the underlying belief that a kitchen is never a sequestered room, but always intimately connected to other parts of the home, so whoever is cooking is a full participant in all that’s going on in the home. That, and “our design aesthetic,” emphasizes Jenkins. “We create beautiful, serene kitchens that are not only highly functional but are also artistic statements.”
Above all, no detail is too small to be considered. “Our goal is always for our kitchens to be functional when they’re being used and beautiful when they’re not,” says Jenkins. “We focus on every single element, making sure that each works in harmony with the others. In this way we’re able to create a feeling of harmony in the whole kitchen. If one element is wrong then the kitchen will be wrong; but when they’re right, the whole room becomes a space that draws everyone towards it and seems to create joyous energy.”
About WRJ Design: Headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming, WRJ Design imparts the special serenity of its local Teton landscape to interior designs in Jackson Hole and across the country. Begun out of a passion for great design by Rush Jenkins and Klaus Baer, WRJ creates experiences and environments through its designs that provide timeless reflections of homeowners and their collections, combining the work of regional artisans with finely crafted European furnishings and accessories, and historically rich one-of-a-kind pieces curated from around the world. WRJ Design has been honored as top U.S. mountain designer by Rhapsody magazine and awarded the 2016 Home of the Year by Mountain Living. Two WRJ projects are featured in the recent book Rustic Modern. For more information visit wrjdesign.com.