Kitchen From A Magazine with Ayr Custom Cabinetry

By+Kelli Stopczynski

Traci Clark’s kitchen is fabulous.  From smooth granite counter tops, to crème colored maple cabinets, to the wrought iron detail sprinkled throughout, it looks like it was ripped from the pages of a high end magazine.  Well, it was.  Kind of.

When Traci saw a photograph of a European/French kitchen, she knew she wanted to emulate a similar design in her own home. Although the wife and mother of three boys had plenty of experience planning and designing semi-custom kitchens, she’d never attempted a custom design like this one.  She and her husband have built four homes and renovated another on Diamond Lake in Cassopolis.

“After doing four semi-custom kitchens with another local contractor, I never understood the difference, or the advantage of a fully custom kitchen over a semi-custom design. But I ate my words after finishing this project.  There is no way that kitchen (in the magazine picture) could have been copied to a T by a semi-custom cabinet company.  You can’t do it,” she said.

Clark can say that now, after hiring the experts at Ayr Custom Cabinetry to tackle the job.  For six months, Ayr President Weldon Miller worked with Clark to plan and design her custom kitchen as well as the butler’s pantry, office space, laundry room and four of the newly constructed home’s bathrooms.  Taking that time to get all the particulars down on paper made the construction process a whole lot smoother, she said.
“I like special touches,” Clark added.  “Everything you see in this house is me. I’ve never believed in pulling in one single decorator because I feel like that does not become your home.  So I’m very, very honest with every decorator I use.  And they all know that I pull from every resource in town and out of town that I can.”

Take the posh chandeliers in her laundry room.  She found them at McCaffery Lighting in South Bend, and the electricians hung them three times until she was happy with the way they looked. 

Zach Raymond from Z Stone knows Clark’s style.  He’s done granite work for her in previous homes, and this one was no exception.  Raymond cut each piece of granite in the home by hand.

The wrought iron details that help complete the French/Euro look throughout Clark’s home were custom made by Niles designer Randy Singleton, owner of Singleton Studios.

And even though it’s one of the focal points of the kitchen, you won’t immediately pick out Clark’s huge Subzero refrigerator or the two dishwashers in her spacious kitchen – Ayr covered all of them with cabinetry. 

“I would cover the ovens if I could,” she laughed.  “I just don’t like the way stainless steel looks.”

The European/French look is certainly not a first for Ayr, but it is a bit new for Clark.  For years, she decorated past homes with a thick French style. 

“I was so neurotic about it in our last home,” she explained.  “I wouldn’t even use a piece of furniture or décor if it wasn’t French.”
One big bonus with going more European – more space.  French-themed homes generally have smaller rooms and less furniture, something her husband Ben didn’t like and didn’t want in this home.  That’s one reason he fought one of her kitchen “must haves” – the breakfast bar, where their sons, ages 13, 11 and 9 sit every morning to eat. 

“We had to keep scaling it down,” said Miller.  “Ben didn’t think it was functional for the space, especially since it’s so close to the kitchen table.”

The most challenging part of the project for Miller – figuring out how to make the design fit in Clark’s kitchen.

“She gave us an idea and we had to make it work,” said Miller, noting pictures and ideas are very helpful in the design process.  “All the pictures she shows you, that’s a concept. You have to make the detail and make it more proportionate.”

“I thought ‘I’m never gonna have enough cabinet space in the kitchen,” Clark added.  “Now I have empty cabinets!”

Functionality is one of Ayr’s biggest accomplishments in the Clark home.  Traci’s office, for example, is an 8’ by 7’ space where she keeps all the family paperwork, novels she reads when she has a few spare minutes, and her cookbooks.  Custom cabinets on the facing walls give a clean, stylish look that makes the most of the space.  Of course, Clark’s touch in the room is tough to miss.  The chandelier matches the colorful ceramic knobs on the cabinets from one of her favorite designers, MaKenzie Childs. 
“Most of the hardware is all very unique,” Miller said.  “A lot of people would just put on hardware and not worry about the detail.”
In Miller’s opinion, the most unique part of the design process would have to be the master bath.  Also from a magazine photograph Clark asked Ayr to duplicate, it shows off just how detailed the company can be.  Ayr’s expertise carries over into the boys’ bathrooms and guest bath where the sophisticated look remains stunning, yet different in each space.
The overall quality of Ayr’s work in the Clark home is a strong representation of the company itself added engineering designer James Yoder.

“The attitude with the guys in the shop is nothing is impossible.  So going into a project with the idea that you can do anything, really allows you to create these over-the-top designs,” he added.

And the Clarks aren’t done with Ayr just yet – they’re now beginning to plan and design the bar area in the basement of their brand new Granger home.  After all this work, it’s a fair question to ask Traci Clark if she sees another custom kitchen in her future.

“We’ve never been in a house more than 4 ½ years,” she laughed.  “This is it.  We are never doing it again.” 

But with all the knowledge she’s gained over years of being her own designer, Clark has also learned there are always exceptions to every rule.