Kitchen Studio of Monterey Peninsula, a fixture in Seaside, California, for the past 25 years, looks like a fairly plain and ordinary building on the outside – neat and tidy, but not fancy.
Just goes to show that you can’t tell a book by its cover.
Inside the building, model rooms glisten and entice. Beautiful kitchens – some sleek and modern, others more rustic – are the main focus, although there are also dining areas, baths, pantries and even laundry rooms on display.
The newly revamped showroom for this home design company features the latest hot trends, the result of a recent major remodel. Glass tile and bamboo veneers, built-in espresso makers and granite countertops, tumbled stone and hidden appliances are just a few of the unique and clever touches on view.
And not just the showroom has been done over for Kitchen Studio’s 25th anniversary celebration – a series of events celebrating community service are also planned during the coming months.
Although it might seem a bit unusual for this kind of business to host fundraisers for nonprofit organizations, owner Jillian Clark said it’s her family’s way of giving back to the area that has supported them for a quarter of a century.
“We really wanted to get connected with the community,” said Clark, who oversees the day-to-day operation of Kitchen Studio with husband John. The couple took the reins last year from Clark’s parents, Chris and Carmen Humphrey, who founded the business in 1984.
“Mom and Dad are still very much a part of this,” said Clark, who began working with them at the store in 1999. “It’s great to have their experience and knowledge.”
Kitchen Studio held its first big event recently, a reception kicking off its “Art in the Kitchen” series, which will feature exhibitions by local artists inside the store.
On May 4, 2010, another set of events starts with “In the Kitchen … The Breakfast Series,” a monthly class that will explore different aspects of fine food, as well as raise money for the Food Bank for Monterey County.
And yet another fund-raising reception is coming up May 8, this one to benefit Animal Friends Rescue Project.
Giving back is all part of this family’s philosophy. Business patriarch Chris Humphrey, who came to the Monterey area in the 1980s from his native Trinidad, said that he knew nothing about the kitchen and cabinetry business when he started Kitchen Studio – but despite some tough times at the beginning, the community made it possible for him to thrive here.
“When we first came here, we did a survey and found there was a need for a quality cabinetry business here,” said Humphrey, 74, who had previously been an executive with the Sherwin-Williams paint company. “This was an opportunity, and we took advantage of that opportunity.”
Others among the Humphreys’ five daughters have worked at Kitchen Studio in the past, but Jillian is the only one there currently.
Kitchen Studio actually will design cabinetry for any room in the house, but it’s the kitchens it’s become known for.
“We’ve had wonderful comments from past clients, like ‘I still have the perfect kitchen and it’s 19 years old,'” said Clark. “If they maintain that kitchen, it will still look brand new.”
Why are people so attached to their kitchens? Clark thinks that kitchens, more than some other rooms in the house, are profoundly personal. It’s the gathering place for families, and the heart of the home.
And, in recent years, kitchens have become grander and fancier, meaning that kitchen remodels take longer and cost more – and the relationship with the kitchen designer has taken on new importance.
“A kitchen remodel is very personal, and very permanent,” said Clark. A special connection with the client, as well as a sense of trust, are all-important to a successful outcome.
Clark and the designers at the Kitchen Studio work closely with clients to get them their dream kitchens. Over the years, though, that concept has changed somewhat.
“Kitchens went from being smaller to being grander, and now they’re changing again – going to being much more need-oriented,” said Clark. “People are not looking to be as flashy.”
Much of what they do, Humphrey said, is educate people about the importance of choosing quality materials and finishes.
“People do go for quality if they see the value in it,” he said.
Humphrey notes that Kitchen Studio has designed rooms for homeowners all over the United States as well as around the Monterey Bay. One man, who lived in Iowa, would visit the showroom every year when he attended the Concours d’Elegance. After three years, he finally asked Humphrey about designing his kitchen.
“He loved what he got,” Humphrey recalls.
Humphrey said part of the joy of establishing this business has been in seeing his daughter grow up in it, and then run it herself.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “I built the foundation, and she’s building the rest of it.”
Said his daughter, “I can’t imagine doing anything else. We’re so grateful to our clients and the community for allowing us to reach this anniversary.”
Personal interviews with Jillian Clark and Chris Humphrey, April 2010