Editor's note: This is the second installment of a two-part series featuring kitchen remodeling. This week's piece offers tips and suggestions to create an opulent, high-end kitchen.

Jeff and Kristen Ballard’s kitchen is a treasure trove of culinary riches.

Double-stacked custom cabinets in knotty maple, elegant granite counters, hidden high-end appliances and a convenient coffee niche highlight the amazing space. Even more impressive is the kitchen’s functionality—remodeled to reflect the couple’s love of entertaining, cooking and preparing delicious dishes.

It’s a white-collar kitchen with a blue-collar work ethic.

“The original space was nice, but there were parts of it that just didn’t work for us,” Kristen said, noting that the kitchen’s original sink area was tucked away in the far left corner, alienating the cook from company.

“We wanted to increase efficiency and flow of the kitchen, and the design grew from there,” Jeff said.

Teaming up with Freyenhagen Construction and interior designer Jennie Trenka, the couple went to work last summer to create their dream kitchen.

Bringing the heat

Central to the Ballard’s kitchen is an eye-appealing, custom-crafted oven hood created by area metal artisan, Travis Nelson. This jewel of the kitchen is fashioned from copper and perfectly contrasts the sandstone-colored backsplash behind it, Trenka said. The tactile nature of the two pieces adds dimension and visual interest to the space.

The oversized dual oven makes baking a cinch, something Kristen deeply enjoys. On the island, an instant hot water faucet has been installed, perfect for making piping hot cocoa with marshmallows.

The double-tiered island, accented by toffee and onyx-colored granite swirled to perfection, is smartly appointed with extra storage on every side. Additional brackets and hidden supports installed between the main island and the raised bar ensure stability, Trenka noted.

On the opposite side of the island, a rustically-elegant apron sink adds texture and interest with its hammered copper patina.


Because Jeff and Kristen enjoy entertaining, it was essential their remodeled kitchen be inviting, functional and comfortable.

An oversized 48-inch Sub-Zero refrigerator makes food prep and storage a breeze. Both Kristen and Jeff praise the appliance’s ability to keep food fresh and crisp.

Just off the main kitchen is a wine nook, accented with attractive built-ins, pull-out fridge and ice maker. This secondary beverage station allows guests access to their favorite spirits, alleviating any unnecessary bottle-necking near the main fridge.

An additional hidden gem is the kitchen’s discreetly situated coffee alcove, complete with hideaway storage and coffee grinder. Adjacent the coffee corner is the kitchen’s spacious pantry, equipped with ample storage and automatic off-on lighting programmed into a door jam.

In the cocoon

During the metamorphosis, which took about seven weeks, Jeff, Kristen and their two children took up residence in the basement.

“We were fortunate to have a fully functional wet bar and kitchen space downstairs,” Jeff said, adding that the convenience of warm summer weather made outdoor grilling ideal.

The team at Freyenhagen Construction provided a detailed timeline so the Ballards would know exactly which components of their remodel were transpiring each day.

“We were completely impressed with Jeremy and his crew of professionals,” Jeff said. “They were quiet, on time and kept us well-informed.”

An additional benefit: the Ballards didn’t have to worry about dirt or debris from the remodel infiltrating the rest of the home.

“They installed a plastic partition that ran from the ceiling to the floor,” Jeff said. “This barrier kept the home clean.”

After the veil was lifted—on the exact date proposed in the initial design specs—Jeff and Kristen were incredibly pleased with how the project turned out.

“It’s the kitchen I’ve always wanted,” Kristen said. “I can’t tell you what I like best because it just keeps changing.”


The Ballards aren’t the only homeowners in Billings seeking out extraordinary accoutrements for their gourmet kitchen.

Grant Ketcham, designer for American Appliance in Billings, said that several of his clients are interested in integrating home automation technologies into their homes and now, their kitchens.

Doors that open automatically, soft-close cupboards and drawers that close quietly and appliances that can be controlled via smartphone or iPad are among a few of the techy add-ons available.

“The trick is to integrate these technologies into the kitchen while maintaining the classic clean lines and uncluttered space we’ve come to love in high-end kitchens,” Ketcham said. “It has to be functional and practical, but also beautiful.”

Style personified

Pinterest and a handful of other online resources have been championing the concept of selecting furniture statement pieces—something that speaks to you or sparks conversation and doesn’t necessarily “go” with the rest of the room.

This concept has transcended the living room and is now present in our dining and kitchen areas, Ketcham said.

“Homeowners are taking antiques like a china hutch and positioning them in the kitchen,” Ketcham said. “These pieces really help personalize the space, creating warmth and creative flair.”

Homeowners are also taking more liberties with cabinetry, opting to perhaps do bottom cabinets in one hue and top cabinets in another. Taking cabinets all the way to the ceiling and installing transom doors at the top creates a beautiful display case for heirloom china, Ketcham suggested. Homeowners are also branching out by infusing their kitchens with pops of color. This can be achieved by tile choice, knick knacks or simply selecting colorful countertop appliances like a purple Kitchen Aid mixer, Ketcham said.

Farm-style butcher block counters have also made a resurgence in recent months, Ketcham said, adding to that old-made-new aesthetic.

Kitchen appliances like the stove, dishwasher and fridge keep getting smarter and more efficient, Ketcham said, but the biggest advancement in recent months regarding home appliances has been in how quietly they run.

“Open concept kitchens mean that you’re probably doing the dishes or cooking while someone is nearby visiting or watching TV,” Ketcham said. “Sound shouldn’t preclude these universes from coexisting.”

In fact, Ketcham sees the kitchen as the social hub of the entire home.

“It’s where we start our day, where we gather, where we study and pay bills,” he said. “It should have a personality just like the rest of your home.”

Working with clients to customize and create a look that’s uniquely “them” is Ketcham’s favorite part about his job.

“When we’re able to give clients exactly what they’re looking for, that’s the ultimate,” he said.

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