This is an exciting one! In today’s Behind the Design, we sit down for a one-on-one chat with Christina Long – one part of We3 dwellings – to discuss what makes a cohesive kitchen design. She represents her small team of three, including husband, Jay Long, and their business partner, Joe Dodrill.

Let’s dive in for a behind the scenes look at this beautiful Thermador Blue kitchen – the Oakdale remodel!

Tell me about you and your role at We3 dwellings.

We3 dwellings is the creative collaboration of two companies – L&D Construction and JLW Design. With three design driven dreamers, two successful partnerships, and one vision, We3 strives to innovate and slightly disturb design in the housing industry.

Design has always been a part of me. When I was younger, I was always driving my parents crazy with wanting to rearrange/redecorate my room. Design is truly my passion, and I am thankful to get to do what I love every day!

It was not until after Jay and I were married for a little while that I began to get to do what I loved and make a living while doing it. Our collaboration to create JLW Design is something that is truly unique and magical. We have been creating magic for others and ourselves since 2012.

In 2019, we had the opportunity to join forces with our best friend, Joe, and create We3. We3 is what it says in the name. You are always getting the best of all three of us as we approach each project together, creating a space that you will enjoy for years to come. While we all have different tasks each day, ultimately all three of us touch each project and mold it to become the best version of itself.

To be specific about my role, I am the lead interior designer and one of the general contractors. I have the honor of working with my life partner and best friend each day and love getting to create magical spaces with them for our wonderful clients!

How do you begin the design process for your clients?

After our initial introduction with our client, whether through phone call or email, we then send them our New Client Questionnaire. This questionnaire gathers the necessary information like address, budget, requested areas of renovations, etc. From there, we set up a time to meet the client onsite and walk though their goals for the renovation. At this meeting, our team of three meets with the client to create the vision together before heading to the drawing board to come up with a realistic design time and cost and send to the client for approval. Upon approval, we start the process of combining the client’s vision with a realistic design plan that meets everyone’s goals. Once the design has been approved, we draw up a cost for construction and a general timeline for the project.

From your perspective, what makes a cohesive kitchen design?

A cohesive kitchen design is one in which design and function are parallel, where the two are so integrated that you don’t notice which comes first. It can be an interesting and sometimes complicated task to accomplish.

The kitchen is the heart and life force of the home. It is where everyone gathers even if you are not preparing a meal. Baby’s first baths happen here, kids’ school projects are made here, friends and family gather around just to chat about life. There is no other space in your home that creates all these memories, so it is the most deserving space to create a cohesive and beautiful design.

When planning for a cohesive kitchen we like to keep a few things in mind:

Accounting for extra storage or extra seating while maintaining the best flow

Considering how many people are in the family and how many people will use the space

Functional details unique to the client’s needs, such as features like integrated pop-up outlets in the countertops, integrated appliances or LED lighting, which allows the space to feel more luxurious and lets the colors and decorative fixtures shine

Specific to the Oakdale kitchen remodel, what was your inspiration?

The Oakdale home is an almost 6,000 square foot house built in 1984. The house is beautifully grand with brick flooring and oak paneling throughout most of the house. Our clients have done an amazing job of modernizing the home while maintaining the architectural details that make it special. When we were brought in to renovate the kitchen, we were asked to maintain the closed kitchen aspect but make it more functional and elevate the design to be cohesive with the rest of the house. You can see the before shot below!

Walk me through the process of the Oakdale remodel.

For this remodel, keeping the original integrity was important to us – our job was to enhance, not to camouflage. We did not change the overall layout of the kitchen. Instead, we utilized the high ceilings by adding a floor to ceiling wall of cabinetry for the appliance wall. Changing the workability and placement of the appliances allowed for a better flow when cooking.

We chose a color palette (including Thermador blue!) that complimented the brick floors and brightened the space, and highlighted the large window over the kitchen sink by removing the clutter that previously surrounded it. As we try to do in all of our kitchens, we used the 30” Freedom Collection Thermador Refrigerator and Freezer columns which set the tone for the dramatic appliance wall also containing the 30” Professional Series Built-In Thermador Double Oven. We really love the flush inset look of this oven!

Once we landed on the design of the kitchen, we moved into the construction phase. Demo for this project landed one week before Oklahoma City went into lock down in March 2020. Because of the closed kitchen aspect we were maintaining, we were able to continue working and finish this project with minimal delays. As with any renovation or build, we work together with our team of contractors and clients to achieve a hopefully very seamless process that results in a dream finish. Ideally with all projects, we will work with the client from conception and design all the way to final completion of the project.

When a client shares inspiration from social media or magazines, how do you help them bring their vision to life?

Our New Client Questionnaire asks clients to send over their inspiration Pinterest board or Houzz boards for our review. This helps us gauge their overall style and can provide valuable insight into what their true goals will be for their project. A lot of the time, clients initially tell you that they want a specific style and then once we review their inspiration, they actually do not like that style as much as they think. This is where our job as designers come in to play. We walk a fine line of giving what a client asks for versus what they truly want to see come to life in their project. We are fortunate to have amazing clients who trust our process and know that we will do our very best to create a space that embodies their vision and meets all the functionality that the space deserves.

What is your process for selecting the various elements of a kitchen design? Colors, materials, appliances, accents?

Once the design “bones” have been determined and we have maximized layout and function, we create design boards that visually suggest the overall new design of the space. These are delivered to the clients for approval. From there, budgets are created and then finally, the design is implemented. When renovating, we try to always design within the style of the home to create cohesion but bring a modern and simple design to tie it all together. Each project is truly unique.

When we build from the ground up, we impose our design style more since we do not need to account for the existing structure. With all materials that we source, we try to implement features that are innovative, sleek, and timeless. Nothing is worse than aging your project by using a material that is “trending” at the moment but will ultimately not stand the test of time and design. This leads into the question about ensuring a kitchen design is as functional as it is beautiful. This is our ultimate goal in all designs. We ensure this by using products and materials that are quality pieces and will be useful in the space. A well laid out kitchen (or any space for that matter) creates a space that is inviting and easy to use.

How do you ensure a kitchen design is as functional as it is beautiful?

A cohesive kitchen design is one with Drama, Function and Balance. We like to incorporate drama with floor to ceiling cabinetry or “appliance walls” without leaving any space between the ceiling and upper cabinetry. Many people say function before form, but at We3, we try to see that differently.

We create the form with the obvious functional appliances in mind, however, if the appliance or fixture doesn’t work in that particular form, then we find or rearrange the functional item to a place in the form that keeps the aesthetic at its full potential.

We input balance by using bold colors in places without making it feel heavy, and we place cabinetry and fully integrated appliances in the least intrusive spaces to create an open air feel to any functional space. We know that life can be stressful, so we want our clients to come home and smile at simple, clean, and beautiful lines so they don’t lose focus on whatever life may bring.

All photos credited to Emily Hart Photography @emilyhartphoto