Desert Retreat

Regional Award Winner KDC 2013-14
2nd Place Traditional Award KDC 2013-14
Designer's Choice Award KDC 2013-14

Making KDC history – and thrilling her clients.

As Courtney Zeithing sat at her regional KDC gala, she wondered why the speaker was going on about how this was “highly unusual, this had never happened before” – then she got the surprise of her life…

She was the first regional double winner in KDC history. She completed her remarkable year at the KDC Gala in September, winning both the Designer’s Choice Award and 2nd Place Traditional for "Desert Retreat."

"It was so rewarding to be a double regional winner," says Courtney, "because I feel that my work is very diverse, and this was proof of that. The judges had no idea that both kitchens ('Desert Retreat' and 'Beach City Contemporary') were mine."

As we talked with Courtney, and learned about the meticulous way she goes about her design work, we began to feel that her historic performance is much more than just happenstance.

She draws and designs every interior architectural detail of each room, as well as specifying every material used throughout. "I still draw everything by hand, and those hand drawings are the first thing I present to my clients. They have more personality, more feeling to them, and I think my clients like that. They know I'm all in – totally invested in what I'm doing – and they know I’m going to do whatever it takes to help them realize their dream."

Courtney admits she comes up with some "crazy ideas," but she has a partner who helps make her designs come true. Her husband Jim Ziething does all the custom cabinetry and furniture for her projects – he has operated a respected, family-owned cabinet shop for over 30 years. The two of them will realize a lifelong dream this year as they move into their own building, which will not only serve Courtney’s high-end design clientele, but also produce Jim's cabinetry and furniture. It's only a few minutes from the newest Sub-Zero and Wolf showroom in Costa Mesa, California.

One of Courtney's "crazy ideas" cropped up during her design work on "Desert Retreat." It was an extremely challenging project: the client wanted to create a resort-like setting for their guests, with a kitchen/great room big enough for hundreds of guests, and an indoor and outdoor kitchen professional enough for visiting chefs. (There is also another, separate guest house on the property, with its own full kitchen!)

"The sheer enormity of the space required a variety of solutions," says Courtney. One of them was designing an imposing 20 foot long reclaimed oak dining table built by her husband Jim – so heavy it had to be assembled on the premises. "My clients had recently come back from vacation in France, and they wanted me to do whatever I could to give their home a French feel."

Courtney got to thinking about the flea markets of France, and the wonderful antique chairs she's seen there. So she decided to design 22 completely different chairs for the reclaimed oak table – like "found chairs" from a flea market.

"I spent hours in my garage," she remembers, "laying out all the chair fabrics, the drawings of each chair, making sure that they were unique, but that they would all complement each other." Her clients were thrilled with the end result.

What were some of the other challenges of Desert Retreat?

My clients wanted a state-of-the-art kitchen that would accommodate professional chefs, so they could host catered events. But they also wanted an additional full kitchen, side by side to the main kitchen, but able to be closed off, and accessible to the outdoors – with a Wolf outdoor grill in lieu of a range. I’ve never specified so many Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances for one home!

We love the stone and reclaimed wood – or what the KDC judges called your "inventive use of a rustic language."

I used a lot of organic textures. Jim made hand-cracked white mahogany cabinets with multiple layers of finish, as well as the reclaimed oak table, the solid slab wood bar table and the island. Many of the materials are quite masculine, but I balanced that with feminine colors that are light and cool, and reflective decorative lighting – also nice because it can get to be over 100° outside in the summertime.

Tell us about Beach City Contemporary, your other regional winner.

Obviously, this was a very different project. My goal was creating an ‘out of the box’ space that would provide a calming environment for my clients, a large family with a fairly hectic lifestyle. We accomplished this partially by hiding away most of the appliances in a stained mahogany wood wall, so that the kitchen would integrate more naturally into the living room, entry and wine bar.

What inspired you to become a designer?

My Mom was a designer – I grew up in a beautifully put together home. She did small projects for friends. So I was always going along to home furnishing stores, looking for plumbing fixtures, fabrics, furniture, accessories, you name it. And my father was a real estate developer, who rehabbed a lot of properties, so I got that aspect of the business too. So this is what I've always wanted to do – I love it, and I love seeing the smiles on my clients' faces.

In This Kitchen

  • 36" Designer Over-and-Under Refrigerator/Freezer with Ice Maker - Panel Ready


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  • 36" Designer Over-and-Under Refrigerator Internal Dispenser - Panel Ready


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  • 36" Classic Glass Door Refrigerator


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  • Legacy Model - 30" E Series Transitional Built-In Single Oven


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  • Legacy Model - 60" Dual Fuel Range - 6 Burners and Infrared Dual Griddle


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  • 24" Convection Microwave Oven


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  • 30" Warming Drawer


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  • 58" Pro Hood Liner - 22" Depth


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  • 54" Outdoor Gas Grill


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  • 27" Designer Refrigerator Drawers - Panel Ready


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Kitchen Design Contest 2010-2012

U.S. & Canada Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.

International Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.