A Design Q&A with Kelli Fontana Vogelgesang of West Bay Homes

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Kelli Fontana Vogelgesang, the creative director and designer at WEST BAY HOMES. Kelli, along with her husband Richard, run the real estate development company in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. You might recognize Kelli from the spotlight we featured her in from 2018.

Photo: Sophia Primozich

Beyond being our neighbor and an incredible partner, Kelli’s designs continue to blow us away. The level of detail and intentionality put into each design showcases her true artistry. In this Q&A, we’re chatting with Kelli on her recent Trillium and Heritage projects.

The Heritage Project

House Stats

7,706 sq. ft.
5 bedrooms
6 bathrooms

Featured: Meram Blanc Marble Hex, Meram Blanc Skirting, and Retro Lino Subway.

Can you tell me about the Heritage house? Is there any story behind it and the project that you want to share?

“For our original Heritage project, I was over the moon inspired by two trips that we had taken to California. I was inspired by restaurant designs like that of The Butcher’s Daughter in Venice where I could have spent the day sipping on my rosemary latte with hemp milk in this vibrant bohemian daydream for people watching. From the minimalist oceanfront beach homes of Malibu to the idealistic, almost unreal splendor of Hotel Bel-Air in LA. It was one charge of creative energy to another.”

“It’s funny, my assistant brought this to my attention the other day. When I’m dreaming up a new project, I’ll often start compiling different inspiration images, textiles, colors, and material samples to convey the home story I have in my head, to bring my ideas to light. There are many pieces and parts.”

The exterior of the Heritage Project. All photography by Spacecrafting.

My job as a creative in this industry is to bring forth a feeling for our custom WEST BAY HOMES. As we know, feelings change and stories need to be told. It’s a story I want to tell using the home as my canvas.

Walk us through your design process.

“In my process, my mood board pictures won’t really have any connection to an onlooker but for me, the pieces and parts click rather quickly and effortlessly. To you, it may look like an image of a gothic revival home and an abalone shell belt and you may scratch your head, but to me, it’s the wide steps on the front elevation of the Victorian porch that I’m zeroed in on and the shell belt represents the finish I’ll try to achieve for the shower tile in the basement bathroom.”

Featured: Retro Lino Subway.

Tell us about this show-stopping wet room. Walk me through your design process.

Featured: Atlanta White Porcelain, Claros Silver Travertine Hex, Claros Silver Travertine Skirting.

“In my career, I have had the great fortune to design well over 100 bathrooms and I think that as you gain confidence in your career, you desire to challenge yourself – at least I do. A lot of thought and planning had to go on behind the scenes to create an epic yet approachable personal spa bathroom experience such as this. I wanted it to feel warm, although expansive. I wanted the space to feel connected to nature — a shower in the treetops is a splendid way to start or end your day. I wanted this environment to make you want very badly to interact with it. I am so pleased with the way it turned out. The kids get the sports court but the adults get this, you know!”

“We loved the buttery white-oak tone of the wood. When I looked at the space and saw the sheer size and knew how much tile would be there, I wanted to counteract all of the tile with wood. Travertine is a beautiful option that is classic. Paired with the hardwood floors, it made the floors look like one body of warmth. We chose to pair it with large format porcelain to make the space feel super luxurious.”

I want to make it beautiful. I want to make it highly functional, and I definitely want to make it fun.

What are your tips when mixing materials in a space?

“Don’t worry about what’s cool at the time. Go with what is best suited for the space and don’t get too caught up on it. Make your selections personal and go with your gut!”

How about the prep space in the Heritage project. What were you inspired by?

Featured: Retro Lino Subway.

“You enter the house, you wash your hands. I’ve been creating homes with hand washing in mind long before COVID. The concept is an easy-to-access sink, upon transitioning into the home. The prep space is also wonderful for specific daily tasks or morning rituals like making coffee or morning smoothies. The prep kitchen is a workhorse that keeps the main kitchen clutter to a minimum. At WEST BAY HOMES, we are all about the ease and elegance of living.”

Featured: Adobe Silver Versailles.

The Trillium Project

House Stats

7,030 sq. ft.
5 bedrooms
6 bathrooms  

Featured: Stencil Dark AC, Annie Selke Ikat Black, Bianco Puro Marble Hex, Carvalho HD Decor Act, and Ashlar Glazed Brick Luminous Chevron.

Since the Trillium project was a remodel, how does your design process change compare to new builds?

The before and after of the Trillium kitchen remodel. Featured: Ashlar Glazed Brick Luminous Chevron.

“With remodels, you are forced to work within the parameters of the existing home in some capacity, and you’re hired to bring forth innovative design ideas and solutions to support the homeowners in living a lifestyle that will bring ease to their daily lives.”

What were the client‘s requests for the Trillium project?

“Originally they came to us after already having a conversation with an architect who had proposed a significant addition. After I walked through the house, many of my ideas actually ended up saving them a lot of money. We cleaned the whole house up and added tons of tile, millwork, lighting, doors, everything.”

Tell me about the hidden kids’ bathroom. What was your inspiration behind that?

Drag the arrows to reveal the hidden bathroom!

“With the kids sharing a room, we created a custom bunk bed, 2 closets, and a large toy storage space where the fireplace once sat. The homeowners also requested a lot of storage for books, so we had to be clever. This is how the bookcase ledge wall that opened to the children’s new bathroom came to be. It was a way to delight the children while providing the family with all the elements they wanted to incorporate into the newly designed nursery space.”

Featured: Splendours White, Annie Selke Shadow Black, and Penny Round Gloss White.

How does tile play a role in your designs?

“I use tile to make statements. It really is a huge supporting role in my designs and helps me create a strong story for the house. Whether it’s something traditional or earthy, tile is a great way to reflect the identity of what we want to say through the design. It is an awesome material for putting an exclamation point on the aesthetics of a space.”

Share a little bit about how functionality plays into your designs. The swinging door leading from the laundry room to the kitchen is ingenious!

Drag the arrows to reveal the hidden pantry and laundry room! Featured: Ashlar Glazed Brick Luminous Chevron.

“Prior to the WEST BAY HOMES remodel, the laundry space was dark, cramped, and a place you would not like to spend much time in. It had a wall within it that made no sense. The only thing it had going for it was 2 access points and a window. Regarding the access point from the kitchen: wouldn’t you rather have a seamless cabinetry door as opposed to an awkward door within your kitchen space. The cabinetry door opens, and surprise…your Pinterest-worthy pantry and sleek, functional laundry space is revealed. Who wouldn’t want a surprise like that?”

Featured: Industrial Roxy Acero.

For me, it happens really quickly. I see a space and I know exactly what I would do to improve it.

In the half bath, you mix a few patterns of tile as well as with the wallpaper, any tips or best practices when mixing patterns?

“The clients have roots in England and Africa and also wanted a contemporary, yet timeless feel to their home. I swooned over the uniqueness of their style request and this powder bath has it all! The Zebras Wallpaper by Scalamandré was the perfect backdrop for this bold mix of textures and finish. In my mind, the powder bath is a concentrated environment where you can be a little more indulgent in your design choices than the main living areas of your home.”

My pro tip: if you’re too afraid to do something in your kitchen or great room, try it out in your powder bath. Another tip: if it doesn’t scare you a little, you’re not quite there yet. Take risks and choose materials that make your heart skip a beat.

The Fun Five

What has been your quarantine obsession?

“After being diagnosed with stage 0, grade 2, DCIS breast cancer in December 2019, my incredible family went from cancer straight into COVID and some days were really difficult. For all the challenges 2020 brought there were so many blessings and clarity for what I’ll value a whole lot more moving forward.

Health. Real whole foods and nourishment became my thing. I’ve always loved to cook, but something shifted really naturally for me during the quarantine. I craved whole, delicious, colorful, beautiful food more than ever. So I was cooking morning, noon, and night in the thick of quarantine.”

What are you streaming right now?

“I am currently not streaming any TV shows or movies. I just stumble upon something on Netflix–I am not necessarily obsessed with any specific show. I do love listening to many different genres of music. Often, I tell Alexa to play “chill electronic” music when we are working in the studio. I also enjoy listening to music on my record player. Some of my personal favorites are artists like Drake, Lana del Ray, Etta James, and Led Zeppelin.”

What is your favorite hobby when you’re not working?

“I like thrifting – a day perusing consignment shops for furniture or unique secondhand clothes is always enjoyable. I also love going on little getaways with my husband. It’s kind of strange the thing about not working because in some ways I kind of always am. Even when I’m on vacation, I’m taking pictures and drawing an idea for a floor plan on a cocktail napkin from the hotel lobby. I’m blessed in the way that my life is the beauty in my work and my work is the beauty of my life and it’s all blurred together and I am so grateful to make a living creating what I love.”

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

“Amy Adams. I love all of her work. I have read that she is gracious, hardworking, and an engaging professional and those are qualities I admire. She creates a backstory for her characters and I can relate to a creative approach like this. Her roles run the gamut from comedy to high drama and I really respect the range of characters she can portray. I could never subscribe to just one aesthetic. I am always evolving and trying new things. It’s one of the things I love most about my profession.”

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would your career be?

“I fantasize about being a restaurateur sometimes. A florist? A party planner perhaps. I do believe I am doing exactly what I was meant to do and I think all roads would have led me to be a designer no matter what.”

Thanks again to Kelli for sitting down with us and for constantly inspiring us with her spaces. Keep up with the latest from Kelli and West Bay Homes on their website and Instagram.

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