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  • Writer's pictureZ Group Architecture & Interior Design

Part 3: Q + A on Kitchens with Melanie Noonan

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

This is the final of a three part interview series discussing kitchens. The interview for this month’s topic covers both residential and commercial kitchens and has been conducted with our Project Manager and Architectural Designer, Melanie Noonan. Specifically, we will be discussing Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant and the McLain Flats residence.

Here is a little background on each project:

Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant seats 850 and is the largest of Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort’s on-mountain restaurants (larger, in fact, than Sam’s Knob and Elk-Camp restaurants combined). It’s perched half way up Snowmass Mountain at an elevation of 10,640 feet at the top of Alpine Springs Lift. When everything was stripped down, exposing the massive wood columns and beams, the space was revealed into almost cathedral-like volumes. The renovation, along with a 2000 square foot addition, has been extremely well-received by the thousands of visitors each year, as well as the ski company and the family-owners of Gwyn’s. The rustic character has been retained with 2 new levels of refinement; the Marketplace servery has become much more efficient and the expanded bar, lounge, and gourmet dining areas bring a casual, yet luxurious, aprés experience to all entertainment and dining spaces. A bar, a wood burning stove, and big screen TVs, as well as satellite bar and coffee station downstairs are favorite aprés destinations.

The McLain Flats Residence is located in Aspen, CO. Without sacrificing any potential views, we’ve utilized these repeating balconies and sloping roof projections to create a dynamic yet balanced facade on the McLain Flats Residence. Z-Group Architects has broken up the residence into levels that allow for a cascading effect to occur as you move throughout. The McLain Flats Residence is an outstanding example of a dynamic linear build. Boasting over 9,000 square feet on 5 acres with 7 bed and 7.5 baths with a separate guesthouse, it offers some of the best views of the Roaring Fork Valley. This multi-level home shows how elevated view planes can be achieved while still creating truly accessible indoor/outdoor functionality.

Q: With Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant, you also designed a new cafeteria flow. No longer the snaking queue but a little more free form. Tell me more about this change?

A: “This was ultimately the decision of the Restaurant. We hoped they would move in this direction since it is the trend not just here in Aspen/Snowmass, but at most other ski resorts. This Marketplace design allows the patrons much more freedom. If you only want a quick snack you no longer have to wait in the long line. It allows someone to take there time and see all there is or simply go directly to the station they want if they already know what they desire. I think overall it creates a much better experience for everyone.”

Q: There is a sit-down restaurant at Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant, as well as an indoor and outdoor bar. What was your design strategy to facilitate all of these service elements?

A: “The sit-down restaurant is something you don’t typically find on-mountain at most ski resorts. This is part of what makes Gwyn’s so special. While Gwyn’s has clientele that return year after year, the one thing we kept hearing from our client was that not everyone realized the sit-down restaurant was even there. Our goal was to give the sit-down restaurant more presence. Now everyone is aware that it is there and what it has to offer.

Gwyn’s always had an indoor and outdoor bar. It was just poorly located and a difficult to access. To improve this, we moved all the amenities to one floor; cafeteria, restaurant, bar, and bathrooms. Locating the bar on the same level as the cafeteria and restaurant made it more visible, more accessible, easier to service (there is a small bar menu), and finally gave it the space and atmosphere it deserves. It is now the perfect aprés location!

Both of these spaces are located within the new addition. This allowed us to preserve the beloved historic portion of Gwyn’s, while opening up the views from inside the bar and restaurant. This is a feature that neither of the spaces could offer before. The restaurant only offered these views to those lucky enough to get one of the coveted window seats. Now, these views can be seen from every seat. It continues to be a beloved on-mountain restaurant for visitors and locals alike with unbelievable views, accessible amenities, and excellent service.”

Q: Kitchens are so often intimate spaces, are there challenges when working with such a large space such as in the McLain Flats Residence?

A: “Kitchens are always a challenge regardless of the size of the space. A larger space can sometimes be harder to make intimate, but it all really depends on the home owner and their expectation of the space. Specifically, at the McLain Flats Residence, the kitchen was extremely challenging, not because of the large space, but because of the home owner’s desired use for the space and the nature of the project as a renovation / addition. We went through a wide variety of design options to achieved both functional and aesthetic desires. We worked very closely with the home owner’s to solve the many design obstacles that come with a renovation / addition project. In the end, the result suited the home owner’s needs as the process made for a better design than even expected.”

Q: What do you personally love about the McLain Flats Residence kitchen?

A: “My favorite part of this kitchen is probably the hidden pantry. It is the first house we added this unique kitchen storage feature to. As more open space layouts continue to be desirable, we recognize how successful this feature is in luxury kitchens. It is a feature that our home owner’s love.”

Q: Are there any kitchen trends that you like or dislike?

A: “I can not say that I dislike any of the current kitchen trends I’m seeing. For the most part, the open concept floor plan is continuing and really putting the kitchen on display. Most of the kitchen designs we have done lately are a sleeker, more polished kitchen. This contemporary design tends to have the appliances disappear. I would suggest keeping an eye on the new technology making its way into the kitchen. Smart Home technology is helping create the Smart Kitchen. This is exciting for designers and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

Don’t miss our other two Q + A Interview Blogs with our team! Learn more about the projects featured in this blog by visiting the Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant and McLain Flats project pages.

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