With a larger-than-life personality, a love-your-life-now view on the world, and a down-to-Earth approach to design, designer Jennifer Bertrand is driven to overcome any obstacle.
“I am a firm believer that we all create our own destiny,” says the HGTV Design Star winner who has hosted multiple design television shows. “Of course, some have easier paths than others, but through sheer grit and determination, you can achieve the impossible.”
In 2009, just two days before she won the Design Star contest, Bertrand learned she was pregnant. Her now 12-year-old son was born with two rare malformations that couldn’t be fixed. The medical costs financially and emotionally drained Bertrand and her husband. “As if that is all not enough for the heart and mind to absorb, we tried to keep up with the bills, but it eventually became too much,” recalls Bertrand. “We lost our house, our car, and eventually, through the love of family and the community, we survived.”
Family helped the Bertrands gain ownership of their current home in Kansas City, Mo., about a decade ago. Their recent kitchen remodel allowed her to create a space that is perfect for her family. “When you experience life’s lows, it’s easy to see the beauty as your new story unfolds. For us, that was getting a grown-up kitchen,” she says.
Bertrand’s kitchen undertaking began like many of her client design projects: figuring out what mattered to the person who would use it most, her husband, Chris Bertrand. “My husband is actually the cook in the family,” she says of the London, England, native. “I sat down with him like a client to discuss what he dreamed of in terms of appliances. He had always dreamed of an extra-large gas range top with griddle, and how lovely that Monogram has their 48” Professional Gas Rangetop with Griddle.”
Monogram met many of their family’s needs, in fact, and she mixed several options to customize the space for their lifestyle.
Bertrand says she isn’t much of a chef – joking that she failed at cooking for her husband when they were dating, keeping her from ever having to prepare another meal. “By having Monogram’s Five in One Wall Oven with Advantium Technology, which can serve as both an oven and a microwave with built-in instructions that make it so easy, I am guaranteed success when I do cook,” she explains. The oven’s exceptional flexibility also plays a major role in the daily health needs of her son, who is on a feeding tube.
Wellness is a key design element for Bertrand, whose overall physical and mental health has suffered at times as she walks the road of parenting a child with a rare medical condition. “My most defining moment came from our real-life medical journey with our son,” she says. “It helped me become a better designer by understanding truly how impactful our career as designers is. We create environments that can physically make you feel better – and what greater thing is there than that?”
Monogram’s customizable appliances make designing a kitchen for a healthy lifestyle easy. Bertrand is particularly enamored with the Integrated Column Refrigeration and Freezer options, which fit with her husband’s European style of shopping for fresh ingredients every couple of days. “It’s amazing because we try not to do tons of frozen foods, so the fact that we can have a column freezer and split it up and put it in the pantry really allowed our smaller kitchen to have only what we truly needed in it,” she says.
Creating a calm kitchen space was also important to Bertrand as she designed the room she calls “the soul of the family.” Removing walls and a fireplace opened up the previously small space, bringing in natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake near her home. Soft jade countertops paired with cabinetry in a matte black wood stain – which her husband refinished himself – are set off by the mixed metals of the Minimalist Collection’s customizable stainless appliances, satin brass fixtures, and sleek glass refrigerator doors.
“Aesthetically, it’s a very clean and simple kitchen. It’s about ‘less is more’ and it adds a calm at the heart of our home,” she says. “All of the integrated appliances really just continue to add to the calm by only having certain appliances, like the range and wall oven, shine at the forefront.”
Going forward, Bertrand plans to keep adding to the kitchen. The daughter of a military officer, she spent many childhood years living in Europe, offering design inspiration from tours of centuries-old castles and chateaus. “I know I will continue to layer design into the kitchen as we live with it. What I learned from growing up overseas is that great design layers over time,” she explains.
While the process took some time– and they lived in their home throughout it all – Bertrand is proud to have achieved what her family needs. “Our luxury came in these appliances, and the kitchen layout is absolutely perfect for our family,” she says. “It flows for how we live, and it feels like us. There is not a day that we aren’t thankful for our beautiful, grown-up kitchen.”