A River Runs By It

Outdoor cooking and entertaining with friends and family require an easy ebb and flow. This Saugatuck home’s got that and more. // Photography by Ashley Avila Photography
The results of a top-notch project by Kitchen West Design Studio. The layout supports several needs including side burners, a sink, and beverage fridge.

Three years ago, when Marilyn Allemeier Nagelkirk and Laurah Boogaard started a design project for an outdoor entertainment area at a cottage on the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck, they knew it would be fun and turn out well.

“The home is positioned so that the clients look out to the river, but the community of Saugatuck is right on the other side; it’s a great view,” says Nagelkirk, a longtime designer who founded Kitchen West Design Studio in Douglas (also referred to as K West) in 2004 and worked as a designer for years before that.

Design star Laurah Boogaard

“It was a run-down space when the homeowners purchased it,” recalls Kitchen West project designer Boogaard, “and there was no entertaining space out there.” It’s now a chic gathering spot replete with excellent decking material, creative poured-concrete countertops that are dense and durable, storage aplenty, and a perfect grilling and cooking area.

“One of the most important things was to integrate the indoor kitchen with the outdoor space so the homeowners can easily take things outdoors,” says Nagelkirk, who also oversaw the design in other areas of the home where there were cabinetry needs. “They entertain frequently and, pre-COVID, they’d have very large gatherings and needed everyone to be able to freely move back and forth between spaces.”

Not only is there excellent connection between the inside and outside, but the elements literally flow from one space to the next. “The flooring (Ipe flooring) in the kitchen extends right out to the deck (Ipe decking) and their front patio,” Nagelkirk says.

Ipe is also known as ironwood, or Brazilian walnut, and works well outside because it’s scratch-resistant, bug-resistant, and stays cooler in hot weather.

Design star Marilyn Allemeier

Referred to as the “Clam Shell” house by its owners, the residence is named after the number of clam shells that accumulate along the river’s shoreline.

K West’s goals were to size up the space, and then learn more about the couple’s appliance needs. “We needed to create a layout that supports the appliances,” Nagelkirk says. “In this case, there isn’t just the grill, but (there are) side burners for creating side dishes, a sink with a faucet, an icemaker, and a beverage fridge.”

The cooking area, along a side yard, is in a narrow space and close to neighbors, so they had to work with the length of the area. “They wanted seating for as many people as possible, so we created two seating areas,” Nagelkirk says.

When it comes to cabinetry, K West designs it all. Because the kitchen and cabinetry must withstand Michigan weather in all seasons, things like gasket seals, integrated outlets, covered outlets, floor drains, leveling legs, powder coating, and more come into play. Homeowners can choose things like hardware for the cabinetry, but other elements are standard givens, if it’s going to last. “The items are rated for exterior use,” Boogaard explains. Both of the women are members of the National Kitchen & Bath Association and have taken national qualifying exams. “I carry the CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer) and Laurah carries the AKBD (Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer) after her name,” Nagelkirk says. A lot is required to get those accreditations, and the two attend ongoing classes to maintain their status. “That’s what sets us (and K West) apart,” Nagelkirk says. “Very early on, I had a drive to improve the quality of people’s lives by improving their environment. Being in a space that’s beautiful and designed properly enlightens your daily routines.”

torage space is a must for outdoor kitchens.



Knowledge of design and materials is a must for any design firm, but at K West another winning tool is teamwork. “Laurah (Boogaard) and I work as a team. We feel that benefits the clients immensely,” says K West founder Marilyn Allemeier Nagelkirk, who oversees kitchen designs as well as bar areas, pantries, and any space that requires or has cabinetry. “Having two of us keeps the line of communication open and detailed, with a lot of expertise,” she says. “I have 30-plus years of design experience and Laurah has 10. Our experiences are different, which makes us even stronger.”

— MS

From lounging on the deck to dining or cooking in the outdoor kitchen, space flow at this home works well and can accommodate large gatherings.


Marilyn Allemeier Nagelkirk has enjoyed family vacation homes on both Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio, and Lake Michigan, near Stony Lake. Presently, Nagelkirk is designing her own home on Spring Lake (just north of Grand Haven), enjoying boating on the channel out to Lake Michigan, and her close proximity to client projects. “I’ve been around water all my life. Spring Lake is my love,” Nagelkirk says. Adds designer Laurah Boogaard: “I love to vacation by the water; it influences us.” And, of course, working near water is great, too. “Just the other day we were in steep dunes near Pentwater looking at a home,” Boogaard says. “It’s going to be a unique, beautiful, and challenging space to work on.”

— MS 

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