A man entertains friends, serving food over a long kitchen island while the game plays on a large screen television overhanging the vent hood above his professional-style stainless steel cooking range. The kitchen and dining area have the feel of a sports bar with the comfort of a home.
Across town, a couple chats with guests. While one steps away from the stove to pour wine for a friend, the other pulls a few sprigs of fresh herbs from a miniature herb garden growing in a slab of wood connecting two separate countertops. These extremely different kitchens have two things in common: They are highly customized to their owners, and they were designed by the creative design duo, Abby Smith and Abbey Ragsdale of Smith & Ragsdale.
With a goal of reaching beyond the title of “kitchen and bath designers,” Smith and Ragsdale aim to be “advocates” for their clients. Whether they’re working with an individual homeowner to redesign a kitchen, or with a builder or architect on a new construction, Smith and Ragsdale hope to lift the burden of the kitchen or bath design process from the client and create something that is not only beautiful but that also makes everyday living easier and more pleasurable.
Smith and Ragsdale have a wealth of experience in ensuring all the components—from plumbing to storage—are addressed up front to avoid costly surprises down the road.
“The kitchen is the most important room in the house,” Smith says.
Because Smith and Ragsdale approach each project as a partnership with the client, letting the client’s needs drive the design, they do not have a signature look.
“The needs of the family and the client are the top priority,” Ragsdale says.
A full one-third of the time spent on each project is in the “investigation phase,” Smith explains. They talk to clients about everything from how they start their day to how often they entertain. They open all the cabinets and have even been known to measure cookware.
While their work is highly functional, it is also exquisitely beautiful. The kitchen with the miniature herb garden growing on the counter was designed for a Culinary Institute graduate and features such an intriguing mixture of materials and visual textures that it was a finalist and regional winner in the Sub-Zero and Wolf International Kitchen Design Contest, the premier kitchen design contest, attracting 1,700 contestants from across the world. The same project also won the team the First Place Residential Interior Design Singular Space—Kitchen in 2015 Dallas Design Awards.
This notable project was the first that Smith and Ragsdale collaborated on. At the time, Smith had her own design firm and Ragsdale was a designer at a high-end cabinet showroom in the Dallas Design District. During the project the duo realized they have really good synergy, Ragsdale says. The two combined forces and have been an unstoppable force in the Dallas and Austin design scenes ever since.
Smith is a natural at creating an overall vision and building strong client relationships. She also brings to the table 20 years of experience as a designer in the custom homebuilding industry as well as with different manufacturers and contacts in the design world.
Ragsdale describes herself as an “instinctive problem solver” and is a natural at figuring out how to transform a vision into reality.
Having worked with myriad vendors, manufacturers, cabinet designers and more, Smith and Ragsdale know where to go to find the best value for their clients. They can either leave a client with a design and a list of resources or they can stay on to manage the project to completion.
Either way, Smith and Ragsdale take great satisfaction in seeing the end result and knowing their client is enjoying a new kitchen created just for them—whether keeping an eye on the game while whipping up dinner or flavoring food with herbs grown on the counter.
Krista Franks Brock is a Dallas-based freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about art and design. For more information, visit kristafranksbrock.wordpress.com.