Every product from Chown Hardware tells a story, some originating from thousands of miles away. Chown travels the world to bring the most premium products of global design to your home, but the origin of that product is only the beginning of the story. Join Chown Hardware with a behind-the-scenes look at the process of working with designers, architects and Chown experts to create the perfect home experience, from inspiration to transformation.
James Yaker literally ran into his future wife, Kricken, while studying abroad in Florence, Italy. He was walking with a mouth full of panini when he bumped into the woman he had noticed at orientation the day before. “I just introduced myself with food hanging out of my mouth,” said James. “That was love at first sight, I’m sure, on her part.”
Apparently he made an impression—the two would eventually marry and establish their own design/build firm, Vanillawood. But home design wasn’t always in their plan.
When Kricken and James bought their first home in LA, they had no idea it would help pave the way to entrepreneurship. Their 1920s Spanish bungalow was a total fixer, and during the remodeling process they discovered they had a knack for home renovation. “We just really fell in love with the whole process—designing, demo, even tiling,” said Kricken. “We kind of looked at each other and said, ‘This is really fulfilling on so many levels, and we do it really well together.’”
Today you’ll find Kricken and James at the helm of Vanillawood, with a portfolio of stunning contemporary homes throughout Oregon and as far away as New York City. Their current home (self-designed and built, of course) is one of their most contemporary designs yet. “We wanted to go uber modern with it,” said James. “Really clean lines, open plan living, with lots of windows to bring in natural light.”
The plumbing fixtures from Fantini, an Italian brand known for its award-winning design and craftsmanship, were critical to the modern feel of the home. “[Fantini] knocks it out of the park every time,” said Kricken. “It’s literally breathtaking looking at their pieces because they’re so simple, yet so sophisticated.”
Much of James and Kricken’s inspiration stems from their travels abroad, particularly in Europe. “When you’re traveling…all of your senses are heightened, and you’re seeing things you’ve never seen before,” said Kricken. “You’re out of your comfort zone, so you have to pay attention, and it’s so important to see the world through a different lens.” Kricken and James believe that their travels inspire them to think outside of the box in their work, which is evident in the unique design of their own home.
As a designer, Kricken also sees great value in inspiration she can find locally, like in Chown Hardware’s showroom. Chown brings beautiful, cutting-edge fixtures from around the world to the Pacific Northwest. Their showrooms allow designers to have access to products they normally wouldn’t. Designers don’t need to travel to Italy to try a Fantini faucet.
“You walk into the showroom at Chown, and they have all those products you see in shelter magazines of all those beautiful photos of homes in Copenhagen, and Italy, and in Spain,” said Kricken. “And you can’t really find that in every showroom here in Portland, and Chown really has always had that.”
James and Kricken have designed and remodeled every home they’ve lived in, but this was the first home they designed and built for themselves from the ground up. Having full creative reign was a different experience from client work, and it’s easy to see that they had fun with it. “When you’re your own client, the sky’s the limit in terms of design,” said Kricken. “We really wanted to create something that we could walk into and be incredibly proud of.” They should be, the Vanillawood home is truly a modern masterpiece.