For Everett interior designer, the work starts at his own home

  • By Sarah Jackson, Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, August 5, 2009 9:51pm
  • LifeEverett

Gary Hartz, who has worked as an interior designer for more than 25 years, shapes the way his clients live.

He knows just what type of wood to use for the perfect kitchen cupboards, where to place lighting to create a dramatic living room and exactly the right fixtures to fashion a luxury bath.

Recently, the gregarious and energetic designer, a man who seriously knows details, invited us over for a tour.

But this time it wasn’t just any home he wanted us to see.

It was his own.

He warned us not to expect the extravagance and perfection of his many upscale projects.

“Remember,” he said, “anything I do to my clients’ homes, I try on my home first to see if it will work and look good. As a designer, I have the world’s longest honey-do list.”

Hartz, whose business is Kitchens for Cooks of Everett, and his wife, Lori, who works in human resources for the Snohomish School District, came into the ultimate project when they bought their upper View Ridge home in the early 1990s.

They were drawn to the 1/3-acre lot and the good local schools for their daughter, Danielle.

But their new abode, a 1950s cottage, offered only 600 square feet, plus a 300-square-foot room that had obviously been converted from a garage into a bedroom.

Today, their home has been completely transformed and now includes almost 2,000 square feet and a large covered front porch.

You would never know their sunken media room with built-in cabinets and a black granite-surround fireplace was ever a garage.

“This house, except for one room, is brand new,” Hartz said. “Almost everything we did in this house, we’ve done in someone else’s house.”

Hartz, 63, has spent the past decade and a half experimenting throughout the place with significant input from his wife, 51, and daughter, 21, who is getting ready to attend Western Washington University this fall.

Though carpeting and paint have changed over the years, along with updates to windows and systems such as plumbing and electric, Hartz has also orchestrated two dramatic additions: A master bedroom, bath and dining room, and, just last year, the family’s beloved sunroom.

Their 20-foot-by-20-foot sunroom is a hub, a center for entertaining, including a kitchen area with a pass-through window to the home’s main kitchen, a pub table and stools, bamboo floors, cushy sand-colored furniture and whimsical signs. One with a crab logo reads, “Don’t be a crab.” No one would be a crab here.

Each of the walls is painted a different beachy color from a pastel palette of corals and blue-greens.

Three sea turtles swim down a wall, representing each member of the cheerful family of three.

“I love my tortoises,” Lori Hartz said. “It’s us.”

Though the sunroom opens to the family’s large back yard, where there is another kitchen area with a large barbecue, it’s not just a summer space.

In winter, they rearrange the furniture around a free-standing tile-covered fireplace featuring flames that emerge though a bed of glass beads.

In the home’s relatively small, yellow kitchen, Gary Hartz’s design prowess shines in the form of dimmable under-cabinet lighting; a faux tin ceiling achieved with textured wallpaper; bead board walls; and, a splurge, a white enamel Viking range, which also has its own dimmer light.

Corian countertops, installed shortly after the family bought the house, somehow look brand new.

“Corian is forever,” Hartz said of the composite material from DuPont. “It’s about 16 years old.”

Lori Hartz, though not a designer by trade, has expressed her passion throughout the house, especially in the rich, warm space of the dining room where dark wood furniture, African-themed art and animal-print accessories dominate and spill into the adjacent master bedroom.

“I started it because I really liked the colors, the browns and the rich tones,” she said.

Gary Hartz said the home, which includes a front living room decorated with antique and contemporary pieces, doesn’t hold true to any one style.

He calls it a “cottage with a flare-up of craftsman and a note of Victorian and Bohemian,” he said.

“It’s eclectic,” Lori Hartz said.

“It’s a fun house,” added Danielle. “We always have fun with whatever we do.”

Three tips to take away

Paint trick: When choosing paint colors, consider darker hues on accent walls that you’d like to move away or push out to create a feeling of more space. Designer Gary Hartz used the technique in multiple rooms of his home. He recommends cool or earthy dark colors. Hot colors such as reds tend to pop and move forward. Cool colors tend to recede.

Collections: Group like things together to create a dramatic display. The Hartz family had antique cameras arranged on built-in shelves in the media room. In the kitchen, cheese graters are hung creatively on one wall and a grouping of glass juicers enjoys a special nook.

Light it up: Nothing warms up a kitchen like under-cabinet lighting. Such so-called task lighting also illuminates counters and other work areas. You can achieve the effect with simple rope lighting tucked under the cabinets or have special systems installed with dimmers. Rope lighting also works well on top of cabinets for another source of indirect lighting.

Take a class

Everett interior designer Gary Hartz is offering kitchen design and remodeling classes throughout the county. Class times are 6:30 to 9 p.m. Call ahead or register online.Classes are scheduled:

Aug. 13 at Everett Community College; $25; 425-267-0150;

Sept. 10 and Oct. 12 at Mill Creek City Hall; $20, $18 for Mill Creek residents;


Sept. 24 at Park Place Middle School in Monroe; $12; 360-804-2570;

For more about Hartz’s business, Kitchens for Cooks, call 425-293-4442 or go to

Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037,

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