February 9, 2018
At home with Robert and Kim Bartley
Story by Lin Stranberg and Photos by Janis Nicolay
As the partner of a celebrity chef, Kim Bartley has dined at some of the finest restaurants in the world. But she is happiest staying in to set the scene for one of her husband Robert’s epic dinners, whether it’s a cosy comfort meal à deux or a full-on party with Champagne, caviar and guests galore.
Robert Bartley is executive chef of the Vancouver Canucks, but enjoys doing all the shopping, cooking and menu planning at home, too. Kim, who is a designer and decorator, creates beautiful table arrangements in their stylish suite in a landmark building that looks out across English Bay. To her, it’s a form of play. “I’ve been decorating all my life,” she says. “I grew up with Barbie—I had her townhouse with the elevator.”
Her style is a down-to-earth blend of plain and fancy, sophisticated and homey, top-tier and budget-savvy. Although she travels extensively several times a year, she is just as happy to spend summer weekends pulling weeds in her West End community garden. She loves fashion trends, but chooses to bypass high-end boutiques in favour of the popular clothing shops along Robson Street.
Above all, Kim is passionate about achieving “the look for less,” that magic yin-yang of pop and practicality, luxe and good sense, which she pulls off with an eagle eye for colour and scale, a relentless sourcing and shopping energy, and a rock-solid dollar consciousness.
She may not be a chef, but she knows what makes a kitchen work. Thanks to early years in a hospitality career, she has a deep understanding of how to transform any kitchen into an inviting hub for warm gatherings with family and friends.
Here are Kim’s five top tips for making the most of your kitchen —and the rest of your home, too.
Tip #1: Set the table for success
Any table you dine at must look pretty, Kim insists. “I’m all about pretty. I love beautiful plating. When Robert wants to serve family style, I go ballistic!”
Tip #2: For easy hospitality, install a kitchen island
“The kitchen is the heart of any home, and when it’s opened up into a living space it becomes centre stage. Having an island with bar seating—either with a built-in cooktop or facing the stove so that the person who’s cooking faces the guests—offers warm pre-dinner hospitality. It leads to easy gatherings and conversational flow.”
Tip #3: Whenever possible, install banquettes
As a girl, Kim lived in a 1970s house with a corner breakfast nook. Over the years, her fondness for the comfortable conviviality of banquette seating has made it a mainstay in any design she undertakes. She installs banquettes in any dining area that can accommodate them.
“They’re more comfortable and feel luxurious, but the footprint is smaller because you don’t need extra space to walk behind chairs—and you can install drawers or flip-top seating for extra storage.” She put in the banquette in her 1100-square-foot condo, but left the former owners’ island and IKEA kitchen, which she enhanced with personal touches.
Tip #4: Bring the outdoors in
Use your natural setting to set the tone for the kitchen and throughout your house. Kim’s view over Sunset Beach inspired her to bring a beach vibe through her condo and into the kitchen. She chose watery grey glass tiles for her backsplash, a grey-washed rough-hewn wooden trestle table and dark wide-plank natural flooring that’s “almost like a dock” throughout. “Go with what you’ve got,” she says, “and have fun with it. If you have a backyard garden oasis, make everything a garden inside, too, with floral tones and vibrant greenery.”
Tip #5: Reface, remodel and redecorate
You don’t have to start from scratch. Use clean lines and continuity, together with modern upgrades like quartz surfaces and undermount sinks, to make a powerful contemporary design statement. “Keep metal faucets, handles and other accent hardware consistent. My kitchen had brushed nickel so I kept to that when I chose paneling to conceal the fridge and dishwasher. Reface outmoded cabinets and do a little remodeling, like easy-glide drawers and pull-out pantries for great hidden storage.”
Kim adds: “If at all possible, I like to reface, remodel and redecorate to avoid full-on renovations. It’s less costly and more convenient. And besides, I like design on a dime. Why spend more when you can get the same effect for less?”