From Equine to Design


By Kristen West

Photos Courtesy of Angela Otten

ANGELA OTTEN grew up with horses, and it’s become a simile for her kitchen design career

Angela Otten grew up on a camp for kids where horseback riding was part of daily life. She was riding by age three, trail guiding when she was eight and, eventually, training horses. The progression of it is very much like her career trajectory from a foal’s first steps to mastery.

When Otten graduated with a fine arts degree, she wasn’t completely sure what she was going to do. “I was hired for my first job partially because the guy liked my little horse stipple drawing on my resume,” she laughs. The job, a laminate sales role, allowed her to establish her gait as a salesperson and taught her how to work with builders, designers and architects. 

From there, she took on roles that piqued her interest, and her ability to learn quickly and follow her curiosity led her to learn not only about kitchen design and sales, but also how the intricacies of a home work. “I did my own general contracting, which meant I was opening up walls and moving kitchens from one side of the house to the other. I learned about structures, plumbing, electrical and how a house works.” 

After fourteen years working with top cabinet manufacturer William Ohs, Otten galloped into her current career stage when she opened Inspire Kitchen Design Studio in 2017. At Inspire, she’s trained her staff to understand the house from the inside-out, too, giving them a unique perspective when working with clients. 

“When we go into a home, we know when things can move, when they can be built bigger, how much it’ll take to change the whole layout, and what’s involved with plumbing and electrical,” she says. 

Otten’s designers aren’t only trained to be knowledgeable, but they are also hired for their approachability, setting them apart from some of the other upscale design companies. “We are high-end, but we have a more casual atmosphere, which allows people to come in and be themselves. We like to get to know the people behind the kitchens.” 

During her 24 years of working in kitchen design and construction, Otten has been recognized for her talent and leadership with NKBA awards, two Home of the Year awards from Colorado Homes & Lifestyles and the Luxe RED Award. She’s also been published more than 25 times in different publications. 

She measures her success not by the awards and recognition, however, but how her work feels. “I’m doing what I want to do,” she says. “I’ve built an amazing team with talented people who like to work together. It makes me happy.” 

Otten says her leadership approach stems from a cohesive team environment and desire to demonstrate grace during challenging times. From a personal perspective, some of it also stems from her lifelong relationship with horses.  

“Horses have this amazing calming sense,” she says. “Working with horses has helped me learn to have confidence in what I do and not be afraid to move forward. It helps me say, ‘This is what we’re going to do even if we have failures along the way. We are going to make it happen.’” 

In addition to teaching her the value of hard work, how to be successful and the level-headed calm required to run a business and manage people, horses provide Otten an escape from her hectic business life. “I go horse camping,” she says. “I’m out off the grid for five to ten days sometimes and just get away from it all.”

That self-care grounds and recharges her so she can continue to focus on what really matters. As a female business owner, Otten strives to garner more support for other women in business and recently hosted a Pink Party, bringing business owners together and supporting organizations like Transportation & Construction GIRL through an auction and raffle. 

Her studio is nestled in the larger International Design Collection building with other manufacturing companies, creating a family-like, united feel to kitchen shopping. She’s been able to find like-minded companies to work with who help her see through a vision, no matter how abstract. “If I can engineer it, they’ll build it,” she says. “Having manufacturers who are willing to work with us and our crazy ideas makes me happy. We get to give our customers something that’s unique to them.” 

As for the next five to ten years, Otten hopes to continue to see her business and the people in it grow. “I’m proud of how far we’ve come,” she says. “Mostly I’m proud of how everybody gets along and the talent they all have. It’s a great environment to be in.” 

Inspire Kitchen Design Studio
IDC Building
590 Quivas St., 3rd floor, Denver