In 1983, Jean Stoffer went to work as an admin for a Chicago designer shortly after graduating with a business degree. After a few years, she found herself more attracted to design work than administrative work and started her own agency, which became known for its kitchen design. Now, a few decades later, she makes her style of custom kitchens widely available through Stoffer Home Cabinetry.
The company, which launched last week, draws on Stoffer’s kitchen expertise, her love of English-style cabinetry and her hard-won maker: a workshop in rural Amish country in the Midwest.
Stoffer’s fascination with kitchen design began soon after she started her own business.
She was determined to create her own. “At the time I was in Chicago and I knew of an Amish community in central Illinois and I went down there, because they’re known for their cabinetry skills,” the designer recalls. Since the Amish shun electronics — including phones — Stoffer and her husband went door-to-door asking until they found a handyman willing to take on the challenge.
But as a designer, she knew that form was as important as function, and Stoffer found that the typical US options were lacking. She stumbled upon the British style of kitchen cabinets, which typically have inset doors, as opposed to the overlaid styles more common in American homes. “I would buy British kitchen design magazines and study them with a magnifying glass,” recalls the designer.