NEW HAVEN, CT — Following in the footsteps of another designer is daunting; following in the footsteps of Frank Lloyd Wright is downright intimidating. However, Christine Ingraham, the great-granddaughter of Wright and owner/principal of New Haven, CT-based Fletcher Cameron Kitchens, has taken the pressure that comes with being related to the world-renowned architect in stride.
“Yes, there was a lot of pressure,” says the kitchen and bath designer. “Look at Frank Lloyd Wright. If I can talk about him objectively, he was a mastermind…he was visionary. Yes, there was all of that and I grew up with it, but I was given those tools, I was given that energy and I was given that knowledge of what he did. The way I approach things is different from the way he approached things, but I have all those tools I can work with.”
BIG SHOES TO FILL
Ingraham grew up in a design-oriented household. Both her parents were architects who owned their own firm. Their story began at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s school and estate in Spring Green, WI. Ingraham’s mother – Frank Lloyd Wright’s granddaughter – was visiting from Chicago on a break from studying architecture under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. That summer at Taliesin she met Ingraham’s father, who was an apprentice under Wright. The rest is history. Upon finishing their studies, the pair started their own architecture firm in Chicago, eventually bringing it west to Colorado Springs, CO, which is where Ingraham and her three siblings were raised.
Surrounded by architecture and design, Ingraham was destined to go down a creative path. She studied sculpture at college, then pursued an MFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. After she received her degree, Ingraham found a job at The Field Museum in Chicago. At The Field Museum, she met fellow employee, and future husband and business partner, Gregory Spiggle. After the two began dating, Spiggle, who had coincidentally also studied sculpture in college, decided to get his MFA at Yale, which is how they ultimately ended up in Connecticut. They started Fletcher Cameron in 1989. Initially their business was designing furniture, but it eventually segued into kitchen design about 20 years ago.
“I ended up going the creative route my whole life,” says Ingraham. “I went to art school, then went to graduate school in design, and then we opened our firm. It has always been about the planning of spaces. The kitchen aspect of it was exciting to me.”
The couple still does some custom furniture design on a project-by-project basis, and they design all of their own cabinetry.
A MODERN TAKE
Although based in New England, which Ingraham notes is “very traditional, very conventional and very provincial,” her design aesthetic is more modern, focusing on simple, clean lines and rich materials.
She and Spiggle are constantly researching and developing new materials for the kitchen by attending trade shows and traveling around the world. They find inspiration in their travels from architecture, nature and even building materials.
“We really have to make sure that the material we choose and recommend is going to stand the test of time in the kitchen,” notes Ingraham. “It’s got to be super tried-and-true, it’s got to be very durable, it’s got to be unique and it’s got to have some innovation to it.”
An example of a product that Ingraham currently likes specifying is sintered stone slabs, like Neolith from Spanish manufacturer TheSize; she hasn’t put in a granite countertop in years. She appreciates the durability and the versatility of it, and compares it to having very large tile on the countertop – minus the grout.
In addition to specifying Neolith, Ingraham’s firm is also an authorized dealer for The Galley Workstation. They make sure to stay up-to-date on the latest appliances and fixtures, and they recommend such products as Liebherr, Sub-Zero, Wolf, BlueStar, Summit Appliance, Miele and Bosch appliances; and Blanco, Hansgrohe, Dornbracht, Kohler and Vola plumbing fixtures for their clients.
“The client comes to us and we can really make sure that everything ties in together,” says Ingraham. “When you go from one room to the next – even though it might not be the same material, it’s the same language.”
Ingraham was exposed to modern design her entire life, but one of her biggest influences and role models was her mother. As a modernist architect, Ingraham’s mother strove to differentiate herself from her famous grandfather as well as her father, John Lloyd Wright.
“She really took on a whole style of her own,” adds Ingraham. “She was a powerhouse; she had her hands in everything you can imagine. She was productive with her own work, she was an activist, she was a mentor for people, and she lectured all over the country on architecture as well as education. She was an early adapter and way out on the front lines as far as the environment and interesting architectural practices.”
Ingraham mentions that her mother expected a lot from her children, but sees it as an advantage that has helped her get to where she is now.
The old adage, “the apple does not fall far from the tree” could not be better personified than by Ingraham and Spiggle, who have passed the creative torch on to their 18-year-old daughter. She is currently in college pursuing various artistic outlets such as documentary filmmaking, playing the guitar and painting.
“She has developed a creative side to her that we just find so fascinating,” says Ingraham. “We just see how being exposed to [creative] stuff can really influence your life, and we see how we’ve influenced her.”
The industry can expect to see a lot more from Ingraham, who is currently focusing on practicing what she preaches by updating her own Guilford, CT kitchen, including a heated Neolith concrete-looking floor, a wall of stainless cabinets and a one-piece backsplash that will fold into the countertop. ▪