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Ciao interior designer wins prestigious award

by Bret Anne Serbin Daily Inter Lake
| October 20, 2019 2:00 AM

Kalispell-based interior designer Les Bernabi recently won a Designer of the Year award for 2019 from the Interior Design Society.

With his work remodeling a cabin in Bigfork, Bernabi, principal commercial and residential interior designer at Ciao Design Group, became the first Montana representative to be honored with a DOTY award.

Bernabi won the first runner-up award in the “Kitchens $50,000 and Above” category of the contest. Every year, the Interior Design Society honors winners from across the country in 26 residential interior design categories, including kitchen, bathroom, living room and office design.

“First runner-up is an incredible award to win, considering some of the other design firms he was placed alongside,” Ciao’s Kate Neitzling said in an email.

The award-winning Bigfork cabin redesign took three years to complete, starting in 2015 and wrapping up in 2018. The residence, which was originally constructed in the 1990s, suffered severe water damage when a pipe broke in 2014. The redesign maintained most of the original layout of the 2,400-square-foot cabin, but replaced all of the damaged flooring and “redesigned the entire kitchen,” according to a description of the project from Ciao.

The new kitchen design rearranged the layout of the kitchen island, doing away with the previous U-shaped design and adding a sink and additional counter space. They also elongated the cabinets and painted them “gunmetal black.” The write-up stated this color “was chosen to give the rustic log home a modern flair.”

Bernabi and his team also replaced the home’s original lighting system with a “steel cable/pendant option.” According to the statement, this feature provides better illumination without damaging the home’s existing logs.

They also added “quartz countertops, [a] stainless-steel hood and contemporary furnishings in natural black and cream hues throughout the home.”

In a press release about the competition, Bernabi said he “designed a palate of colors to work with existing rock and wood surfaces but, most importantly, [wanted to] bring life to the long and gray winters.”

This effort is typical of Ciao’s work.

“The firm specializes in translating the warmth of comfortable living uniquely into each of its clients’ projects,” according to a press release. Their work—which includes local residences, off-campus student housing across the Northwest and projects across the U.S., Canada and China—has been featured in magazines such as Log Home Living, Timber Home Living and Furniture Today.

Bernabi got his start in the yacht design and sailing business before becoming the principal designer at Ciao in Kalispell. The press release described his design style as a “uniquely modern aesthetic that combines beautiful furnishings with handcrafted elements.”

Going forward, Neitzling reported Bernabi “is currently working on a number of residential projects in the Flathead Valley, as well as another off-campus student housing facility in the Western U.S..”

Ciao is located at 448 Main St. in Kalispell and can be found online at https://ciao.design/

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.