HUNTSVILLE – Their first trip to Huntsville was as tourists visiting Algonquin Park. Stefan Ambrosius had always loved Canada and after the trip, his wife Heike finally understood why.
Stefan and Heike Ambrosius love creating beautiful kitchens. The husband and wife team have been in business in Huntsville for 16 years.
“If you live here, you don’t know how beautiful it is,” she said. “It’s a special place here in Muskoka.”
The two moved here from Germany 16 years ago, just one month after getting married, and started their own business, Ambrosius Kitchens & Design.
Clients always ask the duo how they’ve managed to stay married since they work together too.
“We’re still on our honeymoon,” joked Stefan. “Maybe that’s why we’re still happy.”
They met while working on a job in Germany. Heike was part of the interior design team and Stefan was an engineer.
“She was so damn cute. I was distracted,” said Stefan.
At the time they were living an hour apart and neither had much creative freedom in their work. So they kept in touch and continued to work on side projects together. It was their love of travelling that eventually pulled them together.
“We had a slow start; we got to know each other first before starting a romantic relationship,” said Stefan.
“But I always knew,” added Heike.
Their love for each other is obvious while having a conversation with the pair.
“I knew I’d have a great house if I married you,” she says to Stefan while discussing their relationship.
“I always knew it’d look good with you in it,” he answers.
Their dog, Sunny, completes their family.
“If you hire us, you have to deal with the dog,” said Stefan. “He goes out of his way to greet customers.”
In the 16 years the two have been in business here their reputation has spread through word of mouth. Worries it might take a bit for their company to take off were quickly banished as it only took six months for the word to spread about their unique and creative kitchens and built-ins.
With no show room or website they use their own house to show prospective clients what they’re capable of. They renovated one room at a time over 10 years, starting with the bedroom.
The house “had good bones” but needed to be updated on the inside said Heike.
Sometimes visiting the Ambrosius home can scare off clients as they think the cost will be too expensive.
“Some people even say no to an estimate. But once they get it, we get the job,” said Heike.
Since they keep things small they don’t have a large overhead, which allows them to keep costs down.
“People laugh at our small house and shop, but it’s enough to do the largest job,” said Stefan.
As a duo they say anything is possible. Stefan has more of a traditional style and Heike is more modern. Even so, they wouldn’t define their overall style one way.
“Whatever you throw at us, we can put it together,” Heike said. “There’s no limit to what we can do.”
“All our kitchens in reality are different because people are different. That’s the fun part for us,” said Stefan. “It’s truly custom, with no fixed design.”
He says the difference is in the details.
“My kitchens have to look good because it’s my name on it. We’re not in the yellow pages, we don’t have a website, it’s all word of mouth,” Stefan said.
After designing 160 unique kitchens, challenges keep the work interesting.
“Otherwise we get bored,” said Stefan. He’s already eyeing the bedroom for a second renovation. “There’s so much more to basic materials than the traditional way of using them,” he said, noting that even the veneer or direction of the grain can make a big impact.
“It still has a function, but looks different,” added Heike. “Our kitchens make the homes.”
The two know they could move to Toronto and easily charge twice as much, but it’s the people in Muskoka and the creative freedom that keep them happy.
“You get these overly excited people because you built them a jewel and they’re really happy, they hug you,” Stefan said. “That’s almost better than money. It’s very satisfying.”