Tom Douglas Can’t Stay in the Kitchen

A chef moves into the thriving real-estate business.

In a new Bellevue subdivision one morning last week, Tom Douglas lingered in the kitchen of a $900,000 home for sale. The tousled-haired restaurant czar, surrounded by a handful of developers and public-relations executives, was getting his first look at the kitchen he'd designed. Yes, after opening five local eateries, branding a line of spice rubs, and writing a series of cookbooks, Douglas is moving into real estate. Signs for the "Tom Douglas Signature Kitchen" now adorn the entrance to the upscale nine-home development called Devon Lane, located just off Bellevue Way and still under construction. Douglas is also working with CamWest, the Eastside developer who is building Devon Lane, on two other Bellevue projects, bringing the total number of houses featuring his signature kitchen to 44. If the public eats it up, more may come, says CamWest's vice-president of marketing, Carolyn Gladwell. Before CamWest approached him, Douglas says he'd already designed half-a-dozen kitchens in private homes, including a few for Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, with whom he consults. "We're talking about big homes," Douglas says, houses that sometimes have separate catering kitchens or dining rooms that seat 100. Hence he was eager to design a kitchen for a more typical living space. "I like to see things," Douglas says, looking over the open racks (on which sit a half-dozen Douglas spice rubs) surrounding the stove in one of his Devon Lane kitchens. Other features include 30-inch-deep countertops and a three-shelf utility cart for extra storage and work space. These Douglas touches don't appear to be radical, but Douglas contends they make a "huge" difference in functionality. Still, one wonders whether Douglas' name is enough to make buyers fork over close to a million bucks for a house of less than 1,800 square feet near a busy street. Douglas' latest venture calls to mind Martha Stewart, who a few years back plunged into a partnership with KB Home to build large-scale subdivisions throughout the East Coast. But Douglas, who is acting as a consultant to CamWest, says he doesn't intend to get much deeper into real estate. "I'm a restaurant guy," he says. But come September, look for another extension to the Tom Douglas brand: a line of kitchen items that he says will be offered by

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