The Life of the Kitchen

Talking Kitchen Trends with Matthew Quinn

by Bob Borson

The latest stop on my great kitchen adventure was in Atlanta, Georgia – where I was able to go hear kitchen design expert Matthew Quinn give a lecture on regional design trends. This was a quick trip – slightly more than a 24 hour turn-around – but it was completely worth my time because I was able to sit down with Matthew and “grill” him on all things kitchen.


Matthew Quinn is a kitchen and bath designer based out of Atlanta, Georgia and his work has been featured in a multitude of publications including Metropolitan Home, Veranda, Cottage Living, Robb Report Luxury Home, Traditional Home, Southern Accents, and Renovation Style. Matthew didn’t get to where he is by following the normal path; he graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Chemistry, and moved up to Atlanta to continue his education at Emory University with the intent of practicing medicine. Not long after enrolling in medical school did he realize that this is not what he wanted to do with his life. He went to Paris to sort through things and he returned to the states with the intent of becoming an architect. As his career evolved, he started focusing in on hospitality design, including designing kitchens and baths. Not too long after opening his own business, he started winning design awards for his projects, including first place in the National Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest. When I asked Matthew what winning the kitchen design contest so early in his career do for him? His answer was pretty simple – it made him realize that he was actually really good at designing kitchens and gave him a tremendous confidence boost.


I went to hear Matthew present on regional trends and then I sat down with him for a while and was able to ask him more specific questions. He was incredibly gracious, I’d like to think that the two of us sitting down to chat about design was as enjoyable for him as it was for me.


Here are some of the most important pieces of advice Matthew had to share with me regarding Southern region design trends, his own personal design methodology, and just some plain old-fashioned tips for how to design a better kitchen space:

In the South, kitchens and kitchen adjacent spaces are getting larger. Formal Dining rooms are disappearing, they are being incorporated into the kitchens as well as seating areas and “away spaces”.


The demand is towards cleaner geometry and more rectangular spaces. In renovation and remodel projects, they are getting rid of angles – which are seen as more traditional.

Axis and centerlines are an important geometric regulating device to create view corridors into the kitchen – and the items the are typically terminating those view corridors are the range and hood.  An excellent tool for in home cooking lessons.

Wall cabinets are being minimized as more windows are added and walls are going away. A premium is being placed on opening the kitchen up and as a result, larger pantries are being developed.

When planning what goes into the cabinets, dishes are more frequently being moved into dish drawers that are located below the counter top.

The budgets for kitchens is going up – homeowners are concerned about resale but the kitchen is routinely viewed as the most important area within the house to keep current.

Trends are lasting longer – actually moving away from the word “trend”. It has more to do with particular styles and kitchens are frequently mixing two styles together (i.e. “modern farmhouse”) and as a result, they are less identifiable with a particular time period.

Most important design feature in the kitchen is the lighting – no longer just recessed can lighting the major fixture being used. Sconces located over sinks, pendants hanging down adjacent to the hood, cove lighting – all are being featured as major design elements.

Integrated appliances are used to alter the perception of the kitchen as a room of service and function and transform it into a living space.

Metal vent hoods are popular – nothing says “kitchen” like a metal hood (particularly when you make it the termination of your axis as mentioned earlier) and the metals being used are no longer restricted to stainless steel. Zinc, pewter, brass, copper – even powder coated – and combinations are becoming featured items in today’s kitchens.

When kitchens feature the appliances, there is an emphasis placed on the kitchen as an entertainment space – a space where everyone can either engage or participate.
Modern kitchens are eliminating cabinet hardware altogether and traditional kitchens tend to express the hardware and treat it like jewelry.

The counter tops in small kitchens are a consistent material – even when there is an island (which I suppose is when you have a “small-ish” kitchen) whereas in large kitchens, the counter tops are frequently different materials in order to help break down and scale some of these spaces to the people using them.

Tile is being used on the walls, but not just as a backsplash material – it’s very European to tile an entire wall and this is a technique that is becoming more prevalent here in the states. As an additional consideration, accent tile back splashes behind the range are out – keep it simple.