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By Miriam Raftery and Mayan Avitable

November 17, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – What are the hot styles, materials and design trends in kitchens today? ECM spoke with Lynn Wyndham Morris, communications director for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) San Diego Chapter and owner of a Touch of Tradition Home & Garden Shoppe in the Miramar area.


 Morris offered tips for homeowners, including examples from a recent ASID kitchen tour of homes in San Diego and East County.


In today’s era of challenging economic times, homebuilding trends in general are moving toward the practical and away from the grandiose. “People are taking out grand stairways and bonus rooms. Instead, they are putting in larger kitchens and mult-purpose rooms,” Morris said, adding that today’s homeowners are apt to view spectacular entry areas, formal living and dining rooms as wasted space. Instead, they’re opting for multi-use spaces.


“Typically, what you will see a lot in kitchens today are transitional styles. They are taking classical elements and cleaning the lines so they are a bit more modern looking,” Morris said. “A lot of people are steering away from heavy, dark kitchens with elegant woods. People want to live an easier, simpler lifestyle.”

New kitchens fulfill a multitude of purposes, serving as centers for crafting, computing, kids’ homework, and cooking. On the tour, several homes featured long countertops with abundant storage for craft materials and gift wrapping.

In the College area, a kitchen serving as the nerve center of the home includes a desk and computer available for recipes, bills and communication.

“People want more automation,” Morris noted, citing another trend. “It’s now common to see audio video in the kitchen.” Kitchens are equipped for everything from TV and computer use to online recipes and inventories. “Now you can enter your inventory and it will tell you if you’re out of flour, go buy more,” said Morris.

Instead of store-bought cabinetry, some kitchen aficionados are opting for custom furniture detailing such as decorative legs to integrate cabinetry with other living space areas, creating a more cohesive appearance. In a Jamul home on the tour, for instance, cabinets were made to resemble drawers. “People are also very comfortable changing cabinetry and countertops for islands and making them completely different colors and surfaces,”Morris said. “That was done in this home; it looks almost like there is a table in the middle of the room with dresser hardware.”


Lifestyles of individual homeowners were taken into account in designing kitchens that ranged from casual eating areas with bar-type seating to a kitchen that led to an outdoor entertaining area with barbecue for dining al fresco.

In addition, style-conscious homeowners are hiding appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators and even microwaves behind cabinetry to make kitchens look “like a living space more than a kitchen space,” said Morris.

Another trend is varying countertop heights. “That was across all the kitchens,” Morris observed. “Some drop to 28 inches, allowing you to pull chairs from the table up to a countertop and comfortably converse…People still do upper bar-height counters for guests to stand, lean and talk.”


Surface tops are also more varied. “It’s not all the same granite or travertine,” the ASID designer noted. “A lot are using alternative materials such as quartz, glass and wood” in combination with traditional granite.

Sustainability is also on the rise. “People want to make a difference with longer lasting or recycling materials when they are taken out,” said Morris. Homeowners with higher budgets are also opting for quartz, a byproduct of the granite industry. Quartz countertops are made of granite dust and powder combined with resin and epoxy to resemble stone, but more durable. “It is nonporous. No material can seep through,” Morris said, noting that granite can etch or absorb oils. “Quartz products are actually impregnated with anti-microbials and anti-fungicides.”

Color trends are moving toward neutral greys, creams and taupes, while stainless steel appliances remain ever-popular.

“The specialty area is a really good thing to add to a kitchen – a built-in coffee/cocoa tea center,” Morris notd. In-wall wine and beverage centers at eye-level are replacing mini-refrigerators on the floor to store collections of favored vintages. Obscured glass doors in cabinets are edging out clear glass, she added. LED lighting in cabinetry is also growing in popularity.

Homeowners are also maximizing storage space with roll-out options, lazy Susan corner units, and vertical storage to use every inch available.


In addition, the ASID designer says a lot of people are changing the concept of a backsplash. “People are saying `I’m going to do something really different and make it beautiful with glamorous glass tile all the way up to the range area, so the entire wall is covered with what almost looks like art. “The Poway home had beautiful glass mosaic.”

The ASID San Diego chapter is among the most active interior design chapters in the United States. The website includes newsletters, contacts for designers, and an eco blog emphasizing use of environmentally safe materials in design. For more information, visit