Talking Kitchen Trends with Matthew Quinn

May 27, 2014 — 13 Comments

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.

SZW Showroom Atlanta

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.

LoaA interview with Matthew Quinn

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.
  • 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.

Matthew Quinn speaking at SZW Regional Trends

  • 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.
  • Matthew advocates that every kitchen have something completely unique to it. This doesn’t have to be something extravagant, just something meaningful to the client. In one example, the client had an affinity for woodpeckers and as a result, Matthew had an artisan make a single custom cabinet pull in the shape of a woodpecker – every time the client opened that articular cabinet, they are reminded just how special their kitchen is to them.

SubZero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest

These are some of the items that Matthew discussed during his presentation and during his time speaking with me. Since Matthew will be acting as one of the Kitchen Design Competition judges, I would imagine that these are the sorts of things he will probably be looking at and discussing with the other judges during the time when the entries are submitted and reviewed. I have included links here to everything you might like to know more about the Kitchen Design Contest, the judges, the awards and prizes, or the rules of this event.

I want to thank Matthew Quinn one more time for taking the time to let me “pepper” him with questions. He was such an interesting person to speak with that once we started talking, it was 30 minutes before I had even begun to ask him the questions I had prepared. Rather than tell me to email my questions to him to answer later, he called the client he was supposed to be meeting with and asked if he could push their meeting back a little while. I have to admit that I left Atlanta and my time there looking forward to the next time I could talk design with Matthew – it was that enjoyable.

Cheers,Bob AIA signature

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have partnered with Sub-Zero and Wolf to provide my professional opinion about kitchen design and document its Kitchen Design Contest. While I am being compensated, I only recommend products or services I may use or will use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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  • kArno

    If ‘form follows function’ is true, then there is nothing truer than the kitchen itself!
    I had designed enough restaurants to understand the little things that are mattered & benefiting to the users, and that are for the commercially used kitchens.
    For the daily use of the individuality of a typical household kitchen is a totally different ball game. Shooh, that’s is an entirely different sport, IMO 🙂

    Thank you Bob for the wonder peice, and I totally understood and agreed with what Matthew Quinn is inspired and transpired. Spot on!


    Nice shoes Bob 😉

  • AlmostJane

    A LOT to be impressed with here, but I was most impressed with the fact that Matthew DIDN’T ask you to e-mail your questions to him. Instead he asked a client if he could delay things a bit with them so he could meet with you personally. And I’m guessing it may be a large measure of why he’s been so successful. It’s always the people with the best “people skills” that everyone wants to work with.

    • I agree with you – he was completely comfortable speaking off the cuff and didn’t even flinch when I asked if I could record the conversation. I asked about recording the chat because it would slow things down if I had to write his answers down as I went. I’ve only used about 20% of what we discussed for this post – the rest will show up here and there as this process evolves.

  • Himat

    Great content. Thank you. I really appreciate the point about lighting. There are so many varied tasks with different lighting demands in the kitchen and they are personal to that particular clients lifestyle choices. This, balanced with the desire to bring in more natural light, is a design challenge that we as Architects and Designers can really support our clients through.

    • I was also happy to hear that lighting got it’s proper recognition in a conversation based on trends. I also liked how the use of pendants and sconces are used in Matthew’s work in a way that allows them to serve a functional purpose AND an aesthetic one

  • Courtney Price

    Great information, Bob. He sounds so interesting, and I love what you have shared about the direction of kitchens – will be forwarding this link to a few designers …

    • Thanks Courtney – he really was an interesting guy and there’s no doubt in my mind that I could have chatted with him for a lot longer if he had the time. The fact that he spent so much time talking about how the kitchen works spatially really resonated with me. He also had some good points regarding how even really big kitchens are designed as small kitchens – but I’m saving some of that part of our conversation for a different post.

  • Very interesting article. I love the idea that trends are not so much “trends” anymore but can be combined ideas. I have a Pinterest board called “Modern Farmhouse” so this speaks to me. Anyway, very interesting points. I will link back to this article next time I write about our kitchen reno.

    • I was glad to here Matthew talk about the absence of trends as well. We spent some time talking about that specific point because trends in kitchen as something that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. I’m not referring to color or material trends, just the idea that you could have a trend in your house that was divorced from the style in which your house was designed – think Tuscan kitchen in a Tudor style home (shudder).

      • Yes, Tuscan and Tudor (lol) don’t match, but I think some juxtapositions can work. We are renovating a very old stone home and it will definately have some modern industrial influences in it. This is a wonderful blog btw, glad to have found it.