Matthew Quinn’s 25 Top Kitchen Tips


1. Let stone be stone; celebrate the movement, the veins and the pattern. You should want to touch the stone each and every morning like you would a family pet. Calacatta Viola has been my favorite marble for 10 years; it reminds me of some of the homes I visited in Venice and Rome. I am in love with the merlot reds, deep blues and emerald greens running through the stone in a way that camouflages even the most persistent stains.

2. Once you have selected an amazing stone as the countertop, either use the same material as the backsplash or choose a subtle, complementary, textured tile instead of something that will compete with the stone. If my countertops are honed (not glossy), I like to choose the opposite finish for the tile backsplash.

3. When selecting materials for the kitchen, I start with the floor—the foundation of the room—which is relevant to the flow of the entire home. I then select the countertops with a determination to find something that the homeowner will fall madly in love with. Next, we select the backsplash and, finally, the cabinets, the decision that has the most options. I always move from materials with the fewest options to those with the greatest.

4. About 90 percent of the time I panel all of the appliances in the kitchen. A room with strong architectural bones often does not need a twin bed-sized stainless appliance standing upright in the kitchen. In a room that does not have those strong bones, a stainless element can be a grounding component that beautifully balances a stainless range or wall ovens.

5. Kitchen niches are great to hide all those countertop appliances that we love to own but won’t use if we have to dig them out of a cabinet. If the entire room is deep enough, you may benefit by thickening a wall to accommodate these kinds of invaluable niches. You can take the same approach to create an architectural niche for the hood, which can help accentuate that focal point.

6. Most kitchens need a strong focal point. During the day, it can be the view outside but many an impressive view becomes a big black wall at night. A spectacular hood quickly becomes a dramatic focal point; the hood is the “front door” of the kitchen and should make the clearest statement about the personality of the room. A wood hood that matches the cabinetry can make a quiet and elegant statement, whereas a simple stainless hood can establish a utilitarian style.

7. Hardware is truly the jewelry of the kitchen; it’s the snap, the crackle and the pop. If you would consider wearing a smaller version of your kitchen hardware around your neck, your wrist, your ears or as belt buckle, then you have selected the right piece!

8. For the main sink, choose a highly functional faucet with a pull-out or separate spray.

9. Always use an air switch for the garbage disposal to avoid one more switch in the backsplash—or the need to reach into the sink cabinet with wet hands.

10. Lighting is absolutely the most important design element. Light the walls, the countertops and the cabinets so that when the doors are open, you can see inside. Use different types of lighting—task, ambient and decorative—while making sure that the color temperatures of the different light sources are consistent throughout the room.

11. Always use undercabinet lighting and make sure that the bulbs are easy to change, so you don’t have to perform “surgery” while standing on your head!

12. Ceilings are, unfortunately, the most ignored part of a room. I often remind homeowners that the ceiling has the same, and sometimes more, square footage as the floor. It’s not unusual for someone to obsess over the wood species, stain color, tile pattern or grout for the floor, and then just paint the ceiling white. Inexpensive moldings, beams, wood planking, Venetian plaster, high-gloss paint or even wallpaper on a ceiling can complete the look of the room.

13. Once we have addressed the finish of the ceiling, we can begin to decide what type of lighting to install there. I love to use square, trimless recessed cans; in spite of their higher purchase and installation cost, they are worth implementing in the most important room in the house. If the budget does not allow it, then use a  three- or four-inch can fixture. Six-inch aperture fixtures should only be used in hospitals.

14. Ranges versus wall ovens. It’s still a 50/50 split and by that I mean 50 percent science and 50 percent aesthetics. On average, a person will need to be face-to-face with their oven five times while baking something. Once you determine how physically difficult it is for the homeowner to be face-to-face with the oven, and the frequency of the position, then a scientific decision can be made as to whether to install a range and a supplemental wall oven or a rangetop and wall ovens. Aesthetically speaking, a range can ground the room and give it that modern industrial flair that screams “kitchen.” Rangetops can have almost as much visual weight and maintain the burner performance of most ranges.

15. Let’s face it: There are no pretty toaster ovens. Contain your toaster oven in a covered niche.

16. Empower collaboration; more minds create more layers. The layering of talents, disciplines and perspectives helps create intelligent design. It is rare to find a Renaissance man or woman who can do it all well!

17. Mirror inserts are great alternatives to glass panels in cabinets, as you don’t have to keep everything perfectly displayed inside. Besides concealing appliances at countertop level, mirrors also work well for “dormer” cabinets; you really only see the top of the object inside anyway, and I love how the mirror in dormer cabinets makes the ceiling appear higher in low-ceilinged kitchens.

18. Continuity of pattern. In this kitchen, the wire mesh pattern inspired the leaded glass detail of the tall pantry doors and dormer cabinets.

19. Use an island’s back cabinets or high cabinets to store treasured, yet infrequently used family heirloom china.

20. Be unique; design or discover your own finish and door style. Make your cabinetry, your biggest investment, all your own.

21. Work directly with a designer whose work you like rather than trying to imitate it. The designer will accomplish exactly what works best for you instead of what worked for someone else.

22. No more than three different metals or three different colors in one room has always been my mantra.

23. Details, details, details. They’re what separate the amateurs from the pros.

24. Because fashion works best when it is functional, tremendous attention should be paid to detailing the interiors of your kitchen storage. There should be a place for everything.

25. Choose a “captain of the ship” for your project ahead of time and allow that person to be the whole-house visionary, the one who knows how to elicit the best work from each specialist.


KITCHEN DESIGNER Matthew Quinn, Design Galleria Kitchen and Bath Studio. 351 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 234, Atlanta 30305. (404) 261-0111; INTERIOR DESIGNER Denise J. Prilop, DJP Interiors. 2556 Apple Valley Rd., Suite 125, Atlanta 30319. (404) 241-0100 CONTRACTOR Mosaic Group. 2358 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 300, Atlanta 30341. (770) 670-6022 CABINETS Downsview Kitchens by Design Galleria, Verona door with custom paint and glaze DECORATIVE HARDWARE Matthew Quinn Collection COUNTERTOPS Calacatta Viola through Marmi Natural Stone TILE BACKSPLASH “Dune” by Renaissance Tile and Bath RANGE HOOD “Mont Blanc,” Matthew Quinn Collection by Francois and Co. APPLIANCES Sub-Zero, Wolf, Ariston and Miele SINK AND FAUCET Rohl Home KITCHEN PENDANTS Dennis and Leen through Jerry Pair & Associates. COUNTER STOOLS Beau Holland Studio with fabric by Cowtan & Tout through Travis and Co. WALL COLOR “Phantom” by Pratt and Lambert BAR AREA PENDANTS by DJP Interiors PEWTER COUNTERTOPS by Design Galleria