Laguna Beach design experts reveal the latest trends and delve into the process of pulling together the perfect space for cooking and gathering with family.
By Ashley Breeding
While the all-white kitchen will never “go out of date,” asserts designer Andrew Flashman of Laguna Beach’s Flashman Design Inc., many in his field agree they’ve grown tired of this trend. There are plenty of other options, but for those who are still a fan of the all-white facade, incorporating bold brass fixtures, open shelves or pops of colors are some ways to make a space more brilliant than boring.
If you’re building a new home or considering a kitchen remodel, first consider your lifestyle and how you’ll use the space. Next, think about your desired aesthetic. A designer can help integrate the two, so a kitchen will look and function as you want it to. Here, we turn to four local experts who reveal the latest innovations and how they’re employing them in clients’ homes.
Austin Tsosie, a designer and co-owner of Euro Kitchen and Design Corp., has been executing “cleaner lines and a more modern look” at the request of his clients, he says. “This includes handleless cabinetry and touch openings, complemented by LED lighting.” Tsosie’s careful to avoid “fads” that will appear dated and instead emphasizes luxury and timelessness.
Focusing on maximizing storage and “not limiting the new space to the existing footprint,” he partners with SieMatic, whose SLX cabinetry line is in high demand for its “sleek, modern design and channel system with LED lighting,” he says. (An SLX vignette will be installed in his showroom for viewing later this year.)
Flashman’s European design mirrors this clean aesthetic and is perhaps one of the most in-demand styles of the moment. “European design is often quite modular, with very specific materials,” Flashman says, adding that “there’s no room for error” with this look.
However, his company also does a lot of transitional projects with American branded products. And Flashman, who works on both remodels and new builds, is expanding to include American-made, European-style cabinets in a wide array of materials. While The Hive shopping center has housed his showroom for seven years, he’s been designing kitchens for decades and is now diverting his focus to custom cabinetry.
Handleless overlay slab doors in either high-gloss lacquer and acrylics or a super matte finish provide “flat-looking details” that hide all appliances, even refrigerators. Barely noticeable sinks can be made to blend into their surroundings. Modern spaces are also devoid of details like crown or trim molding, while reproduction hardwood floors—“they look and feel like real wood,” Flashman attests—lend visual appeal. Tip: If you have wood cabinetry, be sure the floor either matches exactly or contrasts entirely, Flashman advises. Also, although you can’t hide an oven, you can make a beautiful range the focal point of the room.
Then, set the mood with lighting, which “can define the character of a space,” Flashman says.
In a modern minimalist kitchen, consider a linear pendant above an island or dining table (like Cerno’s Virga or Vix 82 fixtures). Equally important as decorative lighting is task lighting—over, under and even inside cabinets—as well as the color temperature (Kelvin) they give off. They should also coordinate—all warm or all cold.
As the need for innovative appliances (think juicer, air fryer and wine fridge) increases, so does the desire to conceal them. “My favorite kitchen to design is one that is not identifiable as a kitchen,” says Claudia Morales, owner of Claudia Interior Design.
“One way to do this is to use furniture pieces instead of cabinetry,” she explains, noting the use of a bookcase to store glassware and dishes as one example. This helps blur the line between the kitchen and its surrounding spaces, especially with open-floor concepts.
Another option is to install modern storage—like a larder, which consists of electrical outlets and can house a coffee station, appliances or pantry items—and is hidden behind push-in doors that blend with the cabinetry facade. Surprisingly, such an “un-kitchen,” she says, can still function as a great workstation.
Julie Laughton, principal designer of her eponymous Laguna-based firm, Julie Laughton Design Build, says one of her favorite projects incorporated English Smallbone cabinets crafted to resemble furniture.
When it comes to countertops, man-made quartz and Silestone are alternatives to elegant-but-porous marble; they offer a durable, heat-resistant surface and come in a variety of finishes that complement any style. Natural quartzite is another option that’s both beautiful and practical.
For village cottages that are tight on square footage, clever storage (see larder mentioned above) and efficient use of counter space are of prime importance. Laughton points to sink basins with integrated covers and chopping blocks, so home chefs can literally prep on top of the sink, then simply scrape any food scraps into a pull-out waste bin. Appliances like refrigerators and stoves also come in 24-inch designs that are less obtrusive.
In larger kitchens, a center island with high-top stools has replaced the traditional dining room table as the setting for family meals. For a cozier or more architectural feel, Flashman suggests a curved banquette built into the back of the island for seating, opposite a stylish table and chairs. For smaller cottages with no space for an island, consider a corner banquette with a bistro-style table.
When it comes to their kitchens, most homeowners play it safe, Morales says. “They’re worried about resale value—they don’t want something that’s too out there,” she notes. But Morales has a different perspective: “It’s about quality of life. You have to feel good in your home now.”
One “risk” she does see clients taking is the trending all-blue kitchen. “I’m seeing blue kitchens all over the place—in all shades,” she says. The fad has given her an opportunity to come close to executing her dream project—designing a black kitchen—with a client who went for a deeper hue that Morales suggested. “It’s almost blue-black and has a very moody feel,” explains Morales, noting that a lighter countertop and silvery backsplash provided some counterbalance.
Worried that a dark color will close in a small kitchen? “Not necessarily,” Morales says. “It all depends on what is happening around that room. What really makes a space feel small is when you start separating it with different colors.” So, if you’re willing to go monochromatic, don’t rule this color out, but don’t make the leap without consulting a kitchen designer first.
Flashman, who’s also incorporated high-gloss blue and red lacquer cabinets in his contemporary layouts, echoes that uniformity is key when it comes to color, which allows accents of opposing colors: “This is calming and appealing to the eye,” he explains.
Overall, when it comes to design, Flashman says this: “The whole world is so eclectic today—almost anything goes.” But some of the most important details that can make or break a room lay in that “almost.” Finding an expert eye that can help you piece it all together is the best first step in designing your dream kitchen.
An Eye for Design
Here are a few other things to consider when designing a kitchen, according to local pros.
While a colorful rug can add personality, they’re a tripping hazard and difficult to keep clean, says Claudia Morales of Claudia Interior Design. But if you really want something under your bare feet while cooking, opt for seagrass over wool. “It’s organic, and you can take it outside and shake it out,” she says.
Open shelves are trending and fit any design aesthetic. Andrew Flashman of Flashman Design Inc. is currently working on a project that calls for open shelves all along the cooking area. “It looks wonderful and opens the space out,” he says. How practical they are in terms of dusting and cleaning depends on where your kitchen is located.
A second kitchen is a growing trend among Austin Tsosie’s clients. His team at Euro Kitchen and Design Corp. suggests using a “back” kitchen as a place for the family to prepare meals, while keeping the front kitchen clean and open for entertaining.
Wood countertops are having their day, but local experts agree that they’re highly susceptible to scratches and spills. For durability that’s also beautiful, consider natural stone or man-made materials that can resist nicks, knocks and heat.
Known for luxurious European-style and transitional kitchen and bathroom designs, Flashman Design Inc., with a showroom at The Hive shopping center in Laguna Canyon, realizes that off-the-shelf models will not appeal to everyone’s vision. Whether a client’s taste in cabinetry is traditional wood, minimalistic Craftsman or a modern aesthetic with a high-gloss or matte finish, owner and designer Andrew Flashman can work closely with clients to help “guide their tastes” and design quality cabinetry for any room in the home.