In the Kitchen

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3Y4A9725F JEREMIAH_credit Darlene Halaby Photography
Interior designer Anissa Swanzy, owner of SKD Studios, keeps kitchen designs timeless but adds trendy elements for some details. | Photo by Darlene Halaby Photography

Culinary spaces shine with contemporary design touches.

By Tanya A. Yacina


In the ever-evolving realm of interior design, the heart of every home is the kitchen—a space where form and function harmonize, where culinary creativity meets contemporary aesthetic. Kitchen design trends are constantly shifting in response to progressing lifestyles, technologies and the desire for spaces that not only serve practical needs but also reflect personal style.

Anissa Swanzy, owner and founder of Newport Beach-based SKD Studios, says that she aims to keep her kitchen designs timeless and adds trendy details to the smaller particulars of the room to allow for growth and change.

“Modern kitchen design, in today’s definition, … means cleaner lines, more simple aesthetics,” Swanzy says. “Cleaner door styles for the cabinets, using the same countertops as the backsplash instead of bringing in a wild color [and] using natural materials and softer colors.”

She adds that current trends are shifting back to natural materials, like wood and linen, even in the kitchen. “We are mixing metals and bringing in lots of natural products,” she explains. “Natural marble is back, wood tones in light Scandinavian colors are hot and neutral backsplashes are coming back.”

Gardenia_9704F_credit Darlene Halaby Photography
Cleaner lines, natural materials and softer colors are part of the modern kitchen aesthetic as many embrace Japandi, a mix of Japanese elegance and Scandinavian minimalism. | Photo by Darlene Halaby Photography

The popular design trend known as Japandi—a mix of Japanese elegance and Scandinavian minimalism—contributes to the recent uptick of natural elements used in kitchens, according to Swanzy. The aesthetic is more mellow and soft, relying on the harmony created by wood tones, neutral shades and full-height backsplashes instead of flashy colors and tiles.

“A few of the most important elements … [in] a perfect kitchen space consist of the cabinets, the countertops and the appliances,” she says. “… For cabinets, find a good kitchen designer to help you layout the new cabinet design and make sure that your new cabinets have the room you need for all your organization. For countertops, we encourage the use of natural products for clients that have the understanding that it will patina and will stay in style forever.”

When it comes to appliances, Swanzy is a strong believer in panel-ready units, which are unfinished and can be customized to match the room. She suggests opting for a free-standing range instead of a cooktop and separate ovens to save space. She also recommends not skimping on the appliances, because when you buy quality the first time around, you won’t have to replace them for years to come.

“Hire a kitchen designer. Even if you are using an architect, they are not kitchen designers, just like kitchen designers aren’t architects,” she explains. “It is vital to have someone that understands how a kitchen will be laid out, as well as how to incorporate your appliances and be able to show you the design in 3D.”

In addition, she says homeowners should seek out inspiration from other finished spaces before making any major decisions on design. “Seeing kitchens complete is a good way for clients to portray to a professional designer what they want,” she adds. “It is also a good way to see different styles and home in on their [own personal] style.”


Modern Marvels

These practical pieces work to enhance any 21st-century kitchen.

RH Breton_BarCabinet_NaturalOak_LightBrass
A modern piece inspired by 1940s design, the handcrafted BRETON BAR CABINET features unique radius curves mixed with straight lines and luxe materials; inside, you’ll find fixed and adjustable shelves, a drawer and an integrated LED strip for illumination, $5,595, with advance order at RH, South Coast Plaza. (714-540-1445;
Sur La Table cutting board
Perfect for both kitchen prep and serving guests, the REVERSIBLE TEAK END-GRAIN CUTTING BOARD from Teakhaus, made of sustainable materials, is the perfect accessory for any home chef, $149.95, at Sur La Table, Corona del Mar. (949-640-0200;
Rejuvenation pendant light
The BUTTE 24” CONE AGED BRASS PENDANT features a contemporary silhouette thanks to a funnel-shaped brass shade that comes in 13 different hues, including dark slate, burnt sienna, cream, pine and more, to match the design of any room, from $549, with advance order at Rejuvenation, Costa Mesa. (714-241-1450;
Serena & Lily_Furn_Terrace_Round_Dining_Table_White_Top_MV_Crop_SH
Considered objet d’art, or a collectible artistic item, the TERRACE ROUND DINING TABLE combines modern and classic style, available in three different sizes with a pedestal base made of reconstituted stone that will patina over time, from $1,798, at Serena & Lily, Lido Marina Village. (949-287-5764;
Between the Sheets serving tray
Whether serving an array of hors d’oeuvres or organizing kitchen tools right there on the countertop, the Italian ACADEMIA CHROME HANDLE TRAY elevates the kitchen experience, $559, at Between the Sheets. (949-640-9999;
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