Making the Space Work

Matthew Vosburg turns homeowners’ high-end dream kitchens into a reality — even though he knows that meals may never be prepared in the spaces he spends months designing.

“There are some (clients) who just want a ‘show kitchen’ ” to serve as a front for another kitchen in the home where the real culinary magic occurs, said Vosburg, owner of Affirming Kitchen Clarity Inc. in Las Vegas.

Nevertheless, “I’m passionate about making sure that space works for them,” he said.

Houzz, an online platform that provides home-remodeling design ideas and connects users with home-improvement professionals, recently bestowed Affirming Kitchen Clarity with its “Best of Houzz” customer service award.

The remodeling process “is tedious, it’s scary. … That’s usually one of the most expensive (areas) to remodel in your home,” Vosburg said. His goal “is to make sure that process is easy,” so clients “know what they’re getting (and) they know the value of the expense.”

Kitchens can also be one of the most interesting spaces in the home to transform given the seemingly endless array of colors, textures, surfaces and products that are available to homeowners.

“It’s not just about money, but it’s also (about) looks, function, style, is it right for the house in the long term, because timeless design” is key, Vosburg said. “We don’t want (to install) something where someone is going to tear it out anyway in a couple of years because they don’t like (the item).”

As a design option, granite will “be here forever,” he said of the popular countertop choice. “There are so many commodity granites now, and they’re relatively inexpensive.”

Vosburg said he doesn’t often use granite in his high-end designs, opting instead for “engineered quartz materials … that are marbleized or more monolithic in their appearance. They are great, and they don’t require the maintenance of granite.”

Stainless-steel appliances and fixtures are also here to stay, he said, despite a move in recent years toward other colored metals such as bronze and copper.

Stainless-steel elements lend a kitchen an industrial feel, and it’s something that people really like, he said.

“We’ll use some other metals,” he said, “but stainless steel is going to be there.”

Although dark-colored wood cabinetry has been the rage for a while, Vosburg said to look for lighter hues to emerge on the kitchen market.

“People were trying to get that chocolate color” for cabinets, he said. However, “I’m seeing a gentle move away to softer colors,” including gray, cream and off-white colors that are painted on textured woods.

“(That way, it’s not just flat (in appearance),” he said. “You’re getting the highlights and the lowlights” of the colors.

Texture is making a big kitchen comeback, especially in cabinetry. In the 1980s, he said, cabinets were often sandblasted to enhance the appearance of the wood’s natural grain.

“We’re bringing that back,” he said, “but (with) more of a contemporary feel.”

Vosburg said he devotes a good amount of kitchen design time to selecting and configuring cabinetry.

“When you look at a wall, you can throw in a bunch of cabinets, but if you don’t dimension them correctly, it throws the balance (of the room) off,” he said. “If the look is off, it may be (made of) a beautiful wood, but if you don’t balance it right, you’re going to lose some value there.”

Backsplashes can also promote kitchen texture.

“The shapes and the dimensions and the geography (of the tiles) keep changing,” Vosburg said.

Nowadays, classic subway tiles are mixed with smaller lineal tiles, stones or glass.

“That’s going to happen for a while,” he said. “I can see that continuing to morph with the materials they’re using and the shapes that they’re using.”

Also, depending on a space’s design, backsplashes can be made movable.

“Where you can reach in and slide it, and then you have a 3- or 4-inch-deep recess” in which to store other items, he said. “It’s all part of the functionality of doors. No more opening left or right — things need to lift up and get out of the way, and that’s really a main focus.

If his company can hide something in kitchens, such as flat-screen televisions, it will, he said.

“It looks awkward just throwing it up on a wall,” he said. “So we’ll hide it behind a bunch of cabinets. Push a button and it will drop down.”

It’s a design trend Vosburg encourages his clients to embrace.

“Especially here in the desert … because dust is such a big issue, it just makes life so much easier.”

Such clever disguises are especially popular in homes that boast more modern architecture, where the space “kind of doesn’t feel like a kitchen. It’s harmonious with the home and the architecture.”

Although technology still rules in most high-end kitchens, he said, a decidedly old-school product seems poised to catch on in more modest abodes.

“I’m seeing a tremendous push in luxury vinyl (flooring),” he said. “Some of it looks really, really amazing. The quality is much better” than the vinyl of yesteryear, and it is available in a variety of patterns.

“It looks like hardwood or it looks like tile, and usually (vinyl products) don’t. Luxury vinyl has come a long way.”

Vosburg advises homeowners contemplating a kitchen remodel to consider their budget and their long-term plans for the space before proceeding. He discourages most from trying to tackle the project alone.

If the remodel will be major, he advised getting professional advice from a kitchen designer or an interior designer.

“There’s so much information out there,” he said, “so (doing your) due diligence and homework and planning it out and (having) a proper budget … and sticking to it is probably the best piece of advice.”