Jamie Gold, a veteran kitchen designer, has watched the evolution of kitchen style —from embellished and grandiose to pared-down clean and contemporary.

“I’m seeing a lot less of the huge corbels with elaborate carvings on islands,” said Gold, who has designed hundreds of kitchens for clients. “And more scaled-down and simplified styles. People took a hit on home values during the recession and really looked at what will stand the test of time.”

Gold’s new photo-packed book, “New Kitchen Ideas That Work” (Taunton Press, $21.95), offers thorough advice on how to do a budget-friendly facelift, a top-to-bottom remodeling or a new-construction kitchen.

It dissects kitchen layout, cabinet styles and flooring. It helps solve the countertop conundrum by offering unbiased pro-and-con characteristics of each material so you can make a smart decision on this costly upgrade. And lastly, it offers ways to infuse your kitchen, the heart of the home, with some personality.

“People spend hours baking bread and entertaining in their kitchens,” said Gold. “It’s part of the pleasures of life.”

The San Diego-based designer shared some of the basic ingredients for concocting a kitchen with the two most desirable qualities — style and functionality.


Design for the way you live. “A lot of people look at magazines and TV shows, and they design a kitchen for dreams rather than reality,” said Gold. If you’ve just moved into a house, use the kitchen for several months and take notes on how it works and fits your cooking habits. “You want a kitchen that meets your needs, not wants,” she said.

Honor your home’s existing architecture. “Don’t do a French Country kitchen in a California contemporary home,” she said. “The new kitchen should look like it was born there.”

Budget according to your home’s value. Don’t overspend or underspend. Visit open houses and look at your neighbors’ kitchens. “If everyone has stone countertops, laminate might not be the best option,” she said.

Zone in on work zones. The size and shape of the space will dictate the layout, but try to create efficient work zones that result in fewer steps when unpacking groceries, doing prep work and cleanup. Center islands in every size and shape are all the rage — but sometimes an island isn’t a good fit, and a peninsula is a better option, she said.

Budget-friendly facelift. Paint the walls, replace cabinet hardware with updated styles and finishes, change out a dated chandelier or ceiling fan with a new light fixture and install a new kitchen faucet. “It will be a brighter, fresher kitchen in 2013, with potentially more functionality,” she said.

Keep it neutral and classic. Gold recommends playing it safe in style and color with big-investment items such as cabinets and countertops. Give the room personality with light fixtures and window coverings that are less costly and easier to change.

White is here, there and everywhere. The white painted-cabinet kitchen is a currently popular look that has staying power, according to Gold. “It’s cheerful and connotes clean, which is good for a kitchen.”

Remodel for long-term living. With aging in place and accessibility in mind, include features such as easy-grip lever handles, slip-resistant flooring, sensor faucets, roll-out shelves, swing-out storage and a microwave drawer. “You don’t want to be on your knees trying to find a pan,” said Gold. “The accessible storage costs more, but is easier on the body.”

Which appliances to splurge on? It depends on your passions, said Gold. “If you love to bake, get an exceptional oven. If you love to entertain, get a good cooktop and oversized refrigerator.” Modern-styled induction cooktops, which heat food by magnetic power, are increasingly in demand, she said. “They’re energy-efficient, easy to clean and boil water faster than a gas stove.”

The next big thing. Stainless-steel appliances are classic and still strong, but people are looking for alternatives, she said. At last month’s European kitchen show, Gold saw taupe, gray and black-tinted glass-front refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers; she predicts they will infiltrate the U.S. market in the next few years. Ceramic and porcelain slab countertops also are emerging from Europe. “There are no grout lines, and they have a clean, contemporary look,” she said.

Hot kitchens today. Many of Gold’s clients are requesting a transitional look, which she described as “clean-lined traditional.” Elements include simple Shaker door styles, clean-edged countertops, long brushed-nickel cabinet pulls, sleek stainless-steel lighting and appliances, and midcentury-modern chairs and island stools.

“It’s popular because it’s the best of both worlds. It has a non-fussy, timeless appeal,” said Gold. “People want more simplicity and authenticity today.”