Matthew Quinn, co-owner and principal/designer of ADAC’s Design Galleria Kitchen and Bath Studio, has built an international reputation—winning virtually every industry award; creating the Kips Bay Decorator Show House kitchen in 2014; working with top business, sports, and entertainment celebrities such as Madonna; directing multiple product lines, including signature hardware collections; and, most recently, designing House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year.
Despite all of the accolades for his elegant, sophisticated spaces, Quinn is most proud of how his projects work. As he wrote in his recently released book, Quintessential Kitchens. “If I can create a safe, functional, and ergonomic space that gives a family more time together, healthier eating habits—and a return on their investment—that’s good enough for me.”
We wanted to find out more about this hometown superstar, so we tracked him down for some serious and not-so-serious questions.
Tell us about growing up in south Florida.
My dad was an educator, so during his summers off we would finish building or renovating a new home each year. We were basically “flipping” houses before that term was even conceived. We lived in each one for a year before my dad sold it, typically with all of its contents, which is why I have very little attachment to objects.
You’re known for exquisite attention to detail. Have you always been a perfectionist?
My ex-military father trained me and my sisters to be obsessively organized. Literally every single item had a specific place. Our shoes had to be side by side facing forward, towels folded on their bars, beds always made, and perfect vacuum lines in the carpet.
When did you figure out you wanted to get into this line of work, and what would you be doing if not kitchen and bath design?
I was groomed to become a doctor—I earned a chemistry degree from the University of Florida and moved to Atlanta with plans to attend grad school at Emory—but medical school was not in my cards. After a month in Paris, I switched gears and started design school at American InterContinental University. Just one week into my first quarter, Cliff Wang, the original owner of Design Galleria Kitchen and Bath Studio, called the school looking for a draftsman. I certainly did not get the position based on merit, so it had to have been my smile and full head of hair. Twenty-four years later, at least I still have one of those attributes. If I were not doing this, I think I would be either a backup dancer for Beyoncé or a photographer.
Are there elements you put in kitchens and baths 10 or 15 years ago that make you cringe now, and what are some classic features that almost never go out of style?
Kitchens are the most expensive rooms to build, so decisions are not to be taken lightly. Manufacturers are constantly creating new products and materials to entice consumers to renovate. From a design standpoint, I am shocked that 20 years ago I not only drew but installed so many bat-wing islands. You know, the ones with a sink or cooktop on the angled part and two wings off of that—further enhanced with a raised eating bar. What was I thinking? To make it worse, let’s throw in a triple sink and some massive carved corbels. Twenty years ago, kitchens were designed with such a heavy hand, partly because the only natural stone available was granite and because the “transitional” movement had not yet started. Other designers and I kept pushing white marble, though, and at some point Americans relaxed and learned to love the patina like in all of the timeless kitchens of Europe. White kitchens with white marble are still tried-and-true for a classic look. Appliances are typically what date a kitchen, which is one of the reasons I like to panel everything. Homeowners can insert their personality or update a kitchen through decorative hardware, light fixtures, art, and the colors of paint and fabrics.
How has the way people use kitchens and baths changed over the years?
In a way, the roles of kitchens and baths have switched positions. The kitchen used to be one person’s domain, sometimes in a separate room, or with others kept at bay on the other side of a pass-through or knee wall. The bath was more communal, a place where the family got ready in the morning and at night. Now the kitchen is the hub of the home. It’s very typical for couples to cook together and for children to participate as well. Kitchen aisles require more width, and appliances must accommodate multiple people using them simultaneously. Baths are now sanctuaries—the only truly personal space in a home.
How do you start a kitchen design?
The art follows the science. I always start with the plan, the function, and the layout. I take a very holistic approach to the space, first making sure it has great architecture as its foundation. Lighting and ceilings are incredibly important.
What kitchen and bath trends are you over?
I am over multicolored glass tile backsplashes, faux-distressed cabinet finishes, and maybe some other things I can’t mention that would get me in trouble with current clients.
Any new product lines you’re working on? What are some of your favorite products from your collections?
I am currently in the design phase of a ceiling fan collection and a decorative tile collection, as well as a continuation of new products for my sink and tub collection for MTI Baths, my stainless sink collection for Home Refinements by Julien, my modern hood collection with François & Co., and hardware for the Matthew Quinn Collection. I do all of my product design on airplanes. Since I travel weekly, I am constantly filling sketch books with ideas. My favorite products are probably my first loves—the Intarcia tub for MTI Baths and the SocialCorner sink, because I have literally seen how easily and elegantly it brings people together.
What’s the most over-the-top thing you’ve ever installed?
I’ve designed a room just for a Barbie collection, an escape hatch with a fire pole in a gentleman’s closet, and I re-created the original Chanel store in Paris as a three-story closet in Texas.
If you could design a kitchen or bath for anyone, who would it be?
Anderson Cooper, Matt Lauer, or Oprah. I would be fascinated to know, with all of their travel and experiences, what they think would be a perfect kitchen or bath.