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San Diego Designer Michelle Salz-Smith Creates Fantasy-Friendly Culinary Spaces

Alexandria Abramian | July 23, 2019 | Home & Real Estate


Michelle Salz-Smith uses bold colors in her designs.

When it comes to designing kitchens for clients throughout San Diego, Michelle Salz-Smith follows one concept: Create spaces that cater to people’s culinary aspirations by focusing on both functionality and aesthetics. “A lot of our clients are avid cooks who are also interested in entertaining,” says Salz-Smith, owner and principal interior designer at Studio Surface. “Now we simply create kitchens as if our clients were actually professional chefs.”

The result? A series of kitchens across the country and in local in places neighborhoods like Mission Hills, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Fairbanks Ranch and Cardiff with sophisticated capabilities that cater to clients’ wildest Top Chef dreams: “We go all out in terms of appliances and technology,” says the designer. But she does so without creating the cold showroom look. Instead, Salz-Smith and her design team integrate top-performing ovens, fridges and other appliances within what she calls “laid-back, livable spaces. It’s about feeling warm with a sense of feeling effortless.” To create that contrast of high-tech, down-to-earth kitchens, she conceals hardworking appliances in islands and adds an inviting mix of new and vintage elements. “Mixing in some antiquity and vintage pieces
gives kitchens a unique look,” she says. “There are so many all-white kitchens here in San Diego.”

Mixing in vintage pieces and earthy elements keeps a space looking fresh.

To combat whatever may be trending on Pinterest [read: all-white everything], Salz-Smith routinely injects splashes color and other less-expected elements. Think bold-colored cabinets swathed in hues like green-gray, salmon and black. “We look for things that are unexpected but, at the same time, not trendy,” she says, adding that glass mosaic tile backsplashes are also on her don’t list, along with too-oversize kitchen islands that become too massive. “I’d rather a kitchen have two islands rather than one that’s so big it becomes a literal island.”

The designer creates kitchens fit for a professional chef.

“At the end of the day, kitchens are such a huge centerpiece of the home; they have to be functional,” says the designer. “That’s why our designs are never too precious. The idea is to make timeless, high-functional spaces where people will cook, gather and entertain.”


Photography by: Jennie Corti/courtesy of Michelle Salz-Smith