Kitchen trends may come and go, but whether you’re whipping up a four-course gourmet meal or reheating a slice of pizza, this room is still the heart of the home. In fact, the kitchen’s multipurpose role as a place to entertain friends, tackle homework, answer emails, dine, or just hang out with the family, continues to define home design.

To accommodate its many uses, kitchens today favor the open floor plan. This means that space previously allocated to formal dining and living rooms can now be incorporated into one large area with the kitchen or great room.

Separate dining-room and kitchen tables are now being replaced by a single dining area with counter chairs or bar stools at a connected table or island.

In terms of style, while not too long ago “traditional” was all the rage in kitchen décor, today’s homeowners are opting for a cleaner look with fewer curves and ornamental details.

In keeping with the transitional feel, color palettes feature a lot of neutrals – grays, blacks, and whites – with an all-white kitchen still the most popular. Like the basic black dress, the white kitchen can be trendy or conservative, depending on the accessories.

Perhaps the most important kitchen design elements are countertops and backsplash surfaces. It’s where the eye is drawn first and the place where design creates the truly customized look.

The big trend continues to be the use of multiple textures for the various stone surfaces in a kitchen, like suede, brushed, polished or leathered.

Home owners are also choosing a variety of stone – granite, marble, tiles, onyx and others – along with a mixture of colors and finishes to create dramatic and original kitchen designs.

Also increasing in popularity are kitchens with two sinks in separate work zones. The first zone, for the casual user, clean-up helpers, and everyone except the cook, features the main sink, the dishwasher, its own counter space for making a sandwich or jellying toast, with access to everyday dishes and glasses.

The second sink anchors a work area for the cook, with access to a prep counter, the cooktop and ovens.

Andrea Antunes McGilton is project manager at Distinctive Granite and Marble, with showrooms in Okatie; Lady’s Island; Pooler, Ga., and on Hilton Head Island.