BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich., Aug. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- As families congregate to cook, do homework and watch TV, the kitchen has become the busiest room in the house. Yet the hottest kitchen trends are everything but busy – cleaner lines, sleek two-tone appliances and innovative storage solutions. "The kitchen is the center of activity for families," said Janice Jones, vice president of merchandizing for national homebuilder PulteGroup. With the popularity of open floor plan designs, Jones said the kitchen – more than ever before - has evolved into the most important part of the family's communal space. "In the past, home design was driven by practicality, but now homeowners want function and design to meet – and it starts in the kitchen." Jones heads a team of 20 design professionals who oversee interior merchandising and specifications for approximately 1,100 Pulte Homes, Centex and Del Webb model homes across the nation. Jones's team will oversee the interior design and merchandising of more than 1 million square feet of model homes and amenities in 2012 alone, effectively making it one of the largest design shops in the nation. "Most homebuilding companies don't have an internal design voice like we do. It's usually very construction driven," Jones said. "We talk with homebuyers and learn what they want and where they want it to happen. We talk with our homeowners about what they love and what they would change in their current homes – and we use those ideas when designing new homes." Meanwhile, Jones said the kitchen as "an aesthetic impression" has evolved with clean lines, ample storage, easy to clean and uncluttered spaces. "The kitchen is now a driving force in defining the decor of the home overall." Seeing Is Believing: Jones said that PulteGroup's 700-plus new home communities across the country feature fully furnished model homes because the majority of homebuyers prefer to see the design ideas "in action." Pulte also allows homebuyers to design their dream kitchen with a click of a mouse with its new interactive Kitchen Studio. Images on www.pulte.com allow users to visualize a custom kitchen space by selecting from a variety of colors and finishes – from flooring to wall color. "Only 20% of homebuyers have the confidence to visualize and colorize the space. Most homebuyers we talk with tell us they want help in designing their home because going through all the options themselves is a lot of work and stress," Jones said. "This is why showing the latest trends and demonstrating what's possible is so important."