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The principles of kitchen and bathroom design

Good design is defined as unity of design and a timeless look. But to achieve unity and an evergreen look, all design principles must be taken into account. Remodeling your kitchen and bathroom is much more than selecting accessories and painting the walls. A good remodel will have a well thought out design concept that starts with design principles as a foundation.

The principles are balance, rhythm, emphasis/focal point, scale, proportion, and harmony/unity. To gain a better understanding of these concepts, we’ll look at each of them in relation to bathroom remodel planning and kitchen planning.

Let’s start with the balance, which is the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, textures and space. In a recent vanity design, a client requested tile be installed over the vanity all the way up the wall and considered tile the entire wall, not just the vanity. The vanity, being very small, could only visually support a small amount of tile without making the space feel bulky or heavy. Based on the principle of balance, we opted for less is more and decided not to do the entire wall. Thought also went into the light pendants we chose, again wanting to keep the balance of the room, we chose streamlined lights that had very little bulk and clear glass to keep the balance of the space feeling light. These decisions helped make the layout of this small room feel spacious even with the lack of square footage.

Going to the rhythm The easiest way to create rhythm within a space is to repeat design elements that can include lines, shapes, textures, colors, patterns, and lights. In a recent bathroom project, we used floral mosaics in the shower, on the floor, and on an accent wall. We repeat the pattern in several areas on tiles in muted colors to give the bathroom rhythm. In a recent kitchen we used straight lines on cabinet doors, hardware, lamps and furniture to create rhythm and flow. The idea is to keep the eye moving in a natural way that makes one feel relaxed and comfortable in the space and never overwhelmed.

Emphasis/focal point is one of my favorite design principles to work on. Here the idea is to show a part of the design and keep the viewer’s attention. Often referred to as the “wow” factor, you can be as creative as you want, as long as you keep your other design principles in mind. One of my favorite design projects was a master bathroom that was designed in marble. The entire bathroom was jaw dropping, so creating a focal point meant we had to get creative. The solution was to build a false wall to house a fireplace and a wall-to-wall alcove with herringbone tiles that was accented with sun from a skylight. Although the entire space was impressive, everyone who entered kept their attention on the false wall we created. Focal point achieved!

Scale refers to the relationship of two or more objects, one having a commonly known size. In a kitchen, we know that the average prep sink is 12×12. When selecting a faucet for this sink, it would not be appropriate to select a large gooseneck or commercial kitchen faucet.

Proportion is an obvious principle and easy to spot if not calculated correctly. Simply put, one cannot have a nine foot walk-in shower in a bathroom that is only 8×9. The proportion of the shower is overwhelming and too big for the space. Likewise, we wouldn’t use a giant chandelier meant for a cathedral ceiling in a kitchen with eight-foot ceilings. Scale and proportion go hand in hand and are a very important part of a good design.

Harmony is all the different elements coming together to create a beautiful and well thought out design. In a recent mid-century makeover, we thought about every element we add to the space. We chose dark blue tile, bold gold fixtures, walnut cabinets, and turn-of-the-century lighting. Once all the elements were combined, the harmony of the space was evident. We would not have added polka dots or nickel finishes to this design. Anything out of mid-century would have interrupted the flow.

Design has endless possibilities and with due care of design principles, any bathroom or kitchen can become a showplace.

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