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The principles of design for kitchens and bathrooms

Good design is defined as the unity of design and a timeless appearance. But to achieve unity and a timeless appearance, 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 begins with design principles as the foundation.

The principles are balance, rhythm, emphasis / focal point, scale, proportion, and harmony / unity. To have a better understanding of these concepts, we will see each of them related to bathroom remodel planning and kitchen planning.

Let’s start with 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 up to the top of the wall and considered tiling the entire wall, not just above the vanity. The vanity, being very small, could only visually support a small number of tiles 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 whole wall. The light pendants we chose were also thought about, again wanting to keep the room balanced, we chose streamlined lights that had very little volume and clear glass to keep the balance of the space feeling light. These decisions helped make the design of this small room feel spacious even with the lack of square footage.

Moving on to the beat. The easiest way to create rhythm within a space is to repeat design elements that can include line, shape, texture, color, pattern, and light. In a recent bathroom project, we used floral tile in the shower, on the floor, and on an accent wall. We repeat the pattern in several areas on mute colored tiles to give rhythm to the bathroom. In a recent kitchen we used straight lines on cabinet doors, hardware, light fixtures, and furniture to create rhythm and flow. The idea is to keep the gaze moving in a natural way that makes one feel relaxed and comfortable in the space and never overwhelmed.

Accent / focal point is one of my favorite design principles to work with. The idea here 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 like as long as you think about the rest of the design principles. One of my favorite design projects was a master bathroom that was designed in marble. The whole bathroom was amazing, 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 niche with herringbone tiles that was accented by the 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 ratio 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 commercial kitchen or gooseneck faucet.

The proportion is an obvious principle and easy to detect if it is not calculated correctly. Simply put, you can’t have a nine foot walk-in shower in a bathroom that’s only 8×9. The shower ratio is overwhelming and too big for the space. Similarly, we would not use a giant chandelier destined for the cathedral ceiling in a kitchen with eight-foot ceilings. Scale and proportion go hand in hand and are a very important part of good design.

Harmony is all the different elements that come 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-colored cabinets, and turn-of-the-century lights. Once all the elements were combined, the harmony of the space became apparent. We would not have added polka dot or nickel finishes to this design. Anything outside the middle of the century would have disrupted the flow.

Design has endless possibilities, and with due care given to design principles, any bathroom or kitchen can become a showcase.

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