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 considered. 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 the foundation.

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

Let’s start with the balance that is the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, textures and space. In a recent vanity design, a client requested that tiles be installed over the vanity all the way to the wall and considered placing tiles all over the wall, not just over 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 balance of the room, 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 lines, shapes, textures, colors, patterns, and lights. 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 muted colored tiles to give rhythm to the bathroom. 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.

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 known as the “wow” factor, you can be as creative as you want, 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 open-mouthed, 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 accentuated by the sun from a skylight. Although the entire space was impressive, everyone who walked in 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 gooseneck or commercial kitchen faucet.

The proportion is an obvious principle and easy to detect if it is not calculated correctly. Simply put, one cannot have a nine foot walk-in shower in a single 8×9 bathroom. The shower ratio is overwhelming and too big for the space. Similarly, we would not use a giant chandelier destined 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 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 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 outside the middle of the century would have disrupted the flow.

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