For those of you that studied design, you will be aware of the Elements and Principles of Design theory.

It is theory that I learned when I was studying fashion design at university, but it is a theory that applies to every type of design.

I use this theory when developing all of my design solutions.

The Elements of Design are:

  • Space
  • Line
  • Form
  • Light
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Pattern

And the Principles of Design are:

  • Balance
  • Emphasis
  • Rhythm
  • Contrast
  • Proportion & Scale
  • Harmony & Unity

Design professionals say that if you carefully consider all these seven elements, you will be able to create a beautiful and inviting living space

Today I would like to explore how the Elements of Design relates to Kitchen Design.

My reason for this blog post is to encourage all Kitchen Designers to intentionally incorporate the elements of design when developing a client’s project.

For each element I will provide an example to get you thinking about how you can use the elements of designs to make your Kitchen designs even better!


Space is the foundation of a room and is defined by the boundaries of the room and is the area people move around in and which objects occupy.

It refers to the two-dimensional floor space, as well as the three-dimensional volume in a room.

Both “positive” and “negative” space come into play when designing a room.

Positive space is where the room’s objects are positioned, while negative space refers to the gaps in between.

In a Kitchen, positive space would include things like built in cabinetry and negative space would be circulation space such as work aisles.

The Kitchen Designer needs to work towards getting a balance between positive and negative space.

For instance, planning work aisles between cabinets should follow recommended guidelines, but they should work proportionately within the room size you are working with.

A small kitchen can include the minimum clearance between counters of 42″ and feel spacious, while an oversized greatroom Kitchen would feel cramped with a work aisle that size.

54″ to 60″ wide aisles would be more appropriate in an oversized Kitchen.

When planning your Kitchen layouts take this into consideration to get the space right!


Both the structural features and the cabinetry in a Kitchen space can create lines that profoundly influence the feel of the space, and they can also be used to bring attention to a focal point.

The three different types of line in design are:

  • Horizontal
  • Vertical
  • Dynamic

Horizontal lines bring a sense of stability to an interior and can make a room feel wider.

Vertical lines can make a room seem taller by leading the eye upwards and visually heighten the room.

Dynamic lines include diagonals, zigzags and curves that infect a scheme with energy.

In Kitchen design, horizontal line can be achieved in a variety of ways with a popular one being the installation of a single floating shelf across a back wall.

A favorite way of mine to achieve vertical line is to stack glass door wall cabinets above standard wall cabinets to draw the eye up.

For the energy that dynamic line can provide, you could try a chevron patterned backsplash or as in the example above by installing shelving following the angled line of a staircase wall.


Form refers to shapes of the room in general including the shape of the entire space, the furniture, decor and even the accessories.

There are two types of forms or shapes:

  • Geometric
  • Natural

Geometric forms are those that have precise lines and angles with a strong feel.

Natural forms are the irregular shapes of nature and curvaceous pieces producing a softer feel.

Good design should strive to balance geometric and natural shapes in a space.

In Kitchen design, the designer can balance the hard shapes of most cabinetry with softer natural elements such as a curved hardware or even a radius countertop.

As stated, the key is balance with a kitchen not being dominated by one form or the other.


There are four types of lighting that should be part of your design including:

  • Natural light
  • Ambient lighting
  • Task lighting
  • Accent lighting

When you begin designing the lighting for a space, consider the amount of sunlight that you get in the room.

This can come from windows, skylights or glass doors, and whenever possible should be part of your Kitchen design.

Ambient lighting illuminates the entire space in a general way and usually is found overhead but can also come from wall lights.

A good way to develop ambient lighting is to think about how much lighting a client would need to see to thoroughly clean the Kitchen, and then put these lights on dimmers.

Task lighting is used to light specific areas in the Kitchen which usually means countertop areas in the form of under cabinet lighting.

Think about other uses though such as installing lighting inside the sink cabinet to illuminate the contents.

Accent lighting gives character and beauty to your space.

It is a type of lighting that draws attention to objects or features in a room.

It could include the lighting inside display glass cabinets or a pair of wall scones either side of a decorative vent hood.

For the best lighting plan, layer your artificial lighting and include them all on separate switches so your clients can manipulate the lighting in the room to produce multiple lighting moods.

Also, remember your choice of decorative lighting will contribute to the room’s appearance as well.


Color is the element that can set the mood, either liven it up or tone it down.

Color creates the ambience in a room and unites all other elements in the room, or highlights a particular texture, pattern, line or form.

Color is important, not just because it creates a mood in a room, but because it has the power to make a room feel larger, lighter, or cozier.

With all that color can do, it is an important decision in any Kitchen design.

Being familiar with different color schemes such as monochromatic, complimentary or analogous can help you present the perfect look for your client.

For reference, monochromatic schemes are ones that include tints and tones from the same hue.

Complimentary color schemes are pairing colors across from each other on the color wheel and analogous are schemes that use colors beside each other on the color wheel.

There is many options for color schemes in Kitchen design, so explore how color will make your client feel in the space, and choose the best option for them.


The purpose of texture is to add depth and interest to a design.

The two different types of texture are:

  • Visual
  • Actual

Visual textures are in appearance only, such as veining in marble or the grain in wood.

Actual or physical textures are both seen and felt, such as 3-D tile or carved mouldings.

Mixing textures and contrasting them add to the depth and interest of a room scheme.

In Kitchen design it is important to provide different textures to avoid a flat looking space.

A common place to add texture in a kitchen is in the backsplash but be on the look out for additional places such as cabinet trim or even light fixtures.


Patterns are repetitive designs that are composed of lines, forms and textures.

When used well, patterns create interest and beauty, and could provide the continuity from room to room.

The style of the pattern whether that’s floral, geometric, abstract or any other design should be in harmony with the overall style of the scheme.

Again, the backsplash area is a great place to add pattern in a Kitchen design, but also look at the floor or possibly the back of an island.

Finally, using patterns you can add interest and excitement so don’t rule it out when developing your designs.

The Elements of Design are the backbone of your designs, and should be considered at the beginning of the design process.

Next week I will explore the Principles of Design in regards to Kitchen Design to encourage you to produce the best possible design for all of your projects.

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Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

4 Comments on “How to Incorporate the Elements of Design into Your Kitchen Projects

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