In my last blog I presented the 7 Elements of Design and how you could incorporate them into your Kitchen designs.

They were space, line, form, light, color, texture and pattern.

Today I will show you how to take your Kitchen designs to the next level by using the 6 Principles of Design in your projects.

These Principles include:

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

I see the proper implementation of the Principles of Design as the “WOW” factor of interior design and a theory that all Kitchen Designers need to know!


In interior design, balance creates a feeling of equilibrium.

It is all about equalizing or approximating the visual weight of objects.

Balance is created not just through shape, but through color, pattern, and texture as well.

There are three different kinds of balance:

  • Symmetrical or Formal
  • Asymmetrical or Informal
  • Radial

Symmetrical balance is where the space is evenly split into two sides that mirror each other.

Asymmetrical balance is where the visual weight of lines, colors, forms and textures are balanced without exact duplication.

Radial balance is achieved when there is a central focal point with other elements radiating from it or around it.

The first Kitchen example above shows symmetrical balance with the hearth, the lighting and the double islands centered in the space with equal sized elements on either side.

The second Kitchen example is asymmetric balance with the paneled refrigerator placed at one end of the back wall and an oven cabinet stack at the other end.

The oven cabinet is smaller than the refrigerator but the dark color of the ovens helps give more visual weight to them, balancing the wider refrigerator.


Emphasis is the focal point in a room.

If everything in the space was treated equally the room could seem either chaotic or boring.

You need to anchor a room with a focal point.

In Kitchen design, a custom hood can be an ideal focal point in your space.

The example above places a dark metal hood between two windows on a white background.

The hood pops against this background and is given the space to shine.

With Kitchen islands being so popular, this can be another element to place emphasis.

The island above became the focal point in this greatroom kitchen from the strong patterned stone on the back side of it and the black metal shelves above.

Neither of theses elements can be missed when entering this space.


Rhythm is all about creating patterns of repetition and contrast to create visual interest.

This can be done by using the same color or shape at different intervals with the purpose of moving the eye around the room.

The Kitchen above used the Principle of Rhythm by repeating the square throughout the space.

The Kitchen design was inspired by the square shapes of the window and door mullions.

Using these as a jumping off point, I designed the cabinetry with 18″ wide square glass doors across the top of Kitchen cabinets.

A square lower built in table was added to the end of the island to introduce the square motif used for the design.

To avoid a monotonous design though, a curved gooseneck faucet on the island trough sink and cylindrical pendant lights above were specified.


Contrast is a principle of design that often refers to the difference in luminance (color) of objects in a space.

There are however many ways to achieve contrast including:

  • Light vs dark colors
  • Smooth vs rough textures
  • Large vs small shapes
  • Round vs square shapes
  • High gloss vs matte finishes
  • Positive vs negative spaces.

In the first Kitchen example above I used contrast a few different ways.

First by combining white gloss cabinets with matte wood cabinets and through light and dark colors.

The second example provides contrast through the specification of light and dark cabinets as well as with curved and straight lines.

Remember that the use of contrast is important for adding variety, visual interest, and drama when designing a room.

Proportion and Scale

Proportion and Scale are grouped together as a Principle of Design with subtle differences.

Proportion refers to a general relationship in size between two objects or how two objects relate to each other in a room.

Often interior designers use proportion “rules” such as recommending that coffee table be two-thirds as long as the sofa they are set against.

Scale is usually used to refer to the size of an object or shape in relation to the size of the room or the human body.

For example, standard countertop heights and chair widths are scaled to fit the average person.

The two Kitchens above represent two different sized rooms with different scale and proportion needs.

The first Kitchen is in a room with 19′ high ceilings which demanded larger scaled cabinetry to make the overall look of the room work.

Proportionately the 12″ high stacked crown mouldings and 6″ wide decorative pilasters were the correct sized items for this Kitchen.

The second Kitchen was designed in a room with 8′ high ceilings and includes cabinetry to the ceiling that is in scale to the room.

The consistent width of 30″ for all of the cabinetry also contributes to the scale and proportion of this room.

One of the specific items planned to work proportionality with the cabinetry is the matte black hardware.

Since the hardware is in a strong color, the size of the hardware could not be too large, or it would have overwhelmed the cabinetry and felt out of proportion. The 5″ width was perfect.

Harmony & Unity

Harmony and Unity are also a team in the Principles of Design.

Harmony is created when all elements act together to create a unified message.

They may fit the same theme, aesthetic style, or mood, and it is important that each distinct piece seems to belong together in some way, even if it is not identical to anything else.

Unity refers to the repetition of particular elements throughout the design be it colors, shapes or materials that pull the look together.

Harmony and Unity create a sense of cohesion in a space and brings consistency to the design.

The harmony in the first kitchen comes from the matte black elements.

The pendant lights, the cabinet hardware, the staircase spindles, the window trim and the furniture legs all contribute to bringing harmony to this design.

In the second Kitchen above, the dark wood found in the cabinetry, fireplace mantel & hearth, floor and window trim, is a color and texture that provides unity in the design.

When developing Kitchen designs for your clients, always look at the design through the lens of the Principles of Design prior to presenting it.

This will help you ensure that the final design gives your client the WOW they are looking for from you!

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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 Principles of Design into Your Kitchen Projects

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