The kitchen is a functional space, but basic interior design elements in here are as important as other rooms. Essential items like appliances, cabinetry and countertops usually are in place as the starting point for kitchen design. Unlike other rooms that may begin with a blank slate, it’s a necessity to connect the existing functional items in a kitchen with the quintessential design elements of space, texture, color and form.


Visual white space in a room is great for giving your eyes a spot to rest. Without it, a kitchen can feel crowded, which is amplified during a dinner party when everyone gathers in the kitchen. What’s the design lesson? Don’t over-install cabinets but instead leave wall space for the eye to wander. Stacked cabinets that reach a 10-foot ceiling may provide lots of storage but come at a price – both literally in dollars and figuratively in terms of feeling overpowered by the walls. Instead, substitute cantilevered open shelving or store bulky items in other rooms or closets to bring “rest” to the kitchen.

The kitchen possesses an inordinate amount of texture in the form of polished granite, rugged concrete, leathered surfaces, rustic wood, shiny or matte metal or other finishes. All of these textures can introduce “feelings” into the kitchen. Smooth equals formal while roughened wood equals comfort, for example. The play of textures against each other may take the kitchen aesthetic to a different mood. Be sure to limit the textures to two distinct ones, if possible, to minimize design confusion.

Hand-in-hand with texture is color. These two design elements often work together to set the tone in a kitchen. High-gloss white cabinets set a certain high-tech expectation, but join them with a natural walnut finish on the countertops and the mood becomes a warmer kind of contemporary. Adding a living edge to a countertop infuses a kitchen with a more comforting, organic aesthetic. Wood, glass, porcelain, and concrete add their own colors and textures to the mix. Now that there are more readily available varieties than ever before, finishes don’t come with a set of expectations. Mixing and matching create new combinations and boost design creativity.

Lines are a design element easily recognizable in the kitchen. Traditionally, the horizontal lines of the countertop, backsplash, and cabinets add peace and comfort to the room. We can shake it up and create a focal point by selectively accenting vertical lines, lay in a section of tall cabinetry emphasizing height and formality. The lines of staggered cabinetry may provide a feeling of comfort if balanced correctly. The addition of curves adds energy or tension. A kitchen designer is helpful in balancing form around an axis of symmetry in a kitchen, ensuring the visual scale of a centrally dominate design feature, such as a copper canopy hood, is balanced.

Personal Style
Whatever the style, remember to add a touch of your personality. A kitchen should reflect its owner. If the space is correctly designed, you will enjoy being in the kitchen. If you want to create fabulous food, you first have to invent a room you want to be in.

Max Isley, Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer, has owned Hampton Kitchens of Raleigh since 1974. For your next project contact him at or 919-554-2227. Hampton Kitchens is located at 6320-B Angus Drive in Raleigh. For more information, visit Mary Liebhold, Certified Kitchen Designer, founded The Kitchen Specialist in 1989, after having designed kitchens in Los Angeles since 1978. Contact her at or 919-490-4922. The showroom is located at 3407 University Drive in Durham. For more information visit