Essential Design Elements That Remain Timeless

Roomscapes Luxury Design Center shares insightful tips on how to create inviting rooms that will endure the test of time.

By Rachel Arroyo • Photography by Dan Cutrona
Focus on: Roomscapes Luxury Design Center

One of the biggest trends in interior design—especially in kitchens and baths—is the move toward minimalism, with rooms showing less clutter, simpler lines and ultra-organized cabinet interiors. Designs trends, as always, are a reflection of societal changes. Today, people have so much going on in their daily lives that when they get home they are looking for a peaceful atmosphere with less clutter and less stress. They want to lighten up, downsize, simplify and focus on what is essential.

The neutral palette of white molding against cream cabinetry is timeless. By adding colorful accessories and accents you can quickly and easily update a room. Kitchen designed by Cameron M. Snyder.

The neutral palette of white molding against cream cabinetry is timeless. By adding colorful accessories and accents you can quickly and easily update a room. Kitchen designed by Cameron M. Snyder.

“Essentialism,” as defined by bestselling author Greg McKeown, is the disciplined pursuit of less. Embracing this philosophy, the designers at Roomscapes Luxury Design Center take the time to discern what is absolutely essential for each client, and then eliminate everything that is unnecessary. Instead of asking, “What do you want for this kitchen?” their designers often ask, “What do you want from this kitchen? Good design is not just about the floor plan, cabinetry layout or materials chosen, but also about how those choices make you feel.

Most people want a home that makes them feel safe, calm and relaxed. They also want to be sure that their investment remains timeless and their choices current. Style, color, texture and organization of space have a huge impact on the way a person feels about a room. So, what are a few “essential” design elements that will help you create a functional and timeless, feel-good space?

Style: Softening Traditional Lines
Kitchens of a decade ago made a statement! Design details were elaborate, colors were bold, and cabinetry was heavy and formal. Today, more homeowners are opting for a “transitional” style, or what is also referred as “soft contemporary.”

Identical-sized doors and drawers that create continuous horizontal lines are hallmarks of a timeless, modern look as seen in this kitchen designed by Judith Gamble-Whalen.

Identical-sized doors and drawers that create continuous horizontal lines are hallmarks of a timeless, modern look as seen in this kitchen designed by Judith Gamble-Whalen.

According to Roomscapes’ director of residential design, Judith Gamble-Whalen, today’s homes show less fuss and architectural ornamentation and favor streamlined moldings and a de-cluttered look. People are moving away from the traditional and not incorporating raised panel doors as much. Gamble-Whalen reports seeing an uptick in demand for flat-panel doors and simpler, recessed-panel doors as well as an increased interest in hardware.

This is where the details, door style and moldings, will make the difference. A simple, large-scale cove molding can be used to lighten traditional cabinetry. In reverse, traditional cabinetry can be paired with no molding, which instantly lends an urban-contemporary feel.

Lines have a significant effect on design. They create width and height or give the appearance of flow, movement or activity. Lines give a variety of visual effects. Horizontal lines give a feeling of security, while vertical lines give the impression of freedom or expansiveness. Angular lines evoke action while curved lines are soft and give a sense of comfort. Properly used lines create a pleasant effect. The best design will have a mixture of these line types, but often we see one type taking the lead, and this leading line should represent the particular feeling you wish to portray in your home or kitchen.

Color: The dominance of neutral palettes
The choice of color in interior design is perhaps the most personal element. Everyone has a favorite color, and particular associations to certain colors. Colors can affect the feel of a room. Red, yellow, orange and gold give a warm aura, while blue, green, purple and silver give a cool effect. Beiges, black, browns, whites and grays have a neutral effect. Even if you love bold colors such as red or orange, you probably are not going to do your cabinets in those colors. Instead, you might bring those colors into the design as accents, choosing accessories, drapes, soft goods or other decorative materials that you can afford to change more often.

These breakfast bars, designed by Cameron M. Snyder, demonstrate the modern inclination to keep wares neatly organized and out of plain view.

These breakfast bars, designed by Cameron M. Snyder, demonstrate the modern inclination to keep wares neatly organized and out of plain view.

Color tones in new or recently renovated homes are generally neutral, with an emphasis on soft color palettes and monochromatic themes. The many shades of whites, grays and taupes are the most chosen palette for the kitchen, while white seems to remain a timeless choice for the bathroom. In modern homes, designers at Roomscapes are also seeing touches of blue and green that are often de-saturated or in very soft hues.

Roomscapes’ residential designer and color expert, Julie Lyons, believes over time colors will slowly become more saturated again. Lyons points to the increasing popularity of metal finishes as the first harbinger of this change. She says, “We are seeing brass come back very strong, but with a brushed or antiqued finish, especially in hardware and appliance details.”

Good lighting is hugely important when designing a room and needs to be considered carefully. Artificial lighting can change the appearance of colors, textures and patterns, either keeping them true or giving them an altered appearance, just like LED lighting could add a cooler effect to any room.

Space & Organization
Space is affected by the number and size of objects in it. Many objects scattered throughout a room will most likely destroy the effect of a design because the space will have no apparent organization or unity, and most people want an uncluttered and well-organized kitchen.

The contemporary aesthetic of everything out of sight and in its place also serves to provide efficiency and calm within a kitchen space. Everyday objects such as the toaster and coffee-maker are hidden behind retractable or folding doors.

For the designers at Roomscapes, a lot of time and effort is spent designing the interiors of cabinetry. To keep clutter at bay, cabinets are designed with special partitions, custom drawer dividers, roll-out shelves, magic pull-out corners and custom storage features. The tendency to store plates under the counter and the use of “dish carriers” to easily organize, store and carry like-sized dishes are on the rise, many of the designers have noticed, either because the presence of windows lessens the available space for wall cabinets or because they provide easier access for children or the elderly.

This bathroom, designed by Julie Lyons, mixes different materials in a neutral palette with striking results.

This bathroom, designed by Julie Lyons, mixes different materials in a neutral palette with striking results.

Looking for a cleaner, more streamlined look? The staff at Roomscapes are favoring less grout lines and larger tiles in backsplashes and flooring. In the bathroom, they are also seeing more floating cabinets and recessed toe-kicks that give a room a light and airy look. For aging-in-place seniors, designers recommend removing visual barriers and installing enlarged frameless showers or showers with no doors at all with zero-clearance entrances.

Timeless Look
Nothing will hinder the sale of a house more than an outdated kitchen or an antiquated bath, and since remodeling these rooms can be a substantial investment, most homeowners want to ensure a timeless look.

A timeless look is one that appears balanced and proportional, no matter what the design elements. When designing and installing cabinetry, for instance, it is important to balance negative space — the space in between cabinetry (think: walkways, doorways, spacing between upper cabinetry) —which has a great influence on the timelessness and flow of any design. Staying true to the classic elements of a certain design aesthetic will also create a timeless look. For example, contemporary-style kitchens, regardless of color, will have almost identical sized doors and drawers that create continuous horizontal lines. It is the consistency of the lines that provides a timeless modern look; and while some colors may be trendier, white and neutrals will always remain current.

Timeless design is about creating a sense of balance and order and a look that is as functional as it is beautiful.

To add visual interest without making a room look too busy, use neutral or monochromatic color schemes, which will better showcase textures and dimensional materials, says Roomscapes’ design resource manager, Lindsay Wade.

In general, mixing interesting textures and materials will help create a “soft contemporary” environment. The designers at Roomscapes are seeing ceramic or porcelain tiles with wood textures used for flooring; tiles with metal and glass inserts in backsplashes; hand-planed, distressed wood and even driftwood used for countertops as well as granite, which is often honed or leathered. A more traditional kitchen can be made “soft contemporary” by incorporating bits of non-traditional materials such as stainless steel at the back of an island or polished nickel framed cabinets. And, of course, the “jewelry” of the kitchen, the hardware, can go a long way to soften or emphasize the final look of any kitchen or bath.

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