Kitchen Trim Design Tips – A Collaboration Story
Kitchen trim was on the mind of kitchen designer, Scott Koehler, when he contacted me several weeks ago. He was designing a kitchen with 10’ high ceilings and wanted to make sure the crown moulding’s proportions were right. Drawing on my understanding of the Classical Orders and Proportion, could I help him make sure this happened? “Of course!”, I replied.
In this post, I will share the design process Scott and I went thru as we evaluated various kitchen trim options. Our dailogue illustrates the process of getting a home’s interior trim right, regardless of the room.
KITCHEN TRIM PARAMETERS:
First, Scott sent me field measurements of the area in question – plan and elevation. We swapped a few emails and chatted on the phone, as I familiarized myself with the project. It was important I understand his design intent, the kitchen’s cabinet styles and the specifics of the design challenge he faced. My job was to make kitchen trim suggestions that complimented and enhanced Scott’s kitchen design.
What were the design parameters/limitations?
1. As in any renovation, there are always existing conditions that need to be accommodated. It was the window at the sink in this kitchen. It’s size/location were not changing. Nor was the door opening to the right of the refrigerator.
2. The client wanted tall cabinets and a large crown.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
First we had to determine “how tall was tall” in relation to the crown moulding. Using the Vignoloa’s classical proportions, a room’s height is broken down into 5 equal parts, the uppermost being the entablature, which is where all the crown moulding trim occurs.
I prepared three quick sketches and sent them to Scott to get the ball rolling.
In a room with a 10’ ceiling, the entablature is 24” tall. (Remember this number.) Our challenge was we only had about 21” between the top of the window trim and the ceiling. The beauty of Classical Proportion is it is scalable. So what might a full entablature of 21” look like? Voila! Upper cabinet height of 45″.
Every design has pro’s and con’s. The plus for the full entablature was it had the potential of unifying the elevation. The minus was it might appear too heavy.
SKETCHES 2 AND 3:
What if the client wanted taller doors? What would the upper cabinets look like if we used only the cornice assembly of an entablature? Would they look too tall?
Given the simplicity of the cabinet doors and the size of the kitchen and adjoining rooms, I recommended we look at the Tuscan Order’s proportions. Simple, clean and strong. The cornice assembly in a 21” high Tuscan entablature is 9”, or ¾ the diameter of the column “supporting” the entablature. (See Sketch Below) Or 57″ high upper cabinet height.
Pluses? Taller cabinets. More storage space.
Minuses? Would the upper cabinets look too tall/skinny?
Scott’s client wanted a cove moulding at the ceiling. As part of our initial exercise I drew several different possibilities to consider.
THE 3D MODEL…
With the above ideas in hand, Scott put the full entablature and cornice into CAD as a 3D modeling exercise. Looking at the CAD drawings, we agreed the entablature was too heavy. We needed to develop the cornice idea further. However, in the context of the kitchen cabinets, we both felt a simple 9″ cove detail was visually weak.
What were our next options?
IS BIGGER Kitchen trim BETTER?
What if the cornice were beefed up to about 10”, the height of the cornice in a 24” entablature. (Remember that dimension?) Further, the cornice is broken down into 8 equal parts. From top down, the ratio is 3:3:2. What might be possible if we explored that ratio? I quickly sketched several ideas, sending them to Scott. The beauty of these ratios is what ever you draw, they are going to be in proportion and the overall cornice assembly.
He sent a sketch back to me, replying, “I like this crown assembly, what do you think?”
I drew a large scaled detail, testing the profile. Loved it!
The final test was drawing the full elevation. Loved it even more. The tall cabinets gave the room lift. The cornice’s texture complimented the cabinet’s Shaker style doors.
Then I drew a quick free hand detail sketch, suggesting the cornice assembly be slightly proud of the upper cabinets. Let’s get a little light and shadow going here!
I emailed the package to Scott for his review. We both agreed the cornice had the right amount of heft and weight. Breaking down the cornice into two parts added just the right amount of texture. With each plane stepping slightly back from each other, light and shadow express the detail of the cornice. This adds richness to the kitchen’s ambiance. (Final upper cabinet height 56″.)
But would the client like it?
KITCHEN TRIM RECAP:
A lot of ground has been covered in this post. Kitchen trim design. Classical proportion. The classical Tuscan Order. Design collaboration. Fractions of an inch matter…
- While kitchens are a unique space in a home, all too often they seem to be approached from the point of view of “How many cabinets can I fit/stuff in here?”
- Perhaps a slightly different perspective will free up your thinking. How about, “A kitchen is a room which happens to have appliances and cabinets.” Kitchen trim is an important design element. Not an after thought.
- A kitchen needs the full compliment of interior trim, ceiling treatment, flooring, etc. Stop thinking of it in terms of cabinets, hoods and appliances. Think of the kitchen as an experience, as you would any other room in the home.
- Drawing on and using the “old classical proportions” goes a long way in assuring the kitchen you design will have good bones and “feel right”. Most people won’t understand why the kitchen feels right, but they will feel it and know/express it.
- Classical proportions are scalable, making your life easier! For example, in the Tuscan Order, floor to ceiling height will always be broken down into 5 equal units, with the top most unit being the entablature, where the ceiling trim occurs.
- The entablature is always broken down in the same manner, regardless of the ceiling height. The Tuscan Order’s cornice is always ¾ of the column diameter. The column’s diameter is always 1/7th of 4/5th of the floor to ceiling height.
- The cornice is broken down into 8 equal parts. Top to bottom, the ratio is 3:3:2.
- Within those parameters, you have complete freedom to play.
- Now I’m going to seemingly contradict myself. If after working with these ratios, something doesn’t look/feel right. Use your eyeballs. I call it “Eyeball Design”. Ooch things around a bit, till the moulding feels and look right. All the old Classical Masters did it. You can, too.
- Then build a full scale mock up.
- Yes, I am available to assist/collaborate with designers, architects, builders, realtors who value the impact of a well designed and proportioned interior.
PS: Scott presented the final design to his client. They loved it! Mission accomplished.
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