While a site survey checklist and client design brief are consistently referred to in the design process, experienced designers are unlikely to be consciously ticking off the principles and elements of design when developing a concept. The fundamental learning of these ‘tricks of the trade’ is invaluable, but applying the elements and principles simply becomes second nature to intuitive designers, and they rarely need a checklist to make sure they’ve got them covered.

From a judging point of view, however, we believe the principles are worthy of noting. After a decade of scrutinising Australia’s finest kitchens and bathrooms in the KBDi Awards program, we know that it’s the intuitive application (or clever manipulation) of these ‘design rules’ that sets the winners apart from the rest. In this feature, we’re breaking down the principles that are included in the judging criteria for our ‘crème de la crème’ (Certified Designers) and sharing some of our favourite examples of excellent execution.


Balance creates a feeling of equilibrium in design. It can be formed in the physical layout of the space (with a bilateral or approximate sense of symmetry), and through the careful selection of finishes (with colour, pattern and texture).

Bilateral (or formal/traditional) symmetry is the most effortless style to identify: it occurs when similar parts are arranged on opposite sides of a median axis in identical (or almost identical) ‘mirror’ images.

This striking design by KBDi’s Australian Bathroom Designer of the Year 2018, Olivia Cirocco (GIA Kitchens and Bathrooms), is an excellent example of formal symmetry.

KBDi Australian Certified Designer of the Year HC, Tania Kloester CKD Au (TK Design), used both formal and radial symmetry in this outstanding design.

Approximate symmetry can achieve the same sense of balance with the use of similar compositional units on either side of a central axis, while the clever use of asymmetry can see different forms carefully balanced with some visual trickery.

Darren Genner CKD Au (Minsoa) achieved a great sense of balance with this asymmetrical design. The visual weight (and interest) of the bookshelves to the left, along with the carefully positioned chair, balance the heavier weight of the island’s stone façade and rear wall tall cabinetry to the right.

Proportion and Scale

Proportion is the ratio between the size of one design element to another, and scale represents the way in which the size of one object relates to another or to the space in which it is placed.

Tasmanian designer, Lydia Maskiell (Lydia Maskiell Interiors), has applied perfect proportions in this stunning small bathroom. From the patterned floor tile to the sanitaryware selections, all of the elements in this design are ever-so-carefully scaled to the size of the room. The beautiful glossy black subway tiles provide just enough contrast to add interest and drama, too.

Rhythm and Repetition

Just as in a great musical composition, rhythm in design is all about creating patterns of repetition and contrast to create visual interest. Its purpose is to link one element to another, carrying the eye around the room on an exciting design journey.

KBDi’s NSW Bathroom Designer of the Year 2018, Gavin Hepper CKD Au (Concepts by Gavin Hepper), composed a gentle and calming rhythm in this curvaceous creation. The repetition of organic, oval shapes, combined with a sensitive application of natural finishes, made this bathroom a winner.


A room where all items and finishes get equal weight can seem boring or conversely, cluttered. A point of interest (or focal point) provides an anchor for the space, and becomes the emphasis of a stand-out design.

The striking black fireplace and spectacular artwork are fabulous focal points in this beautiful bathroom by Lydia Maskiell (Lydia Maskiell Interiors). The sense of drama is further enhanced with black ceilings and walls, making the overall scheme a show-stopper.

Unity and Harmony

Just as rhythm can create excitement, harmony establishes a sense of restfulness and unity. In a room with great variety in forms (shape, size, texture), a single hue can add harmony and peace.

Brisbane designer, Lee Hardcastle CKD Au (Enigma Interiors) applied all of the principles to perfection in this kitchen design. The linear repetition (battened ceiling and vertically-grained veneer) creates movement and energy, while the strategic application of blackened cabinetry balances the room. The warm tones of the veneer are in perfect harmony with the floor tiles, cleverly unifying the overall space.

Of course, it could be argued that a pro knows how to break the rules. If you’ve got a great example of this, please share it with us for our next inspirational feature, or add your two cents’ worth in the comments below.