Balancing the Yin and Yang in your Design

When I’m inspired by a design, typically I notice there is careful attention paid to details…details that change the room from being something expected to something extraordinary. With our recent expansion of Appaloosa finishes in Gold we sought out those types of details to create a Transitional design that was both unexpected and inspiring. In this design we focused on two main ideas:

  1. Monochromatic color palette
  2. The contrasting positioning of style themes

Monochrome – Not Monotone!

The first and most important factor in this palette was to make sure we were creating a contrast to make it visually interesting. I’ve noticed that designs in monochromatic color schemes can quickly become more monotone and tend to look a bit blah. In color theory, complementary color schemes create a bold design statement, and while the classic palette of black and white is technically not “color,” it is indeed bold. I think they are also a safe approach for contrasting designs, versus say an orange and blue complementary color palette. In our updated classic kitchen, our inspirational reference was the black and white kitchen. We selected this because we know that using painted finishes is a timeless choice rooted in rich historical style, but hues of crisp, bright white and deep, moody grey bring the design into the future and give this kitchen its overall Transitional look.

Intentional disparity

Mixing finishes in both dark and light, and styling that’s both rustic and tailored creates a more casual take on a transitional design. The contrast of elegant and traditional elements with minimalist, contemporary ones is an unexpected surprise that really strikes a chord with many homeowners and is reflected by today’s trends. In this design, that striking combination of Earl Grey and Sea Salt is juxtaposed with the “homeyness” and softness of Silver Appaloosa accents. Using light industrial elements, like the graphite color light fixtures, range hood, and hardware, brings in yet another style, but windows on either side of the hood and the open floor plan keep the kitchen feeling open and airy.

The secret to doing it well is all about finding ways to make contrasting styles work together in harmony.

All in the Details

When we were designing this kitchen island, we were inspired by a tall, narrow buffet table placed next to an island. It was such an unexpected look, but it added so much to a simple white island.


Park Place Flat Panel maple Sea Salt Classic and Earl Grey Classic; island in Park Place Raised Panel cherry Silver Appaloosa
Layering furniture-style elements and contrasting finishes, this island stands out as a focal point while maintaining the ultimate in functionality.
Park Place Flat Panel maple Sea Salt Classic and Earl Grey Classic; island in Park Place Raised Panel cherry Silver Appaloosa
Field installed moldings add dimensional interest to the island square legs: (Top) Trim molding, (Middle) Astragal molding, (Bottom) Coliseum base molding.
  • Turned legs and arched valances create a distinct border and frame the cabinetry
  • Park Place Raised Panel doors in Silver Appaloosa complement the perimeter of flat panel doors
  • L-shape seating area makes island comfortable and conversational

For the long run of wall cabinets, we wanted to add details and depth to keep the crisp white stretch from becoming monotonous. Three glass mullion doors embellish the design, but take a closer look:

  • Prairie Mullions give an unobstructed view of interior wainscoting
    • Interior painted Earl Grey to complement island and break up the stretch of white
    • The top row of cabinetry extends over the center cabinets and angled crown molding makes a smooth transition between the two depths

Park Place Flat Panel maple Sea Salt Classic and Earl Grey Classic; island in Park Place Raised Panel cherry Silver AppaloosaPark Place Flat Panel maple Sea Salt Classic and Earl Grey Classic; island in Park Place Raised Panel cherry Silver Appaloosa


  • A “Pseudo-Butler’s Pantry” was used as an alternative to a full-height pantry cabinet
    • Gives homeowner the ability to work with easy access to appliances and ingredients since the doors open and tuck back into the cabinet
    • Doors can be immediately closed to hide an in-process mess!

Park Place Flat Panel maple Sea Salt Classic and Earl Grey Classic; island in Park Place Raised Panel cherry Silver Appaloosa

To aid in breaking up the run of wall cabinets, we opted for floating shelves in the corner with Silver Appaloosa panels behind them. This added to the open feel of the design and further complemented the island finish.

  • L-shape created by using two shelves installed perpendicular to each other
  • Crown molding continues along the top, which softens an edgy, modern look

Park Place Flat Panel maple Sea Salt Classic and Earl Grey Classic; island in Park Place Raised Panel cherry Silver Appaloosa

Again, contrasting elements work together to balance each other and make the space more interesting. It’s the little details like this which take your design from basic to beautiful.

So, as you can see, this design has a lot of very different elements, but the overall look is cohesive because the contrasts brought out the particular beauty of each element. The look of white Shaker is crisper and sleeker when placed next to the aged look of Silver Appaloosa. Accents of graphite finishes and pops of Earl Grey make the lighter hues in the kitchen even brighter and keep the monochromatic color scheme from becoming too blah and boring. Yin and yang—it’s all about finding a harmony with very different notes.

Next time around opportunities:

Looking at a finished design and giving some thought to ways it could have been different can be a helpful exercise to continually think outside the box and improve your design skills.

What are ways you balance bold contrasts? As you look at this design, what would you do differently? We’d love to hear you (constructive) criticism in the comments!



  1. Kellie Hancock

    Your designs are so inspiring and I am fascinated each time you dissect one for us! When you look at the catalogs it all reads so high end designer and a lot of us “newbies” cannot put our fingers on what it is that sets your designs apart…then you point out those little things and my jaw hits the floor EVERY time! It is so simple in so many cases that it blows my mind! Thanks for always pushing me out of the box I didn’t even know I was in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Suzanne DeRusha - Medallion's Design & Trends Expert

      And thank you Kellie for devoting your time to read and reply! You are doing what I think every designer should do each week – spending time to expand your knowledge and grow in your area of expertise! Great work!


    1. Suzanne DeRusha - Medallion's Design & Trends Expert

      The ‘ceiling’ of the L-shape corner above the floating shelves is from the loose SKU for plywood shelving, which comes to match the species/finish on your order. See your Medallion Gold Spec book; Section 900; page 900.20 – SKU group: WS____(12, 18 or 24 deep x 48 or 96 long…modify to exact dimensions as needed!)


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