Updating your space and making it comfortable

The graphic cabinetry pattern in Frank Clementi and wife Julie Smith’s remodeled kitchen and dining room isn’t just a pretty façade. It plays an important role in updating the space and making it comfortable. The challenge was to design a floor-to-ceiling wall of cabinets that didn’t make the kitchen feel cramped and claustrophobic.

After careful research, including looking at studies of mathematically derived visual patterns, Clementi and Smith created an arrangement with rectangular, solid-color plastic laminates. The pattern seems to reduce the scale of the long wall by breaking it into sections. The cabinets incorporate panels of glow-in-the-dark laminates, which have led to hours of enjoyment for the couple’s children―they play shadow games by pressing their hands against the glow-in-the-dark sections and turning off the lights to view the results.

In the dining area, multipurpose consoles incorporate a pattern similar to the one in the kitchen, but “in materials that are appropriate for a dining space,” Clementi says. Panels of plastic laminate are paired with wood-veneer laminates. The rectangular row of durable plastic laminates is positioned at chair-rail height to protect the consoles from inevitable bumps.

Design: Frank Clementi, Julie Smith, architects, Los Angeles (323/634-9220)

Sources: Solid-color laminate from Abet Laminati ($59 per 51- by 120-in. sheet; 800/228-2238); glow-in-the-dark laminate from Abet Laminati’s Lumiphos line ($5.75 per square ft.); wood veneer from Formica Ligna Wood Surfacing (price varies; 800/367-6422 for distributors).

Temper personal preferences. Just because you like a particular green, blue, and yellow doesn’t mean that those are the right colors to use. In their kitchen pattern, Frank Clementi and Julie Smith used a teal color “I swore I’d never use,” Clementi says. However, it was the ideal color to tie together the pale yellow-green, the avocado, and the marine blue. “It’s like the freakish friend that you don’t want to have come to the party, but then saves the party.”

To break up the surface of an object, use a pattern large enough to have an impact from the distance it will be viewed. Clementi uses the example of a black- and white-checked suit. Even though that pattern works up close, from a distance it looks like a solid field of gray.

Play with scale if you want to create a sense of discovery. For example, a pillow design Clementi recently worked on has a huge apple on it. The scale is so large that, up close, it looks like an abstract pattern. It’s only from across the room that you see the apple.