The Da Vinci Code of Kitchen and Bath Design

Like nearly everyone on the planet, I have read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and there was something familiar about his references to the golden proportion and the Fibonacci numbers. Then my associate, Terri Berlage, CKD, recalled some buzz a few years back at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show about a designer incorporating these concepts in his kitchen cabinetry designs.

After a little research we found more information on the golden proportion and that man who gave us the inspiration for this article - not Leonardo Da Vinci or Dan Brown, but Mark Rosenhaus, whom we had heard about at K/BIS. Based on Mark's designs and Terri's research, we offer applications of the golden ratio to our kitchen and bath designs.

History and Math

The golden ratio or golden mean is expressed as 1:1.62, and mathematicians refer to this number as Phi (pronounced fee).

In the 16th Century, Luca Pacioli, geometer and friend of the great Renaissance painters, rediscovered the "golden secret" in his publication devoted to Phi, Divina Proportione.

It was for this book that Leonardo Da Vinci provided the illustration, Study of Human Proportions According to Vitruvious. Da Vinci continued to incorporate this proportion, as the golden rectangle perfectly frames Mona Lisa's face.

The Da Vinci Code also refers to The Fibonacci Series, which is formed by adding two adjacent numbers to get the next one. You divide the numbers of the Fibonacci sequence by the next smaller number in the series, and the higher you go in the series, the closer they get to 1.62 or Phi.

From Phi, the golden rectangle is born with the length of the short side 1 and the long side 1.62. Infinitely creating a smaller square and rectangle inside, called a reciprocal rectangle, they have the same proportions as the original rectangle. An arc drawn in each of the squares creates an inward spiral, similar to a nautilus shell.

The façade of the Parthenon was composed using golden rectangles; the ratio of the length of the building to the height of the face is Phi. Further classic subdivisions of the rectangle align perfectly with major architectural features of the structure, such as the columns, frieze and pediment.

Phi is not only used in rectangle forms. The Egyptians used it in the design of their pyramids as clues to hidden chambers - although it's not obvious unless you dissect a model - and it's used in the exterior of India's Taj Mahal entrance proportions.

Phi in Kitchen & Bath Design

Mark Rosenhaus, CKD, is a kitchen and bath designer and cabinetry dealer who has an interest in working with the golden rectangle. The following example is an introduction to his design process.

Most of us would refer to his design as asymmetrical, but symmetry, as we know it, doesn't have to be an axial mirror image. Instead, Mark designs dynamic symmetry that follows the reciprocating golden rectangle and infinite nautilus shell. Each cabinet is in golden proportion to the larger whole, and the use of vertical and horizontal movement replicates movement of the reciprocating golden rectangle.

Rosenhaus began his design with a blank canvas 86½" wide by 55" high (which coincidently is very close to Phi, 1.618). The three cabinets on this wall are all golden rectangles (GR). Combining the right cabinet and middle cabinet with a shelf also forms a GR. The total width of the right and center cabinet is equal to the height to the ceiling (55"x55"), delineating a square within the entire wall. A square within a GR leaves another GR turned sideways, which is the proportion of the left cabinet (29½"x47"). In a smaller unit, the center cabinet and shelf combined with the right cabinet form a 55"x34"GR. A square, 34"x34", is seen in the center cabinet and shelf. The right cabinet, 21"x34", is the GR turned sideways.

Rosenhaus adds, "The final arrangement is confirmed by the diagonal lines from the opposite corners intersecting at the focal point of the center cabinet. The rotation of forms around the center of gravity is different than the center of the wall, proving balance can be achieved with unequal objects, such as a playground see-saw."

Rosenhaus uses the golden rectangle in all of his designs to some degree or another. Although he focuses on the wall cabinets, he uses the golden rectangle on a bigger scale to determine the orientation of the room, down to the placement of the cabinet hardware. Rosenhaus is so precise in his designs that his cabinet manufacture will customize sizes down to the 1/8" so they are in golden proportion.

After talking with Rosenhaus, our office was inspired. We looked at some of the designs currently on the boards, and were surprised to see how many of our designs were close to the golden rectangle proportions.

    18"wx30"h wall cabinets (30/1.62 = 18.5) 21"wx36"h wall cabinets (36/1.62 = 22.3) 24"wx42"h wall cabinets (42/1.62 = 25.9)

We drew the golden rectangle and reciprocating rectangles in our AutoCAD program, saved it as a block, then moved it to different areas of existing drawings, and scaled it as needed to check and see how close we were. In one of our previous bathroom designs, the tile walls of a 60"x60" shower were 96" high (96/60 = 1.6) and our decorative tile border was at 60" high. Our office found that 11"x17" is closer to the golden rectangle than 8½"x11", so this will be our preferred paper size for presentation drawings.

Obviously, we're no experts at this, but we are finding it to be a source of inspiration. It seems natural to be drawn to this shape and proportion.

If you are curious as to whether a design is proportional to the golden rectangle, pull out your NKBA membership card (or business or credit card) and hold it up to an object. Close one eye and move it closer or further as needed. The typical size of these cards is the golden rectangle proportion.

If you haven't already, we encourage you to start applying the golden proportion in your design process and see where it leads you.

Special thanks to Terri Berlage, CKD, for her research, and to Mark Rosenhaus, CKD, ( for his insight and information.