"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Even in Hollywood, the story of one of America's top kitchen designers seems remarkable.
A young girl in Athens discovers a love for drawing classic shapes, then builds her skills while sketching ancient ruins and earning a degree in classic art. She goes on to study theatrical set design, and earns three Emmy nominations for her work art directing the Academy Awards.
Along comes love and marriage to a kitchen designer, a new career she also embraces. She goes on to win America's top honors for kitchen design, picking up a total of ten awards in the last five years alone from the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Elina Katsioula-Beall has gone where no designer for stage and screen has ever gone before. In the process she also has elevated how kitchens are created, conceiving a philosophy she calls Gestalt Design.
It all started so simply back in her native Greece. Elina tells the story:
I picked up a pencil when I was two and never put it down. As a child I began sketching the view outside my bedroom window in Athens. I crumpled sheets of paper one after another until I drew the one that could "speak" to me. I did not know the meaning of the word design back then, but my window opened to the Parthenon.
So when I look back at my design journey, it’s not the Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Athens Polytechnic Institute that I treasure the most, or the minor in Classical Greek Architecture. It was waking up every day opening my bedroom window to see the Parthenon, sketching ruins at archaeological sites and painting in Rome, Siena and Paris.
When painting would not fit my calling of merging art with architecture, I turned to stage design. Yale School of Drama was my next stop, where I earned my Master’s degree in Set, Costume and Lighting Design. Los Angeles was my final destination – the spot to embark on a career in theater, television and film, where I earned numerous theatrical awards and three Emmy Nominations as an Art Director to the Oscars.
My interest in kitchen design was the result of love and marriage… with well-known pioneer kitchen designer DeWitt Beall. He was a Renaissance man, an avant-garde, gutsy, risk-taking designer of more than 2,000 kitchens, many for the movie industry elite. Working side by side for 19 years, often we did not know where one's idea started and another's continued.
The designer I am today carries the core of his knowledge, my passion for Art & Architecture and the filtered essence of my own heritage. After co-designing with him, becoming a Certified Kitchen Designer and creating three showrooms, I took on and ultimately created a fourth showroom and transferred it to Pasadena.
Her first kitchen
During her design journey, Elina developed an approach she calls Gestalt Design. She describes how that began:
The first project where I combined set design and kitchen design for a theater piece became the seed of my Gestalt Design philosophy. It was a comedy titled "The Art of Dining," about a couple running a big-hit gourmet restaurant out of their house, using their kitchen to cook their famous dishes.
I had to put a complete working kitchen on stage plus a dining area for their patrons. The design had to allow for a series of hilarious scenes to unfold - scenes of real, inspired cooking, hearty eating, marital fighting, kissing and making up.
It was a kitchen where spices were supposed to be in the right place but weren’t found, where aromas of food made the audience hungry, where fires erupted and knives were raised as a threat to kill ... a kitchen made perfectly right and perfectly wrong at the same time, to present parallel stories of challenged marriages, of restaurant owners and dining couples.
This is when I came to realize that designing a kitchen was not just "fun." Designing a kitchen suddenly meant providing the space where life with loved ones happens - life beyond cooking and eating, life exactly the way everyone would want it: with the new kitchen being the arena for a profound transformation of lifestyle.