The Details ARE the Design!

“The details, that’s what the world is made of”-  wise words from film director and producer, Wes Anderson. I could not agree more. Designer Charles Eames went a step further with ...

The Details Are Not The Details.  They Make The Design.

I’d like to explore this idea a little further with respect to interior design, and show how the small parts of a design that may seem inconsequential or an afterthought may actually be the critical decisions that define the success or failure of a project.

Let’s take a look at a standard kitchen remodel.  The usual suspects here are cabinetry, countertops, appliances, tile, lighting, flooring.  I am going to focus in on just cabinetry today, and look at all the opportunities to knock a design out of the park with attention to details.

The first step in creating a cohesive design is to determine the design style you want to achieve- traditional, transitional, contemporary- and potential subset within each. This could mean Traditional (Craftsman), Traditional (Federalist), Transitional (Coastal), Contemporary (Mid-Century Modern)… you get the idea. Once the style is defined, so many other pieces fall in place.

Let’s take a look at a few examples…

Here is a beautiful transitional kitchen, with the perimeter done in white inset cabinetry and an island in a heritage distressed finish. Look at how the deliberate choice of turned post shape perfectly syncs up with the curvature of the statement clock against the wall.


A white kitchen with stone brick walls and a black distressed kitchens island with a classic traditional style with white cabinets, an apron front sink, white ceiling beams and a light blue subway-tile backsplash..

Also, notice the care that was taken in how the crown molding would marry the coffers in the ceiling and how that would relate to the door framing and the arched openings. 

A white, light blue and gray kitchen design with hidden appliances, a walk in pantry with a desk, glass cabinets, light blue subway tiles and a dark kitchen island.

These are details that in some ways can be more impactful than the cabinetry itself.  If these details are planned out poorly, the room would look disjointed at best, cheaply constructed at worst.

Below is an example of a kitchen that used black as a coordinating color in its toe, undercabinet light railing, doors (to the left) and crown in successfully integrating the other black elements (countertops, appliance control panels) into the design. 

A casual, transitional kitchen remodel with light cherry wood cabinets and modern stainless steel appliances and harware.

Imagine this kitchen without the black molding and door accents and this becomes a predictable kitchen with appliances standing out. The thoughtful application of black accents is what makes this kitchen unique and pulled together.  

Black accent on the crown molding at the top of a cabinet to contrast the light stianed wood cabinet doors.

Below we see a traditional Cottage styled kitchen with some details that really define the style.

A classis cottage styled kitchen remodel with an apron front sink and open storage for dishware above. Cabinet hardware uses bin pulls and latches on the inset doors.

The cottage bead paneling on the back is key to this look, and notice the decorative toes and the valances provide style points. The hardware is a beautiful and functional detail that really pulls it all together.

Chrome latch hardware close up on an inset cabient door creates a classic look.

Special thought was even given to the decorative molding below the Cove crown, notice the vertical carved architectural detailing.  Without this attention to the smaller details, this would be an ordinary, predictable, run-of-the-mill kitchen. 

Crown detail at the top of traditonal farmhouse styled, white painted kitchen cabinets.

My main point here is that every decision, no matter how small, is an opportunity to either enhance or let be.  Be deliberate in your choices, choose things for a reason.  In the design world it can be easy to get bogged down in the minutiae.  What I hope for you is that you will embrace the minutiae and appreciate the world of opportunities it provides. I’ll end with one last quote, from Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, “Geeks are people that love something so much that all the details matter.”  I think the world could use a few more Design Geeks out there, and if I have managed to stir this population just a bit, then the world will be a more beautiful and interesting place!

Sandy Kloncz's picture

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