Kitchen design challenges: Case studies of editing and mixing elements – Part 1

Studio Snaidero Chicago kitchen designer, Shawna DillonBy Shawna Dillon

When faced with an interior design or décor project, like a kitchen design or remodel, the primal instinct is to include every little detail we have ever liked. It’s actually quite normal with projects that require months of research: we keep gathering many different ideas and, by the time we are finally ready to get started, all of them feel like ‘must haves’ that we are not willing to part with. We have imagined and visualized them in our home and we simply can’t remove them from the dream.

Except, if the ideas don’t fit the real space the dream is likely to look more like a scary mess.

Enter editing: a key factor in design which implies understanding what is absolutely necessary, what we can live without, and what can work only by making some smart adjustments to the whole design. That’s especially important when dealing with an eclectic wish list of elements.

Here are some examples of challenges I have encountered while designing kitchens and the editing principles I used to solve them.


When designing for smaller footprints, like kitchens for city homes, the space is limited and oversized professional-style appliances might not always be a good fit or even a feasible option, no matter how much we like them. For example, one of my clients insisted upon a restaurant-grade Teppan Yaki, which required a lot of floor space as well as serious ventilation. However, the footprint just wouldn’t allow for that without sacrificing a big part of the countertop and storage area. Once the homeowners saw how much ‘real estate’ this particular appliance required, they decided that the Gaggenau 15” Vario Teppan Yaki was sufficient for the type of cooking they do, and more realistic for their space.Gaggenau Teppan YakiTAKEAWAY

Letting go of a pre-selected design component is hard but you have to strive to find the best possible balance by asking: what are the most important things I need to have in my kitchen and what are the things I can find compromises for? There are always ways to find alternative solutions to be equally happy with. Just allow yourself the flexibility to explore other options.


Another client of mine liked four different cabinet door styles and wanted to use them all in one kitchen (combined with several stainless steel appliances). To make that happen without producing stylistic chaos, we first eliminated all architectural moldings to turn the primary space into a blank canvas. Then, I kept the door finish consistent along the perimeter while changing the style only when we had a natural transition, like an end detail, island, or separate elevation.

The island consisted of a series of curved doors, which was a stark contrast from the very linear perimeter. Instead of trying to make it blend (which would have felt forced), I changed the finish to actually emphasize the style difference. Also, everything else in the room (stone/tile/accessories) was kept as simple as possible, so that it wouldn’t compete for attention. This way, the door styles became the focal point and the finish helped transition everything together.


Mixing lots of styles and finishes is always a risk; oftentimes it’s just not recommended but in a few cases it can be executed successfully. The most important point is to balance the different cabinet styles and finishes in a way that makes sense and creates a certain visual order. The room, as a whole, must read as one unified composition and not the result of layers of ideas assembled casually.

Read more case studies in Interior Design Challenges – Part 2.

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