A Chicago condo kitchen remodel creates illusion of space and added functionality

shawna-dillonBy Shawna Dillon, Kitchen Designer, Studio Snaidero Chicago

Client’s Goals

For this condo kitchen remodel in Chicago, my client wanted to give her cramped and dated kitchen the illusion of space. While the other rooms enjoy impressive city and lake views, the kitchen doesn’t have windows. In addition, the client loves to bake and spends a great deal of time in the kitchen so she was looking to improve functionality altogether.

Design Challenges

The footprint felt dark and claustrophobic but penetrating the structural walls was not an option, so I needed to make the space FEEL more open. The ceiling height didn’t help as it was very low, just over 7’-0”, with a single fluorescent fixture that contributed to keeping the room dark. The cabinetry had to adjust to this scale to avoid overpowering the room.

Chicago condo kitchen before its remodel

Design Execution

Structural Changes

We couldn’t make massive changes but still managed to:

  • Remove an interior wall that blocked the entry and relocate the refrigerator to an ‘appliance wall’ I created outside of the main work area.  This provided a new elevation of clear workspace and opened up the U-shape kitchen.
  • Eliminate 4 angled walls as much as possible to make the floor space appear larger.

The appliance wall created during the kitchen remodel

Functional Changes

To improve workflow, we:

  • Modified the seating area from a U-shape to clean up the lines and make this area more functional.
  • Grouped all the heavier appliances (refrigerator, ovens, and microwave) on one wall and kept that heaviness out of the core kitchen. Usually it’s best if these appliances are not that far removed from the main work areas; however in this case, given the layout of the kitchen, this solution works well.
  • Created a clean countertop in front of the appliance wall for prepping food and providing a landing space for items coming in and out of the ovens, microwave, and refrigerator. It functions as a secondary work area in a kitchen that was built for one person.

The seating area after the kitchen remodel


To create an elegant kitchen that would feel larger than it is, we:

  • Replaced the single fluorescent ceiling fixture with bright lights.
  • Used a decorative chimney-style hood, rather than a built-in version, to break up the dark wall units. The hood floats over mosaic tiles that extend to the ceiling, bringing the eye up and making the ceiling appear higher.
  • Expanded the horizon level by contrasting the light countertop and backsplash against the dramatic cabinetry.
  • Included an illuminated row of frosted glass wall units above the sink to lighten and balance that corner of the room both aesthetically and physically.  We only used frosted glass doors for three cabinets because, as a finish, frosted glass is a commitment. In a tight space, every inch of storage matters and pantry type items seen through the frosted glass can look messy.
  • Chose handle-free cabinets as they are usually the best option when dealing with a small footprint. Handles provide a visual staccato rhythm that can contribute to the space feeling cluttered. They can also physically cause problems in tighter passage-ways.

The kitchen's main work area after the remodel

End Result

To the eye, this condo kitchen remodel makes the space feel lighter, larger, and more open…even if we didn’t actually expand the room. Functionally, the creation of a work area facing the appliances makes all the difference. The client loves to bake, and this modification produces a new elevation of uninterrupted counter space, thus improving the dynamics of how the client had used the space for the past 20 years.

Cabinetry: Snaidero, Idea in Larch Coffee Brown Brushed

Countertops: CaesarStone, 3cm Blizzard

Backsplashes: Artistic Tile, 1×1 Oceanside-Veil mosaic tiles

Floor: Artistic Tile, Perigord Collection, porcelain tile in Smoke Matte

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