8 Creative Ways to Let the Little Details Shine

Don’t underestimate the big impact that small design details can have on a space.
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From light switch plate covers to the minute detailing of kitchen cabinet hardware (or lack thereof!), the nitty-gritty, down-to-the-quarter-inch details are what can often have tremendous visual and functional effects on a space. Let’s take a look at some stellar examples of thoughtful, aesthetically arresting design details. 

A Kit-Of-Parts Plywood Staircase

The interlocking, exposed edges of these plywood steps designed by General Assembly are both sculptural and functional, helping to visually orient climbers as they ascend with the pronounced contrast between the dark veneer of the plywood and the lighter exposed edges. The stairs were designed as a kit-of-parts to reduce cost, and also provide open storage on the side.

 A custom sink basin designed by Atherton Keener at a house in Arizona emphasizes the joint where two pieces of marine-grade plywood meet with aluminum spline joints. The sink was made by hand by dying the plywood and coating it in marine epoxy—an inexpensive, but by no means speedy—technique. The subtle, small-scale texture of the edge of the plywood contrasts in color and pattern with the dotted concrete countertops. Photo by Ye Rin Mok

In the design of her own home, architect Julie Salles Schaffer opted for kitchen cabinets where the grain of the wood is highly visible (because of a special metal sanding process by the cabinet fabricator), but hardware is not. Schaffer looked to a drawer pull detail derived from Italian designer Giò Ponti’s work—though she admits the radial edging is an effect entirely of her own. The combination of rounded edges and hardware-free design creates a purity of form and an emphasis on the wood.

Attention to every detail in every inch of space has been paid in this master bedroom designed by Peter Kostelov in a New York City apartment, where raised bedside tables free up precious floor and wall space for electrical outlets outfitted with metal switch plates.

In a London flat designed by MWAI, the design team benefited from a collaborative relationship with their client, one of the owners of UK-based millwork and joinery company INTERIOR-iD, who produced many of the custom elements. Here, a custom-built Corian countertop and sink merge when the sink basin is covered by a removable cutting board that can be kept in place for an added work surface, or removed for dedicated sink use. The cutout in the center allows water from the tap to flow straight through to the custom Corian drainer.

A small space doesn't have to mean a lack of luxury. Designer Benjamin Hall paid special attention to details like custom light switches and door latches when designing high-end micro-dwellings. Because of their scale, these types of details tend to stand out more in small spaces. Here, the light switches are treated like an artistic ensemble, with the generously sized plate locating them off-center and giving them plenty of breathing room.

Carpenter Matti Salminen built the birch cabinets and island for the kitchen of a new home outside of Helsinki. The architect, Tuomas Siitonen, situated a lofted family room on the mezzanine above. The curves of this kitchen island are repeated not only in plan, but also in the curved corners of the sliding cabinet doors and in the curved ends of the routed groove, which takes the place of external hardware. The two tones of the wood, with its organic, wavy grain, bring an earthy touch to the island.

A refrigerator in a New York apartment designed by Workstead gets a warm, homey touch with a custom front of zinc with wood handlebars. The zinc, which matches the cabinetry in the rest of the kitchen, reflects the changing light in the apartment throughout the day.


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