Design is mystical. Sometime it is just a matter of a few centimeter of difference in dimensions that turn an ugly piece into a sleek one.
For this particular piece, I did nothing different from the previous version except for narrowing down the height of the tray. They mystically look very much improved.
One of the secrets to fine woodworking I also discovered from this project was to abstain from thinking of the entire process while working on the task at hand. Do every step as if it is the only step required for the finishing goods. Regard every step as equally important. This includes maintenance steps such as sharpening chisels. At the end when you put everything together for the final piece, you will be amazed at the outcome.