Layout critique appreciated!

misiwaJanuary 24, 2014

I would love feedback on my new construction kitchen plan. The combined knowledge on this forum is amazing! Hopefully this isn�t too much of a wall of text. Let me know if I need to add more dimensions � I didn�t want to clutter up the image too much. Each big box on the graph paper is a foot, and the total dimensions of the kitchen are 11 X 20.

About us:
Two adults, both in our mid thirties, no children now and no children in the future. Sometimes we both cook together, sometimes just one of us cooks and the other hangs out or cleans. We are both vegan, and eat a lot of rice and pasta with veggies, stir-fries, that sort of thing. Vitamix gets a lot of use in the summer, oven gets more use in the winter, but nothing ever gets transferred from the cooktop to oven.

We really don�t clean as we cook, except when one of us cleans while the other cooks. I think creating a separate clean up zone will work well for us. I also want to avoid "unusable" counter that just collects clutter, because we will clutter it!

I want the kitchen to feel very connected to the outdoors and garden, hence the window seat and counter height windows. The garden will be right outside those windows.

We don�t need a lot of eating/seating space in the kitchen itself, but I want there to be enough seating that one or two people can hang out in there. So think social seating for just a person or three, not sit down to eat seating. .

We don�t entertain too often, but when we do, it is extremely informal, and usually just a couple people.

Planning for mostly drawers in the bottom cabinets. I�m undecided about uppers around the clean up sink.

The fridge wall will have upper cabinets, and I�m thinking an appliance garage and extra deep counter where it says toaster and vitamix.

The item marked "water" is a countertop water dispenser that we use for drinking water and tea and coffee. We refill glass carboys with filtered water at the store because our well water is full of sulfur and iron. The water dispenser is a busy area - like some people�s fridges are - for beverages. I put it on the edge of the kitchen because of this, but we do also need it close enough to the cooktop to fill the tea kettle. I�ve been having trouble finding the perfect place for it.

Sometimes I look at the island and think maybe it is too deep? Four feet seems huge�

About our build
We are building ourselves a new home on land that we already live on. The construction will be nearly 100% DIY (with the exception of some of the excavation work), very low budget and effectively a cash build. What this means for the kitchen is that we will be doing all the work ourselves, including building the cabinets and counters (stainless steel and/or large format tile). So, doing things that are unusual or unconventional is totally fine, but things that add complexity or cost are undesirable for us.

Design limits / what can change
Most all the elements in the kitchen are able to be moved at this point, including the sinks and stove. The south wall is the best wall for venting the stove. Windows can move around and change shape, but I don�t want to reduce the total amount of glass on the south wall, as this is a passive solar oriented build.

I do not want the main clean up sink on the south wall, because I want to have counter height windows there and my partner has objected strongly to the combination of water and no backsplash.

We will be mostly reusing our existing appliances until we can afford new ones. The one splurge will be a new induction cooktop.

Thank you so much for any thoughts you have on my proposed layout!

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I'm including a sketch of my whole house plan for context. One block equals 4 feet in this drawing.

A few quick notes about it -

I want the dining room to be a comfortable size for 2-4 people, so we will be putting a fairly small table, and maybe a banquette in that space.

Groceries will come in the front (south) door.

That lumpy thing in the living room is a window seat. It may move down the wall some. We're still debating the tv and woodstove placements in that room.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 12:44AM
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Do you have an inspiration photo or other experience with the window seat config that you're proposing? On first blush it seems dysfunctional to me.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 12:15PM
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I'm wondering the same thing as Gaucho: the window seat location seems less than ideal. I understand wanting a connection to the garden outside but if you enlarge the windows on that wall, you'll have very nice views to the garden from the island seats. Additionally, the window seat placement limits the snack counter frontage to about 30". IMO, it would be more functional if you allowed yourself a bit more room to work with the appliances stored there.

How about this minor tweak to your plan?

I eliminated the window seat, centered the cook top between two large windows on the south wall - providing very nice views out to the garden from the island stools - and moved the DW (I'm assuming the X thing is the DW) to the other side of the sink. Since you don't clean as you cook, I suspect that one of you will be putting items away in the pantry while the other is putting dirty dishes in the DW. Having more space between these two items will ensure that neither of you is waiting for the other to close a door before you can continue with your task.

With the south wall counter extending to the snack area, you also gain more counter room to work with the appliances in this area.

I notice you didn't include uppers on your sink wall: where do you intend to store dishes, glasses and silverware? In the cab next to the sink? If so, just make sure that you plan for sufficient room for these items.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 12:54PM
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Thank you both for your comments. Not fans of the window seat I see!

I don't really have an inspiration pic or anything for the window seat. I was just thinking that it would be nice to create a seat in the kitchen that was more like a chair than a stool, less like a perch and more like a place to hang out. Is it just because of the placement that you both find it dysfunctional?

I suppose, with the dining area so close, if I make the seating there more cozy, it might fulfill some of what I was looking for in the window seat. I will think on it a little longer.

Thanks for the image and plan tweak lisa_a! I definitely was concerned with the dishwasher and pantry door interference, and had been thinking about shifting both sink and dishwasher down 6 inches (so there would only be 18 inches of counter on the other side of the sink). Switching the dishwasher would fix it, though. I think it is more functional that way, thank you!

I was undecided about uppers on the sink wall. I had been thinking that dishes would get stored in drawers in the island, close to the dishwasher. With the dishwasher switched they could go between the sink and pantry, and in uppers if they were there.

I'm not sure if this is a strange concern or not, but with the windowseat out of the plan, is there just too much counter around the cooktop? "Too much counter" seems like something people wish for, not something to avoid.... but I'm just not sure what we would do with all of it? It would be great during big canning and preserving projects, for sure, but what about the rest of the time? When do you say enough is enough with counter space?

Thank you again! And keep the thoughts coming!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 4:02PM
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You could angle the oven and the microwave in that corner to create symmetry with the pantry on the other side if you can move the window over some. It does take up more space doing that though, probably more than your pantry.

It would mean less space for the breakfast and snack area, but would make the access to it easier without the corner there. You'd also have landing space next to the fridge.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 4:43PM
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I like the window seat, but I'd swap the seat and pantry. Since clean up is not as busy, why not sit there and visit with the cook/look out the window? :)

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 4:50PM
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I wouldn't want to sit in that window seat. I could imagine wanting to stand there if it were left open, but I woudn't want to sit there.

I do appreciate what you're saying about the additional counter likely being underutilized though. Might you consider moving the snack area to where the window seat is and making the whole fridge wall storage/no counter?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 5:14PM
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Are you right or left-handed?

This isn't a question about DW placement (best on LEFT for righties), but about your prep sink placement.

When I am looking at anybody's drawing I tend to sort of "cook" in the room in my mind and when I noodled over your island I felt cramped by the small space on the right. I am right handed and I started to wonder if (all being possibilities open, and no other constraints) it would be better to have the larger working space to the right of the sink, rather than what you have drawn now.

it would also make sense that your working area is closer to the fridge side, too, so stuff you tke out doesn't have the barrier of the sink right in its way.

it just seems more natural to be focused (meaning more space devoted) toward your dominant side, with the sink on your non-dominant side.

If you have a clear counter run to test this, mock this up and see what feels best for you.

If you only had one sink, then I think having the working space more associated with it would be better. But with a prep sink, the primary prep area moves to it, instead of the traditional between sink-and-stove position.

This is probably just one of those teensy little differences in comfort and functionality that could be readily sacrificed if there were strong reasons to have it the way you have laid it out. But if moving it to the other end would improve the working design and erase a small functional hurdle, then why not wring every last scrap of working ease out of the layout that you can?

Of course if you are left handed, then I think this would be different..


    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 6:36PM
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I *love* window seats but I'm not keen on where you placed yours. If it was on the perimeter of the kitchen, that's be different but it's placed in a busy section of your kitchen.

I considered LL's suggestion of swapping window seat and pantry location - use pull-out pantry cabs instead of a corner pantry - and it has possibilities but I still don't feel that it would be as inviting as it would placed elsewhere in your home.

How about creating a window seat in your DR like this:

Traditional Family Room by Seattle Architects & Designers Conard Romano Architects

You're right, my revision does give you loads of counter. What about this tweak?

The only changes I made to your original plan was to move the DW to the right of the sink and eliminate the window seat in the kitchen (imagine it in the DR, bookended by shelving). Pluses with the latter change: 4' of counter in the breakfast/snack area, which is ample counter space for you two to work side by side when necessary, and no corner cabinets (that's a bit plus in my book).

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 7:52PM
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We are also 99% diyers. Didn't build a house but remodeled just about all of our house.

Just my 2 cents. I like to have continuous counter between the range and the sink. I don't like having to cross over aisles or go around things. Had that and hated it.

So I personally would either get rid of the pantry (make efficient use of cabinets in that corner instead) or move it to the breakfast area. Then put the breakfast area stuff in the corner.

Think about a hot pot of pasta, you either have to turn and cross the aisle to a sink or go around the pantry to the sink.

The size of the island can be a concern. Hopefully tomorrow I will be taking photos of my kitchen and plan to post a thread with a little "demo" of what it takes to clean my island which is 42" by 70". hint: lots of running around the island.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 8:17PM
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I don't read everything so forgive if already mentioned. What about putting a corner sink wvhere the pantry is and put in two corner windows if it's a nice view. Then flip the frig to where the sink is. The pantry now on top side as a step in as posed to a walkin. Ya may have to tweak some measurements. I love the idea of a window seat.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:10PM
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Wow, thanks everyone! I'm going to try to respond to all your ideas.

Lyfia, I had tried drawing up plans previously with the oven in the corner for symmetry, but I could never quite get it to work out. Somehow it just took up too much room. I do wonder about landing space next to the fridge - I don't have that now, just landing space across like in this plan, and it has never been a problem, but I do wonder if it would become a problem when we got older.

Gaucho - definitely a no to the window seat from you! Do you like lisa_a's new plan? I don't really want to move any of the appliances in the snack area to the south wall, since I want it to be mostly windows. So, I wouldn't mind using, say, the Vitamix there, but I wouldn't want to store it on the south wall. I know my desire for windows is scrunching things up on the sides of the kitchen a bit, but it is a trade off i am happy with.

Lavender lass - I actually had the window seat switched with the pantry in an earlier plan. I'm going to put it up here for discussion's sake:

I switched the prep sink to the other side as liriodendron suggests. The oven also moves over to the sink wall in this plan to make room for the pantry. I ended up switching them to the original plan I posted for two reasons. One, I was worried dirty dishes and relaxing in the window don't mix (although maybe i should get up and do the dishes instead of lounging there!) and, two, because I like the big window shining light through the kitchen in to the living room.

But, this is originally where I thought the window seat would function best, outside of the cooking area of the kitchen. And, I do like other aspects of this plan too, like pulling the oven out to it's own area, with baking pan and tray storage above and below it.

Liriodendron, after reading your comment i went and stood at my currant island - which doesn't have prep sink, but i pretended that it did - and tried to imagine what would feel more natural. You are definitely right, my natural inclination is to use the prep sink in the other direction! Thank you for pointing that out!

I had been putting it to the other side because i was thinking fridge-sink-chop and just plunked it down there, but i think i will like it much better more to the other side of the island.

Lisa_a - thank you again! That is a great window seat picture. You are starting to talk me out of my window seat actually in the kitchen itself. I'm still thinking over whether i am totally ready to give it up, but I can see how maybe it just doesn't fit?

I do really like your new plan. I have definitely been trying to avoid the dreaded dark corner cabinets, because I am just not organized enough to use them properly. What would you think about switching the micro and oven stack to the end, next to the window, and putting the snack/breakfast area between the oven and fridge? That would give nice landing space all around.

What would be really amazing in your plan is if the tall window became a full light glass door - but really, how many exterior doors can I put in a 1488 square foot house?

Debrak - great to hear from a fellow diy-er! I really keep looking at the island and thinking it is huge, bigger than our dining room table will probably be! It's really the width that i wonder about. I think the length will be great, but four feet is pretty wide. I'm thinking it will be great for spreading out for big projects, so I haven't made it smaller yet, but it is something i am considering.

I'm not too worried about the continuous counter between the sink and stove issue. I don't normally carry hot pots actually over the counter now, and we don't have children (although there are four legged critters running around...) so I think we will be ok without it. But thanks for bringing that up!

Thank you everyone! Lots more for me to mull over!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:31PM
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Yes, I like lisa's most recent plan (standing room instead of window seat).

For what it's worth, the snack/toaster area is one of the most heavily used sections of counter in my kitchen. Although in my case it's also where all the silverwear, glasses, plates & bowls are stored, so maybe that has something to do with it.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:37PM
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Do not box a sink close to a corner. I had that once and hated it, much too confining. Locate the oven/ovens under counter somewhere else so the sink can be centered.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:42PM
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remodelfia, we were posting at the same time! I do like the look of corner windows, and it is a nice view. I want to keep the fridge with the microwave, however, as we only use it for heating up food out of the fridge. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:44PM
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Also regarding lisa's plan B above, I'd extend the window down. I have two windows like that in my house that end ~9" from the floor, but you could go as low as the top of the baseboard.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Gaucho - Yes, I can see how that would get busy in your house! All the dishes etc are going to stay closer to the clean up area in my plan. I was thinking foods like cereal and peanut butter, and various small appliances and kitchen gadgets would get stored in this area. We also don't usually eat breakfast at the same time, so it is more of a one person area for breakfast purposes.

Texasgal, I'll watch out for getting too boxed in. That was actually an older plan I had moved away from that i put up for discussion's sake, but i assumed it would feel pretty open there with all the windows. Maybe not though?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:59PM
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Great idea Gaucho! I've been meaning to look into the code requirements for low windows, I know the rules change below 18", I think to requiring tempered glass. Down to the baseboards would be wonderful there!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:19PM
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On the theory that an out-of-the-box idea can tell you what you want to hold on to, I present to you perhaps the ugliest mockup ever. Nothing about it is to scale; I just tried to quickly sketch out an idea.

The idea is this: if you don't want too much counterspace, and you don't typically clean while cooking, and you love the idea of a cozy window seat.... what if you give up the U-shape altogether?

Here, I have put a corner window seat in the bottom corner. To its left are 12" deep full height pantry cabinets--hold a lot, easy to find stuff. You wouldn't have a place to put stuff down to open the future screen-porch door, so that's something to consider.

I've reduced you to one sink in the island for prep and cleanup. Primary prep on the island, secondary on either side of the cooktop. The dishwasher can be unloaded into the pantry cabinets and the dining table also easily set from those cabinets, without interfering with the cook.

The countertop appliances could stay in the top corner. Placing the fridge next to that stretch of counter would allow you to pull out fruits and veggies for the vitamix and have counter to land them on. You could also have a row of uppers above this counter to store cooking supplies (oils, spices, grains...) The ovens are beyond the fridge, which may be ok if you don't ever go stovetop to ovens? The island would have to be the landing place for your ovens, so that aspect may need to be worked on.

Just throwing it out there to shake things up. With all your big windows, the corner pantry might seem imposing.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:13AM
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