Help with "worker's cottage" floorplan design

weedyacresFebruary 23, 2013

OK, here's my first stab at posting tentative plans for the beautification of our little 940 sf "charmer-to-be." Keep in mind it's a 1920 house with a top potential value of $60K, so we're looking for a modest design that makes the home comfortable and functional.

The floorplan is actually pretty efficient, with the exception of the back part of the house. Here's the current layout:

Decent kitchen floor space (9'x13')
High ceilings (8.5')

Kitchen workspace and storage space is abysmal.
Tiny, broken doorway that goes to hallway to basement stairs.
Hallway pantry is 3' wide, but a walk-in, so inefficient use of space.
Wallpaper on two walls, old sheet vinyl on floor, cheap/old cabinets
Broken window

Here are a few photos.
Note that backsplash power is provided by a power strip attached to an extension cord that wraps around the wall and plugs into an outlet in the paneled dining room wall. The corner block-out is for an old chimney that is used as a vent for the furnace and water heater in the basement.

Looks like they had the washing machine on this wall, but we'll move that into the room behind and use this for the fridge wall. That's wallpaper under the chair rail.

Current pantry:

Close-up of narrow doorway, ceiling, cabinets

Current window. For some reason it's the only one that wasn't replaced with vinyl.

Tentative plan:
Turn the kitchen into a galley. This will entail moving the 2 side doorways to the middle of their respective walls, reconfiguring the stairs, and closing up the hole into the dining room.

The only other floorplan change will be building a larger closet in the top bedroom and closing up the existing one.

Thoughts/opinions? Dive in!

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Our neighbors have almost the identical kitchen. Here is what they did - it's very functional and looks great.

1. Leave the doorway into the kitchen from the back entry where it is.
2. on the the walls that you have the sink and floor to ceiling cabinets - keep that layout, keep the sink on that side.
3. On the side where you have the original window, yes, replace it with a shorter double hung window.
4. On the window wall, have only lower cabinets and center the range under the window. As you enter the kitchen, angle the countertop so that it's really skinny just inside the door and widen it as you approach the stove. Under the skinny bit of countertop, have open shelves. Cooking and looking out a window works well, too.
5. Put a dining nook in the corner where the washer was. Put the refrig at the back end of the run that holds the stove.

Question - in your current kitchen, where is the door to the pantry? Is it off the back hallway?

The cabinets you have are good wooden cabinets. I'd strip the paint off them, stain and reuse. Add new cabinets as needed. you can always just change out cabinet doors if needed. Absolutely, drywall the ceiling. Is the chimney in the corner of the current cabinets? If you are doing a new furnace, can you get one that side vents and then take out the chimney? I'd wager that there is a hardwood floor under the vinyl. If so, try and preserve it.

There are loads of images online for "bungalow kitchens", featuring small kitchens like yours. Check them out, if you haven't already. My 2 cents!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 11:34AM
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jcm: thanks for your input on what someone else did with a similar space. I think I'd rather have more counter/storage space than a 2nd eating area given the size of this house. So you're saying basically they just moved 1 doorway instead of both?

Define "good wooden cabinets." I need help understanding why these are viewed as a such a gem when they just look old and cheap to me.

I did some browsing on houzz for 1920s kitchens, and they all seemed to be white. Were they stained or painted back then?

The doorway to the pantry is just past the doorway out of the kitchen toward the stairs.

Yes, the chimney is that bumpout in the corner. The current furnace and water heater are only 80% efficient, so can't be vented out the side, but if we replace them they can vent to the side and we can demo the chimney. That's the hope, but I don't want to spend too much on what are otherwise perfectly good appliances.

I am itching to see what's under the current flooring. For some reason when we walked through and took all these photos, we didn't think to pull up a corner of the carpet or peeling vinyl.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 11:49PM
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A couple of thoughts for you. First off, what is considered white has changed over the years. I too just bought a 1920s house and was surprised to learn that creams and even tans were considered white back then. Our bright white of today didn't exist yet. So, your cupboards are white. Hard to believe. Perhaps it just needs new hardware and appliances? We often get a local cabinet guy to router a few of the doors for glass insets. This normally costs about $50 each and makes a huge difference. I am much happier with my current at least 60 yr old cabinets than the new builder grade ones I had in previous houses.

If your potential is 65k, you can't have much of a budget. I'd look real, real hard at not replacing cabinets, moving sinks or stairs. Not having seen the place, it's hard to critique a plan. Some things I'd consider would be turning the pantry into a half bath. Can the pantry be combined with the mudroom or go next to the fridge? I'm also concerned with the seemingly wasted space at the mbr entry. Have you considered relocating the bedroom door and using the old space as a closet? If the budget is tight, I'd also consider not replacing the heating. Insulation often results in a better ROI.

looks like a fun project. let us know what's under that vinyl!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 2:06PM
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Hello, looks like a lot of it has already been changed or altered - non-original trim, etc. Can't see the detail of the hardware etc. so I dont know if those cabinets are original - could be just painted plywood circa 1950 or later - plywood didnt really come into use until after the war. The scallop trim above sink looks very 50s. Which still means they have some value, but not as much as if they were earlier 1900s solid pine face frame doors with original hardware.

What condition are they in - I think you could get a lot more bang for your buck by saving the cabs and doing a professional level job with color choice, sanding + paint finish plus new counter, sink, etc. Even the cheapest MDF cabs would cost you into the thousands

Question: how is the pantry accessed in your proposed new version? I wouldn't be so quick to eliminate the existing pantry - just redo the shelves to make them more attractive. Pantries are so highly functional and are now appreciated by buyers once again.

In the original, whats on the wall to the left as you come in from the dining room?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 2:27PM
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Forgot to add - my house is a budget renovation and for me a lot of the work was simply removing all the ticky tacky stuff (dropped ceilings, holow core doors, mismatched woodwork) and taking it back to what it was as much as possible. Just getting your trim consistent is going to do wonders - taking it all back to the old WIDE style of trim. You can mill your own or have a woodworker do for not much $.

You dont have to make slavish reproductions, but the idea is just to get everything visually harmonious like it COULD have been originaI for example I have a closet that was added to a bedroom, built in in the 1960s - I just replaced the plywood &hollow core doors with new ones made out of beadboard- and then painted. Looks very cool and repeats the original beadboard on the porch ceiling.

I think even if people aren't old house fanatics, they still respond positively to visual harmony and consistency, and negatively to visual chaos .

This post was edited by kashka_kat on Mon, Feb 25, 13 at 14:47

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 2:37PM
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65K? Around here I can't get a double garage on rented land for that. We have thousands of these little gems around south and central Ontario and have reno'd, demo'd and turned some into gems over the years. From what my experience is I have found requirements have changed for buyers and owners over the years.

I believe your target market is 2 main demographics, empty nesters downsizing due to economics and first time homeowners. Regardless of price potential buyers are looking at move in ready.

I would;

Inspect electrical and rewire if necessary. Many insurers today won't cover if less than 100 amp service. Many a Reno project here fell through because the buyers balked because of lack of fire coverage due to electrical issues.

Since we are only talking a kitchen sink, laundry and single bathroom consider upgrading plumbing, easily done as I see there is a basement or at least crawlspace.

Pull drop ceiling and drywall.

Get rid of chair rail and wallpaper. Skim coat the walls and ceilings and paint.

The moldings look to be circa late 40's early 50's very simple, keep the millwork simple, no crown as well.

Paint plywood cupboards and spruce up with repo period hardware from big box store.

New kitchen sink, fixtures and laminate countertop, new fixtures in bathroom.

Remove any shelving etc. that looks to have been slapped up with whatever was available, quite common then, and replace with simple malamine in that pantry. If you keep the pantry. As much storage as possible, space is a premium here, must be utilized to the max.

Closet space, there is only one closet in the bedroom. No one wants to see clothing hanging from hooks today, a nail in a wall served well but unless a hunting cabin or ice hut not today. Luckily there may be storage space below the main level but you need at least one closet on the main level, laundry room?

Utilize stackable washer, dryer in laundry area. I would shop around and provide them. While we are shopping lets get a new or nearly new fridge and stove from a wholesaler or scratch and dent sale. We recently purchased a rather large KitchenAid stainless side by side with icemaker and water server for less than $800.00 at a local wholesaler. 5 burner Bosch stainless gas stove for $300.00. Well over $2500.00 retail.

Best value for a cottage of this size is a good quality 12mil laminate. With this new stuff available I have had to get down on hands and knees and even then had some doubts to whether it was engineered hardwood

Just some thoughts, keep us updated and good luck.

P.S. if this isn't a flip, sorry I may have misunderstood.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:02AM
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We didn't take the time to examine the cabinets last time we were there, because we quickly put them on the "tear out" list. My impression was that they were thin plywood, but I'll take a closer look next time we can get in.

It does appear that there was a remodel done in the 1950's, as the tub is pink (underneath the worn-out rebath job), and the paneling, countertop, and kitchen ceiling aren't 1920's style.

The doorway to the pantry is just to the right after exiting the kitchen:

The wall around to the left from the DR is the one that used to have the washing machine on it (photo above).

This isn't technically a flip, as we'll live in it at least a year, for now a crash pad as I work 100 miles from home. But it's not big enough to be a long-term house. So we're looking at this from an investment perspective as well as from needing to make it functional for us.

canuck: We do plan to replace all electrical and plumbing, because it's old, easy to access, and like you said, there's not much there.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:11PM
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Taking your other post into account, based on my experience with rehabbing houses of that vintage, I recommend:

First: shell and infrastructure
1 - Fix the rotting bath flooring
2 - Check and repair the plumbing
3 - Check and upgrade the wiring
4 - Replace the roof
5 - Insulate the heck out of the attic.
6 - Replace the aged water heater and furnace
7 - Fix any other safety issues

Second: Cosmetics and cleanliness

1 - Remove the decrepit carpeting and other surfaces that are in bad condition
2 - Repair the floors as needed
3 - Clean the heck out of everything
4 - Prep and paint everything

You will probably run out of money about here ... that's OK because you might not have the most convenient house to live in, it doesn't leak and it;'s clean and well-insulated with good heat.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:50AM
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OK, we got back in the house and looked more closely at a couple things. First good news: there is hardwood under the carpet. Here's a corner of the dining room:

We couldn't tell if the kitchen has hardwood under the vinyl.

And the kitchen cabinets are indeed solidly built. good frames, drawers and doors, if a bit grungy. Here are some close-ups.

So I still need more space. Having salvageable cabinets doesn't change that. And I don't care for the doors. I'm wondering if I could add a thin 1/4" border on the front to make them shaker style. Or else just buy all new doors so they'd match the additional cabinets.

We'd like to get rid of the chimney too, so I'm wondering if I could rearrange the existing cabinet boxes, get rid of the skanky sink cabinet, and then build some new ones to provide the additional workspace.

We've got ~$5K to spend on the kitchen. We can do the bath for about $2500, plumbing $1000, electrical (including light fixtures) $1000, and $500 for misc. building supplies (paint, floor sander, lumber/drywall). I had Lowe's price out a new kitchen with Shenandoah cabinets (painted white, shaker style doors & drawers) with our new layout and it came to $9000. That gives me one stake in the ground. We've got local Amish and a friend of a relative that reportedly makes cabinets for not much money, and I can check with them. I'm also reasonably comfortable with my own carpentry skills, at least building the boxes. I haven't done drawers, but could learn. If we can do the additional cabinets for a couple grand, that would leave money to replace the furnace and water heater.

Further thoughts? I think I'll post in the kitchen forum as well, to get their input on the layout and re-arranging current boxes.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:14AM
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If you try to remove the old cabinets to move them, I'm pretty sure you're going to find they are stick built--that is, not units added together, but built in place...and you may as well trash them if you try moving them. There is nothing wrong with them except newer period hardware from Lowes--you'd be surprised how much better they will look with new knobs and pulls. Just a note on the Amish--most I've seen may not cost as much as store-bought, but it will still be high. And, taking down that chimney will also cut into your budget with roof and floor repairs, so why bother. Keep it since you won't gain much space and save the money to go toward the flooring or new furnace and water heater.

You could add the strips to make the doors look like panel doors...that would fit the period of the house and not cost much.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 1:55PM
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HARDWOOD! YAY! For the floors, get the square "screen sander" and not a drum sander. It's far easier to use, and doesn't chew off as much flooring.

Columbusguy is probably right on the cabinets. They were probably custom built on-site, not as boxes to be hauled in, and if so, they are extremely hard to remove without wrecking them.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:07PM
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We made the mistake that columbusguy refers to and ended up losing the cabinets. You could just remove that little scalloped piece of wood and that will make a huge difference. I'd still think of adding cabinets on the window wall?

Excellent news about the floors. Hope you don't find animal urine stains:)

if you want reasonablypriced period tile for the bathroom....look at Daltile.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 4:47PM
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Weedyacres, I'm currently living in a house built in 1900. The kitchen has one wall of older cabinets--I'm not sure if they are original to the house or part of a later remodel. I know the kitchen has been remodeled at least once, and I suspect it may have been changed up another couple of times.

There's one wall of original cabinets that, like yours, were built in place. The original coal stove has been removed and in its place is a sort of island/peninsula thing that is much more modern.

The island is made of basic white cabinets from a big box store. To make the original wall of cabinets match (or really blend with) the new ones, they took the old doors off and put on new doors that match the new cabinets. Then they color-matched the new cabinets and painted the frames of the old cabinets. Until you start to use the kitchen and open the doors, you don't realize that there are two completely different sets of cabinets in the room.

So this is just a suggestion on how you could save a bit of money and keep the existing cabinets and add new ones. Maybe change out the counter top to something newer.

However, I am going to add that as an old house type of person, I think your original cabinets look pretty well made and have a lot of period charm. You might consider keeping the old cabinet doors stashed in the basement or someplace, if you decide to change them out. A future buyer might be grateful for that.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 5:18PM
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Say are those floor plans really drawn to scale - they don't seem to match up with picture #1 which shows the windows much closer to the photographer than the kitch sink and cabinets. In the photo, it looks like there would be lots of room along the window wall to put in storage there - whether free-standing cabinet, worktable or counter space. Since this is a budget reno, I wouldnt think about moving the cabs. Shorten the window if you must for cabinetry along that wall though.

Congrats on the hardwood, and cabinet doors do look thick and solid. The key to making them attractive is to a) sand the heck out of them, get themt silky smooth to the touch (you could remove doors and send it thru a sander since they are simple flat panels, b) do expert paint job w/ quality paint & brushes- silky smooth, soft sheen, choose good paint in taupe or cream, c) get rid of cheap 60s hardware - go for earlier period - sorta 30s art deco perhaps or more industrial, and finally d) remove the scallop - it really screams circa 1961 - and replace with something more deco. I think 30s art deco might be the direction to go with this house.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 11:23AM
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FWIW- hereâÂÂs a sort of âÂÂindustrialâ style I used on my kitchen reno - used pulls on all drawers and not knobs.
Budget model:

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 11:33AM
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Well, I've been over to kitchens and got a bit of advice. A couple people are urging me to knock down the wall between the kitchen and DR and put in an island, but I suspect you Old House people would scream in agony over that one. :-)

Based on their input and yours, I'm now thinking along these lines:
-Keep the chimney. That'll avoid having to spend on a new furnace and water heater for now. They're perfectly functional, just not maximally efficient.
-Surgically remove the sink cabinet but leave the others in that plane. Slide a range in there (assuming it's a 30" opening; didn't measure). Use that exercise to see if the boxes can be removed from the wall. They do have backs on them, so I'm not sure it's a lost cause.
-Move the doorways to the center of the room (no one has yet given me a good reason not to other than it's a lot of work)
-If we can cleanly remove them, take down the cabinets over the existing range spot and relocate to the window wall.
-Buy new base cabinets for along the window wall
-Build new wall cabinets to fill in the rest of the window wall, matching/mirroring the relocated ones.
-Add shaker trim to the old doors and maybe drawers.

I've found some reasonably priced unfinished RTA cabinets at I'll carefully prep the existing and paint the whole shabang in some creamy white color.

FWIW, I priced out all new cabinets at Lowe's and they came to about $9K, $1500 of which was trim. The same set of cabinets from KCD (no trim) is $3500. So theoretically, with some elbow grease and used appliances, I might be able to pull off the kitchen for $5K, even with all new cabinets. But I'm determined to meet the challenge and be as tightwad as possible on this, so I'm going to try for maximum re-use.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:09AM
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A couple people are urging me to knock down the wall between the kitchen and DR and put in an island, but I suspect you Old House people would scream in agony over that one.

Your budget would scream, because that's probably a bearing wall.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 1:51PM
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It's not a bearing wall; floor and ceiling joists run parallel to it. And demo is DIY, so no budget screaming, just more labor, especially if there's plaster behind them thar' panelling. We've taken out a LB wall before, replacing it with a flush lam beam in the attic. No worries about ability to execute, but quite honestly I'd rather have more cabinets than more open space.

Man, I'm really itching to get in this place and start tearing out the ugly and seeing what's hidden behind it. Title docs were supposed to be done today, no word yet. Demo planned for Saturday, but can't do if we don't have the deed in hand....

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:18PM
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Finally closed today...yeah! Took a couple employees over for a tour and to hear their feedback. They pronounced it a lot of work. :-) But a couple mentioned they liked the moonscape walls, so we're keeping them.

I pulled the LR carpet back about 4' and knocked out a few of the foyer tiles. Hardwood looks decent, though under the tile it's not stained, so it looks like the floors were refinished after the tile went in. I tried to pry up some of the kitchen vinyl, but it was brittle and looks like there might be a couple layers of something glued down.

I met the water guy there to shut off the winterized faucets so he could turn on the water. He said he knew the couple that lived here prior. The husband was gainfully employed, but they didn't make a single mortgage payment and it took them 2 years to foreclose on them (what are people thinking?). And the water turn-on revealed that the bathroom plumbing is leaking. Good thing we're tearing it all out.

Demo will be a week from Saturday, and then we'll get the full reveal....

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 7:51PM
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Can we have pics of the "full Monty" before and after the demo?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 7:14PM
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"He said he knew the couple that lived here prior. The husband was gainfully employed, but they didn't make a single mortgage payment and it took them 2 years to foreclose on them (what are people thinking?"

I'll tell you what they were thinking. Never made a mortgage payment. Put not penny 1 in the place. They most likely leveraged the place to the max on a line of credit as equity built up.

So to summarize, no rent min. 24 months $500.00 per = $12,000.00

Equity loan $2000.00 or more didn't pay that either.

Taxes unpaid over 2 years $2000.00

Whatever closing costs that were not paid either.

So that's about 16K over 2 years, minus the couple of thousand down, maybe, we are talking a net of $10,000.00 to $16,000.00 on a $60,000 house in 2 years. Not bad for doing nothing but ruining your credit.

Now add 3 or 4 zeros on it and you have what hundreds of Wall Street bankers did up to the crash, and I guarantee you it is happening everywhere there is money to be stolen today. That's what they were thinking.

This post was edited by SouthernCanuck on Fri, Mar 15, 13 at 11:22

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 11:22PM
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lazy: most definitely. I'm huge on photo documentation. Even made a webpage for it. Mr. Weedy thinks we should do video and start a youtube channel too (we'll see). But I'll report back here too. I'm sure I'll need more advice!

Here is a link that might be useful: Start of our reno web page

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 11:10AM
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as I look at the DR photo on your blog, it looks like the pass thru window was originally a doorway. Is a door on that wall one you've talked about centering?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 6:04AM
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