Should I cover an awkward window in my 1930 tudor kitchen?

ashleymkingJune 7, 2010

need layout help-awkward window

I'm in the process of deciding which layout will work best for our 1930 tudor kitchen. The primary dilemma is the size of the kitchen (11 X 9) and the placement of the windows. One particular window that rests at 35.5 inches from the floor and 22 inches in from the wall is causing a headache--it leaves no room for a normal sized cabinet to be below or along side it. I haven't looked into the cost of raising the window, because the exterior of our home is brick and I imagine it will be quite costly. We've also considered just drywalling over the window, since there will still be a window over the sink and two in the adjoining dining room.

Have any of you struggled with this same issue? If so, what do you suggest? Is there a workable way to leave the window? If not, have you had success with covering a window before?

Here is a link that might be useful: photos or original kitchen and suggestions by KD's

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There are several people over on the kitchens forum who have worked around their low windows. I looked at your current elevation drawings, but I can't tell what you have drawn where the low window is. Can you put a "baking center" there? A lower cabinet height is ideal for rolling out/kneading dough. You could change your countertop material, say to marble, and make it "intentional" as the baking counter. Some people have kept the window and created a "window well" behind the regular countertop level. They use the well as storage or put potted plants there. Was it Casey that put the clever sink cabinet in front of a low window? Maybe he'll pop in. If I were you, I'd try to keep the window. But, that's just me.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 1:53PM
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Ashley, don't discount the value of natural light, especially in a space where remaining windows are not large. You can often run a regular height counter top in front of an existing window if you don't have a backsplash on that wall (the window trim would be removed at the bottom and the vertical trim cut to meet the counter top). The window can still function and if the trimwork is handled well, can look just fine. You would have a very shallow window well, which could be filled in with wood to meet the counter height (I have a similar situation in my bathroom).

Consider a pair of under-counter refrigerator and freezer units on that wall, to free up the floor plan and open up the visual space. That is what I did in my 1930's Tudor (we have a regular sized fridge in the basement). Sometimes you have to think far outside of the box to come up with a solution that really works and doesn't compromise the original integrity of the house!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 2:03PM
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When we moved into our brick bungalow, the kitchen was room A and a bedroom was room B. The original kitchen window was at sink height and the original bedroom window was less than 35" from the floor.

We swapped the 2 rooms, making it necessary to deal with the wrong height windows in 2 rooms. We hired a mason that specializes in historic buildings and it was a very easy project. We reused the lintels, changed the headers, and enlarged/shrunk the two openings. We reused the brick and moved it from one side of the house to the other.

The cost was alot less than we expected. I'd do it again because moving the 2 rooms has greatly improved the space throughout the entire house.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 7:13PM
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yeah, I dealt with a window that was only 24" from the floor (the apron trim piece) and made that the prep sink location. I wouldn't recommend a solution like that for just anyone.

My idea for you would be to first see if you could lower the floor; a lot of times flooring builds up in kitchens with added on layers of plywood and vinyl or even wood flooring. If you get back to the subfloor, you may gain back the inch you need, and have a window that's flush with the counter tops.
You could re-make the existing window so the masonry and sill stayed the same, but have the sash replaced with slightly shorter ones, adding a filler at the bottom, and almost undetectably gain three (+/-) inches.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 7:50PM
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One question? Do you also have a pantry? If so, then the need for blocking or changing that window just to have one solid wall of cabinets isn't necessary. Only modern kitchens adore the idea of wall-to wall cabinetry--old houses tended to have free-standing furniture such as hoosiers as cabinets, except for a sink with drainboard.
In my pantry, there is such a window, and there is a cabinet built just in front of the window, leaving a well--AND the existing window trim is intact--the pantry is original to the house (1908).
In my kitchen, they had a refrigerator blocking the only window (placed like yours)--I moved it into the pantry, and built my own cabinets using the original doors I found in the garage, stopping the cabinet just short of the window trim (the cabinet just fit a cast iron double sink and drainboard I found). To extend that counter space, I hinged a wooden drop-leaf to the end of the cabinet, so I can raise it up if I need the extra work space, and I still have all the light from the window, and no alteration to the window, trim or house.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 10:06PM
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Columbusguy1: Unfortunately we have a very small space for a pantry (approx 40 in by 18 in). We really do need the cabinet space if all possible.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 1:56AM
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Oh my goodness! I am going to tear out the window sill and frame in order to achieve the look you have with your current "problem" window!!!!

My picture shows the kitchen of the old coach house for a castle in Quin, County Clare, Ireland. It is the Ballyhannon Castle and Coach House, what they call a "self catering" place to stay.

And this kitchen window is the heart of that kitchen plan. I now have the chance to change my kitchen to extend the countertop outward into the sill area of the window, and it will be a shallow garden window then. Just think about having that space behind your faucet open enough to clean, or to set some fruit basket or a flower pot. It will make your space look larger than it is.

And it sounds like the window height is the same as most kitchen counter tops anyway. So what is not to like? You won't be changing any exterior brick work, just redoing the bottom of the window.

Think about it!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 12:37PM
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In very old houses, like mine, natural light was a premium as windows were small and scarce because manufactured glass was a luxury (1820s). I did not want to have counter over the level of my window like my husband had before I married him, and I also wanted to pull back in a pitcher pump to access the springwater cachement basin directly by the kitchen. So we built a custom frame and I sunk a laundry sink in over which we mounted our pitcher pump. It's perfect for 'dirty' chores like cleaning the fresh eggs, soaking veggies from the garden, or pulling up water in large quantities like I do when I wash. There is no reason you couldn't put a low cabinet under the window for perhaps a cookware garage, and a bank of shelves above it for infrequently used items or a fancy pottery collection and make it functional. Like said........those solutions aren't for everybody but old kitchen did indeed have a lot of freestanding furniture and not banks of matching cabinets.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 2:53PM
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Moccasinlanding: I really like the picture you posted! Do you have any photos that more closely capture the design of the sill/countertop/window?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 10:31PM
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Ashley, I will check the 2000 photos I took of this vacation house, and see what I have! Stand by.... :)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 2:31PM
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I finally located the photo, taken via a disposable camera, sad to say. But note that the walls of the coach house are very thick stone. The counter top extends into the window sill area level with the faucet.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 3:53PM
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moccasinlanding: you are awesome! I love the idea of extending the countertop into the sill to make it look more fluid. I will be showing this to my KD soon. :)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 9:48PM
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Awww, gosh, Mizz Ashley, twarn't nuthin'....

I have another photo (from a magazine I think) somewhere which shows the same sort of extension, but it is a garden window, sort of like a counter height bay.

For my money, there is no need to put in a garden window if you have even 7 or 8 extra inches by extending the counter.
Many folks these days are bringing the sink into a "bumpout" to have a spacious design, and all the time I was thinking they "bumped out" into the window....not into the kitchen itself.

Hope your KD can give you the look you want without losing your lovely window with its natural light.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 3:28AM
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What type of window is in this space? I hope it's not a double hung.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 5:38AM
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I am going to restore the "akward" windows in our kitchen and build china cabinets over them. Basically a cupboard with no back (the window becomes the back) and glass shelves and inserts in the doors. It's a great way to work with a window and keep the light but still use the space.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 9:25PM
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lido: It is double hung. Should I be concerned?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:26AM
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If it's double-hung, it has to be in very good shape to raise & lower without having to be manhandled. I rebuilt mine so that they raise & lower with "1 finger" even though over 100 years old (and 32" wide and 36" high, each sash). There must be a fully-functional counterweight system, either iron weights+ropes and pulleys, or accurately set-up spring system.
Rebuilding involves removing every last bit of old paint, in and out, sanding, priming and painting before re-assembly with OIL PAINT ONLY. Latex sticks to itself and messes up old wood windows. If you use latex it will never pass the "1 finger" test.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 10:56AM
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Igloochic, I saw this design used in one of the White Kitchens featured somewhere. Cabs were open (or glassed) on the back, and had glass fronts as well. Then the contents of the cabs were also clear glass or stemware. I liked it a lot and clipped it for my idea file, even though I am opting for a garden window STYLE with hanging plants at my sink window.

The way I understand Ashley's window issue, this window is in addition to a window over the sink.

For mounting cabs to the side of it, overhead, they would be no issue, right? But on the floor, Ashley, since this window is only 22 inches from the wall or corner, I think that could be dealt with by having a wall cab mounted on the floor too. Or cut down the depth of a base cab to work. I do not see that the counter height being the same as the window sill is a deterrent to keeping the window. IF you rebuild the window, the shape of the sill to fit in this spot could just as easily be granite or quartz or Corian or laminate over the wood foundation.

Even if you rebuild the window, there is no requirement that it be an operable window. So having a glass back/front cab cover it could be a really nice option.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:34PM
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I understand Casey's point to be that to manhandle a window, you have to be able to stand right at the wall. If you are leaning across the width of the counter, you can't get the leverage, and/or your back takes a hit.

But overall, what a useful thread this is for me; we have a similar window to Casey's - too low to make countertop even with the sill, requiring a well behind or making the window smaller. So thank you for posting!

Plus, like Ashley, we have too little space to one side for what we need to put there, namely a fridge. So the fridge sticks out like the sore thumb it is. Love the idea of a set of under-counter appliances - our only idea so far has been to reduce the size of the window. This is not going to be a bad thing as the original window is not there any more anyway, but a horrid aluminum thing that we want to replace anyway. But the thought of losing the light has been killing me... except in summer, when the heat from the window is killing me.

Anyway, all that to say, you can get European fridges that are quite narrow - 24 inches or so. Naturally they have correspondingly less capacity, but for certain people this would work.

And Igloo, I love your idea of the glass back/front cabinet. I've thought of shelves across the window but not of making it a cabinet, but keeping the heat out in summer will be an interesting challenge, not to mention privacy. But definitely worth considering.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 4:24PM
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Had not thought to show this before now, but for the record it could occasionally be an option. Instead of a cab, maybe just the things you hang stemware on, in front of a window? Note that I had not rehung the cafe curtains on the tension rods yet.

And now I'm thinking that the counter could be dropped down as for a dough countertop, marble top or something. The base cabs on the far wall could have a 22 inch depth but a normal counter height.

IKEA makes an 18" deep high cabinet sort of like a pantry, which could be 36 inches wide, and be on the end wall of the cab run.

There is hardware available to pull out the contents of the bottom corner cab to totally use every inch of that space. Rev-A-Shelf and others make such products in wire or wood.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 1:12PM
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Any chance you could install a stained glass window? That would allow light to come in and also create a beautiful conversation piece.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 5:38PM
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I agree with all to not remove that lovely window! Your kitchen would be so dark, and we old-housers hate to see bricked-up window openings from the outside. Always makes me wonder who they bricked into the secret room....

Anyway, I think you should put some sort of counter/baking area/prep sink in front. Regardless, I think you'll need to redo the window, either by adjusting the sills or replacing it with a non-opening or one that you turn the thing to swivel it open. Probably that, so you can get good flow on hot cooking or smoky cooking days. The turny thing can be mounted in the middle of the window, rather than at the bottom, of course.

Best of luck with your reno!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 3:44PM
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ashleymking - so what was your final decision/plan? I'm facing a similar situation so I've been reading with interest. We have a 1928 tutor and will open up part of the shared wall with the breakfast nook. This leaves too little wall space for appliances and so we will cover up a window. Hoping our lighting issue will be resolved by the additional light coming from the nook.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 2:01PM
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We still haven't come to a resolution. We had a window guy and a masonry guy come out to give us bids on what it would cost to raise the window up a few inches (simply because the other options don't seem quite right for us). We haven't heard back yet on how much this will set us back. I REALLY want to keep the window, if at all possible. I'll be interested to see what your covered window looks like and the new layout of your kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 1:05AM
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Ashleymking - I think I've figured out how to post a layout of our planned kitchen.

We are taking down part of the wall between kitchn and nook - from about where the DW is. Window to be covered is where the fridge is going (right wall of image). That space is particularly awkward because the depth availalbe with the two doors on either side (top one leads outside, bottom leads to basement) is less than standard 24". Have found the shallowest fridge I could (that wasn't $7000) and will still have a good 5-6" bumpout from cabinets around. It would be worse (and dangerous) trying to keep the windwo by putting the stove there. We still have window over the sink and can install new door with a better window. Hoping that the nook windows, which get much better light than either of those in the kitchen, will help. We are rehabing without having lived in it first, so there is some chance we could live without the outside door but I'm almost certain it will be our main entrance. And we've decided that opening the wall (we've got two little kids) is important enough to lose that availalbe space to appliances. I'm looking forward to my new kitchen - if our contractor would start already!

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen layout

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 2:33PM
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I realize this post is a bit old and I would love to know what you did with your window situation, ashleymking.
Gardenia13, I thought you had an interesting post because it may relate to my situation. I don't live in a Tudor(love them though) I have a 70's house with siding on most of the exterior(bummer I know). I am in the very preliminary stages of a kitchen rehab and have a new huge window a few inches below a counter.
Here are some pictures. It's SO close, I would hate to not be able to get some counter space since I have almost nil.

Here is a link that might be useful: ltoolio's album

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 3:46PM
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I can certainly empathize with you and your window dilemma. We debated our decision for quite a while, too. In the end we decided we didn't want to lose the light by closing up, nor did we want to compromise the counter space by leaving it as is--that left us with one option that worked for us, which was to replace it with a smaller window and fill in the gap with bricks from another window we enlarged over the sink. I realize many might scoff at our solution and space plan of our kitchen, but we love it! Best of luck to you! Kitchen renovations are hard enough without decisions/complications like this!

I've included pictures of our kitchen with new windows (albeit, not quite finished since we have slowly DIYed the whole thing)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 7:51PM
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