Keep or change bones of 60's southwest ranch kitchen?

mudhouse_gwFebruary 3, 2014

Hello folks,

We have been pondering the layout of our kitchen walls for years. I think it's finally time to either commit to making changes, learn to love it, or give up and move (let somebody else figure out how to love it, or fix it!) I have never liked how the kitchen is isolated from the rest of the house, but the people who built this house clearly did.

Sometimes I question making changes. I wonder if we should try to accept the bones of the 1965 house, low ceiling and isolation and all. When we work on houses, we try not to ignore or remove character, but this is a struggle. Our indecision has become an excuse to delay needed updates in the two adjacent rooms as well, so I feel like the heart of our house is stuck. I need fresh eyeballs (and honesty!) to help me get my mojo back.

There is no room in the budget for all new cabinets and partially opening walls (which might be load bearing?) so we need opinions about prioritizing a number of issues. In other words, where is the money best spent?

I've included lots of info so you can see all the factors we're juggling. (No mercy.)

Us: Retired craftspeople. We like to make things, and garden. DH does most of the cooking (I'm hopeless), but neither of us are passionate cooks. We microwave a lot. No kids, but we want to consider changes to help this big house work for future families. We're DIY for paint, tile, basic woodworking, basic plumbing. We love creative scrounging, and we're not worried about tackling labor intensive things...once we have a plan.

The house: 2900 sq feet, 5/3, southwestern style 1965 ranch rambler in southern New Mexico. We're the second generation of my family to live here. It's a great old house, but it's sneaky. Every time we look away, it tries to turn into a lovely big money pit.

Style: The one-story custom home was designed as a blend of midcentury and southwestern features. Framed construction, low pitch roof, stucco and adobe brick exterior. Deep eaves with heavy carved rafter tails, wooden beams on porch and den ceilings. Saltillo tile, oceans of popcorn ceilings (shoot me now), wood paneling, funky tile baths. Big banks of (old) glass sliders open to big covered patios. Over an acre, with privacy and views.

Kitchen update budget: Here's the rub. Around $20,000, because we're trying not to badly overinvest. Current values in our older neighborhood are wobbly, and our house/lot is larger than most. No plans to sell soon, but because it's so big, this may not be our forever home. We've done a lot (restored adobe exterior, replaced windows, new HVAC, new electrical service, landscaping, one bath) but there's lots more to do.

Goals: Within this budget, fix the most likely potential deal breakers for future buyers. Help the kitchen relate better to the rest of the house; do something with the low ceiling and poor lighting; replace range and add ventilation; improve visuals.

Appliance layout: As a non-cook, I don't think the current work triangle is too bad, and I hoped to save money by keeping the same appliance locations. The main problem I see is we use the same small area between the sink and the fridge for both prep and clean up, since that's the side the dishwasher is on. But it doesn't bother us much.

The kitchen has a very low 6' 11" ceiling, and is closed off from the adjacent living/dining on one side, and the den on the other. The passage to these rooms is tight. For added headaches, each room has different floor and ceiling treatments.

In my first plan I tried to show differing ceiling heights and floorings, and the general layout. Note the bottleneck formed by opposing countertop corners, as you leave the kitchen. This is the start of the area that bothers me the most. (I hope you can read my hand-drawn plans.)

The yellow arrows show how we normally enter the house, and pass through the kitchen, to get to the most-used part of the house.

I drew another plan of the kitchen, larger, with dimensions.

Gripes: Major traffic goes right through the heart of the work triangle, but I think that's unchangeable. There is no easy place for guests to hang out in the kitchen; we dodge them inside the work zone. They can sit in the breakfast area, but it feels a little far for talking. A family with kids could not watch them from the kitchen.

The middle of the house feels a bit like a maze. In the first floor plan, you can see part of the brick fireplace in the den, central to the house. This big central "island" is 16' long by 5' deep, and contains the fireplace, mechanicals, a closet, and wet bar. I think this island makes it harder for visitors to get their bearings in the rambling house, as it blocks any long range views. The solid kitchen walls make this problem worse. It makes me uncomfortable when infrequent visitors have a hard time finding their way out.

Photos next. Grab some coffee. And bring paint.

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Our kitchen. (Darren and Samantha Stevens will be along shortly.)

Cabinets: Blue (!!) paint and wallpaper remain from a Country makeover, many owners ago. The old Saltillo floor will look much better without the blue. The site-built cabinets were originally stained dark.

We have a total of 51 linear feet of upper and lower kitchen cabinets. Including the sink area, about 22 linear feet of countertop frontage (50 square feet.) In addition, we have a large pantry hallway, and more cabinets in the nearby laundry room.

To keep the project at $20,000, and partially open walls, and possibly ceilings, we need to keep the cabinets. I know they're a little funny, with the big half-round bump trim, and lack of sophisticated features. But, they seem to fit the house, they're all wood, and in pretty good shape. 3/8" inset style doors. We think we can do some reconfiguring ourselves as needed, although we know changing stick-built cabinets is difficult. Replace hinges, repaint light gray, to match the wide gray mortar joints in the floor. Maybe white uppers.

The fridge is very prominent, but there's no way to recess it, because of the washer/dryer directly behind. If we paint the cabinets light gray, the gray side panel of the fridge might blend in a little better. It does look huge in this picture, partly because of the camera perspective.

Lowwww kitchen ceiling: The 6'11" ceiling houses a big bay of fluorescent lights (the only kitchen lighting.) Inside the recessed light area, the ceiling is 8' high. The big light bay measures 4' wide by 10' long.

The ceiling steps back up to 8' in the breakfast area. HVAC guys say the main trunk line lies above the 8' level, although it does elbow down to the registers you see. Our low pitched roof creates a very tight attic, covered with huge amounts of blown-in insulation, so it's hard to see what we’ll find up there.

Instead of raising the entire ceiling to 8', we have also considered wimping out. We could remove the plastic panels and fluorescents, and treat the 4' by 10' recessed area as a mock tray ceiling, adding some kind of trim. Inside the 8' tall recessed area, add simple fixtures (recessed LED cans?) and a Solatube skylight.

Then, also add recessed LED cans to the existing low ceiling perimeter, for light on sink and counters. Under cabinet lighting seems impossible (?) as there is less than 16" between the flat cabinet bottoms and countertops. The lower cabinets/counters are nearly 37" tall.

I'm clueless about good lighting, and will need to do a lot more research.

Breakfast area, below: The 8' sliding glass doors serve as the functional entry to our house, because it's closest to parking. Old wallpaper and fussy shelf should be long gone (proof I have completely lost my mojo.) We use this eat-in area daily.

Range/ovens: If we're redoing cabinets/counters, it's time to assess the built-in Frigidaire Flair, with burner drawer and double ovens. After soul searching, we think it's time to find it a new home, and buy a new electric range. This is a hard decision; my Mom produced many years of wonderful meals on this sturdy beauty. My Dad added a piece of oak trim, to coordinate with the existing oak trim on the countertops.

It's cool, and the ovens are great, but the burners are increasingly quirky. DH cooks on some burners by moving the pan on and off, since they no longer moderate temperature. We get by, but some folks wouldn't like it. No appliance guys here will work on it; parts have to be found on the web. There is no ventilation, so cooking smells hang around.

For resale, appreciation of retro/midcentury is very limited here. Our neighborhood is unlikely to attract cool buyers who are TKO, or interested in vintage ranges; many buyers will see it as a scary problem. Since it's a non-standard 40" width, and built into the cabinets, with no tile floor underneath, it's a big problem for future owners to replace...if we don't do it now. I do feel guilty, though. 50 years old and still (mostly) working is remarkable.

My question: if we sacrilegiously replace this with a new electric range, is any kind of vent hood possible, without raising the current 6'11" ceiling up to 8'?

Sink area: The sink isn't centered under the window, but that's OK. I won't miss the 43" Kohler triple sink, because the big center disposal section makes the resulting sides so small. I'm very grateful we have plenty of room for a new big sink. I'm determined to get a light over the sink.

The laundry room, below, is adjacent to kitchen. Another 16 linear feet of blue cabinets, including the sewing desk. This room's ceiling steps up to 8'. Skylight, french door to outside patio. The pine door to the little bathroom is waiting to be stained to coordinate with the new cabinet color.

Pantry hallway below, with door to garage. Three big closets with bifold doors, deep fixed wood shelves. Thankfully lots of simple storage, so I think this may allow us to lose some of the cabinets in the kitchen. 8' tall ceiling, with skylight.

Below, den wall, looking towards kitchen. Pass through window to kitchen. Pocket door in doorway. Beamed cathedral ceiling in this room slopes from 8' to almost 12' tall.

We have ignored the function of the confusing pass through window (if that's what it is?) We haven't purchased anything for this room, because I thought the wall might change, and we might have a bar with stools on this side. So, the furnishings are odds and ends.

I don't like the window into the kitchen. Since the top of the opening is about 4'9", you have to crouch down to peek through. If you like it, please tell me why, or what you would do with it.

The home's deep eaves and porches make everything dark, but the south-facing den has decent light through the 12' span of glass sliders. So, opening the kitchen to the den could brighten the kitchen. The ceiling in the den is stained a dark dull brown, which eats the light. We are leaning towards painting it a light color.

Below, small wet bar in the den. If we lose some counter space in the kitchen, this could be converted to a coffee bar.

Below, dining area, and mesh room divider. Dining area has some natural light in the morning, through 12' of east-facing glass sliders that open to a deep porch.

The juxtaposition of the original Spanish-style chandelier and the retro mid-century divider exemplifies the blend of styles that are original to the house. I don't find it an easy balance. Talented designers could handle it with ease; for me, the style concept is slippery! I actually have some sympathy for the early 80's owner who apparently gave up and said, "Oh heck, let's just go Country, and paint everything blue." But I wish they hadn’t.

Anyway, if we partially open the kitchen to the dining room, this 10' long wood and black mesh divider comes into play. It blocks some light in the walkway behind it, and the black mesh is a great dust collector. We don’t know yet if the divider is load bearing.

We don't really love the divider. But if we remove it, we have to redo flooring, somehow. Should we keep it, as is, as a nod to the mid century character of the home? I think I understand the original function; it separates the Saltillo tile "traffic highway" from the originally carpeted dining and living room areas (now wood laminate.) But we are unclear if it has any real function, currently.

We have no idea what to do with this feature. If you have any creative ideas for modification, or comments in general, we would love to hear them.

The last photo is a detail of the black metal mesh. (Do you like it?)

Back to the kitchen, and the pinch point. These opposing countertop corners are 23.5" apart. If this was a tiny kitchen in an old brownstone, I'd be less critical. But this is a 2900 square foot house, with space galore, so it annoys me no end.

This is the major pathway in/out of the kitchen. The yellow arrows show our most common zig zag pathway out. Once you squish through the two counter corners, you enter the series of doorways just outside the kitchen. This area feels tight and constricted to me, and I think it makes our visitors feel like rats in a maze. (Well, me too.)

If we have a bunch of new folks over, the line has to go single file through here, and we have to start yelling "Go left!" to the guy at the front of the line, if we're all going to the den. Or, we have to rush ahead to lead, so people can follow us. Good grief.

I keep thinking at least part of this den wall has to go, because it seems to pointlessly block traffic, intuitive views, and light. But am I crazy? We are the fifth family to live here over the last 50 years, and I have no proof that previous residents were driven mad by this area. (Only me.) If I’m right, and this IS bad design, my last three pictures might explain why nobody has found an easy fix, over the years.

Standing outside the kitchen. Dining to left, kitchen dead ahead, den to right. The kitchen and the den doorways both have pocket doors. We never even think to use them.

There should be extended headers over both pocket door frames in this corner, so would those headers be beneficial (cost wise) in opening up these areas? (I guess you can tell I’m in over my head when it comes to framing questions.)

Because wooden beams and posts are already extensively used in the southwestern style house and all patios, exposed wooden ceiling beams would be fine. Vertical posts would be fine too.

Looking down, same spot, all three rooms have different floorings. Kitchen is Saltillo, dining is wood laminate, den is porcelain tile.

Looking up, same spot, all three rooms have different ceiling heights and materials. Kitchen is 6'11" smooth sheetrock, dining room is 8' popcorn, and the den's wooden beamed cathedral ceiling is about 11' tall at this doorway.

These floor and ceiling differences make it harder for me to visualize how to partially open any of these three rooms to each other.

So we remain stuck. If you think there is nothing wrong with these walls, please tell me, so I can try to learn to love it, and get on with our house. I just can't get motivated to make cosmetic updates to any of the rooms, until we decide if walls are changing.

If we want to stay under $20,000, and if we change walls/ceilings, and if we apply our DIY selves as much as possible, I think we could:

- Some way, somehow, partially open one or two load bearing walls to adjacent rooms, and do something with the ceiling/fluorescent light bay problem.
- Keep the Saltillo kitchen floor, patching in new tiles as necessary.
- Keep, rework and repaint cabinets.
- Keep all appliances, except for the vintage range.
- New laminate countertops, new sink, new lighting/outlets/Solatube, new ventilation over new electric range.

It would help us to know:

Which aspects of this kitchen do you think potential buyers (for a mid price range home) would dislike the most? What do you see as the worst deal breakers?

If you think walls should be opened, which ones, and how far? Would you add a bar with stools, somewhere?

Is the 4' x 10' "mock tray ceiling" compromise a workable idea? Or, is raising the entire kitchen ceiling to 8' every bit as important as opening a wall?

Reaction to the 1960's mesh room divider, in the dining room area?

Thank you for reading this long post. Any comments are appreciated about any part of this project. With some fresh honest opinions, I think we can finalize the hard choices, pick our compromises, and move forward with building a plan. I would love to make progress.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:05PM
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Here's my $.02.

1) I like the blue cabinets.
2) I think the ceiling needs raised.
3) I like the divider but can you replace the mesh with something else? Or remove the mesh and add in wooden pieces going horizontally between the beams to create a pattern.
4) Widen the doorway between the kitchen and the den by removing the 23.5" wall that you hate. The wall should end where the cabinets end.
5) My grandma also had a Frigidaire Flair! She used it for 45 years. I thought it was so cool when I was a kid. A range that hides away??? amazing

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 12:43PM
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My two cents--I think the blue is absolutely "on trend" and I love it. Change your appliances and countertops, perhaps but you've got a raft of cabinets....nice.

For your budget, just update the kitchen nicely and forget about breaking out walls.....

You hate the 23.5 opening--when you do new countertops, round the one on the left back so you don't make black and blue marks on your hips, and to give yourself a few more inches.

I'm no expert on ventilation, but I don't see why you can't put an undercabinet vent hood in there when you replace the stove.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 1:26PM
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I'm no expert on layouts or framing, but I really think you should remove either the den wall or the dining room wall and bring the kitchen ceiling up.

The range is really groovy, but I agree it would scare most buyers.

I think the room divider is really cool. I have an appreciation for midcentury modern, though. Maybe if you painted it? I think both the frame and mesh could be painted a lighter color. Or remove the mesh and put in frosted glass or something.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:13PM
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LOVE the tiles and the blue cabinets.
Main deal breaker for us would be the low kitchen ceiling as DH is 6'4", and I don't think the mock tray would be enough.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:16PM
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You guys have no idea how much I am appreciating the input. I am taking careful notes and considering everything.

But, but...if we keep the blue and orange color scheme, I will never be able to play in the "does your kitchen match your dog?" threads.

I will have to wait for the "does your kitchen match your parrot?" thread. Bummer.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:37PM
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The first thing that I would attempt to change is the traffic flow through the kitchen. Perhaps a small covered porch off of the dining room where the sliders are could act as an outdoor mud area and the major flow could go through there instead of the kitchen? As is, the main path right behind the range is pretty dangerous. If you can change the traffic, then I'd feel more comfortably letting it stay there.

I'd focus the remainder of the efforts in getting a couple of quotes for the wall between the den and kitchen to be opened up as much as possible. Lose the L portion of the cabinets there if you have to. It's more of an impediment than an assist. It's what you want, and that silly 24" opening would drive me mad on a daily basis.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:40PM
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live_wire_oak, there's actually a pretty large covered porch off the dining room, and we have considered changing the 12' span of glass sliders so it looks more like the place you're supposed to enter. I appreciate your suggestion.

I will try to add a photo later today of that space, to further explore that idea. I agree the "through-the-kitchen" traffic pattern is a problem that keeps this older home from comparing well to newer ones.

Thank you to those who post sympathy votes against the 24" opening. I am in fact nearly insane because of that spot. You make me feel much better.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 2:58PM
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robo (z6a)

Not a fan of the blue cabinets, but if you're DIYers they could be any color! Your kitchen has suffered through some renos from previous owners that I would term...unfortunate.

I'm no expert on that type of architecture, but it seems to me that ceiling was lowered somewhere along the way to put in that light tray. Future families would probably appreciate a full height ceiling.

Do you think the den was an open porch at one time? Just wondering.

Looking at your house and traffic flow, I would DEFINITELY remove the wall between kitchen and den. Like, 1000%. I would also be curious to know if the laminate flooring in dining and living is hiding more of the saltillo, but there might not be a reversible way of finding that out?

If I had your budget, this is what I would personally think about and about what it would cost me in my area (knowing that I have a good contractor and contacts with the trades, and am also in a relatively low labour cost area).

1. Remove wall between kitchen and den and install beam sheathed in wood to match den. In my area, I would expect to budget $5000 for that and be pleasantly surprised when my contractor told me $3000 (This Happened To Me).

2. Looking at my budget, I'd want to run matching tile through the den but would probably reluctantly decide to leave the existing floor unless everything else I planned to do got a lot cheaper. So I would want to keep the rooms feeling "different" about where I took the wall down. I would have to figure out something to do for flooring where the wall was. Maybe transition pieces closely matched to the saltillo? I'm going to have to find a spare piece of saltillo to fix where the door jamb is anyway. I'd be thinking in my area of spending $500-1000 on flooring and fixing the transitions. My other option would be to do a similar wood in the den to the dining/living.

3. With all the money I saved on flooring, I'd completely take down the kitchen ceiling in about one hot minute. I would need to get someone in to figure out all the air vents and how to reroute them. So that's absorbing about another $5K of my budget and I would budget $7K just in case.

4. I would run a short peninsula down where I took down the wall and have stools on the den side ($0 - existing cabinets). Maybe like four feet.

4. If I wanted to replace the range, I would probably just shorten the run of cabinets on the range side to reduce my pinch point. Because that's a major traffic aisle through the house, I would want 42 to 48 inches of clearance where you only have 24". $0 for existing cabinets + prayer that tile runs below the cabinets by the range (This Did Not Happen For Me :( hello surprise $2K flooring bill).

5. I would also consider switching the fridge and range to have the range on the same run as the sink (planning 18" elbow room to left of range). And I would consider putting the sink on the peninsula to add prep space.
* $3000 for getting electrician in to switch fridge and range and install new lighting,
* $2000 to replumb the sink and dishwasher (depending on what's going on with plumbing, vent, etc - best case scenario I can edge sink over without changing the vent).

5. Because I am an intrepid DIYer, and by me I mean you, because I totally am not, I would consider painting my cabinet boxes white or cream and making new slab doors to better go with the feel of the house. Or trying to knock off whatever trim they applied to what probably were perfectly innocent slab doors. And getting some sweet retro hardware for the doors. And because my budget is low I'd probably go for butcher block counters from IKEA, which would look great with the Saltillo, or a low profile Corian. $2k on counters, $600 on paint and $200 on retro hardware.

There's my 20K! Hope nothing new came up! Your budget will vary!

This post was edited by robotropolis on Mon, Feb 3, 14 at 15:38

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 3:09PM
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robo (z6a)

PS I'm so so on the divider. Could you and husband do something narrow sorta like this? Maybe not less dusting...

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 3:44PM
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I just want to chime in and say, what a cool house. MCM seems to be quite popular up here in Portland. I'm fairly new to GW and this is the most clever and detailed post I've read so far. If you're not familiar with the retro renovation blog, you should check them out if you have any trouble finding a new home for your stove. Good luck! I look forward to your reveal.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 5:40PM
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Oh, yes, you, can

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 5:51PM
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Just to further explore live_wire_oak's idea about trying to divert some of the traffic flow away from the is a shot of the little pathway and gate leading into the patio off the kitchen. The gate was originally tucked up right against the house, far left. We rebuilt the adobe wall to move the gate to the right about ten feet, to try to dump traffic more directly into the center of the patio.

Peeking over the gate, you can see that the flagstone pathway (nicely laid by DH) lines up with the far right panel of the 12 foot span of sliders that opens into the middle of the combined DR/LR area. So, that would actually not be an illogical place to enter the house.

So we have wondered about changing that bank of old sliding doors to (somehow) a door on the far right that looks like more of an entry door...and keep the two far left panels as fixed glass.

The photo below shows how we use the area currently, but if we removed the furniture, and then somehow indicated a pathway directly to the "new" entry door...maybe a wide pathway of tile, laid on top of the concrete? Big pots of plants on either side?

As you can see the patio is already a mixture of doors. The poor delivery guys use this side of the house too, and they never know which door to go to (there is a doorbell by the kitchen sliding glass door, but it's hard to find!)

Robotropolis, I'm working on some responses to your outstanding post, thanks so much for devoting all that time!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 6:14PM
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nosoccermom, I am laughing so hard at your post that I can't type to reply to anyone else.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 6:17PM
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For what it's worth, the cabinets and the floor do look well together. The blue's very pretty even if the style isn't "au courant" If you need proof:

Farmhouse Kitchen by Little Rock Interior Designers & Decorators Tobi Fairley Interior Design

This kitchen gets plenty of good reviews. If I were you, I'd spend the money to raise the ceiling. Make sure that you don't raise it above the cabinets (which could make the duct work a little easier) since people like cabinets to go to the "ceiling". I personally just wouldn't want to dust up there. :) I think you'll be surprised what a different feel that's going to bring to your kitchen. It'll be a huge add to the kitchen, especially when those lights go.

The very first thing I would do is get rid of the wallpaper and paint the walls primer white. This will give you a clearer view of what you have and what you could have.

The second thing I'd do is swap to brushed nickel hardware.

I second getting the ikea butcherblock countertop. I think it would look lovely with the floor and cabinet color. It's cost effective and there are many many posts online detailing how to install it.

If you really want people to be able to talk with you while you're in the kitchen, perhaps and easy fix would be to remove the cabinets above the pass through (maybe you could use them somewhere else?) and open up the pass through to the ceiling (I can't imagine you've ever actually passed anything through there :) then on the other side you could find another place for the couch and maybe put a little breakfast bar there with stools that people could sit at ( could second as a bar bar for parties). Or you could just do a little ledge there like the one below (note that the floors and cabinets are a similar color to yours)

Eclectic Kitchen by Vineyard Haven Architects & Designers Sam Sherman Associates, LLC

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 6:33PM
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I might appreciate this style of house more than the average person, but I really like the configuration of those sliders and that they're true to the era of house. It's hard for me to see a swinging door in that area. Is it possible that the front doors and their approach could be zhushed up to encourage visitors to use them?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 6:44PM
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robotropolis, yes, the house has been through some changes. When my parents bought it in 1987, the cabinets were blue, and Mom says you could stand in the breakfast area and count 7 different types of wallpaper in view. They removed most of it (thanks Mom) but I did strip two layers of wallpaper from a closet. (Who wallpapers inside closets?)

However, more is surprisingly original than you might think. The den was never an outdoor area. There is a huge outdoor patio just outside the sliding glass den doors, and it's 41 feet long and 12 feet deep, with a wood beamed ceiling. (This is partly how we have escaped working on the interior...we live on the patios and outdoors.)

We are sure the low kitchen ceiling was original; a number of our neighbors (same vintage homes) have the exact same treatment. It seems to have been the style of the day for this part of the neighborhood. One of our neighbors has a light bay even bigger than ours.

Sadly we know the laminate flooring in the dining/living area is not hiding more Saltillo. It was originally carpeted yellow, as was most of the house. (Except for the den, which was carpeted a rusty orange shag.) My parents removed the (by then antique) dining room carpeting and put in the laminate floor.

Prayer won't help; we know that there is no Saltillo tile under cabinets beneath the range. They built the cabinets (in all rooms) and then laid the very thick old Saltillo tile on a mortar bed, right up to the cabinets. I think this is why the ceiling is 6'11" and not a more typical 7". (Nobody thought about the thick Saltillo floor.)

We are not too scared about patching in Saltillo, because we learned how to deal with that problem when we removed the sink cabinet in the little bathroom off the laundry room. The plywood cabinet had a tiled-in sink that was rusting out. That left a hole in the floor.

I could only find modern Saltillo tiles that were larger, thinner, and less colorful. So DH cut the tiles smaller, and I floated them on thick mortar to raise them up. Then it looked like this:

I used several paint colors to fake in the age and coloration of the other tiles, and resealed the whole room with multiple coats of a durable Saltillo sealer that should last for many years. So it was not fast, but definitely do-able.

I'm agreeing with letting the floor decisions be last, after we see how awful the bids are for other things. It's already a quirky older house so I doubt that the world will end if the differing floorings can't be addressed. (Although it would be better...)

Later tonight I will play with your idea about moving the sink and swapping the fridge and stove. I guess I've been so freaked out about the cost of structural changes that I told myself we couldn't afford to do that, but of course we won't know until we get several bids. I do see what you mean about increasing the prep space.

I agree wood countertops of some kind would be wonderful with the Saltillo. There is no Ikea store in our entire state, but we could drive to AZ. My dream was walnut DIY countertops from Craft Art, but I'm trying to not be too seduced by that idea until we know the wall/ceiling costs.

The funny bump on the cabinet doors is, believe it or not, original. We are removing the little drawers under the sewing desk (because no adult human knees fit under there, and I guess I'm the first person in 50 years to really try sewing there?) So I stripped the paint off the doomed drawers. The bump is actually an integral part of the front (same with the doors) and not just applied on top of a slab. So we can't pull those off.

Your cost estimates are very helpful to me. I'll compare them with some of my own wild guesses.

To all, thanks for the divider ideas so far! Frosted glass appeals to me because it does not block light. Maybe if the wood frame was painted a light color, as well. The open shelving idea above is one we had considered too, so seeing that visualization is very helpful. DH wondered about bookshelves but I am worried about anything solid that blocks light. This house feels enough like a mole tunnel as it is, I think, so I'm very cautious about making that worse.

I fully intend to respond to all the posts here, thanks so much for everybody's kind help.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 8:23PM
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Louislinus, I agree, it is remarkable how these Frigidaire Flair ranges just keep on going. And the hidden burner drawer is pretty cool. Or groovy, as edb2n said.

vedazu, it is a big raft of cabinets, isn't it?

nosoccermom, thanks for the reminder that people way over 6' tall would especially dislike the "mock tray ceiling" compromise. I think we are realizing that was a hail mary pass that will not work very well.

benjesbride, I think part of what we are struggling with is that MCM is appreciated in many parts of the country, but not so much down here in "uncool" southern New Mexico. (No offense to our state.) I bought a Lane Acclaim 60's "guitar pick" inlaid table at our Goodwill for $20, as an example (saw it earlier, went back later, and it was still there, so of COURSE I had to buy it.) So while we may pick up MCM things we think are fun, we are a little hesitant about emphasizing MCM with permanent house decisions.

A friend of ours who flips houses just sold a modest MCM styled home, a few blocks from us. She carefully preserved the retro features, and it took her a lot longer than usual to sell that house. I think the majority of folks here just don't get it. At least, for now? I have spent a lot of time at the retrorenovations blog, it's a super source of info! We are just on the fence about how far to pull this house in that direction, if we have an eye on resale.

However, as I said earlier, I really don't like to wreck any home's original character. I do totally get your point that adding a swinging door goes against the classic MCM theme of big banks of sliding doors, and I think that is partly why we're not sure that's the right direction. Problem is, how do you make a sliding door look like a front entry door? I will do another post soon with some pictures of our "real" front door, so you can see why we have the mostly unfixable problem of nobody using it. (I grabbed some pics just before the sun went down.)

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 8:50PM
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Thank you magsnj. I admit I have come across a few saltillo-floor kitchens, with this same blue, in my web wanderings. And darned nice ones, as you showed.

All you blue lovers are driving me mad. That was about the only thing I was sure should go (well, that and the &@*^%$!! little 23" passageway.) It's OK, I do love the differing opinions here. I can take it. (I have plenty of wine.)

I know that blue and orange are complementary colors on the color wheel, and that they really do work together. I think part of my beef is that the blue of our kitchen is more strident and saturated than the one shown in magsnj's post above. Also, I think I might just be tired of it, since I've lived with it for eight years. I think a blue this saturated tends to visually compete with the Saltillo floor (which I love, and will love more, after I've restored it a bit.) I was thinking the Saltillo should be the star of the show.

I will however, in honor of the intelligent pro-blue voices here, reconsider my previous plan of soft gray/white, and try to consider a softer, more subdued blue as well. Blue and turquoise are very time-honored southwestern colors, so there is that, too. But I'm thinking this particular eye-gouging blue has got to go. Maybe I need more wine.

On to the peekaboo window. I didn't want to influence you too much, to get a range of opinions. But since nobody is speaking up for it, I'll be honest. I think the pass through window is stupid. So I am very willing to lose those upper cabinets, and the whole pass through area. You're right, magnsj, we have never once passed anything through that silly hole in the wall.

I'm not sure about the two-level peninsulas. Thinking more about having a short peninsula there that is the same level as the cabinets (an odd 37" tall.) Aren't the two level bars starting to be considered a little (horrors!) dated? I wonder if one or two levels is more fitting for an MCM leaning home.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 9:15PM
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Could you add a glaze to the blue cabs to soften the color?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 9:56PM
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louislinus, the paint looks pretty good in the photos, but it's probably thirty years old, and needs to be touched up/renewed anyway. It might be just as easy to start fresh instead of trying to glaze over the existing color, but that's a good thought.

To benjesbride's question about how people can be encouraged to use the real front doors (to avoid the traffic going mostly through the kitchen). Sorry for the poor sunset photos.

The house sits on a hill. I’m backed far away from the little gate I showed you, that leads to the kitchen patio. I included all of the gravel foreground to show this is a very big parking area, on the flattest part of the top of the hill.

In addition, there's a big circular driveway that starts on the right side of the big gravel area shown above. This drives you past the real front doors, and then turns right down a pretty steep hill. So you can easily drive by the front doors...but there is no good place to park unless you just stop, and block the driveway. So it doesn't "feel" like the right place to park, for most people.

Here is the real front door entrance. We’re working on the gate. The big double doors (more dark brown stain) have fixed window panes on either side that are pleasing in proportion. However, because of the grade here, there's no way to carve out a large safe parking area by these doors.

Maybe they laid the house out this way so the long back side captured the south sun on the back patio, and through glass in the den, master, and master bath. That is wonderful, but the north facing front door then faces the steepest part of the lot with a narrow access.

So the best vehicle access is on the east side, where the kitchen is. People park and go to the closest door...the kitchen glass sliders.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 12:57AM
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We're VERY jealous of the range / oven and vote for selling it if you don't want to keep it. I'm sure it would sell just fine on ebay or somewhere.

If you decide to paint the wire mesh I'd recommend spray paint before going at it with a brush to try and keep from making a mess of it.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:06AM
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Chiming in from lurkerdom here - I also have a kitchen that functions as a major passageway through my house and I would strongly advocate for any solution that gives you the necessary elbow room and eliminates the dreaded pinch point. That would be my top priority, even before the ceiling or other issues get addressed.

I can see why you'd want to paint the cabinets - do a search on the site for an awesome redo by the username Nerdette; the transformation with some grey paint is amazing.

Finally, if you're trying to figure out how to fill the 40" hole if/when you pull the retro range, keep in mind that Frigidaire actually makes a 40" freestanding range in both electric and duel fuel. I kept seeing them on the Sears Outlet site (which is where I hunted for and bought my range and CD fridge at bargain prices) and they look very functional.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scroll toward the end for photos of GW user Nerdette's grey kitchen redo

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:41AM
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schicksal, don't worry, we will make sure the range goes to someone who wants it, one way or another. I did know someone who just trashed one of these (we found out later) and I could never do that.

This one is perhaps not quite as desirable as some because it does not have the metal base cabinets, and also somebody painted the sides and top of the box beige (probably the same people that painted the cabinets blue.) It was originally turquoise, which I would have loved! But I know we can find a home.

You're exactly right, the only way to paint that divider mesh is spray. With lots of drop cloths.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 11:23AM
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smalloldhouse, thanks! Yes, it seems odd, but the low ceiling is actually easier to live with that restricted passage (from a strictly functional point of view, not an aesthetic one.)

Thank you for the heads up about Nerdette's gray kitchen, I hadn't found that one. It's very impressive.

In past GW threads, the term "clown" has been used to describe a strong feature that attracts all the attention in the room. I have posted before that my kitchen was a clown fistfight, with the two bold colors. This thread is helping me to rethink that whole opinion, but I have to admit, the thought of light gray seems so calming to me.

Yes, I have looked at those 40" Frigidaire and Kenmore ranges on the Sears Outlet site! They do get good reviews, so that's a strong contender, since we wouldn't have to add 5" cabinet fillers on both sides of the range. My only hesitation is the glass cook top. I had that in our previous home, and I'm one of those who resented the time spent scraping/buffing.

So I have also been watching the Sears Outlet site for a 30" induction range. Still undecided. The 40" electric range might look more impressive visually; to be honest, almost nobody around here has even heard of induction, so if we splurge for induction, it will be more for our own pleasure than for resale.

Good to know you purchased through Sears Outlet. That's my plan too.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 11:41AM
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robo (z6a)

mudhouse, so with you on your blue. I totally love blue cabinets but agree that the particular tone of yours a little too intense, bright and isn't doing much for the room.

Sorry to hear MCM isn't as valued in your area -- being from Eastern Canada MCM is rare and awesome here. If you are thinking of resale and wanted to attract more traditionalist families I would imagine white or cream cabinets would be the safer choice for MCM and non-MCM enthusiasts alike.

It's cool that you know so much about the house already! It is amazing to me that drop ceiling is original. Wild!

Retraining the "side door" traffic through the dining room sounds like a great idea. Maybe the pocket door between dining and kitchen and its associated wall cavity could be opened up as well to provide a better passageway through the house? Hope your saltillo paintbrush is handy...

We just removed some pocket doors but unfortunately the previous owners built a false wall to contain the pocket door cavity (grrr) so we still had to frame out and beam the opening in the real wall.

Some ideas I had about making your dining room door look more like the main entrance:

1. Install prominent wireless doorbell by dining room door.
2. Put a colorful sign like "The Smiths" or "Welcome" beside the doorbell so it's obvious.
3. Turn furniture arrangement 90 degrees and move so it's blocking the kitchen door instead of dining room.
4. Emphasise the path to dining and interrupt the path to the breakfast room e.g. put gravel or long low planters in front of the breakfast room doors.
5. Put the mat in front of dining room door, not kitchen
6. You could even go so far as to replace the breakfast room sliders with floor-to-ceiling windows if you wanted to be draconian about it and that certainly would be in keeping with the MCM vernacular in general (not so sure about Southwest). Awning openings at the bottom and the top would give air circulation options.

The planters would probably do the job for you. Nice thing is when you want in and out of breakfast room you could still step around planters but traffic will follow path of least resistance, plus keeping the sliders would be cheaper than getting rid of them. Are there plants that like both drought and shade?

Or you could do a rock garden...just with rocks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Atomic ranch examples with floor to ceiling windows

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 12:01PM
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robotroplis, yeah, I'm eyeing that area with the pocket door in the dining/kitchen wall, and thinking I'd love to have that be a little more open, too. In addition to opening up the den wall.

Love the planter idea. I don't know how you knew I have a little greenhouse chock full of succulents. In the summer this patio is full of potted plants; it's not too dark since they get good morning sun. So that's right up my alley.

In our last old house, the previous owners had remuddled it so the living room became the master bedroom. Yep, the front door opened to the master bedroom, and then they added a nice big bath with jacuzzi, so we could hardly undo it. (The appraisal noted "dysfunctional floor plan.") We had to completely reroute traffic to the back of the house via rock pathways and big rock planters, and we turned an exterior staircase 90 degrees so it blocked the view of the old front door.

I guess that's why we are not too scared of quirky entrance problems; in any event, we seem to keep buying houses with no clear front door. It's our role in the universe.

All of your ideas about visually blocking one door while drawing attention to the other make total sense.

Overnight I thought of trying this. I'm trying to loosen up about my MCM phobia. Here's a photo of the kitchen patio, with the current sliders that open to the dining/living area:

And here is a closer pic of our real front doors. I do love the space and proportions, it just needs paint updating. We had the stucco guys leave the empty band across the top here, because we want to do a decorative mosaic band up there.

So I used one of those fixed glass panels above, to build this scenario for the kitchen patio. If we did add a wooden door, we could paint it a bright color, which is another good trick to say, "front door here." Also I thought the turquoise color would be a nod to the southwestern theme. We would be basically adding a second "front door" to the house, visually, though not quite as grand as the real double door front entry.

Of course, imagine the patio furniture out of the way.

So there goes another big hunk of money. But if we could scrounge a 36" solid wood slab door, we could add an MCM-look square backplate to a regular door knob (to sorta match the other old ones.) Have a contractor frame in areas for the double pane fixed glass panels. We can install those ourselves and trim out. Oh heck it'll almost be free. (Not.)

I think this is called "project creep." Darn. How did I get from replacing the range, to this?

Anyway, thoughts about this look?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 1:56PM
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Also, I do love the classic look of the floor to ceiling windows in the link you posted. I love brainstorming these ideas, including replacing the kitchen sliders with fixed glass. But DH is starting to make growly bear noises about cost (too bad we are so limited by current real estate values in our neighborhood, it's frustrating.)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 2:00PM
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i would def. raise the ceiling and paint the cabinets - it's been 30 years, they need a new coat, and doing a neutral gray/white or perhaps light cream or some combo of the three will instantly update your kitchen - and it will feel much more airy. Also go for new hardware, something transitional.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 3:02PM
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robo (z6a)

Are the panes on both sides of the slider fixed? Wonder if you could somehow keep them and build a slightly smaller frame to hang a door in the middle. Dunno how that would look or work. I love your turquoise door idea!

A slider that no one walks through is essentially just floor to ceiling windows with a bonus :)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 3:19PM
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This sketch is rougher than a corn cob, but what about doing something like this? I moved the stove over to the sink side so that it's a little safer to have traffic going through. Then I opened up the wall between the den and the kitchen. Light! Views! Connection with more than people's belly buttons!

There is plenty of room by the fridge for a breakfast station or coffee/bar area. If it's not too difficult to do new plumbing, it looks like there's lots of room to even have a small sink by the fridge for drinks. To the left of the fridge could be a tall cupboard for brooms and such,or cookbooks, or a dish display?

If the cabinets are in good shape, (blue paint aside) would you be comfortable removing them and reinstalling them in a different configuration? It seems like it would be an economical thing to do.

This post was edited by laughable on Tue, Feb 4, 14 at 16:16

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Caya26, thanks for another vote for raising the ceiling, and for the lighter colors.

robotropolis, yes, both of the 4' wide end panes are fixed. The center 4' panel slides. DH says he thinks your idea about replacing the center panel with a working door is possible; creative wood trimming to cover the old aluminum door trim on the whole span is possible. However, he reminded me that all of these old sliders are single pane glass, so it's maybe not worth the effort to save the old end panels. Might be better off to go all new double pane, if we're going to attack this span of glass...? Hmmm.

We replaced all the 60's windows a few years ago with double pane, but we got cold feet about the high cost of replacing four spans (44 linear feet) of old sliding doors. We know we lose heat through the old sliders, but it's another "where to put the money next" issue we are juggling.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:05PM
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laughable, thanks so much for that work! I am starting to see how it would be much better to have the range and sink on the same run. I really hadn't considered that before. I think the decisions on swapping appliance locations will come down to money, and that depends on how high the bills go for wall/ceiling changes.

I don't know what it would cost to run the water to the other side of the kitchen, for the fridge; it could be the (tight) money is better spent on walls. We'll just have to start pricing things out to make better judgements. We can spend more than our $20,000 limit, but as the amount goes up, so does our risk of overinvesting badly for our neighborhood.

Opening up the den is clearly going to be part of the solution here. You're right about the current pass-through framing people's belly buttons nicely. (Finally, a reason for that thing. It's a navel frame.)

The problem with the cabinets is they are not boxes. They're the old stick-built or site-built style, which means they're built in place with no backs. So if you try to move them you get a pile of sticks and shelves.

I have read some threads here with folks advising against even trying to modify them (as we will, if we change range widths, or shorten a run of cabinets.) We stubbornly think we can do that change slowly and carefully (temporary braces, add new wood, say swear words) but there's no way we can remove and reconfigure the cabinets. Otherwise, I'd be all over that idea!

So if we move appliances/sinks much, that means all new cabinets. Which I'd love. But I can't have open walls/raised ceiling and new cabinets, both. Pooey.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:26PM
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I saw that you said the raised/rounded part of the cabinet doors are an integral part and can't be popped off, but maybe if you had a practice door that you know you're not using, maybe you could try to sand or plane it down?? (I suggest this with 7th grade woodshop class knowledge so don't laugh too hard if it's preposterous)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:29PM
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Also, I would warn not to pick a definite cabinet color until you change the lighting. Lighting can change the tones of things (so many people say they don't like the cabinet color they picked at the store in their house after it's installed bc they never tested it with their lighting). Blues can l look green, whites look yellow, etc.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:36PM
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This is a long shot, but maybe adding wainscotting to the front of the door would soften the roundness...

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:54PM
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This is a long shot, but maybe adding wainscotting to the front of the door would soften the roundness...

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:56PM
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Your home is gorgeous! And I really appreciate all the effort you've put forth in the excellent pictures, layouts, and descriptions that really help clarify your situation.

I rather like the door style of your cabinets for your home. They have a simple vintage charm. While I think the blue is ok, I personally might be inclined to either strip and stain them (like some of the stained wood in your home) or repaint the same white/cream color that seems to be throughout your home in the form of trim. Since you are capable of DIY, you might look into the cost of DIY soapstone counters to see if it is comparable to laminate.

I agree with the comments that the low ceiling is undesirable. I would definitely look at raising the whole ceiling rather than just removing the light box. I've seen that done before and in my opinion, it usually looks like a half-hearted attempt that did not quite achieve the goal. Yes, raising the light box section would be better than nothing, but I think it would be worthwhile to look into doing the whole ceiling.

I think opening the kitchen up to the den would make the space even more liveable. I agree that the current pass through window is not doing either room any favors. I love magsnj's inspiration images and I think if you can strive for an opening like the second image, that would be ideal. I do think that raising the kitchen ceiling is even more important if you open up the space. Your gorgeous cathedral ceiling is so grand that having such a low 7' ceiling is going to be even more noticeable. Of course the cost of this all depends on the structure of your home and whether any of these walls are load bearing.

I absolutely agree that the pinch point would drive me crazy. First, it appears that your countertops overhang quite a bit on the section below the pass through. I would certainly minimize any overhang in that area when you redo countertops to help maximize the walking space. You might also consider eliminating one of the cabinets (either range side or peninsula side) to really open up the walk way. I do think that having the wall open (and no upper cabinets along the peninsula area) will help visually open up the space and help direct guests. But only you can decide if you need the additional walking space as well. Looking closely at your cabinets, it looks like the cabinetry to the left side of the range has one more smaller (single door) cabinet than the right side. Maybe you could remove that cabinet and slide the rest of the cabinetry down so that you have equal cabinetry on either side of your new range. That would open up the walkway quite a bit.

I find the mesh room divider charming and interesting. I like the mesh. It also seems to help with the change in flooring. Though I can see that if you want to make the rooms feel more open and larger, you might want to take it out.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 6:19PM
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magsnj, I finally connected you with your wonderful kitchen. You did such an outstanding job of working with the character of your house (that sink is fabulous.) I wish our kitchen had been painted with the Bathe Blue color you used in your kitchen...I think my eyes would not be so tired of blue, with that lovely shade around me. Wonderful job.

Second, I decided last point in finalizing any cabinet color until we get a Solatube and lighting in there. It's way too dark to decide, and you're so right about how everything will change. I still want a Solatube, even with the raised ceiling (unless you guys talk me out of it.) The kitchen is just too dark.

Yes, let's talk about The Bump! DH and I have been eyeing this odd trim for years. I've never seen cabinet trim like it on the web. (Uh oh.) For the first 4-5 years I hated it. Now I think I've softened (the way you start to accept weird Uncle Harry, for who he is?) It kind of makes me laugh. I am very curious to know what others think about The Bump. Creepy? Interesting?

(Thanks pricklypear, for just chiming in on this question...simple and vintage is better than creepy.)

Yes, we have in fact discussed taking all the doors and drawers to a cabinet shop, to ask if they could plane the top of the bump down, just enough to give it a small flat facet. There are nails in the trim (photos below) but DH says they could still be sanded or planed if done carefully. We're just not sure it would make enough of a difference to be worth the time and money (no idea what such a bizarre request would cost, although the cabinet shop guys might get a good laugh out of it.) Would we perhaps still have doors and drawers almost as funky/odd as they were before? Funky, but with a flat facet? Or, would it really help them to look better? I welcome anyone's thoughts.

Yes, I have also considered adding beadboard. We love the stuff, and used it a lot in our last 40's farmhouse renovation. But I keep thinking it would pull the cabinets in a Country direction, and this house has a personality crisis already. It's like Pancho Villa (southwestern) and George Jetson (MCM) sharing an apartment. So I fear that adding beadboard would add a third direction that isn't quite right. I am sorry because I love how easy beadboard is to work with, and it's not expensive.

I have considered adding some kind of tin inside the Big Bump frame (a la Mexican tin work, nod to Pancho Villa) but that falls quickly into Country also...and it would be, visually, a whole lot of tin. I have considered tile (too heavy for the doors) and even sillier things I am too embarrassed to share. I keep coming back to keeping Weird Uncle Harry as simple as I can, or he'll just become even more weird.

I am no good with woodworking terms myself. Rabbet? Routed? Inset? Somehow, the 3/4" veneer plywood that forms our doors and drawers has been inserted into the round bump trim itself; it's built in there. had to go and mention staining the doors and drawers. That was my last round of crazed excitement. I stripped two drawers, with the thought of staining them gray. I'd paint the cabinet frames gray, but have gray woodgrain on the doors and drawers. Here's a pic of cabinets with the same idea (but with lovely wood.)

It is possible, but the amount of time it took to strip the two drawer fronts worries me. It would be a big labor of love, to get all the blue paint off, then sand off the "five o'clock shadow" left behind by the original dark brown stain, and then stain gray. We have so many blue cabinets. I haven't ruled it out, because I'm that crazy. And I love that you mentioned the idea.

I think the bump is pine. No idea what kind of hardwood the plywood veneer is(?) Clearly two different woods, but I think they'd stain OK. I am just not sure I should take it on.

FYI, some pics of the drawers after a strip and not much sanding. The bottom pic is the inside of a door that somebody else stripped, years ago. And yes, our drawer bottoms are made from wood paneling scraps. Weird Uncle Harry.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 7:52PM
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I think you have received a lot of good advice.

But I also think you yourself mentioned that there are not any satisfying visual lines of sight in the kitchen currently. IMHO that is what needs fixing the most to make the space seem more secure and enjoyable to be in.

See if you can find a copy of Sara Susanka's The Not So Big House and read about her insight on visual lines of sight being important for a sense of feeling comfortable in a space. I think that is what you are getting at, but you aren't sure in which plane to go.

On a more micro level, I like the cabinets very much, and would paint or refinish them. I think some tooled metal hardware could look outstanding on them.

Adding a typical range with a ducted hood may be easier if the range was on the wall by your laundry, because your dryer would already be vented. So consider moving the refrigerator to where the stove is now. Move the stove on the wall where the sink is now. Move the sink around the corner on that peninsula. And remove the wall above the peninsula to the den. Like in mags's picture

My opinion is to remove the room divider as it is now. It is not adding any charm IMHO. A open modern shelf as shown above might work, but also I think built ins could be made to work here too. Again Sara Susanka's book offers a lot of ideas here. She talks about having home command centers in area like this quite often.

Last area that bugs me is the entry/table area. I very much like the colored outside door idea.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 8:02PM
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Pricklypear, thanks so much for weighing in. I had never considered DIY soapstone, and I'll go read about it.

Good eye to catch that there is one odd cabinet door, to the left of the range, while all the others are paired. Problem is, since these are stick built cabinets, there is nothing to "slide down" if we decided to remove that one odd door. These cabinets have no backs and are fastened directly to the wall. If you open all the doors on that lower run, you see one long uninterrupted shelf that is 66" long (no side walls or boxes.)

I am possibly interested in shortening that run, because I agree it would widen up the walkway substantially. But we will have to lose the last two cabinet doors (and drawer above) to do so. So the odd door will have to remain, next to the range. More Weird Uncle Harry character.

I'm glad to know you like the mesh. Sometimes I think it feels "hard" and "mean" but I'm still undecided. I do think when we re-do the dining room it would be a logical choice to at least paint the wooden parts of the divider to coordinate with whatever we do in there. Even considering that change is making me feel a little better.

This whole conversation with everyone is such a great help. I'm sorry to go on so much, but we have years of pent-up ideas and frustrations about these issues, and you are all so kind to help us sort them out. I'm actually feeling the most hopeful I have, in years! Thank you.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 8:24PM
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I am a bit late in arriving, but I love the MCM elements in your home.

I would not touch the mesh screen other than a good cleaning with a de-greaser - maybe even something like barbecue cleaner, and wood cleaner and conditioner with 0000 steel wool. You will need to protect the wood when you clean the mesh, do the wood first. The wood will glow when you are done, and adding a layer of paint to the mesh may destroy it completely if it does not dry properly because bubbles or drips can form. It is a really fantastic element, and I love it the way it is.

sometimes you can get the original drawings with all the mechanical from the municipality for a copying fee, like maybe $50 and this may be helpful to you with the kitchen ceiling in particular, though things change after the drawings are submitted.

Raising the kitchen ceiling may not be that simple as you have duct work in it as noted in the photos an air return grill on the kitchen table side and a range vent above the cooking area. since you have a ranch, you have the opportunity of fishing around in the attic to get a sense of what is going on up there before you start messing around. If you have rafters that can be exposed, that would be the way to go, but I suspect you have lots of HVAC going on up there. If you do go up the attic to see, take some good photos.

regarding your 23" pinch point, perhaps removing all of the upper and lower cabinets on the wall to the den, and turning one of them to finish off the den end of the fridge run may be the answer. This would allow you to double or even triple the opening from the kitchen to the den, and give a more up to date layout within your budget. Depending on the size of the den, you may then be able to put the eating area in the den, and use your current kitchen eating area to extend the kitchen and gain function and more modern layout in that way. I would not worry that much about the ceiling transition to the den, but the floor transition may be more of an issues, though you have demonstrated a talent in dealing with the floors in your laundry room fix.

You may have enough for new cabinets and a truely modern kitchen, you can certainly furnish your space for 5-12K depending on what you buy, 5K would be RTA type of thing, and 12K would be one of the major american brands, like the Masco brands that the big boxes carry.

The function gained with pullouts, and smooth gliding drawers, to me is worth the cost of scrapping your current cabinets and buying new ones. This may also give you the most resale help, though I appreciate what you have said about resale values in your area.

This post was edited by detroit_burb on Tue, Feb 4, 14 at 20:43

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 8:41PM
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Thank you mudhouse! I guarantee, if you saw some of my beginning posts on gardenweb regarding my kitchen, you'll see that I was every bit as frustrated when deciding on things for my kitchen....and I had so many crazy ideas that I can't believe I ever had. :) Sound familiar? The good news is, I'm sure you'll be just as happy as I am with mine when you're done with yours!

I think you shoud frame one of the pictures of Uncle Harry and put it somewhere. After the kitchen is done, if someone asks you about it you can say that was Uncle Harry when he was young......before the facelift.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:09PM
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julieckmo, thank you. I think reviewing the Sara Susanka book(s) is very good advice, and I'll do that right away. I haven't read any of her things for a long time. You're so right, the lines of sight are so frustrating in this house. (I could give you more examples from other parts of the house, but you get it.) At least we can do something with the den/kitchen wall. I think it will be a night-and-day difference, mentally, to be in the resulting spaces.

detroit_burb, there is no possible way you could be late to a project that has been delayed for years.

DH thinks our (less than sophisticated) city is unlikely to retain any construction plans. But that would be very cool, and I may check, thanks.

We replaced our HVAC system last year. The HVAC guys who lived in the attic for days said the main trunk line for HVAC lies above the 8' level in the kitchen area, but it does elbow down to the two registers that you can see in our photos. So we've been led to believe that there would be some HVAC work, but at least not moving the main trunk line. Our attic is cruelly tight, due to an extremely low pitch roof. Extensive amounts of blown-in insulation also hide everything. I think a potential contractor will have to claw his way through it, to assess what he can. (No way am I crawling up there.) I do worry a bit about surprises, so I understand your thoughts. The attic access points in this house are downright barbaric (I guess the long low lines of this MCM-leaning ranch come at a cost?)

I appreciate your thoughts on the benefits of new cabinets, and although I'm trying to set some parameters (to make some sort of progress) I do understand we need to be careful about ruling out good options. In spite of my efforts to work with these cabinets, I still wonder (at 2AM) about trying IKEA, or some kind of RTA. Options may become more clear, once we have bids on the structural changes. Those are the things I'm getting pretty determined about.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:04AM
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Ok, can somebody help a non-cook?

Because it will be an expensive change in a very tight budget, I need a better understanding why so many of you are advising to swap the refrigerator and range locations. (Our dryer vents through an outside wall, not through the roof, so no advantage there.) The one reason I do understand is that our kitchen handles all the house traffic, so it's dangerous to have people moving pots of boiling hot water across the aisle to the sink. But I see many galley kitchens on the web that have the sink and fridge opposite from the range. Is it a big problem in our house, because it's the main traffic flow? And are there other reasons I'm missing?

Also, can somebody help me understand the benefit of moving the sink around the corner, to a peninsula? I can't quite understand why it's worth the expense, as we'll have plumbing costs and we'll have to somehow completely rebuild the sink base cabinets (remember our cabinets are not moveable.) I probably should grasp the benefits, but I'm not a cook, so me working on a kitchen layout is like a tone-deaf person tuning a piano. (I'm really sorry to make you state the obvious.)

This post was edited by mudhouse on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 0:23

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:10AM
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And is the "range across from the sink" problem a horrific no-no deal breaker type problem? Or, is it more of a "you just won't have an ideal kitchen" type of problem?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:20AM
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I personally wouldn't change the rounded "bump" on the cabinets, nor would I change the room divider.
I think these are features that some people may like and others not.
The ceiling is probably more of an issue as is the old cooktop/oven combo, and opening up to the den might be a great idea.
Soapstone would be great.
I personally wouldn't be bothered by the range opposite the sink (unless there's a major reason that I don't realize).
Your kitchen is charming, and some tweaking can accentuate this even more.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:42AM
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I think the bumps are kind of cool. I don't think they really look dated, because I've never seen anything like them. Just unique. A softer paint color will probably make them not stand out so much.

I can't get over how cool that range is. I can picture Betty Draper cooking on it while wondering if Don will make it home in time for dinner.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:03PM
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I'm in love with the stripped off paint natural wood doors. Man, that would be a LOT of work though, and I'm afraid I couldn't even suggest that to my best friend unless she were OK with it becoming a lifestyle rather than a project.

Moving the range bit IS about safety, but it's also about kitchen efficiency. Most of the prep work in a kitchen takes place between a sink and the hot zone. When you have them on the same run of cabinets, it reduces your trips back and forth across the aisle. You mainly "shop" in the fridge, gathering the ingredients, then transport them to beside the sink, rinse them, wash your hands, and do what you do, dropping the chopped onion into the skillet on the stove to saute. Most of your traffic becomes concentrated, and less likely to be interrupted by passersby. That's a two fold benefit of both decreasing the work, and increasing the safety. Especially if you aren't able to divert the traffic. I'd consider it essential to do if your plans to direct people to the other door fail.

On that front, it's difficult to tell where the opening in the wall lines up with the door that you'd like to have used. Moving that opening further to the right, with a deliberate path to the entry door might be all that's needed at the moment if you change the arrangement of the furniture. I remember the landmark study about pathways taking place on a college campus where groundskeepers were getting snarly about the bare spots on the lawns where students cut across between paths. It was because it was the shortcut between two points. When new paths were installed that followed the shortcut, no more bare spots in the lawn. Use that strategy. Put the opening in the wall directly in front of the door that you want to use, and put an obvious paver path straight to the door. That should cost far less than trying to replace the doors at this point. If that works, then replacing the doors can go way down on the "nice to have, but not essential" list.

I just wanted to comment on your original post also. It's one of the best I've seen for illustrating the problem well, and also giving the parameters within which the problem has to be solved. If more people approached home design like that, they'd get far far more out of the process and end up being happy about the whole experience. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to encounter someone who gets that.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:25PM
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robo (z6a)

If you do find a little pot of extra cash for cabinets I have to say IKEA abstrakt white or cream cabinets OR applad white or stat white would look absolutely lovely in your space.

See Petra's famous Southern Spain kitchen for sort of rustic-Spanish-modern inspiration in stat white.

Here is a link that might be useful: Petra's White kitchen in Southern Spain

This post was edited by robotropolis on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 12:43

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:42PM
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I love that someone made that range, but it is a super terrible design. I hope you never had to make a stew at the same time as baking.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 1:23PM
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If you want a resource about the layout specifics for cooking, buy the book on Amazon or his website: "Kitchen Design with Cooking In Mind" Best job of explaining the logic process I have ever seen.

To answer your layout question. Using the stove is the most dangerous part of the kitchen. Prep is next most dangerous. So making that safer is worthwhile. Our last house, before we remodeled, had the stove and sink across the traffic isle. And it was a kitchen that served as an entrance as yours does.

When we bought the house our kids were 3 and 5. It was so dangerous in my mind that I would be crossing the aisle to dump out a hot pan of pasta right when someone would need to run through the kitchen (person or dog) that I was a complete banshee and barred everyone from the kitchen while cooking just to keep everyone safe. Didn't want to trip and dump hot water on a kid, and didn't want to dump it on me.

So from that standpoint, having the sink and stove on the same side of the traffic aisle to me as a young parent looking at your home would be a plus, if I were savvy enough to consider such things.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 3:33PM
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I have a kitchen that has a slightly different layout, but has the range across from the sink. (My refrigerator is on the same run as the range, but there is counter space between.) Personally, I like to have lots of room to spread out and prep. Additionally (full disclosure here), I often have dirty dishes stacked in and/or next to my sink (above the dishwasher). So the idea of losing that luxurious amount of space around the range that you have now to share the space with the cleanup zone seems crazy to me. Ideally you could add a prep sink to the run with the range and have the water needed for prepping, but I'm guessing that's not an easy change.

Also, your stripped cabinets are really cool! I think they go well with the earthy warm feeling of the southwest ranch home.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 6:15PM
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edb2n, and nosoccermom, thanks for your votes on the Big Bump Question. Also, edb2n, you're right on target; the Madmen series did use a Frigidaire Flair in their season 5 premier. This photo courtesy of Uncle Atom:

(And look closely...the color of the cabinet frames above looks similar to our current blue. Also, the doors and drawers are stained, not painted. Hmmm. A sign that the Decorating Gods want me to strip all of ours?)

I don't think I like the color combo, but I did toss the stripped drawers back in the cabinet, later that day. Kind of spooky how much they match the above, lol!

And of course, Samantha Stevens cooked for Darron on a Frigidaire Flair (I would have just twitched my nose):

According to a post in the above blog, General Motors (the corporate parent of Frigidaire) was a sponsor of Bewitched, so they placed current Flair models in the show set each year. Great product placement.

aviphysics, it can sometimes be a little awkward to reach over the stove to access the ovens, as you said, although DH doesn't seem to mind. We do love how the oven doors open; it's wonderful to place and remove things without having the door in your way. And the doors glide up smooth as silk.

We have enjoyed the differing reactions to the dining room divider, because they're so varied. (My Mom says the main reason she liked it was because it was a nice place to hang my grandmother's white crocheted snowflake ornaments, at Christmas time.) I think nosoccermom is right; it's just one of those features that some will like, and some won't. I take that to mean, the world won't end regardless of what we do with it, and that is a comfort!

live_wire_oak, juliekcmo, and pricklypear, your responses to my questions were exactly what I needed to have a much better understanding. Since DH and I aren't big cooks, and also never had kids, we are doubly handicapped in appreciating some of these issues. Now that you've helped us, we will do a much better job of weighing out the pros and cons, matched against the pricing for the various options.

robotropolis, I have stared at Petra's kitchen many times, but I had forgotten the details of her cabinets. I remember her for the way she used the Susan Jablon sample tiles, as a lovely stripe in the backsplash! I should probably spend some time on the IKEA site for pricing; there's a chance the bids for structural work won't be as scary as I'm thinking. I could make a last minute veer towards modern cabinets (and lower drawers, sigh!) Then I could donate our cabinet doors to the Smithsonian, since they are (apparently) the only ones in existence with Big Bump Trim.

live_wire_oak, and others who have said kind things about my original post...your words made my day! I did work hard because I thought it was the courteous thing to do (asking for free help, after all.) But also, I was so darned hungry for some real honest input, and creative no-holds-barred brainstorming. I wanted to increase my odds of getting what we needed. You folks really came through.

The side benefit to the whole exercise of trying to explain things became more clear to me. My time on the post was worth it. The first time I really measured and drew out the floor plan of our walls...I thought...holy cow, no wonder I feel constricted, and frustrated! Same thing with the photos. I saw things I had never seen before. It's hard to bare your "before" house to the world. But I learned a lot about our house by doing so...even before I clicked "submit," and before you all jumped on board to help!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 7:04PM
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I just wanted to say I enjoy reading all of the "brainstorming". Such talent and insight which will surely guarantee great results with such a wonderful home to work with. Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 7:54PM
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Tinker! You need to get right over here, and help me strip this country wallpaper! (You proved in your thread that you're very good at it, so now you're in trouble...)

Bring your steamer...don't worry, I won't start without you.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:02PM
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After 5 inches of snow topped off with sleet and some freezing rain here in Pennsylvania today, you could almost convince me to head west.

If you think I am good with a steamer, you should see me with a snow blower!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:15PM
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I really like IKEA kitchens, especially their Abstrakt fronts, which is most likely what I would pick if/when our kitchen will get redone. However, your cabinets are unique --- and I mean "unique" in a positive sense, so I would not replace them with IKEA unless they were beyond repair.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:46PM
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They're definitely not beyond repair. There is a slight crack in the plywood veneer on one of the big sink base doors, but I'm sure we could so something creative there, if repairing it isn't feasible, since sink bases can be an area for a little fun.

After I stripped the two little drawers, I played around with some ideas in Olioboard, trying to see what it would look like to have the doors/drawers stained gray, and the frames painted gray. (Of course I could not find any "big bump" doors on the web to swipe into Olioboard!) I was feeling kind of "Pancho Villa" that day instead of "George Jetson," so played with all kinds of Mexican and rustic tiles and rustic hardware. Might not be right...but that's what idea boards are for, I guess.

In this case I painted the upper frames white (to blend in with the ceiling better, because I thought it would help the room seem taller.) And painted the lower frames light gray.

I love the look of 8" cement tiles (these shown are vintage tiles, I think, so out of my reach.) I'm crazy for oldbat2be's famous tile backsplash, too.

I have wondered if I could actually recreate the look of antique terra cotta tiles myself, by using 1/2" thick saltillo tiles, cut to 8" square, and paint using stencils. Then sand/abuse for some aging, and seal super well. I dunno. It's fun to think about, though.

Our backsplash area actually varies a bit in height (around 16", and less) so I'll be cutting/fiddling with tile heights anyway. Two rows of 8" tiles would be about right for our squishy backsplash area.

So this is kind of what I had in my head when I started the thread, and why I had to work a bit to reopen my brain to the idea of keeping any kind of blue.

I had this stainless hood in my image file, so used it. But probably some kind of painted white wooden box, maybe with an arched lower edge, would be complementary to the traditional Spanish arch form (the den adobe brick fireplace has one of those 60's Spanish arches.)

Just posting it here for fun. I should play with some ideas for a much more retro look too (find a backsplash that George Jetson would like) to see how that feels. It's so hard for me to know which of those two guys should have the upper hand in this house.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:32PM
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I was just talking with DH about the wooden box for the vent hood. I pointed out we'd definitely have to trim it out with several rows of Big Bump Trim.

He thought a minute, narrowing his eyes and visualizing. "You know," he said slowly, "this thing could catch on fire."

LOL. So when Big Bump sweeps the country, just remember it all started right here.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:58PM
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I LOVE the stripped drawers with the blue frames! Half the work of stripping the whole thing?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:59PM
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I'm still not really sold on the blue, but so many folks like it, I'll have to keep an open mind. I thought posting my gray Olioboard above would sway folks, but maybe not! More to think about.

It's true that stripping the doors/drawers is half the work of stripping the whole thing. But since stripping the whole thing is completely wacko rubber room insane, from what I've read, I worry that even doing half of it is still pretty crazy (I think?) Too bad it's still an appealing idea to me.

Maybe I could ship everyone a door to give me a hand...

This post was edited by mudhouse on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 23:45

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:28PM
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I'm in the process of stripping a 6 unit shelf system with drawers and drawers. Don't even think about tackling a kitchen. How about a temporary job to pay for the new Ikea?
Also,look at Susanka's books. She has used open shelves with collections on them as room dividers. I'm not at all a fan of the wire, though. Finally, please accept my complements on your initial layout of the issues. It's the best I've seen on GW.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 4:16AM
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Okay, just read through the whole, long thing here... love your house. Many possibilities there!

I too have fallen in serious like with the stripped drawers... esp. with the paint remnants showing. Could totally envision them rubbed with wax for a beautiful, soft glowing finish. Some kind of lovely, colorful tile counters and backsplash, too. 'Course, I don't have to do the work... :)

Can't say that I am a fan of that blue in the kitchen at all.

The suggestion to visually re-route the path to the living room sliders is a good one. Also, like the peninsula instead of that pass-through wall, too.

If I had to pick the first thing that I'd do, it would be to get rid of that big, flat light panel and get the solatube up there. Then see how it feels, height-wise. That thing needs to go, man!

Here, I stuck your drawers into your image... turned them into doors, too, just for fun.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 4:49AM
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Woah, love that look with the wood and the tiles.
How much work would it be to strip the drawers and doors. Also, the doors wouldn't look like the drawers, right?
Either way, though I love all things blue, I'd go with a paint that's less contrast, more like the gray or greige in the pics you and deedles posted
Looking at my tall family members, I'd say that raising the ceiling would be a non-negotiable, and those solatubes are really neat!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 12:14PM
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Texasgal47, I know yours is the voice of reason. In our last house I stripped (country blue paint) off a built-in corner china cabinet. The 8 doors were not as bad as the built in areas, because at least I could put the doors on sawhorses to work on them. I would never try to strip the frames/stiles of anything again...after that ordeal. Good luck with your project!

I have been using Jasco stripper. If you have any words of wisdom for a better stripper, I'm all ears. Also, I am off to the library today for some Susanka books.

WOW, Deedles, thanks so much for that work! It's such a help to have the real doors in there. I'm very impressed at your skills to make that work out of my puny drawer pics above...not sure how you accomplished that since I didn't have a full on photo! You're good. Now I can steal the doors you built for me, and do further playing. Cool!

Honestly, I had not considered keeping the wood natural, before this thread. The brainstorming is so helpful here.

nosoccermom, the drawers and the doors are made exactly the same way, but the little inside flat panel on the drawers (where the handle goes) is teeny compared to the doors. They used the same size big bump trim on both the drawers and door, so the bump sort of overpowers the shallow drawer fronts. Deedle's board shows it right; the doors just have a bigger flat area in the center, so they would actually show off the wood grain a lot better.

I realized this morning, there's really no reason for me to strip the inside of the doors; they could be painted the color of the stiles. One way to reduce the stripping time would be to only strip and stain the flat interior panel of the doors/drawers, and let Mr. Bump around the edge of the doors/drawers remain painted. It would reduce the area of visible wood grain, but I'm trying not take on something that will become (as live_wire_oak said) a "lifestyle decision" to strip wood for months to come.

Stripping the rounded bump area slowed me down; stripping only the interior flat part would be a little faster with a flat scraper. I'd still have to carefully paint the bump around the stained area (kinda slow and fiddly work) but I think I could do it carefully. If you look at the photo I posted above, the wood grain is only in the interior portion. Here it is again:

I also thought about buying veneer and gluing it over the central area. I haven't ever worked with veneer; no idea of price. DH says we'd have to add some kind of tiny trim over the veneer edge too, so probably just gutting out the stripping would be better, if I am that desperate for wood grain.

I'm going back to my graph paper to work on some elevations of the den wall, and how to open it. I think we are committed to that now, and removing the uppers over the peekaboo window would give me some doors to experiment with.

I think we are fully on board now, with raising the ceiling, and solatube, and a den opening. I kinda knew it, but it really helps to have everyone here confirm it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 1:56PM
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robo (z6a)

You could also probably cut out the center panels of some doors and add mesh or glass. This is not something I would or could ever do but it looks nice when other people do it. Plus less stripping.

Here is a link that might be useful: Converting doors to accept glass

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 2:42PM
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Can't you call a few shops and see what the cost would be for them to strip the doors? I've taken all kinds of things to shops that have dip tanks and whatever all and they've done a great job. I would GLADLY pay someone several hundred dollars to do this and I'm speaking as one who did it 4 years ago.. my whole summer was stripping 4 layers of paint off and repainting only 5 cabinets and doors/drawers. If I'd have had a brain I'd have taken the doors and drawers.... no if I'd have had a brain I'd have NOT skimmed over the kitchen search results that kept taking me to GW back then... oh, water under the bridge. But your doors are groovy and totally suit the house.

At least check around and see what it would cost to have someone else do the stripping for you.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 3:03PM
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OK, got it. Do you know whether the veneer in the door panels looks the same on the outside as on the inside?
I've used that orange stripping gel (Citi-Strip?), which worked quite well. It also comes as a spray, which goes in little crevices. But I have to agree that stripping all these cabinets would keep you occupied for months, so maybe just paint them gray/greige.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 3:10PM
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robotropolis, right there with you. I saved four panes of privacy glass that we removed from a run of windows a few years ago, wondering if I could reuse them in cabinets. (Might look goofy, the glass has a kind of a frosted cloth-like texture, but I save everything for a while.)

Our cabinet doors aren't well suited to inserting glass, because (unfortunately) they're not panel doors; they're slab doors (solid flat surface on the back.) The article you linked to is one I had saved also, and it says people with slab doors should just go buy glass doors instead of trying to convert them. DH told me the same thing years ago, when I started waving this idea around. But I'm not quite ready to give up, because I know darned well that anything is possible; it just takes more work and money. ;-)

deedles, good idea. I can't find any shops locally that do stripping so far (need to be in a bigger city I think.) But I have a few leads on home-based businesses that refinish furniture, so I'll run that down.

With the way your totally unique kitchen is shaping up, I can't imagine that you would have any regrets about the road that brought you here. (I feel guilty about you doing the photoshopping for me, because I know you have a lovely new vent hood to sand and paint...!)

nosoccermom, I don't know if the veneer in the door panels looks the same on the door front as on the back. It should be as good quality or better, since the cabs were originally stained dark, and not painted, and hopefully they put the good face forward. DH says they used 3/4" plywood for the doors, hardwood veneered on both sides.

I really want to strip a door front to see, but I should probably get a few more ducks in a row before I start ravaging things.

Just brought a big stack of Sarah Susanka books from the library, and they are wonderful.

We had an estimate on sliding door replacements this morning, and also visited a local builder supply for more door quotes. It feels like we are getting unstuck.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Mudhouse, several years ago I sold a home DH and I custom built in 1975. There were several places where I needed to replace baseboard. A privately owned lumberyard near us happened to sell molding from that era so I was able to have an exact match. You might try several lumberyards or carpenters to see if yours is still available. One of your neighbors may even have some in their garage. Our cabinets had the same exact method of construction as yours. We saved some of the cabinet molding from when the house was originally constructed. Also, you could pose the question over on the GW Carpentry Forum. By the way, love your house and your can do spirit!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 1:43AM
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Oh, I like to fool around with images... and I've run out of my own stuff to work on, ha! Glad when I can be helpful since I've gotten so much help here for my kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 9:29AM
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I love this thread because I love to reuse and recycle things rather than ripping out and replacing with (inferior) new stuff, even though I could afford it.
Without singling out specific threads, suffice is to say that some before kitchens look perfectly fine to me.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 9:45AM
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We're the same way, we always enjoy trying to figure out how to reuse materials and components in interesting ways. It becomes part of the game to us, and the enjoyment we get from it makes the extra work worthwhile.

Thanks to those above who suggested the Sarah Susanka books many helpful things. I also came back with an armload of books about mid century/retro ranch homes, too. Although I've checked them all out before, I'm finally getting it through my head that some notes of bold color would be true to the period, and fun as well.

Who knows, I may end up using some kind of blue after all, (in spite of all my fussing and whining about not liking it.) Opening up my brain to a whole range of thoughts here was exactly the exposure I needed.

You've definitely headed us in the right direction. I will be sure to post back, when we carve out another block of decisions. Thanks so much for helping me get my mojo back...(I was starting to think it was lost forever!)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 7:41PM
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To redirect traffic have you considered removing the cabinets to the right of the stove and across from the laundry opening and make an opening to the dining on that side? Whether you are coming from breakfast area or garage you have a different path into/out of the kitchen. Would require some reconstruction of the cabinets to fill in on that side after you replace the stove, but saving doors it should be doable and it looks like you have the space.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 11:55PM
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lyfia, thank you. I did consider that, early on, because it would make the range cabinet wall more of an "island" that you could walk all the way around. Then I decided I was going crazy and taking down walls in too many directions, and forgot about it.

That was before I posted this thread, though, and before everyone helped me understand the importance of creating alternate traffic routes away from the range and work triangle.

I'll revisit that idea again. Looking at it now, I think you're right, maybe we could lose 24" of the cabinets to the right of the range, as well as the little perpendicular 30" wall that forms the corner of the dining room.

Thank you for pointing that out!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 12:49AM
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OK, it's not my house and I'm hopelessly late to this party (having been away for years) ... but you aren't seriously really honestly going to lose that marvelous masterpiece of a stove are you? Really?? I think it wouldn't be out of line to build a whole house right around it!

Sorry, gratuitous comment, I realize. You gotta do what you gotta do. But that thing is so totally cool. You could install some of the new groovy swing-up hardware on some of your upper cabinets to match the stove. And with blue-and-natural "striped" cabinets you'd have just about the niftiest conceivable kitchen. "Nifty" may not be your goal though. But imagine swapping out the whatever-it's-called, middle wood panel of the cabinet door fronts with glass, adding swing-up hardware and striping the blue from the door - just cool to contemplate.

I admire your energy!!!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 2:19AM
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though my vote is for a new kitchen, just because I like new better because of functionality and pullouts (and I've also restored a 1960's kitchen in my second home), I do love the stripped drawer fronts and would not worry to much about what you perceive to be different wood colors. If it is all stripped it would look cool. The TV picture you posted with the painted stiles and wood doors is really nice.

and someone above mentioned just raising the middle of the kitchen ceiling to make a tray, and that sounds nice, too.

you are getting lots of good responses because everyone loves MCM.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 11:24AM
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I love all the ideas and flow here! juliekcmo's plan resonates with me. I am envisioning a big GW party, with a chainsaw taking out the upper wall dividing the kitchen and den and some cabinet stripping in the southwest sunshine. If you ditched the mesh, how will you keep the deer out of the den and kitchen? .

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 2:25PM
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lyfia, back again to your comment. I worked on some drawings last night, and realized we'll need to lose about 36" (?) of the cabinets to the right of the range, to make a doorway thru to the dining. I'm sure that what you meant when you mentioned rebuilding the cabinets, and I see it now.

At some point rebuilding the stick-built cabinets becomes more trouble than it's worth, but we both think the doorway to the dining room has a lot of merit, for a number of reasons. So we'll work more on that idea. The area you mentioned has always sort of bugged both of us as being a little tight. Thanks again for bringing it up.

Aliris19, no way you can be late to this party! And no need to apologize... I understand. Visually, the range is killer cool. It's unique and unusual, and goes against who I am to even consider replacing it, but one thing GW has taught me is to try to balance function with looks.

Functionally, the range has to do two things for us. 1) heat our food. 2) not hurt our house value.

It's OK on the first point, but only because DH has taught himself how to deal with the burner quirks. And, because we're just not interested in really serious cooking.

The second point is hard for this forum, because you can't see where we live. We watch our neighborhood for home ownership changes, and prices, and we know who is moving in, and moving out. The truth is, the folks most likely to buy our home will not "get" this range. They'll see it as old and scary, and they won't want to surf eBay to buy a used oven element if one dies someday.

If I lived in Portland, or California, or someplace where all you cool people live, I would build a kitchen around it, most likely! It some markets it would probably help our resale value.

But here, you could say, if I buff up the old girl until she gleams, and then adopt her out to somebody who really, really loves her, I'll probably be saving her stainless Frigidaire soul. Otherwise, she'll likely be scrapped by a future frustrated owner (after we lose a bunch of prospective sales because she looks so...nifty but old.)

But I understand your pain. The clocks never work on these old Flairs, but since I've done this thread, it's ticking (randomly) at night. Tick - don't kill me - tock - don't kill me. I'm serious. It's brutal.

I'm surprised you guys even speak to me, because I know this goes against the core of what GW folks appreciate. (Hangs head in shame.)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 4:30PM
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detroit_burb, I've never had a modern kitchen with all the cool cabinet features I see here, which is probably good. Otherwise I'd be having an even harder time justifying working with these cabinets. I waved a tape measure all over last night, and I still can't figure out how to modify them to get the microwave up off the countertops. Grrrr. But I do think they would stain up fine, as you said.

Merrygardener, we both laughed out loud at your question, because in our last home in TX, Bambi was the bane of my existence (as a gardener.) DH says to tell you the deer are no problem here, because the coyotes eat them. Clearly the mesh is designed to keep the coyotes out of the kitchen.

I'm all for the GW party. It's sunny and 64 degrees. We have a chainsaw. Bring paint stripper.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 4:49PM
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What I was thinking with the opening and rebuilding is this. You will need to take the stove out and replace with a 30" stove which would leave a 10" gap, so I would demolish all the cabinet to the right of where the stove goes. Put the stove right against the edge of the old cabinets. To not have to replace cabinets.

Keep the door and drawer fronts from the right side and only demolish the boxes. Then you could just build two new boxes, a base and a top cabinet, or use a stock cabinet that work with your door sizes and replace the doors and drawer fronts with your saved. I'm not sure how wide your doors are as to what size you should go with. Minimum of 12" is needed for safety. If you have just the boxes built without doors you could use stiles and not have to door overlay fully to get some more width to the boxes to get the doors to work if not wide enough.

On the other side I think with a new counter that just has a normal overhang on the side will make the pinch point a bit larger. If you open that wall up then you don't have to worry about it.

I would spend the money on opening up that wall and create another opening to the dining. Raise ceiling. Save the cabinets and new counters, stove, and backsplash.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 5:03PM
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Great, lyfia, got it!

That plan is making a lot of sense to us. It would serve to complete the idea started above, of diverting house entry traffic into the dining/lr area, by changing the sliding glass door run on the patio. Even if we carried groceries through a "new" front entry into the house (mocked up earlier in the thread) we'd still have a quick path to the kitchen, by going left, through the opening you're suggesting.

People entering the kitchen through the current 8' sliders (the way we do now) could still come in that way, and turn right, into the dining/lr area, to avoid a busy kitchen.

So, no need to pay for the plumbing/electrical changes to swap the stove and range, as they could stay put. The house would also gain some new sight lines.

I have some ideas for the possible problem of our original cabinet doors being a bit too narrow for the size of the new cabinet boxes to the right of the range. Back to the graph paper to redraw things, thanks so much.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 6:53PM
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It's 23 degrees here, more snow and ice on the way, and I have my orange stripper packed....

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 8:06PM
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If the goal is to ultimately maximize resale potential and price, are you sure you want to go to the effort and expense of stripping drawers/doors/frames and reconfiguring cabinets when what is behind the doors/drawers/frames would be a reason for many potential buyers to lower their offers? While I agree that the stripped doors/drawers are interesting, the problem for me and I suspect many potential buyers would be "the problem with the cabinets is they are not boxes...they're built in place with no backs." Because of that issue, I would lower my offering price since the kitchen cabinets would be replaced.

Before I decided what to do with the kitchen, I would spec out the price of just cabinet boxes and then cabinet boxes with face frames (in case current face frames cannot be removed without damage) from American made online RTA sources and local cabinet makers...if you want to reuse the door/drawer/face fronts. Even a general contractor or skilled handyman could make plywood boxes. I quickly searched two online sources for a 24 inch bottom plywood cabinet box with adjustable shelving and front hardwood facing (no drawer or door); both sites were well under $200. Custom sizes are often possible; this would be extremely helpful if you want to reuse your stripped doors/drawers.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 12:05AM
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nosoccermom, since you're packed first, you get dibs on the guestroom (and your very own pink bathroom, lucky you.)

Ranton, thanks for the chance to kick this interesting idea around.

The rub is, the goal is to make the most critical improvements we can, within the goal we've set to spend, and we were aiming at $20,000. That may already be long gone, since I keep changing banks of doors! We try to consider resale as we choose the improvements, since we can't do them all.

If we stray too far from our goal, we're tossing money down a rabbit hole. Having too much fun here, and then doing a few needed bathroom updates, can send us over the price range our neighborhood will currently bear. We're walking a tight rope because our house is already one of the largest, on the biggest lot, in the older neighborhood.

In our city, potential buyers are unlikely to balk at older cabinets, if they're looking at an older home with sufficient desirable our price range, at least. (Very expensive custom homes are a different kettle of fish.)

Here, the older adobe homes (or adobe veneer, like ours) do sell with old cabinets, and sometimes old Mexican tile counters. It's usually cited as part of the character. Of course, I suppose some are replaced by the new owners, but I'm going by the kitchens I see in real estate listings.

Doing a quick calculation based on your numbers (thanks so much for that!) I came up with roughly $4000-5000 for new cabinet boxes just for the kitchen (not laundry.) That isn't much to vastly improve the function of the cabinetry, and your idea is a good one, because it couples new features with the chance to keep the original doors and drawer fronts.

I think the problems with the walls/ceiling are a bigger problem than our admittedly unsophisticated storage, and I seem to be going in the direction of doing even more with walls than I'd originally planned. But some of this can be more carefully weighed out, once we have real bids for the work we can't do by ourselves.

I do appreciate your idea.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 2:18AM
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Hi Mudhouse. Just stopping by to see how things are going for you. Decisions, decisions.
Good luck and hoping your bids are kind to you!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 6:15AM
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Hiya Tinker.
No bids yet, we are still working on drawings and decisions, but making mental progress, at least. We're committed to raising the ceiling, and opening the wall to the den, as well as including a doorway to the dining room (as suggested by lyfia) at the end of the range run.

Still reading (mid century, atomic ranch, and Sarah Susanka.) Funny thing has happened, I'm turning into an MCM fan, after all my protests about how unsaleable that style is here. (It is, but I'm starting not to care so much.) The brainstorming here has truly opened my brain to some new directions I was closed to before.

Another funny thing; the dreaded room divider in the dining room has gone from a Big Problem to an opportunity to set the tone for the whole house. Our plan right now (which may change by 6AM tomorrow, lol) is to cut out the wire mesh, strip and restain the woodwork a light color, and add glass. Still evolving, but lately thinking about tackling some smallish glass-on-glass mosaic panels to add a color/retro feel to the piece. The colors and shapes are key since they would then be repeated elsewhere in the still thinking.

I have never done glass mosaic but I've done tile mosaic, so it's tempting to try.

I'm so grateful to everyone here who helped get my brain rolling again. Truly, I thank you all daily!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:59AM
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Although I love the idea of glass mosaics if I were a buyer with kids I would really balk at having any glass there unless it was safety glass (read expensive). Too much of an issue with kids throwing/running/jumping just generally being kids and I would lower the price based on how much I thought it would cost to replace which as a buyer is always over estimated vs. not.

Any other options you could go with?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 11:31AM
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lyfia, thanks, and we agree. The glass company said building codes only require us to use safety (tempered) glass for the two end panels; the center three could be annealed, if the glass started 18" off the floor. How crazy is that? We'd never want to take that risk, either. Yikes.

Fortunately the bid for tempered glass was only about 15% higher than annealed glass (which really surprised me.) So we'd only consider tempered 1/4" if we use glass. Laminated glass (with the plastic skin in the middle) would be the safest, but it's super pricey. I think safety glass would be OK.

Another option is 1/4" plexiglass, which I think would work as a substrate for the glass mosaic, as long as I didn't go too big with the panels. (I think big plexi panels might flex, which isn't good for a grouted mosaic...?) At some point I need to go ask the folks in the stained glass/mosaic forum here.

So far the pricing for thick plexiglass seems comparable to tempered glass. There would still be small grouted glass pieces on one side of the divider (we could put it on the low traffic side) but I don't think the surface would be risky for kids, since all the sharp edges would be embedded in grout. And it would be pretty hard to break.

We considered colored plexiglass panes too, but it just seems so "mod" for the informal, earthy textures in the house. Colored tempered glass and frosted tempered glass are way too expensive (pushing $1000 just for the frosted glass idea, for five 5' panels.)

I considered frosted films and frosted spray paint, but I think those ideas have a limited life span (especially if the house has active kids) since the spray frostings can scratch off. And DH keeps wishing for color, and he's got me agreeing.

It has to be somewhat transparent or it blocks too much light. So, now considering a fairly open wooden framework, with smallish glass mosaic panels scattered. Still playing with ideas...!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 1:22PM
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Well, I was snown in, so couldn't make it to the airport --- but the pink bathroom sounds so tempting!

The glass doors sound cool. What kind of mosaic do you have in mind?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 7:16PM
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nosoccermom, the pink bathroom sounds nicer than it is. :P

You're actually pretty close, but I'm thinking about a terra cotta and turquoise color range. More like the colors in this synagogue window in CT (made in 1960 by Jean-Jacques Duval.) I'm trying to pick up the warm tones in our saltillo floor and pine table.

So here's the pic (again) of the divider now:

And here's the latest idea. Trying to keep the squares of mosaic glass sorta smallish so I have some small chance of really finishing it before I'm 92. The wood frame is stripped of the current dark brown and stained a light gray. Also the paint color (and dark paneling in the adjacent entryway) will change; the whole house needs to go whiter and brighter.

Kinda rough because the glass mosaic panels would not read as "real stained glass with black leading" as the clips I stole above, but you can get the idea of the colors and fairly simple shapes. (Squinting helps!)

Still playing.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:16PM
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Hi mudhouse, just wondering if the fronts to your drawers could be removed with the intent of having new doors and drawer fronts made. Most likely not, but you could ask over on the GW woodworking forum if interested. I recall someone on GW having new doors made and hiring a pro to paint. The result was fantastic.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:26PM
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Thanks Texasgal47. Normally that would be a good consideration, but my gut feeling is these cabinets aren't worth the expense of new doors/drawer fronts, because of their functional limitations (fixed shelves, shallow drawers, etc.) I think they're worth a new finish and hardware, but not much more.

If we decided the original doors and drawer fronts weren't workable (let's say we fell out of love with the clunky Big Bump style) I think we'd be better off with all new cabinets, to get modern improved function at the same time.

The cabinet decisions should be easier once we have the major construction costs pinned down (and we can see how badly dinged up the budget is.) My guess is the Big Bump cabinets will be around for a while longer. :-)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 1:05AM
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Mudhouse, you show sound reasoning in all of your comments. Your fortitude in holding back "project creep" is impressive and prudent. Hope DH appreciates your strength in using logic rather than emotion.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:26PM
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Lol Texasgal47, thanks for the pat on the back. We just have so much to fix here that hard-eyed frugality becomes ingrained! We'll see how logical I can remain when we finally have the excitement of walls and ceilings coming down.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:31PM
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