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