Need help planning kitchen in small, old, cheap house

weedyacresMarch 2, 2013

We're buying a small 940 sf house in a small town 100 miles away from where we live now (have a business in the small town), to fix up and use as a crash pad until our house sells. We are paying $14,000 for it, and fixed up it'll be worth $60K. It needs $10K to stabilize basement walls, and we're budgeting $10K for the rest, with about $5K for the kitchen.

It needs to be functional, clean, and look decent, because I've got to live here for a while. It's a 1920 built "worker's cottage" and the good folks over in the Old House forum have encouraged me to preserve that look and not change much. I've never lived in an old house, so I'm trying to get educated. I'd like to maintain "visual harmony and consistency" in the design, so it's got some 100-year-old feel without sacrificing functionality or costing too much.

We've got solid DIY skills, so all we need to buy is materials. I need your help both with layout suggestions and ideas on how to do this on the cheap.

Here's the current condition and tentative plans. I welcome all input.

Current layout:


It's got a decent footprint (9'x13') and 8.5' ceilings, but problems are:
Workspace and storage are abysmal
Tiny doorway that goes to basement stairs
Inefficient pantry space (walk-in but narrow)

Tentative new floorplan would:
Make the kitchen a galley
Move doorways to center of side walls
Replace window with shorter one
Reconfigure pantry/hall/stairs area
Remove chimney in corner (that's the bump-out in the photo)
Close up "window" to dining room

Here's a tentative layout I had a Lowe's KD draw up to use as a starting point.

Of course, that's $9K worth of cabinets, so I need to find a cheaper solution. One is to keep the existing ones. They're somewhat grungy but solidly built. And given the layout changes, I'd need to re-arrange them. Then I could either build or buy new boxes for the additional ones needed. We have Amish in the area, don't know their prices or skills. And my carpentry skills are probably sufficient to build new boxes as well, it would just increase the reno time. Do you see a way to re-arrange/piece together?

Cabinet close-ups:

This sink cabinet is skanky enough it just needs to go.

I also don't particularly care for the doors/drawer fronts. I'm thinking about adding shaker-style trim around them, or just buying replacements and thus having a consistent look.

Please advise!

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robo (z6a)

IKEA stat white might be a good low cost solution along with some open shelving for uppers around the sink to keep costs down? Even then it would probably be well over your $5K budget once materials and appliances get factored in. That's a big room for $5K.

I could also see keeping uppers and rearranging, making the rest open shelving, and installing new bases. In that case I think the bases would probably need to be a contrasting color? Those existing drawers certainly don't look easy to use. If you decide to go with one color AND IKEA works for you, people have had good success matching stat white with BM Simply white.

In either case I personally wouldn't fancy up the uppers with trim or maybe I'm just bad at visualizing that. Or maybe some beadboard detail...I dunno.
If you went IKEA route they don't do 27" bases. The cabinetry around your range would go down to 24" but that's still pretty nice landing room and gives more wiggle room around the fridge/entryway. You could do a 24" or 30" domsjo farmhouse sink and it would look very charming. Also makes DIY counters easy because it's a counter depth sink -- you just butt the counter up to the sink on either side.

Also given the budget/home age I might be tempted into a b/w checker vinyl on the floor all through the laundry, kitchen and pantry if that look works for you, open shelving in pantry and laundry, and no backsplash.

Here is a link that might be useful: Petra's stat white kitchen on gardenweb

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 2:25PM
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Seems like a good candidate for IKEA or maybe some of the other RTA cabinets. Plus it would maximize the space using a frameless cabinet as the framed do waste some space.

I like your new layout, but I question re-doing the stairs to the basement. Will that be within your budget and timeline? Sort of opening a can of worms in an old house. can you move the door opening and still get good pantry space without redoing your stairs?

Only thing I'd change in your new layout is have the dw on the other side so when it is open and you open the oven there is plenty of space. I know you have 5ft between there, but I'm a klutz and would likely walk into the corner of it. Plus your prep will likely happen to the right of the sink so then dw could be accessed when somebody is prepping too.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 2:32PM
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Hi, weedyacres. Due to a constrained budget, we redid our old cabinet doors in part by adding shaker trim. They turned out great. Here's the before and after.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 2:50PM
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Do you have any stores that sell old cabinets? Places like Habitat for Humanity Restore? You might be able to find cabinets like your to add/replace. Give your budget I would really try to use as many of the old cabinets as possible.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:35PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

If you scroll down a ways in theletteredcottage blog, you'll find more pics of trim added to cabinet doors to make them look like Shaker style. Although in that case, as well as irmaly's, the doors are flat--yours have a rounded edge. Maybe since they are overlay, you could skim off the rounded edges.

*Edited to add: The slab front drawers are appropriate to the vintage/Shaker style. I'd save them and add cup pulls.

This post was edited by mama_goose on Sat, Mar 2, 13 at 15:45

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 3:37PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

weedyacres, I keep looking at your pics and plans, and I'll just give you some of my thoughts. I'm not a designer, but I did a partial remodel/facelift to a 1920's cottage kitchen, mostly DIY, with help from family members. I used some existing cabinets, some vintage/salvage finds, and a few cheap cabinets from Lowe's. I kept costs down by using a lot of scraps that we'd accumulated from other projects. The main expense was widening a doorway, and building a laminated beam. Without flooring (which still hasn't been started), I spent around $3000. I didn't move plumbing or gas, but moved a 220v line across the room to relocate an electric stove.

It seems that you have two choices:

1) Do the least amount of work to make the space liveable for the short time that you'll be there, then make allowances in the sale price for the new owners to update as they wish (my choice if I was purchasing the house from you.)

2) Spend enough now that a buyer/renter will be impressed with the kitchen and be willing to pay enough for you to recoup your investment.

In your place I'd choose the first option, and consider keeping the old cabinets--maybe remove the cabinet above where stove was located, to make enough height for the fridge. Move the sink to the opposite wall, and slide a range into the former sink location--you'll be replacing the sink cab anyway. I'd leave the door on the right where it is, with very shallow open shelves on the outside wall, wide enough that getting through that door is comfortable. Then have a standard depth sink/cabinet/counter extend to the laundry wall--that door could be moved over as you've noted in your new plan. A broom closet or freestanding cabinet could go on the other side of the laundry room door. You have the fridge drawn there, but most fridges are more than 24" deep. Put the DW left of the sink, and the freestanding cabinet (which would also be appropriate to the age of the house) could be used for dish storage, close to the door to the dining area.

With space and budget constraints, same as in my kitchen BTW, an ideal layout may not be possible. And I know some folks will have the opinion that if you're going to start moving things around, you might as well go all the way. Nevertheless, I hope you can save the existing cabinets and have a pleasant, charming kitchen.

*Edited for clarification.

This post was edited by mama_goose on Sat, Mar 2, 13 at 18:00

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 4:38PM
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irmaly: great photos! I can certainly use wood putty to square out my doors to make them look shaker.

Basement stairs: It's really not a huge project to modify them. The basement joists are only about 6' above the floor, so it's a matter of building a couple supporting walls, cutting out an 8'x6' section of joists, and building back a floor and some stairs.

Timing: this doesn't have to be done in 2 weeks or anything. The living area, bedrooms, and bath need to be done before I move in, but we can work the kitchen/hall area over time. It does need to be nice enough that I can live there for a year without hating it. So I won't be satisfied with just putting lipstick on a pig and making it "good enough." Plus, I don't think that's in my DNA.

I hadn't thought about finding other used cabinets to repurpose here. I actually just went and did a bit of CL'ing and found someone with 8 natural maple shaker style cabinets for $850 that look new. They'd need paint to match, and perhaps some other re-configuring, but I can do a hodge-podge assembly and then paint it out to look consistent. I'll keep hunting for candidate cabinets. And I'll check out Ikea to see if they might work for my hodge-podge.

Thanks for the ideas on alternative layouts. Keep any other thoughts coming!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 9:58PM
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It is possible to buy Ikea cabinet boxes and have doors custom made by third party vendors. You might be able to match up the existing cabinets that way. It is more expensive than buying straight Ikea, but to make it work with the existing cabinetry might make sense in terms of cost. (I am considering this for our old kitchen when we remodel.)

I believe Scherrs, Barkers and Semihandmade are the names of some companies that do this? Others will chime in to correct me if I have those names wrong.

You might also be able to make a two tone kitchen work, keeping your existing cabinets and using something entirely different for the new cabinets. I think the challenge there is to make it look purposeful rather than hodgepodge.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:12PM
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Alright, since you seem to still be in the open-to-everything stage, I'll throw this out there:

Some advantages of this approach:
1. Opens up the space in a small home, making it feel larger.
2. Leaves doorways to basement and laundry room in place.
3. Wall that comes down looks like it might not be load-bearing, of course check with an engineer first.
4. Could possibly do it so the sink stays put, avoiding moving plumbing.
5. Saves money by avoiding the purchase of upper cabinets.
6. Increases light into the living areas of the home
7. Adds extra window looking out on backyard.
8. Allows doorway into pantry to be added if that would help functionality of pantry.
9. Gives workspace around stove as well as around sink.

  1. Exterior vent for range hood.
    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 6:28AM
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I would take kris's idea one step further and put base cabinets along the whole back window wall, moving the openings to the laundry and pantry areas forward toward the front of the house. Would need to make pantry a bit smaller to allow for landing at top of steps. Love the open concept idea.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 9:46AM
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Here's a photo of what's on the other side of the wall that a couple of you are suggesting we take down. I love open spaces, but worry about losing upper cabinet space.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 7:24AM
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