A wall of cabinets in DR?

steph2000May 5, 2013

I'm trying to hone down decisions in some known trouble spots in my layout while awaiting estimates. One of them in about what (if anything) to do in the adjoining DR. The dining area is small. We have a 2-sided fireplace on one wall and sliding doors on the opposite wall. It opens up to the kitchen on the 3rd side.

Originally, I was thinking I'd do a banquette on the back wall. However, they are considerably deeper than perhaps we can go.

So, then I scratched the entire idea. However, it seems like no matter what layout I go with, I could use more storage. Not only for the kitchen, but for this very small house. So, I started thinking a wall of less deep (maybe 12"?) tall cabinets from floor to ceiling that would allow for a small broom closet, extra storage for the kitchen and maybe even space for the crap that gets put in the front closet because we can't allow it to get frozen (spackle, paint, etc).

Here's the existing DR:

Here's the latest idea:

Here's the original banquette idea:

I know things would be hard to reach behind the table. I'd put stuff back there we didn't need often. Though, depending on what we get figured out for the kitchen space, the area to the right which is most accessible might need to be pantry space instead of broom closet...

My concerns are both about aesthetics and functionality.

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It'll unquestionably make the room feel smaller, but if you really need the storage this would be a great way to get it. Twelve inch deep storage holds almost everything used in a kitchen and a lot of it. Those end cabinets would be complete pantries. I know because I've had them.

If carried out aesthetically, it could also be very aesthetically pleasing and end up copied by thousands of space-challenged admirers. :) How about leaving a largish niche in the middle for decorative display and to make the area feel that much larger (what would a mirror reflect if you put one in there?). Something more like a built in sideboard with hutch over could also be very attractive or, if you have books, inclusion of bookshelves to add their special character and warmth.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 3:10PM
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Thanks for your thoughts, Rosie. A mirror on that wall would reflect the kitchen (most likely the range and hood).

Space is such a premium here. I worry about losing the floor space. Then, on the other hand, storage is such a premium around here, I worry about losing the storage possibilities!

The KD I spoke with talked about making the center more open with a counter there to place things. I get that idea. I just don't know how functional it is to put, say, buffet items or drinks behind the chair if someone is actually sitting there...

Do you think the wall of just cabinets, floor to ceiling, looks bad aesthetically?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 3:26PM
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That looks pretty tight, but difficult to judge from that one picture. Can you step back and take it again to show more of the space and maybe from another angle? Can't tell if there is any space behind the settee or if it's against the wall. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 3:35PM
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The bench is against the wall, island. It's set back in the picture from the table, though.

And yes, it's tight. The whole house is tight. I'm not in a position to take pics right now. I'm also not sure how much another picture would help. I can get the dimensions for you.. The room is basically 9'10" wide by 9'5" long.

I guess the question ultimately comes down to... when the space is tight, does it makes more sense to maximize storage or maximize floor space. Because one of them has to be sacrificed. Big time. Unfortunately.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 3:47PM
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I'm no expert but I think the banquette would look great. And by flanking it with tall cabinets and building in storage under the seat (for less used items, maybe holiday stuff) it gives you the best of both - a bit more storage, and also maximizes space with wall seating.

Would you add the window above as in the sketch? If not, maybe an open shelf across the top would be an option for a bit of extra storage/display?

To have the wall cabinets behind, you would need enough room for the cabinets + walking behind chairs + room for chairs to pull away from table to sit. That seems like it might push your table quite far into the room?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 4:06PM
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Thanks for weighing in, swirlycat. The banquette is not an option unless we stick with narrow cabinets on each side and have the banquette stick out more so it is functional and people can actually sit on it. I'm not sure how that would look but I fear it loses something compared to the inspiration picture...

I need twice as much depth or more to make a banquette seat happen - and then it starts running into the fireplace surround. Literally. (There's about 24 inches between the wall and end of the mantle).

And those windows you were seeing were upper cabinets. Not sure I would go that way, or with shelves for that matter, but I was playing with it when I did that mock-up eons ago. I really don't need display storage, it's really more about hiding stuff you just need a place for, you know?

I've been playing with the dimensions and I can walk behind the table with a chair tucked in with ease when I block out 12" deep cabinets. If someone is sitting there, that's another story. Of course, that's the same problem I have now and will forever in this home. It's just the nature of the beast. When someone is sitting there, which is when we have guests, we go around the table the other way.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 4:25PM
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Holly- Kay

Your dining room is so pretty. I think I would give up 12" of floor space for an amazing amount of storage. Instead of doing the whole cabinet in wood doors maybe you could do a few glass fronted doors towards the top that wouldn't be accessed often to put some attractive display items. That would break up the expanse and add some visual interest, while giving you much needed storage

You can go with a slightly longer table with a chair at each end and a bench towards the kichen side of the table to allow space for easier access to your cabs, as the cabinet side of the table wouldn't have chairs or a bench in the way. You could also do a bench that has storage under the seat.

You could add mirrors to either end of the table behind the chairs. That will open the space up without reflecting your kitchen. If you hang a lovely light over the table the light will look even brighter because of the mirrors.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 4:34PM
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Thanks, hollykay. I really appreciate the ideas and "votes", so to speak. Interesting idea to use a bench instead of chairs. In the right set-up, that could save space for sure.

I'm in love with expensive, one of a kind tables made out of ancient wood they are reclaiming... Some of them are quite narrow, which appeals to me for obvious reasons. Though, I also haven't ruled out a round table. I do know I am sort of sick of this one...

I'm not sure where you are thinking the mirrors could go, though? Are you thinking the mantle wall?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 4:52PM
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I think your dining room would look stunning with building the cabinets around the fireplace wall instead of the adjacent wall. It may not get enough storage, but still a lot and a very aesthetically pleasing result as well. You may want to consider posting this same question on the decorating forum for a slightly different slant on this question looking at it not only from a kitchen perspective, but from what would work well for your overall decor in your dining room so as to achieve a cohesive look between the two rooms.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 4:58PM
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Holly- Kay

Yes the mantle wall and the wall opposite the mantle wall. Unless that is your entry into the kitchen.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 5:20PM
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I think if storage is your main concern, I would to the cabinets on the back wall. I agree with hollykay above also. I would break up the solid doors with some glass doors just to take away from the heaviness of the wall of cabinets. You could even do some semi opaque glass so you could still "hide" stuff in them.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 5:30PM
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Both space and storage are a concern....personally, when I am faced with sacrificing one, I'll opt for storage because if you don't have a good place to store your stuff, it's going to be out where you don't want to see it and it'll make the place look cluttered.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 5:49PM
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Maybe having 3 cabinets with 2 vertical and 2 horizontal doors may look better. Also knobs/a glossy finish/plain doors may be considered.

I think, if you find a suitable sized rectangular or oval or octagonal table you can at least have easy access to the cabinets on the sides.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 5:52PM
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Holly- Kay

I agree that you need a long narrow table. Keep the side of the table closest to the cabinet walls devoid of furniture but the two end chairs and a bench along the other side will give seating for four. A round table, though pretty, would take up too much space.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 6:31PM
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Looking at the picture of your actual eating space, I would not want to lose ANY floor space on any side. I used to have an 8' x 8' x 8' ceiling kitchen eating area, and was going to put 24" high upper storage cabinets along one wall from 6' to 8' high. In your space I might try 9" deep 24" high (or taller if your ceiling is higher) cabinet's along both side walls, and 12" deep ones along the back wall, with perhaps an arch across the 4th side of the room to connect the cabinets. I'm not sure how this would look or feel, but I'd draw it on a 3D program to see what it looks like and consider it. It would give you a lot of storage. You might want to adjust the heights of the side cabinets to account for the fireplace mantel and the doorway, but I'd experiment with this before I'd give up floor space.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 9:54PM
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My friend did a window seat that turned into a banquette. My opinion - do the banquette/window seat with 12" deep cabs floor to ceiling. Have them wall to wall. Can you take a picture deadon to the direplace? This will give us a better idea of the space.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 10:09PM
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@valinsv - Thanks for the idea. We've stared at that fireplace wall quite a bit trying to envision ways to add cabinets given the lines of the mantle. I still don't see it, personally, and my partner doesn't want to recess the fireplace (which is his baby, it was his first woodworking project to make that mantle). A cabinet on the left side would be very convenient to the kitchen, though.

@ holly-kay - thanks again. The mantle wall could work for a mirror, reflecting the outside. The opposite wall is basically the sliders. I am also leaning towards a longer, narrow table. If I don't go with these cabinets, round could still work, I suppose.

@rkb21 - I agree it might look a lot better to cap the tall cabinets with glass doors. I'll play around with that.

@andreak100 - I appreciate your perspective. I hear a lot about built-ins making small spaces work and this is surely a chance to do something like that. One way or another, I need to declutter and get things streamlined.

@sena01 - thanks a lot for your input. I can't wait until I can shop for a DR table.

@jimandanne_mi - thanks for your input. I'm having trouble envisioning uppers throughout the space but can surely play around with it on the layout program and see. I do appreciate your protection of the floorspace. This is not an easy call...

@motherof3sons - I'll try to get another picture of the DR here soon. To be frank, the rooms are so small it can be hard to capture it in pics. Do you think a banquette would work with less deep cabinets on the sides? I'm trying to picture it. I guess that's another thing to experiment with on the layout program...

I guess I could always hold off on this until the kitchen is in and see how storage is looking then. I just know that with the DR cabinets, I'd have the luxury of too much storage. Without it, I really fear I won't have enough.

Thanks so much for the input, everyone.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 11:12AM
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I just saw your inspiration picture on Houzz when looking at eat-in kitchens and thought that it would be an incredible waste of space in a small-ish room. Unless you are utilizing otherwise wasted space under a window, already have an architecturally defined nook, or love reading there, a banquette bench may be not so practical. The storage space underneath is really only for rarely used items as you are not going to open a bench with a seat too often while tall cabinets will be completely utilized. You cannot seat more than two people comfortably - which can be achieve with chairs as well.

I have had a bench in my dining room for 10 years and trust me, I would have already gotten rid of it had it not been so expensive (still might). :-)

I like your sketch with cabinets on that entire back wall. IDK the dimensions of your room but it does not look too small on that drawing. You can paint the cabinets the same color as your kitchen cabs to "unify" the two spaces - or you can paint them the same color as the walls to make them blend-in and sort of "disappear".

Putting cabinets around the fireplace sounds like a good idea too. Notice that your inspiration room is a lot bigger than your DR. I just don't a bench being a good solution for you space.

Just my 2 cents...

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 12:59PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Late to the party, but I have a couple of similar examples in my house. In one room we have two small window seat/reading nooks, with closets finishing out the wall space (shelves floor to ceiling with full length doors). The seats and closets are only 16" deep, but provide a lot of storage--lots of toy storage for grandchildren at this point. :)

The other is a set of vintage cabinets, recently installed in the DR. The bases are also 16" deep, with a counter, and hutch style shelves above. It's nice to have the counter, to serve as a dessert/coffee buffet, when we have a large gathering. The house was built in the late 1920's, and originally had only an under-the-stairs closet, and a couple of small under-the-eaves closets upstairs. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the storage in the new closets and DR cabinets!!

If you can possibly sacrifice the floor space, even bookcase depth, go for it!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Show and tell:

We had much the same issues - small house, needed storage, one-room kitchen/DR, but we have more openings to the room than you do. Here is what we finally did:

From the kitchen that looks like:

We used ours for a China cabinet because that is what was stuck in nooks and crannies elsewhere in the house. The cabinet on the left is 24" deep because we needed a place for the turkey roaster and a couple of other large items. We love this solution. I could see you going with a wall of full height cabinets. I actually like the original banquette thing better, but it seems less practical because I think you need more storage.

P.S. Normally, the table isn't that big. We had all the extensions in it because we were having a party. It's usual size stops short of the door to the garage.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 4:11PM
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What mama-goose said!

I always miss having a counter space in the dining room.

If it were my room, I'd make three sets of cabinets instead of four and make the middle tall cabinet shorter to have a counter underneath. I think it would give the room more visual depth and kill three birds one stone as you'll also have a counter and storage. :-) You can even put a mirror on the wall behind the counter.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:00PM
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@eleena - Interesting perspective on banquettes. Usually they are seen as good solutions for small spaces, but I take your point. The con side of built-ins in small spaces, no doubt, is the desire to rip them out to gain even a few inches of floor space. If I were to do it, it would be a short bench and only enough for seating for one, I imagine. As you noted, my space is a lot smaller. I can't believe I am going in a full circle and even contemplating a banquette again....

I'm glad to hear you think a wall of cabinets might work, anyway. Do you like the idea of the tops being glass so it isn't as heavy? I think I we go that route I would just use the same cabinets as the kitchen, to unify the space.

I really don't see how I can do cabinets around the fireplace. I'm having a lot of trouble visualizing it, given the tight space and the lines of the mantle.

@mama_goose - I appreciate your votes! Sounds like you have some neat nooks and cabinets in your space, along with closets. I guess I could consider getting standing units instead of cabinets/built-ins... It's just the space is so narrow. It might be hard to find things. Hm..

@suzannesl - I love show and tell! Thanks so much for the pics. Look at how much storage you got out of that solution. And, it looks great. Are those cabinets or furniture pieces?

I, too, was drawn to that banquette right away. I'm a little worried if it works as well as my house plans are leaning a tad more to the modern and a tad less to the cottage right now. If I stay in this design phase limbo long enough, though, who knows? I keep circling back around to things... I guess what I worry about is everything involved in getting a banquette right, i.e., dimensions, comfortable seating, cushions, etc. We are trying to DYI as much as we can here and while my partner is talented, I want the project to, you know, FINISH. Quickly, once we start. (A girl can dream)

I'll try to play around with the design programs and post some thing if I can find software that allows me to mock up things easily.

Thanks so much for the continued feedback!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:30PM
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Thanks @eleena for chiming in again. When I do mock-ups, I'll do one with a center counter, too. Hopefully the program has options for cabinets that are bar height, so I can try that instead of counter height. Hmm

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Hi, Steph. You guys are talking the direction I was suggesting. A counter could be helpful for dinners in some way, especially if the host was down there to pass stuff around, but above all I think it would be valuable esthetically.

I just noticed your question above. I suspect putting all storage doors there would look too utilitarian, no matter how attractive. They'd say "storage" the way a bedroom wall closet does, as opposed to "charming" the way a handsome sideboard and hutch do. Even though a sideboard is a storage piece, it doesn't trumpet it in a "needy" way.

Here are a couple of pix, maybe a little over fancy and could be designed even shallower, but they both offer a display place in the middle that retains for the room that visual additional foot and gives opportunity for display. I included the second, not built in, just because of the way mirror helps the eye keep going. The first has glass, but both general ideas could have solid doors and look great because the central display area raises them out of the realm of strict utility.

Traditional Kitchen by Natick Kitchen And Bath Rob Kane - Kitchen Interiors Inc.

Traditional Dining Room by Novato Kitchen And Bath Julie Williams Design

How nice, BTW, that your husband did the fireplace mantle. That's special. Does he have any ideas?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:50PM
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Hm, hm, hm. Now I am really circling the mulberry bush, Rosie. I'm going to dig out the layout program later today and just try to mock some things up. Thanks so much for the visuals, which are really helpful.

I wonder if the same thing can get pulled off if I do floor to ceiling cabinets on the sides? Maybe with glass toppers?

I do get the point that the whole wall might look too utilitarian and that there might be value in a counter, especially with a small table.

My partner wants to forget about the DR and put baseboard heat all around. *cough*

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Steph, that last picture is exactly what I had in mind. Only I would try to take it to the ceiling if I needed storage. For the same reason, I wouldn't do glass doors as it'd limit me in what I could store there. I think mirror-ed doors will serve the purpose of breaking up monotonicity but will hide the cabinet content. Unless you have some pretty china and glasses you want to display. A friend of mine had an all-glass cupboard in her very small DR and it was a good way to store her formal dinnerware and not make the space look too tight.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 2:54PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

I'll show and tell, lol. The DR cabinets are built in, but this is a progress pic. We bought them from a flea-market vendor who listed them on Craigslist, and offered delivery. They are salvaged from an old school, so they're a little quirky, and required some rebuilding. The room is 13.5x13.5, with a stairway off to the left, behind the old stove.

We bought two sets, but only one set had doors, so it was given pride of place in the kitchen. You can see our smaller window seat in the background of this pic:

The kitchen opens to the DR on the right side, and the cabinets make it seem more like one room. On the other side of the kitchen is the playroom/gathering room, with the window seats and closets. This is the larger window seat--the smaller one is to the right, with closets on each side (and no baseboard trim, yet.)

The closets were built two years before I found the cabinets on CL--it was just coincidence that they are 16" deep, too. Or maybe it was Providence. ;)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 3:30PM
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I am probably missing something, but wanted to ask. If you did the banquette, would it be part of the seating for the table? That might save space, I would think, and then maybe the cabinets around it could be deeper?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 9:32PM
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