Where is the countertop most functional?

jessicamlJune 22, 2011

On a previous thread, some dear soul suggested I might want to look into switching the place of my refrigerator with the section of cabinet to the right of it. Thus, I'd gain a longer stretch of countertop (much handier for baking & prep work), and in the spot where the fridge was I could build in a shelf for the microwave (which is currently banished to the garage since the toaster oven takes up less space on the counter).

I didn't think I could talk DH into losing his "landing zone", since that end piece of counter is where he drops his change, mail, phone, etc. Our front door enters into the kitchen, so while this area is a clutter catcher...it's also pretty handy. If we were to attempt swapping the fridge and cabinet, does anyone have ideas for something that would fit by the door as a new "landing zone", or would this make the door area feel too cramped? I only have 22" between the door casing and window casing.

I'd love to have a more functional (almost bigger) kitchen, but not at the expense of the whole flow of our home. Countertops will be ordered soon, so if it's going to happen, I need to figure it out ASAP. Ideas? Is it more trouble than it's worth?

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You wouldn't have to use the entire 22" of space. How about something that is 12-14" wide and comes out from the wall maybe 2' (no longer than the wall that is to the right of the other doorway coming into the kitchen) and counter height. Make it into bookcase/displaycase facing into the sitting area. Place it centered between the door and window or closer to the window so that it wouldn't crowd the door.

Or make it the 22" wide but only 12" deep against the wall and again use it for bookcase or display case with open shelving.. This configuration wouldn't jut out into your space as much.

Or buy an interesting piece of furniture for that space and use it for a drop area.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 12:43AM
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What is happening to the space across the way from the fridge's current landing pad? across the way from the entrance, that is. Can that accept a table or cabinet for catch-all purposes?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 12:52AM
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It sounds like what you need is a "message center"/charging station. If you like that area for dropping big heavy things on, it might be another story, but if you want to be up on the trends (grin) and organize the space well, you can use the last 6" between the door and the fridge for all those things.

You might not be able to buy what you'd need prefab, but you might be able to customize a cabinet, or make this pretty easily DIY.

One possible design: At the bottom have slanted pockets like "hot file" holders for schedules, flyers, coupons, etc. This only works if you go through them at least once a week, however, and through stuff out. At more or less eye level for everyone a magnetic dry erase board/chalkboard/pinboard. Above that, hooks for keys and lost rings and things. From thigh to chest level, some cubbies for each family members little bits, and a shelf or cupboard with a power strip for charging phones, cameras, etc.

You can also have the kitchen phone here, and even a drop down writing surface for writing paper messages. (I have this one.)

It's amazing how much can fit into a small space.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 2:20AM
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I had a similar situation with my husband and his "landing zone" - he dropped everything right onto the counter when he walked into the kitchen. I agree with blfenton about a narrow cabinet. The wall right next to the door from the back hallway (which is how we always enter the house) is very short. I got this hutch specifically so he'd have a place for his stuff when he walked in - I had the drawer put in so it can be out of sight!! It's 24" wide and about 10" deep. The upper doors were supposed to be solid (still working on what I want to do there) and I had our builder put an outlet inside so he can charge his phone and his police walkie talkie in there - again, out of sight.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 3:42AM
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Or you could get your husband to change his landing zone habits. His lunch box still lands on the counter (as it should, it needs to be cleaned out), but I got my DH a neat sort of burl wood tray for the top of his dresser. His wallet, watch, etc. go there when he gets home. He also has a change jar there for his change. I have already gotten the mail, so that isn't an issue for us.

Is there ordinarily a table and chairs in that breakfast area? If so, I would think that would be the more natural landing zone. Still not perfect, but it would keep that stuff off your counters.

But I like the idea of a piece of furniture of some kind in that spot by the door. Not a piece of built-in cabinetry, but a cute table or cabinet of some kind. If it has a drawer, you can set up the charging station in there. We did that and it is the permanent home to an electric screwdriver as well as the chargers for my phone, bluetooth earpieces and a camera.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 7:46AM
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You guys are awesome! I'm feeling optimistic about this working already.

plllog, I think I'd have about 5" to the right of the fridge (maybe a little less when we get door casing around the hallway entrance). I'm curious about your message center, though. Do you have a picture?

SusieQusie, what a cute cabinet! No room for anything quite that big, but I love the idea.

We used to have a massive table in the kitchen, much too big for the space and a giant clutter catcher, so it's gone. I'd like to get a small drop-leaf table and chairs when we finish the kitchen. For now, I brought in patio furniture as place-holders. I also shopped the house to see how a cabinet or bookcase would look by the door (messier than usual, as my contractor is going to texture the laundry/hall area today).

Cabinet (too short?):

View from living room with cabinet & patio furniture in place:

View from laundry room hall (I could look for a smaller chair to replace the southwest loveseat if it looks too crowded):

Bookcase (potential for looking cluttered? Would I need 2 back-to-back? Cookbooks & photos on one side, shoes & organizing totes on the other?):

At one point, I wanted a bench by the door to help hide the pile of shoes and for people to sit while putting on shoes. I started turning an old end table into a bench last summer, but never finished. I'm still not sure if that or a cabinet would be more useful (and really, not sure the "bench-that-would-be" is the right fit).

If I have the bench there, I suspect the new clutter/charging area would become the future kitchen table, and counter by the sink, which wouldn't be ideal, but not really worse than it is now. There's an outlet over there, so the phones could charge on the bar/backsplash thing.

Once we do have a kitchen table, do you think a cabinet, bookcase or bench will be too cluttered?

I think I'm loving the small cabinet idea most, if you don't think it would crowd the door and future table too muc. Drawers would hide a lot and free up the current "junk drawers" for actual kitchen storage.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 12:55PM
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I haven't been particularly articulate in this thread...trying to get too much info out there. I'm sorry!

I guess a simplification of my questions would be:
Do you think I have room for an additional piece of organizational furniture once I add back a kitchen table? If so, what?

If I don't have room for something besides a table, do you think the additional kitchen counter space gained by moving the cabinet and fridge will be worth it, since I'll still need a drop zone somewhere?

In a perfect world, we'd get new flooring throughout, which would make the kitchen table area more flexible...but who knows when or if that will happen.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 2:07PM
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I measured our microwave, and it's too deep to fit on a shelf where I wanted it (that explains all the threads looking for shallow microwaves). So, I thought perhaps I can get a new microwave, or perhaps I can put bookshelves there...and then I just read aliris' thread about boxing in her fridge. Now I'm thinking any kitchen counter space gained could be off-set by the side of our white fridge greeting visitors first thing upon entering the front door. Aargh! Maybe it's not worth it...I don't know.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 8:37PM
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I like the idea of the bookcase size and shape. With a pretty bowl or basket on top for keys etc and cubbies for books, shoes etc it will be useful as well.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 8:38PM
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Can you panel your fridge on the one side and put hooks up for keys?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 8:40PM
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I'm planning to use beadboard as a backsplash...perhaps I can use beadboard as a side panel, too? Hmm. Things to think about. Thanks, blfenton!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 8:46PM
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Here is a link to an old thread that has some ideas you might like. Especially Buehl's message center.

Have you already ordered all your cabinets? Not sure where you are in your design process.

I have some photos of small kitchens with neat ideas that I saved for when I downsize someday. Let me know if they would be useful.

Here is a link that might be useful: message center thread

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:06PM
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How about something like this little table. The raised edge wil hide the keys, etc. And it's on clearance!

Here is a link that might be useful: JCPenney storage table

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:23PM
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I like this one too. Handy little thing for 17"

Here is a link that might be useful: JCP Bill payers desk

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:27PM
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Jessica, I'm away from home and don't have any pictures online. Mine is mostly pegboard cupboard, with the center portion having a place for a phone, a little storage and a dropdown writing surface, all behind doors. I'm pretty sure it is less than 5" deep. There are more message centers around here than in the linked thread. Does anyone know if they're in Buehl's READ ME thread?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:58PM
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I'll add a vote for the JCP bill payers desk. It's relatively cheap and not terrible looking, and it's also very functional. I bought one and put it by my front door, so when I come in I can dump the mail in the magazine holder on the side, put my keys and coffee cup in one compartment on top, cell phone goes in a charger in another compartment on top, and glasses go in the last compartment. I drilled a couple of holes in the back of it, so the modem and router as well as the house phone go in the open compartment under the pull out writing tray. I go through the mail holder when it gets full and file any important stuff in a hanging folder in the bottom drawer, instead of it floating around to some "safe place" where I'll never find it again until after I've already obtained a duplicate copy.

Next to it I have a storage bench with a cushioned top. The seat lifts up for storage of shoes, spare blankets, or whatever. I don't know how well they'll hold up over time, but for now those two pieces have cut down on a lot of clutter around the entry way of my small home. You might consider something similar to the bill pay desk to the right of your door, then to the right of that under the window put a storage bench.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 1:15AM
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Jessica, Just wanted to mention that a couple others are also working with U-shaped kitchens right now,
so I posted some photos of renovated U's on a thread recently for colorfast and scrappy.

You might want to take a look.

I always find pictures helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: U Shaped Kitchen

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 8:26AM
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I gree that moving the fridge over would increase your functionalcountertops.

What about a board and batten treatment with hooks and baskets? You could work around your light switches. I hope it is ok to link to those blogs, I am not affiliated with them. You will have to copy and paste. These are not commercial sites.





Or even a tall back to back cabinet like this to separate the entrance from the eating area. Not sure how it would look in the overall kitchen though.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:04AM
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Thanks for the ideas, you guys! I definitely love my U-shaped layout, but moving the fridge down will definitely improve it. Right now I'm trying to figure out the logistics of putting in a shelf where the fridge is (with beadboard peeking out in back), so I can talk to my carpenter brother and see if he's game to do a few small projects (the guy doing my wall texture & trim is good, but a kinda pricey). I figure I can move the little black cabinet or bookcase over as a catchall until I figure out what would work best by the door.

I love that mail center Dilly posted! My husband turned what had been a guest bedroom into his office, but with something like that, maybe he wouldn't have needed to! The black cart is cute, too, and I had fun looking at the other things in JCPenney's "entry furniture" section. Msventoux, once I have a table, I'll see if a storage bench would work with it; that would be handy and fun.

At the moment, my biggest concern is the fridge. I don't know if it would have occurred to me pre-GW that seeing the side of the fridge was a problem, but now that I'm "educated", I'm wondering what the best way is to make it appear attractive. There may be something I can modify from that message center link, though if there are more like plllog suggested, I'll have to see if I can find them.

biochem, it was interesting to see other U-shaped kitchens, but the one that stuck out to me was the black and one with chairs at the peninsula. It didn't look like there was enough overhang for seating to me! We only have 7.5" of overhang, and I've occasionally thought bar seating would be fun, but that would involve convincing DH to move his leather recliner. Probably not happening...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:25AM
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I definitely think that moving the fridge is going to make your kitchen much more functional and that the drop-zone situation can be remedied in the space you suggested.

I like the bookcase. It defines the space a little more without a visual barrier. Instead of two bookshelves back-to-back, what about building a bench seat (with drawers or flip-top seat for storage) on the door side? You can finish the back of the bookcase with a piece of beadboard and trim to make it match the rest of the kitchen. A hanging mail-holder or hooks for keys can be hung either on the wall above the light switches or on the side of the bookshelves (if you don't have little hands to help "sort" the mail for you).

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 4:27PM
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Is this your only eating area? Or, do you have a DR elsewhere? If this is your only table space, then I would not take space away from the eating area for a cabinet/table/bookcase b/w the door and window.

To solve both the refrigerator and Message Center issue, you could take about 8" of that space and build a wall that deep. Then, install a niche in the wall facing the front door that would have hooks for keys, wall space for a calendar or message board, a place for charging a cell phone or two, etc. I'm the one BioChem101 mentioned with the Message Center Niche.

Make the wall as deep as you need to to hide the refrigerator carcass/box but not so deep that it "covers" the refrigerator door. You want to keep the doors clear of the wall so they will open fully. Then, size the width of your niche accordingly. E.g., if the refrigerator carcass is 30" deep, make the wall 30" deep and then put in a niche 22" to 24" wide...whatever the widest space is you can take from the wall...use the studs framing the wall as your side walls. (This will not be a load-bearing wall so you don't need to worry about the wall's ability to support the house.)

Our niche is recessed into the 8" deep wall of our corner pantry. It has a plywood back + thin layer of dry wall. This gave us a Niche 48" tall x 20" wide x 7" deep. [If you do this, think about either making the niche taller to utilize more of the wall height or putting in a couple of niches to, again, utilize more wall height.]

This is the corner pantry that contains our Niche....the niche is in the wall on the right (you can just see the space for the niche)

Here it is in the wall framed out...

In this pic, the sides have been dry walled. The back hasn't been done yet.

Here, the plywood has been added. A thin layer of dry wall will be added next. The pantry side will have a "normal" layer of drywall.

The "final" Message Center Niche with a clear stained oak "sill" and matching key hook rail. We put in the strip of oak for the hooks b/c we wanted to be sure the hooks would not loosen over time as we constantly put keys on/took them off the hooks.

We've since bought a new, smaller phone/answering machine in black and it looks much better! The smaller phone gave us room to add a square notepad container. There's room to charge two phones on the ledge/sill.

BTW...to answer your original question, the most useful counterspace is b/w the sink and range in your Prep Zone. However, since your space is very limited, the next most useful space is b/w the refrigerator and range. So I very much agree with others that moving the refrigerator to the right as much as possible would be ideal. If you put in an 8" wall, that leaves you approx 14" of additional workspace b/w the range & refrigerator...a significant amount!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 7:06PM
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Hmmm...now that I look more at your kitchen, I realize the ceiling is a cathedral ceiling. That might be an issue putting in a wall.

Instead, you might consider a 9" deep tall cabinet turned 90 degrees to face the front door to serve the same function the wall would. Maybe leave the door off the top part to give you an alcove but leave doors on the bottom for small-item storage.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 7:14PM
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anenemity, I saw your bookcase/bench idea on my lunch break and thought "How cute! Bookcase bench! Maybe I can build that!" However, it might end up looking crowded to me. I'll have to play with it a bit.

buehl, the kitchen window area is the only eating area available. I don't know how much we'd actually use the table since it's just DH & I eating on the run most of the time, but I would like the area to be comfortable for guests, not crowded or cluttered looking.

I've been mulling this over all last night and today, and I was thinking perhaps a fridge-height wall with a bump out from counter height down to form a ledge...but it seemed somewhat contrived. I like your cabinet idea better. Thanks for all the thought you put into that!

I found an adorable "jelly cabinet" online last night (either Plow & Hearth or Solutions), but it was 9" deep. I think I only have 7" or less. I didn't intend for this to be a layout post, really, but since it's kind of turned into one, I might as well post measurements.

What do you think: room to eke out a can pantry and/or message center?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:47PM
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Could a message niche be built into the wall behind the front door?? I know I can visualize it, especially if it's neat like Buehl's.

I'd also add a pretty ceramic crock/basket for your husband to drop in in any change or small pocket items. You would want a doorstop installed for when the front door is actually open, but I think it would work. Mail would still need to go elsewhere.

If the message niche doesn't work out, it appears you have no table at all. I would buy the actual table or get the husband to commit to the bar and seating FIRST. You don't want to shut yourself out of table choices. Afterward, shop for the bookcase or mini-desk.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 2:56AM
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Colorfast, you're right about not committing to any new furniture until kitchen seating is cemented. Bar seating would be fun, and since we're going with new counters it would be the perfect timing to jut the bar out a few more inches; however, I'm thinking our living room needs all the space it has, and the bar seating would really only work if we swap carpet out for hardwood, which may or may not happen (enough going on as it is). I'm hoping to get an antique drop leaf table, which may involve some refinishing, and that's part of why I'm not shopping for the kitchen table quite yet; I really have too many projects going on already, and DH will have a conniption if I don't finish painting the upper cabinets soon.

I'm not sure if I could put a message center in the wall behind the door. For some reason, I'm not crazy about that location...maybe because we so often have the door open blocking that wall, or because there's not currently an outlet there. Plus, if I was going to do it, I really should have done that part before the texturing and painting of the wall.

Heck, I didn't plan on any actual "remodeling" to occur, just a little facelift to improve finishes. It was only after I realized replacing the counters made more sense than refacing them that I started thinking about all these options! My brother is game for building me a spice cabinet or shallow pantry if I help him dig holes for his new fence...now I just have to have him look at the cabinet that needs to be moved and begin plotting logistics so I can order countertops!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 5:07PM
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just use something temporarily until the cabs / counter etc are done.

how about having a very shallow 'cabinet' built to fit between the door and the window? top it off level with the window top. a series of shelves (some might have a door) with an open area for the light switches.

it could fatten out a bit lower down for a seat with a shelf under it for shoes. the 'seat' could even be a flip down or 'pop' up one for when needed.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 2:35AM
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qvc has these - outlet cover (you just change out what's there with this one) and a part of it flips down to hold your phone.

my BIL has one - he bought his local. don't know where tho.

Here is a link that might be useful: outlet charging holder thingy

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 2:43AM
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It's probably moot, but it turns out I don't have the photo you asked for, and there's a big box of grout in the way.

Meantime, I thought you might be interested in this. It's just one example of wall organizers that are available for a moderate price. This one is made by Gramata, available lots of places including Amazon. I've always loved the design of this. Just drill a hole in the bottom part for a power strip, and it's a charging station too. :)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 3:50AM
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