Suggestions for remodeling a small kitchen!

LSSFJune 25, 2014

I am a long-time ghost on here. I have not even moved in 16 years, much less ever redesigned/envisioned anything but I am trying to make the small kitchen I am moving into more cooking-friendly. I am not at all a person who can visualize things (even if it is drawn 2-D, it turns out!) I've tried to use Floorplanner to at least get the dimensions right, but I cannot visualize the various things that I am hoping to do while leaving the kitchen essentially the same size it is currently - I don't want to sacrifice the other spaces. I have written a lot below because I am following the site guidelines for how to get the help I am asking for. My apologies if it is too much! I would love love love your help. I have been reading so much on here and you all are such helpful people! Thank you!

- This is a townhouse set-up. An inner staircase leads from front door upstairs to a half-bath, kitchen (which leads to back deck/garden) and living/dining room with a bay window, which gets some direct afternoon light. There is no other direct light coming into this level. Then another staircase goes up to the bath/bedroom. The side walls are shared by neighbors on both sides. I am attaching a sketch of the CURRENT layout of this floor and some pictures of the current kitchen.
- Despite the limited space of the kitchen, I'm looking for more counter space since I do cook a lot, more efficient storage (there is no other storage on that floor of the townhouse at all and limited storage overall), I'd like to keep the current amount of light to back deck and add more natural light /better flow into living/dining room. I think the placement of the two door frames is kinda odd and the wall between the two door frames blocks the flow from the living/dining room to the back yard/deck (which is very lush/green). I certainly open to opening wall(s) up/ or at least partially up to the living room/dining room, but having a very difficult time visualizing how to accomplish a functional kitchen that doesn't waste space and doesn't feel cramped!
- RE. EATING: Although I plan to have a table/chairs in the dining/living room space (taking the table/chairs out of the kitchen to save on room), I envision mostly eating/ doing work, paying bills at a table/counter in or entering the kitchen with the view into the garden because it is just so relaxing. So it would still be nice to have a place for 1-2 stools or chairs to eat at a counter - maybe from the living/dining room? where someone could eat while looking at the back garden/deck - that would be for everyday use. I would mostly would eat NOT at the "dining room" table unless entertaining.

- 1-2 adults, mostly cook/eat at home - mostly cook vegetarian (so lots of veggie chopping but not a lot of grease splattering) but only need 1 stove/oven. Rarely bake, use the broiler a lot. Pretty neat/tidy/cleaning focused person. Of counter appliances, I use a mixer, blender, rice cooker, and toaster most often.

INFORMAL entertaining - medium amount, mostly groups of friends in the living/dining room, eating in a circle/on the floor, etc.

KITCHEN USE: cooking/cleaning, connector to back yard, want warm/welcoming, hanging with one person while other person cooks, would be in the kitchen a bunch every day. If there were a place to sit anywhere in/near it, I would probably put a laptop in there and do work

MY STYLE/town house style:
- The place was a shingle built in the early 70s and has warm wood tones. I like the 70s feel and want to keep with the flavor of the house - for myself, I am not into the very stark, sleek, modern kitchens I mostly see in the remodels of my area. I will definitely paint or tile the walls so ignore the paint colors and I am most drawn to mid-century modern styles (50s, 60s, even a little early 70s) furniture and lines for the most part. I like bright, warm colors browns, golds, oranges, fuchsias, bright blues, things like that.

- I like to use what I have and/or recycle stuff whenever possible and I work at a school, so my budget isn't unending, but I plan never to do this again :)
- I want to avoid off-gassing items (flooring, etc.)
- Want to make the window over the sink into a garden window
- For the kitchen, I am picturing a warm stained but unpainted wood for the cabinetry (don't know why!) and either 1+ goldy-yellow or bright/light blue walls, but I am not wed to that.
- Cabinets to ceiling. Since I live in earthquake territory, I want doors on them rather than open shelving for the most part. Not sure about glass paned vs. solid wood or a combo. Maybe opening shelf above the deck door and the window.
- Gas 4 burner Range/Oven/broiler (probably using the one already there or something similar)
- Dishwasher (probably using the one already there)
- Fridge - this is the appliance I am most likely to buy. I hear they are made with the same large insides, but thinner and taller. I am not fussy about side/side, top/bottom freezer, etc.
- Sink: Get one deep sink. Remaining under the window would be nice. Not sure between metal and the white stone/porcelain, etc. ones.
- Counters: Want people to be able to put hot things on it, spill on it, even accidentally cut on it if possible without drama. I have always had tile, and it has been fine, but I am branching out to look at quartz and other natural stones, etc. so that grouting is a non-issue.
- Floors: probably a marmoleum or tile or bamboo? People tell me to stay away from wood floors in the kitchen.
- Any pantry would have to be within the confines of the kitchen.

- Preference would like to keep sink under window and window in same place (the whole outside is shingled, so I am not trying to deal with shingling, but not ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY) and would like to keep a single pane door to deck because it lets in so much indirect/unencumbered light, but perhaps the door could move over?
- If I take down wall(s) between the living/dining room and kitchen, I would have to put up a post, apparently, b/c it is a load-bearing wall. I cannot visualize how the post won't look floaty and be bumped into all the time!
- I cannot figure out where at ALL to put the fridge :/ Everywhere I visualize it, it feels cumbersome!

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Here's a photo taken from just after the banister looking into the kitchen.

This post was edited by LSSF on Thu, Jun 26, 14 at 3:52

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 2:25AM
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You would probably be happiest if you find a KD who uses a 3D modeling software program like Chief Architect, so you can see the options in a simulated walkthrough. I've used their Home Designer program for DIY kitchen design and it really helps (it's got a high learning curve, though, so if you are short on time go straight to the KD).

Do you hand wash dishes? If you spend less than 15 minutes a day at the sink, does it have to be under the window? I agree it looks nicer, but it is going to restrict your layout choices.

How neat do you keep the inside of your cabinets? Will you need to double-stack different sizes of plates or add extra shelves inside your uppers? I had three glass fronted uppers over the sink, and couldn't fit everything in neatly, which meant a permanent eyesore.

What venting options do you have for the range? Are you sure you want a range, or would you get more use out of a cooktop and a combination microwave/convection oven, which would free up some lower drawer space?

Do you need more kitchen storage, or more general household storage, or both? Or do your things fit in the cabinets you have?

Overall your room dimensions are similar to the kitchen I just ripped out - too small for me now with the kids, but a good one-cook kitchen. I can try to post pictures if that would help; it was a U shaped layout with a corner sink.

If you want to leave the sink where it is, what about taking out the rightmost cabinet in the corner, making that a super susan, putting in a base drawer unit with a cooktop on top in the center of the 8' wall, another super Susan in the next corner, fridge. That brings you to the end of the existing 6' wall with the living room. Remove that 33" wall. Continue base drawer units for about 5' with a breakfast bar overhang of 15" to the living room side, with a possible support column running through the cabinets about where the 33 is on the drawing.

If you put upper cabinets only along the 8' wall and the 6' wall with the living room (if needed), it would feel more open. But that leaves you with minimal floor space and a lot of base corner cabinets, so it's not ideal.

And I don't know about earthquake proofing requirements, but around here you could span 14' with a microlam header if it's a light load. It might be worth a call to your local lumberyard if you aren't ready to hire a structural engineer. They have software that can estimate the beam required based on the span and number of floors above and it's free; you may want or need an engineer for the permit. At least it would tell you if you can take out all or part of that wall.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 11:36PM
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Thanks, Barlowmom. I am putting up a photo from the view of the sliding door, in case that helps. I will try to find a user-friendly KD 3-D thing - it took me hilariously long even to get that Floorplanner one right!

Great questions - yes if you happened to have photos of your U-shape that would help so much!

Sink: I do hand-wash usually - I was I think more leaving the sink to keep the plumbing easy and such. I suppose that could move? Maybe the stove could go under the window?

Cabinetry: I am looking for this room to hold all kitchen-related items - I have garage storage for other stuff. Re. neatness within cabinets. They are going to be stacked full - so no glass for me. Great point! I also appreciate the susan ideas. And I agree - it seems like I should keep cabinetry on 6', 8', and window sides.

Not sure about venting on range. I know I cannot vent out the 8' side b/c it is a shared wall with next townhouse, and I wonder if I move the stove to the 8' wall if I would have to run a vent around to the current vent anyways (on 6' wall) - which would lose a lot of space too.

I do cook and use oven and broiler a lot, so I will have to look into micro/convection oven idea. I don't know what that is.

I was told that a support column would have to be where the 33" wide wall ends (on the side towards the 11", not on the side of the 6' wall). I was thinking of having that beam, and replacing the 33" wall with a 2-stool counter/cabinets instead? It might look weird b/c of how it would open into the space next to it?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 4:13AM
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I have a small galley kitchen with a lot of issues, so I know how hard it is to reconfigure this kind of space. But just at first glance it seems to me that you almost have to consider flipping things some. I can't quite see the dimensions, but could you make it a very small U with the peninsula open to the living space? What I'm wondering is if you could move the fridge next to the patio door, put the range at the top of the U, and put the sink and d/w on the interior wall, which would be extended and opened up to the living space? Then you could have some stools on the living side with enough counter overhang for some every day eating space.

Three quick things: Ikea has a tool for kitchen design on its website that it pretty easy to use, as does the National Kitchen and Bath Association and a few big box stores. For some reason I found Ikea's the most useful, although it has a lot of annoying quirks. But it's great to be able to play around with ideas - I probably did 500 different layouts of my tiny space in hopes of finding something that might work well.

Second, appliances. Don't dump your range! Cooktops are tempting but a range is the most efficient use of limited space, and unless you never cook, you'd miss the function as would any future buyers. In fact you can find a number of 30" ranges now that have double ovens - I got a GE Café with a smaller oven on top and 5 burners; it's great in a narrow space. The fridge is even more important; if you can swing it, look into Liebherr or similar models. Liebherr makes some very cool high-end tall skinny fridges that pack a lot of punch in a small space; you can find similarly sleek stuff from Blomberg and Fagor that's geared toward smaller city kitchens. Check out the AJ Madison website, you can narrow by size and other considerations.

Finally, don't assume that moving plumbing or gas lines are going to be cost-prohibitive. I sweated that for way too long, and in the end when we finally redid our kitchen, it was the easiest and less stressful part of the renovation. And we're on a slab! It cost a bit more than if we'd left everything in place, but it wasn't nearly as big of a deal as I had made it out in my mind.

One last thing - I've linked to a kitchen reveal that shows just how great a very small galleyish kitchen can look.

Here is a link that might be useful: Brooklyngalley reveal

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 6:27AM
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I agree w/ smalloldhouse about the ikea planner and keeping a range. And I definitely agree about using aj madison to search for space efficient frigs, such as Liebherr. I have a small kitchen, though not a galley. And the 30" Liebherr made my whole kitchen possible. Not an exaggeration.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 9:53AM
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My first thought is: any way to get rid of one of the two interior doorways into that small room, to make more wall space for counters, etc.? This would open up a lot of options, but make the room a bit more isolated.

This post was edited by beautybutdebtfree on Thu, Jun 26, 14 at 10:09

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 10:08AM
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What is the outside wall measurement? 14' less the doorway?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 10:14AM
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Minor suggestion. Check the small LG refrigerator for a small refrigerator at a lower price point than the other options. I had one and was very pleased and it gets good reviews overall. Does not come in stainless though.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 10:26PM
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Hi everyone - thanks!
@jennifer132 - the wall to the deck is 14" across - wall to wall (includes sliding glass door). I will DEFINITELY look into the fridge you suggested. How is it holding up? Do you feel you have enough interior space?

@crl_ I will look into the LG fridge - I have been thinking I should get a fridge that is skinnier and taller. I am not wed to stainless steel, actually.

@beautybutdebtfree: I do have to leave a column up - basically in the corner between the two current doorways - it is a load-bearing wall. So I am stuck with that. I was thinking about "exchanging" the 33" wall for a half-wall: stool counter looking into the kitchen over some cabinets (on the kitchen side).

@smalloldhouse - thanks! I am going to take my measurements to IKEA and just play - that is a good idea!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 1:26AM
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LSSF - closing in a doorway is not nearly as complex as opening up a wall. If you were to close in the bottom half of the doorway next to the range but leave a pass-through opening, then you would retain similar "open-ness" visually but allow for nearly 4 feet more of counter space. It doesn't look as though moving the fridge or stove is a good option as the stove is already piped in for venting, and the fridge would probably be too visually bulky in another location. But think of 4 more feet of storage and counter space!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 6:51AM
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Where do you plan to eat? If not in the kitchen, I think I'd get rid of the double sliding door (yes, you need something for yard access, but not a slider). If you reduce that down to a single door, you can have more counter across the back; or along the left side (think built in pantry/buffet/or...fridge)

Where do the stairs come up? By the Bathroom?

If you were to lose one entrance into the kitchen, which would you prefer to lose?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 12:46PM
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@smalloldhouse - thanks for that link and ideas! It looks so nice what you have done!

@kirkhall - my hope is to primarily eat at a stool counter facing into the kitchen… so I can look at the garden. The stairs come up almost literally into the bathroom. It is not so great. Hmmmm, I don't know which I would prefer to lose in terms of doorways. I *think* the one closest to the stairs?

Ok, here is the drawing of my current thought…. Sorry for the weird drawings, but I didn't know how to do it.

That dark blob on the drawing is me trying to depict a bar-stool counter that faces the seaters looking at the door to the deck/garden (with cabinets on the kitchen side) :)

Also I have it now so that the door to the deck starts a food from the wall (and is a smaller door) so that I can put a shallow set of base cabinets (and shelving) along the wall that is shared with the 1/2 bath.

I am still unsure about where to place the fridge and whether I should seal off the entrance closest to the bathroom, as suggested by @kirkhall above. In the drawing I have done that. If I do it, I would put shallow cabinets and shelving there too, I am guessing. Although maybe I could somehow put the fridge there? Or maybe that is weird? Thoughts?

Clearly I am still open!

This post was edited by LSSF on Sun, Jun 29, 14 at 3:11

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 2:39AM
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I vote for getting rid of the doorway next to the stove. I think your pantry idea might work (maybe 15 inch deep pantry. That would leave you room on the outside wall for a 48 in door? (probably less with molding installed).
Make the doorway next to the dining room a cabinet with no uppers and a small island with one or two bars tools. Go for counter height. Keeping your original layout will cut down on costs and I like the idea of not having wasted corners in you kitchen. Make sure your walkways have about 42 to 48 inches.
If you decided on less door on the back and slightly deeper pantry, you could shorten the pantry by a foot to keep your pinch point at that doorway more open (4 feet by 18 inches instead of 15 inches by 5 feet)

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 2:47PM
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Thanks @Karenseb for these ideas. I see what you are saying, mostly - but I don't see where the fridge goes. I think it is the corner, still, right? Are you putting the 24" counter with no wall behind it though, right? It basically extends out to a bar for stool(s) at the same height, right? The only weird part then is that I will still need a load-bearing column free floating, basically, where the wall that you took down in your picture ended - parallel the end of the 15" pantry. :( I think that might look strange and/or I might bump into it?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 3:12PM
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I think your original idea would look great. Just close in the doorway near the stove with a half wall that extends to the doorway near the stairs. You would maybe have to put in a new beam over the opening.
I drew it with a 24 inch opening on the plan, but you could do a longer opening and keep the fridge and stove as is. It would certainly save on costs. You might have a pinch point with the pantry and new cabinet at the doorway and if you could angle or round the corner of the pantry and cabinet, that would help.

I tried a 3D view in Homestyler, but I am not sure how to give you that link. Maybe if you e-mail me, I can send it to you.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 7:27PM
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Thanks Karenseb - I will email you, since I am super visualizing-challenged, apparently! I appreciate understanding how this could look and I have never tried that program!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:17PM
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