Please help: Kitchen window configuration in old house

OldFaithfulAugust 22, 2013

Around 5 years ago, we bought an old house, built around 1890. It has "good bones," but needs lots of updating. We're trying to do as much of the work as we can ourselves, but know our limits -- for example, when we removed the ceiling in the dining room and found knob-and-tube wiring, we called an electrician. :) We are trying not to do "too much" to the house -- i.e., we're not looking to take down walls or otherwise try to make it look like a "new" house. We're jut trying to make it nice, for what it is, and functional for our family (we have 3 kids under 8). Also, we're fine with doing things gradually/in stages.

We're starting to turn our focus to the kitchen windows, but are discovering that this is a slippery slope. We think that the current kitchen was installed in the 50s. There is a row of Youngstown Kitchen metal cabinets in fair condition (which we can improve upon if we decide to keep the cabinets where they are), topped with a wood laminate counter and double stainless-steel sink, which is in great shape. These cabinets were installed against an exterior wall that faces west that contains a 30(w) x 52(h) window. Instead of removing the window, they installed the cabinets and sink right up against the bottom half of the window (!), and the upper half peeks out over the sink. Next to this "window" on either side are sturdy wood cabinets that look like beadboard that have no back -- i.e., they are built directly into the wall. They are in good shape.

The 30-inch freestanding (electric) range and refrigerator (which are approx. 10 years old) are located along an interior wall (which is on the south side of the house), that is approx 60 inches long, and because I cook nearly every meal at home, that wall is forever coated with grime and grease. The refrigerator is way too deep for the space it's in, and I hate that it is right next to the stove.

We added a white tile backsplash over the makeshift backsplash that was installed, and installed tile behind the stove and refrigerator, approx 2/3 of the way up the wall, painted the entire kitchen white, and removed several layers of vinyl flooring to reveal the original wood, which we sanded and finished, and removed a huge island that was taking up most of the floor space. So, it looks much better than it did when we first moved in, but most of these are temporary cosmetic fixes.

We are considering properly removing the window behind the sink/metal cabinets, and replacing it with a proper sized window above it, and leaving the sink and counter as-is, assuming that they will survive the window replacement.

The stove is right next to the opening that leads to the adjacent dining room, and is directly in the traffic pattern when one enters the house from the mudroom (which was added some 30 years ago) to get to the rest of the house, including the stairs that lead to the only bathroom (upstairs). So, we'd really like to move it, and would love to get it on an outside wall.

On the southern-facing wall are two windows, also 30 x 52(h), which are approx 20" of the floor, so this wall, in its present state, lets in a lot of light (which we love), but, if we leave the windows as-is, our use for that wall is limited. We are not sure whether we want to keep these windows the way they are, or remodel them such that they begin at counter height and go up from there. We're going in circles about this.

We were considering moving the range to that wall, in between the windows, so that we could vent it directly outside. But, there wouldn't be any counter space on either side of the range if we do that (not that there is any now). We could then install a thinner, counter-height center island, however, and use that as "counter space" for the stove. Also, in the left corner of the room next to one of the windows is a doorway that leads to a very sunny enclosed porch that we currently use as a playroom. In its current state, it's absolutely freezing out there in the winter, but we could update that and convert it to a breakfast room/activity space.

Then, if we do move the range, we could build a refrigerator/pantry on that interior wall.

We tossed around the idea of opening the kitchen up to the adjacent dining room, but have already "converted" the dining room into the other half of our living room, and really like the way it is (We took out the dining room table and replaced it with a couch and installed a wood stove.). Plus, we'd rather not take out a wall.

We also thought about installing a cooktop to the left of the sink, but then we'd need to build in an oven somewhere, and then maybe replace all of the lower kitchen cabinets, because there's currently no electricity on that sink wall. Also, we have no dishwasher, and don't want one (really!), so the counter space beside the sink is very often used for dish-drying.

We also considered turning the entire kitchen 90 degrees to the left (but leaving the sink where it is), with counters/appliances along both the south and west-facing walls. This would definitely require remodeling the 2 windows on the south wall, but it would enable us to get the stove out of the traffic pattern, and vent it to the outside. It would also require new lower cabinets b/c the cabinets we have won't work in that new configuration. Also, we'd likely lose the space for a kitchen table; I'd have to see if a smaller round table could work.

We're also not looking to spend a fortune. We know that we need to address the windows and the location of the stove, but just don't know what makes the most sense for the room. My priorities for this room are installing replacement windows, keeping the great sunlight coming in (a big plus in the long New England winters), moving the stove out of the traffic pattern, and getting some ventilation over the stove. I currently use the kitchen table as prep space, which isn't optimal.

Thank you for reading all of my rambling, and thank you in advance for your suggestions.

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Can you post some photos?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 2:05PM
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OK, I'll see what I can do. Thank you!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 6:15PM
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OK, here are a few pics to give you an idea (please don't laugh).

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 6:50PM
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Another pic.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 6:51PM
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And another.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 6:52PM
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One more.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 6:53PM
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OK, uploaded some pics. Please, be gentle.... Thank you!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:31PM
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I'm not one of the experts here so just some random thoughts.

No matter what you do you will continue to have "forever coated with grime and grease" unless you put in ventation. It can be done even in an old house (ours was built in 1926). oh I just saw you mentioned this.

There have been posters here who done successful renos with the same window situation you have. You have a few options. Replace with smaller but maybe more windows is one.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:35PM
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I just went through a similar issue with windows. I ended up replacing them with a double window that is counter height, but this resulted in my having to replace the same windows on the other side of the house for symmetry, having to reshingle the front of the house, etc. If you can come up with another option, I would strongly recommend it!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:47PM
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here is a thread with some ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: low windows

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:49PM
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Thank you! I will search for those other posts.

If we do add smaller windows that begin at counter height, it will give us many more options and an entire other wall to use. If we go that way, I'm thinking that we should think about incorporating wall space there for a stove, too, so we can vent it directly outside.

I was hoping for an easy fix, but I don't think one exists.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:53PM
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Thank you all -- searching for "low windows" was very helpful I even read of some people who left the windows and worked the kitchen around them without replacing or covering them up, and I really am excited to see what we can come up with keeping this in mind.

We had one such window in the bathroom, IN the bathtub/shower stall. The previous owners had covered the wall with a shower curtain, but the wall/window just couldn't withstand all of the moisture. So, we did remove and replace that one with a smaller one, unfortunately. If we had another bathroom, I'd have loved to have kept that big, old window there right where it was, and designated that as a "bath only" bathroom.

But I did keep the pink tub that was there and am so glad that I did. ;)

Thank you al for yor input. I'm very excited about embracing the windows and working with, instead of against, them.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 10:22PM
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