Layout Review Request

DIY2Much2DoAugust 4, 2014


I'd love some of you experienced kitchen remodelers review my plan. I'm still in the concept layout phase, and some days perhaps even in the "is this worth it" phase.

We are contemplating updating the kitchen in our 22 year-old, three-story townhouse. The existing L-shaped kitchen is original, and is on the second floor of the house. Everything is builder basic, inexpensive oak cabinets, white laminate counters and sheet vinyl flooring. We have replaced the original appliances piecemeal over time. There is currently a 3' x 5' kitchen table with five chairs. The room has 8' ceilings with soffits, and tall windows on the outside wall.

We are a 50ish couple with no children. We have a dog. We use our kitchen daily, cooking meals from scratch about six days a week, so functionality is as important as aethestics. It's usually just the two of us, and when we entertain it's just small groups, so we're not designing for a crowd.

The kitchen works reasonably well for us, but we'd like to improve two main issues.

1) Storage. We have too much clutter on horizontal surfaces. Improvements would be by removing bulkheads, taller wall cabinets, additional cabinets in island, redoing pantry in full height cabinets, and purging accumulated items.

2) Bottleneck. The current bottleneck is the inside corner of the L. This functions as the main prep area, but also houses the cutlery drawer, glasses above, and plates are nearby. Hopefully this would be fixed by keeping area to the left of the sink as prep/cooking zone, and moving dish and cutlery storage to the right of the sink in the island or pantry area.

Thanks for any input! Really appreciated, and amazed at everyone's kitchens on this site.

^ Before

^ New Layout 01

Notes on the new plan:

- Closed existing two story opening to foyer below, to provide additional floor area. Honestly, the opening to the foyer below is so small it doesn't really add any spacial quality. Some of the other houses in the neighborhood have this closed up.

- The chase behind the pantry contains ductwork and some pipes, but there's quite a bit of open space as well. Once I open it up to investigate, I may be able to pick up a few inches here and there.

- Island adds counter space, storage and seating. We currently have a kitchen table plus a dining table in the next room. We don't need two sets of furniture with identical function sitting a few feet from each other.

- Enlarged the opening to the dining area by removing most of the wall above the sink. This eliminates some uppers.

- I'm concerned about aisle widths, although it's no different than the current withs with all the chairs in the kitchen, which hasn't been a big deal. We'll mock up the island to test physically. I'm not too worried because our favorite kitchen ever was a small galley in our former condo, which shouldn't have worked on paper but really did. (but we had less stuff then.)

Existing Kitchen Photos:

Here is a link that might be useful: KK Kitchen Album on Flickr

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Switch the swing the powder room door so that the view isn't of the toilet.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 5:35PM
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How deep is your fridge? Most standard depth fridges are about 35" for box, doors and handles. If that's how deep your fridge is, then your 44" aisle becomes a 34", which is insufficient, not just for daily use but also for pulling the fridge out of or pushing it into its opening. Not a problem with a movable table; big problem with a fixed island.

Is the fridge one of the appliances you've already updated? If not, would you be willing to replace it with a counter depth model? We have a KA counter depth fridge and find it's plenty large enough for the 3 of us (college kid living at home). That would gain you a few much needed inches to ease that pinch point.

How do you envision using the island seating? As a perch to visit while someone cooks or for eating meals?

36" is tight for an aisle behind seating but likely doable if it's just the two of you. It will be more of a sidle past than a walk behind aisle. It also looks as though you're only allowing a 10.5" seating overhang. That is also not very generous. It's very hard for most people to sit comfortable without more overhang; 15" is the recommended minimum, 18" if you're tall.

Where do you plan to store glasses, dishes and silverware? In the island or in the 24" cab to the left of the sink? If you plan to store them in the cab to the left of the sink and you are willing to reduce the depth of the pantry and the aisle between island and sink run, you could add these inches to the seating overhang and/or the seating aisle.

On the other hand, if you plan to store dishes in the drawers in the island directly across from the DW, you'll want another inch or two of aisle so that you can have both DW door and drawers open at the same time. (I'm assuming 1 1/2" counter overhang).

In your modestly sized kitchen, I'd be tempted to leave the trash under the sink and not give it its own cab. Or do you, like me, need multiple cans to hold trash, recycling, returnables, etc? I will have trash and returnables under my sink and another cab for mixed recycling and glass recycling.

If you can are willing to keep the trash under the sink, you could convert that cab to a pantry pull-out cab.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 6:40PM
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Thank you debrak2008 and lisa_a for the suggestions.

Lisa, to answer your questions . . .

The refrigerator is a side-by-side and is 32.5” deep. We would consider replacing it with a counter depth which definitely would provide a better aisle as you suggest..

I envision using the island seating as you mentioned… a perch to visit and for occasional meals. My instinct is that the 36” sidle-behind will be fine, but I think it’s time to physically mock it up and see in the space. I was planning on 15” of leg room. The seating overhang is drawn at 15” deep. The base drawers in the island would be custom depth at about 19” to provide the legroom. The trash is drawn at 24” deep.

I haven’t laid out each specific storage location yet, but the plan is to store all dishes and cutlery to the right of the sink only, in the pantry cabinetry and/or the island across from the pantry. This would separate it from the prep and cooking functions in the corner of the L.

I was thinking that the trash cab would be a 2-bin combination trash/recycling. I’m assuming in actual use it would be pulled only half way to expose the trash, with the recycling bin behind. I’ll think about using the sink cabinet, maybe by trying our existing sink cab for trash for a while.

I’m going to get very specific on storage planning and dimensions now and see what evolves from that. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 8:53PM
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Oops, my mistake. I see now that the cabs on the opposite side of the counter overhang are less deep than standard. Glad to know you've allowed enough overhang. Definitely do a mock-up. Cardboard will become your friend. ;-)

I've made and hung up an "island hood" - DS1's friends were very impressed with my craft skills, lol - that helped me realize that uh, no, that would not look right, find another solution. I currently have "cabinets" and a "counter" extending along a wall farther towards our back door than our existing cabs and counters. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't bang my hip. More than a week and I'm happy to report no hip banging so the extension is a go.

Besides taking an inventory of your belongings and determining where you'll store them and doing a physical mock-up, go through the process, in your mind, of making a meal in your new kitchen to see if there's anything you need to tweak.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 1:02AM
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Your perimeter cab layout is not so dissimilar to mine. If you were to swap your stove and sink you would gain a lot more functionality just in that move.

If you did that you could store cutlery to the right of the stove (new location) and that would de-clog the corner but still keep cutlery in reach of the stove/prep. I am not sure how much space you have between the fridge and what would be your sink, but it looks like more than would be taken up by the dishwasher. There may be room there for a trash pullout that includes a drawer above for cutlery storage.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 5:47PM
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Hi Greenhaven,
I think the stove/sink swap would be zoned better as you suggest, if we had full walls. But the current sink location is not on a wall... it will be open to the dining room with no uppers. Since we have a over-the-range microwave, I don't think the range would work in the swapped location, since we want either the microwave or a hood. It's really frustrating that I just don't have more space to work with, but hopefully the compromises won't be too great. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:04PM
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There is a way to swap location of clean-up and cook zones. See shanghaimom's creative wall behind her range with cut-outs to the dining area:

You can see more of her lovely kitchen at the link below.

So taking her creative idea and applying it to your kitchen, I came up with the following plan:

I had to guess a little at dimensions since you didn't provide measurements for the the whole kitchen, only parts of it but I guesstimate that you'll have room for a 15" pull-out pantry next to your fridge. That makes up for the reduced depth of the pantry cabs in your plan. You can store a lot of items in a 6" or 9" deep space so even though it's shallow, it will be useful.

I also had to guess on how wide the cabs to the right of the range would be.

I shifted island seating to the end so that if someone is visiting with you while you cook, they won't be smack in the middle of prime island prep area. I widened the aisle between island and bathroom wall, too. It's a tiny bit less than recommended width for a walk-behind aisle but it's doable, IMO. You should mock it up and double check that the aisle width will be sufficient.

I turned the end island cab to face the sink, widening the aisle here so that you should be able to have DW door and drawers open without collision.

The 9" deep cab facing the windows can be additional pantry storage, tray storage or other purpose. It can be behind a cab door or open like this:

Asian Kitchen by Mountain View General Contractors Harrell Remodeling

Alternatively, you can make the drawer base facing the range deeper than standard.

Oh, I also adjusted the aisles on each side of the length of the island, which is doable now that the pantry cabs are shallower.

Here is a link that might be useful: finished! Vintage Cream in the City

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 12:53AM
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Thanks for your input and plan layout. I wanted to have my tunnel vision shook up, and this has done it. The shallower pantry and revised island layout are certainly doable.

I'm not enthusiastic about closing up a third of the opening to the dining room though (which is actually a living/dining room- the rest of this floor of the house). The example kitchen is exceptional and clever, but a large opening is a big desire for this remodel. This townhouse only has windows on the front and back, and the goal is to let light pass both ways to get natural light throughout the whole floor at different times of the day. Also not sure I want to face a wall at the sink. In the current kitchen, I really like the current smaller pass-thru while using the sink.

I've started getting a feel for aisle width in the space by setting the existing kitchen table in the island location. It's lower than counter height, but gives me a sense of what will work, and I'll mock up in cardboard later. So far I think the 36" seating aisle, with "sidle by space" is doable, but I'm realizing that even a 45" aisle may be tight for opening the dishwasher and cabinets across from it.

It makes me wonder if I'm forcing a much-desired island layout into a kitchen where it just doesn't fit.

And locating the trash is really difficult, isn't it? We have a freestanding trash can now. With trash in a cabinet, is that left open a lot of the time in practice?

This post was edited by DIY2Much2Do on Wed, Aug 6, 14 at 9:50

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:48AM
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Two quickies:

I have a 48" aisle, and I happened to notice just last night that when the dishwasher is fully open, and so is the drawer right across from it, there's only about 3-4" of space between them (I hadn't noticed before because this isn't a dish or silverware drawer -- it usually wouldn't be open when the dishwasher is open).

My trash is in a cabinet and is NEVER left open.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 11:46AM
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I completely understand the desire for an open view from front to back.

Do you require a full size MW? Or could you get by with a smaller MW like the GE Spacemaker II? It's shallow enough to fit in an upper cabinet, like this:

Beach Style Kitchen by Montauk Kitchen & Bath Designers Kitchens & Baths, Linda Burkhardt

Or this:

Traditional Kitchen by Burnsville Design-Build Firms Highmark Builders

If that were possible, you could add a hood to your range, eliminate the wall and leave it in front of the pass-through.

Contemporary Kitchen by Mercer Island Interior Designers & Decorators Six Walls Interior Design

Not a range but it has a higher counter behind the cook top.

Contemporary Kitchen by Seattle Interior Designers & Decorators NB Design Group, Inc

Transitional Kitchen by Austin Design-Build Firms CG&S Design-Build

Contemporary Kitchen by Austin Architects & Building Designers Loop Design

I'm not trying to persuade you one way or the other, just trying to shake up your tunnel vision some more. ;-)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 1:23PM
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I think you have room for an island but if you're concerned about it, you could do a U lay-out with a peninsula coming out from the pantry wall. It would you'd need to enter and exit your kitchen around the bottom end of the peninsula by the windows but it would give you more storage, counter and peninsula seating.

This is a very quick and dirty drawing to give you an idea how a peninsula might work for you. Obviously, I didn't change location of range, sink and DW.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 1:35PM
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A smaller wall-mount or undercounted microwave could work. Looking into the hood option, I'm not certain I'll be able to vent to the outside. I'm checking on that now. I'd have to vent to the front wall. Routing it from the center range location may conflict with joist framing. A range on the side wall could possibly vent to the front through tall upper cabinets, but I think that's not allowed by code or covenant here, because the exhaust would be too near to a neighbor's window. So I'll probably have to have recirculating.

The peninsula plan is intriguing. Having drawn many layouts, that's one that I didn't come up with. I'm going to draw up a version and see what fits. Thanks again for the input.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 3:04PM
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I like the open feel of the first version!

I don't usually recommend sinks right across from each other, but in your situation, it might be a good fit. It would help with the 'bottle neck' feel in the corner and give you a better prep space on the island.

If there's room, maybe a small, comfy chair in the corner...with an end table for coffee, tea, or the occasional glass of wine :)

Maybe cook books on the shelf behind the prep sink? Just a few ideas. From Kitchen plans

This post was edited by lavender_lass on Thu, Aug 7, 14 at 17:55

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 4:26PM
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Hi Lavender Lass,
Thanks for the feedback. Funny you should mention that corner. We were planning to put a dog bed and bowls there. That should tell you who comes first in this household.

In some of my earlier plans (not posted here), I had a prep sink in the island, but then thought to myself, is this overkill? I'd still kind of like one.

I'm thinking at this point if the dishes and cutlery are moved to the pantry wall, it would solve the bottleneck for the most part. I shouldn't have labeled it "pantry cabs" which implies food storage. It could be half dishes.

If we move forward with this renovation, I foresee lots of wine. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:50PM
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You really presented your situation beautifully and are getting excellent feedback in response. I'm happy for you! As the self-appointed head cheerleader for second sinks I am just chiming in to say "Go for it! You can do it! Win! Win! WIN!"
Getting a second sink was one of the best things I've done for my marriage. But I think that even if I lived alone and always did prep, cooking, and clean-up all by myself I'd still have more peace in the kitchen with a second sink. Peeling, thawing, washing hands, washing tools, rinsing food, soaking, draining, and getting water deserve more than one location.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:11PM
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I went back and forth about whether to add a prep sink to your island and in the end, opted not to in favor of more counter. You don't have a lot of counter as it is and the island offers the only long stretch of uninterrupted counter in your kitchen.

The other reason I didn't add one is that the end of the island - where a prep sink makes the most sense - is also the closest landing zone for fridge and pantry items. Sure, you could use the counter between fridge and range but then you'd have to have the fridge door closed first.

I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't add a prep sink, merely pointing out how its addition would affect other functions.

If you do decide to add a prep sink to the island, put the trash under it.

Hmm, your island is long enough to place the clean-up sink and DW in it and then you could put the prep sink where the clean-up sink currently is. That would give you a huge stretch of counter between sink and range.

The downside is that moving the clean-up zone to the island would mean losing an island seat. Or maybe not:

The DW is across and over a cab from the clean-up sink, which puts it in the prep zone but I thought this was preferable than having it directly across from the sink since that wouldn't give you much room to stand at the sink when the DW door is open. I tried to find pics with this set-up but I didn't have any luck. I know it's been done, I just must not be using the right search words.

The downside of that placement is that prep sink and clean-up sink are directly across from each other. If you and your spouse are working at each sink at the same time, you'll be bumping butts.

Another option is to put the clean-up zone in the peninsula.

The peninsula needs to be deeper to allow for enough of a seating overhang. I couldn't tell if you have enough room to do this while keeping a decent aisle between peninsula and bathroom wall. You could always start the peninsula closer to the range wall.

You can use the current pantry area as storage for dishes and glasses.

Since you have a dog, I would advise against open storage below counters. I have a cat and pet hair goes everywhere. ;-)

Here are some ideas for dish storage on that wall:

Traditional Kitchen by Boston Kitchen & Bath Designers Venegas and Company

Traditional Kitchen by Putney Design-Build Firms Kenzer Furniture

Traditional Kitchen by Youngstown General Contractors Shannon Cabinetry

Traditional Kitchen by Minneapolis Kitchen & Bath Designers Sawhill Kitchens

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 2:14PM
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One more version for you to consider:

This one puts the DW in the island next to the sink. That means reducing the aisles at either end of the island. Mock it up and see if it's something you can live with.

You will definitely need to swap your current fridge out for a CD fridge in this plan.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 2:26PM
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