How can we make this kitchen work?

westleyandbuttercupSeptember 2, 2012

We are starting construction on a new home very soon and have (pretty much) settled on plan 61595 by Ahmann Design. The entire plan can be seen here:

We are a couple in our late thirties and early forties with three college-age children, two live at home part-time and one serves in the armed forces. DH and I use the microwave for weekday breakfasts, but like to cook dinner together most evenings. We don't bake beyond a batch of cookies a couple times a year. The kids are seldom in the kitchen at the same time we are and primarily use the microwave for heating up leftovers, often in the middle of the night...if this forum could solve their nocturnal habits that would be amazing! :)

What can be done to make this kitchen work? Should we steal from the dining room for kitchen space?

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Oops. The plan can be seen here:

Here is a link that might be useful: Plan 61595

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 9:47AM
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I have a similiar layout (without pantry) and so far, its working very well for me. I would move the fridge to the right so that it is more in the aisle of the range. I have a countertop next to the fridge as recommended by GW, but what I didn't consider is that the fridge side of my 2 door fridge / freezer opens towards the countertop and essentially makes a barrier. Because of this, I tend to use the island more for placing things down as I take them out of fridge. It's not a problem at all, but I just thought I'd mention it to you because its probably not ideal and if you are buying all new appliances, you might be able to arrange the openings to the ideal.

Nice house plan. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:15AM
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What do you not like about it?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:43AM
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Do you feel there is not a good space for a microwave? I'm putting an extra microwave in my dining room. I'm renovating an early 1900's building and the dining room and kitchen will not be next to each other.

I would build a microwave station in your dining room, in the corner made by the 2 short walls. Or would moving the dining room entry off the foyer work? If the entry to the dining room moved to the left, you could put a microwave station next to the fridge. I would place a short wall there to indicate the microwave was within the kitchen space.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:45AM
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We find it very handy to have the microwave near the refrigerator, so if it were my house (the kitchen layout looks good to me, by the way) I would put the MW either on the counter or in the upper cabinet next to the fridge. If you wanted a separate sink to keep fridge-raiders out of your cooking area (also very handy in our house), you could lose the seating overhang on the island to maximize island cabinet space and drop a small prep sink there. I have never quite understood the need for island seating right next to a dining table anyway.

If I were to rearrange anything in your kitchen plan, it would be to swap the locations of the sink and range. I realize this is not the current style with the range being the focal point of the view from the DR, but it would improve the workflow, at least for me. When I cook, food moves from fridge to sink to range to DR. Just a suggestion and I realize that the big drawback would be giving up the window, unless your local code allows for a window over the cooking surface, as I understand some do.

But I am really posting because of your forum name. I wanted to be the very first to tell you "Have fun storming the castle!" It seems especially appropriate in your case. :)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 11:37AM
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As drawn your plan has a very commom built-in efficiency/ function defect.

If you take something from the fridge that needs water before cooking (that could be anything from a quick wash as part of prep or adding a bit of water to a pot of frozen peas) you must walk past the range to get to the water tap, then back to the range for cooking. And the distance (15 feet across the interior of your kitchen) will add steps, possible collision points with other workers and waste time and your energy while cooking.

Solution: get the fridge closer to the range; give it better counter-height landing space; and get a prep sink in the area. Also as noted above make sure the door swings open in a convenient way for prep work, not as it is presently drawn.

This will give you better, and separate, working zones: the clean-up area around the sink/DW and the fridge/pantry storage prep (with water tap) zone convenient to the cooking zone.

I always suggest that you think first of the pathways food takes within your kitchen before thinking about amenities. Where does it come into the kitchen from outside the house? Where is it stored (and what kind of storage - does most of your food get stored cold in the frdige or freezer, or dry in boxes and cans)?

How is it transformed from stored food to ready to eat? What is necessary to do prep (water, chopping area, cutting board knife storage or processing equipment like a food processor, etc.)? A midnight raid for ice-cream needs just bowls,spoons and an ice cream scoop. Mornings in your house may mean taking frozen waffles out of the freezer and popping them into a toaster. Or maybe you make scrambled aeggs and bacon? How about coffee? Do you roast it, grind it, store it in the freezer, run it through one of those machines that make and hold coffee, or just add powder to a ccup of water and nuke it? (You can probably tell that I don't drink coffee, so my examples may be bizarre!)

What is needed for cooking - I like to have at least one oven near the cooktop as I do many things that use both means of cooking for a single dish. Since you are non-bakers then having separate baking station doesn't come into play. Good venting of the cooktop is important so think about where outside venting can be easily achieved. Finally, how convenient is the plating? Think where are the dishes used in plating in your household - if you plate to serving dishes then they should be at hand, but if you serve your food already on plates then the plates or bowls should be stored close to the cooking area. How do you use a MW in your household? Is it used as part of other steps in cooking, so that having it close to the range smooths the work process. Or is it used mostly in more freestanding ways (ex: nuking oatmeal or snacks?)

Where do you eat your meals - so which way does the food o out to the table? (Sometimes this varies among meals, so think about each kind of regular meal -ignore giant holiday feasts at this point. Ditto caterers' convenience unless you have that kind of service on a weekly basis.)

When the meal is done, plates and excess food come back in for more attention. How convenient is it to store left-overs if you have them in your family? Do you need to re-pack left-overs in vacuum bags or just refrigerator containers?

Many people like to have a DW near to where dishes are stored, and it's a good idea. but it's also important to not have the DW open into the working area or passage from one working area to another so having it on the left of your sink (as currently drawn) is good. You might consider having the main dishes needed for plating stored in the island so they'd be convenient for emptying the DW, while still being at hand for getting the food on the table.

Obviously you'll come to points where there isn't room for everything in the most logical place. That always happens, but keep your primary and most frequent uses in mind and give them the most precedence in deciding what goes where. Don't get caught up in the idea that all of a set of dishes must be stored together, for instance. Your coffee cups don't need to be near your dinner plates. Your cereal bowls may be best stored near the fridge (milk and dry cereal) or near MW if you nuke oatmeal, as examples.

Similarly, your most common cooking pots should be convenient to where they are first used. Large pots that are filled with water as first step in cooking should be closer to the water tap, while saute pans and dutch ovens should be closer to the prep zone where their primary ingredients are worked on; a skillet for frying eggs should be near the stove since you usually take the eggs directly to the cooktop as a first step. The roasting pan you only use for the Thanksgiving turkey can be out in the garage - if necessary - since you'll only have to make that trip twice a year: to fetch it in and then re-stow it. You can bring in the Christmas cookie cutters in when you take the roasting pan back out.

Spend some time to really think through how you use your kitchen before you start to think about what's in it (styles, colors, appliances, etc.) This will pay off in making the most of your space. If you do the un-sexy work ahead of time you are more likely to get a great-working kitchen and it will not lead to an ugly kitchen. Once you have the functional layout down you can populate it with all the must-have features you want - and you'll be able to do it without the angst that comes from getting your heart set on something that not only won't work with your space and cooking habits, but might end up making your kitchen less pleasant to use.

Take some graph paper and draw the outlines of your space and play around with it while thinking through what -and how - you commonly cook. I drew endless lines on each potential layout as I walked myself through the steps in our favorite dishes. This quickly showed me where I was backtracking and helped me get stuff arranged so it had the least number of compromises. In the end there was almost no question where the major zones needed to be - and then where each type of item should be stored. It all seemed to come together perfectly. (And I have a narrow-ish, bizarre, ill-shaped space with six doors and two unmatching-styled windows. Oy!)

I didn't start planning this way, however. I began as most people do thinking mostly about what look I wanted in my kitchen - things I had seen that attracted me: styles, colors, features and just details. But every time I tried to fit all these things in the plan it quickly got unmanageable and I had to start making difficult choices between items that I was attached to in my mental picture of the kitchen. And even with all that effort I still had designs that didn't seem right. Out of frustration I scrapped all the plans and started thinking just about the food pathways as I have described above. To my surprise a plan took shape quickly, and in the end it was the winner.

With the functional zone issues settled, I then had the pleasure of choosing what I wanted in the areas; since I already knew the dimensions and purposes of each space it was lots of fun finding just what I wanted, knowing it would all work.

I think that a thoughtful, self-observant, user of a proposed kitchen has a far greater chance of coming up with a fantastic design for both the space and for the family it will serve. Architects and kitchen designers rarely come up with the best choices. Even the best ones are naturally focused on giving you the things that you say you want, but unless you have taken the time to really think about how you will use the kitchen most effectively for you, your answers will be superficial and not get you to the optimal design.

If you feel you need for professional design advice, do the steps I outlined above, first. Only you really know how you will use the kitchen. Come up with a clear idea about where the best zones are for you, and then get help on the decoration and mechanical details, if you must.

There are tons of very helpful ideas here so take some time to read through many threads and ask questions of real-life users.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 12:00PM
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For an island that size, I would make it one level instead of two level. I LOVE the big open counter space I have on my peninsula which is a similar size as your island, although a bit longer. If you could make the island a tiny bit wider than 3 feet, you would just have room for 2 small size barstools on each side of your island. Ideally, you need 24-28" or even 30" of width for each seated person. At a minimum, this needs to be about 21". I would not do a dining table with personal space this narrow, but you could prob get away with it at your island because there will only be 2 people on each side of the island, so one side is open space for each person. If it was 3 people, the person in the middle would be bumping elbows, lol.

You may not even be planning to have stools at the island. Some people don't when there is a table right next to it. I'm one that still wants stools at the island/peninsula bar. In fact, I just went the other night to see a house my friend just bought. Her island did not have overhang for stools and we BOTH remarked on wishing it had, even though it is an eat-in kitchen. For resale I wouldn't be happy if it didn't have island stool seating. Plus with kids your age, it prob won't be long before you have spouses and grandkids so you will need all the extra seating you can get !!

With that plan your fridge definitely needs to be counter depth. They are quite a bit more expensive. If you can recess the fridge into the hallway behind it, you can have the look of counter depth without the expense.

I am assuming that the microwave will be in the upper cabinets between the fridge and pantry, or either built in under the counter there. Unless you plan it to be over the stove ? Shhhhh ... don't say that out loud around here, hahaha. The GW folks talked me into a hood above my stove. I had always lived in houses with the MW built in above the stove.

I don't think you can steal from the dining space. What you have now looks to be only about 9'7". Our house has a similar width, and we had to be sure to choose a dining table that was only 36" wide to allow room for the chairs and maneuvering behind the chairs. The size of the dining room on your plan leaves little room for barstools to be used at the counter at the same time as the table. Our dining does not back up to a bar. It's not ideal, but it works. Your dining area needs to steal some room from somewhere not vice versa !!

Here are dining table clearance rules ... Allow 24" for a seated dinner with no obstruction (wall, furniture, etc) behind. Allow 32" from table edge to wall for a seated diner with no traffic passing behind diner. If traffic passes behind a seated diner between the table and an obstruction, allow minimum 36" to allow someone to slide behind / edge past a seated diner, or minimum 42-44" to allow traffic to walk behind a seated diner. And allow 60" for a wheelchair to pass. To allow for a dining table right next to an island with barstools, add approx 18", assuming a fairly modest sized barstool. So ... you would need minimum 42 + 18 = 60" between the edge of the dining table and the island counter edge to allow traffic in between. Understand, these are minimums, more would feel more spacious.

Doing the math ... If your room is 9'7", you have 115" minus 60" on the island side minus 24" on the living room side (no obstruction behind) = your dining table can only be 31" wide. It may not be easy to find a table you like with this width. The length of your room is 14 ft, but it has a door opening on each end. Instead of the 42" minimum, you really should go with 48" minimum on each end. This would allow for a 6 foot long table.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Well, I just looked at the plan link. I see the dining says the dimensions are 10 ft wide ... But that goes to the other side of that short little wall between the dining & living. So really, you only have 9'8" down by the wall and 10' the rest of the space. You could prob get away with a 36" wide table depending on how long that short wall is.

If it were me, I would add 2 feet to the width using that in the kitchen and the dining room, and widening the garage. You can use the extra width In the garage for shelving/storage down one of the walls. Also, I would move the door going into BR3 so that anyone going to the hall bath from there would not have to walk past the living entry to do it. I like built in cabinets in laundry instead of a closet. You could have a bin for dirty clothes and a short rod to hang clothes straight out of the dryer along with upper cabinets. I would also swap the location of the laundry sink down to by the door. Or, maybe have a spare freezer there instead.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 2:01PM
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Wow. Thank you everyone for the thoughtful responses.

I'm not sure that we don't like the plan, so much as we are worried about some of the components of it. The aisles between the perimeters and the island seem a little narrow, and we would want to make sure we wouldn't be crossing paths very often. We're a little worried about looking across the dining room table (though a light fixture?) into the living room...and concerned about the size of the dining room in general. I'm also having a hard time visualizing a corner pantry that isn't walk-in.

Here is a sketch with a couple changes. The top is mostly to scale, but I threw the basement stairs and such on just before scanning.

We slid the doorway to the kitchen/dining area over two feet toward the living room. On the sink wall, we swapped the windows and full light door for glass sliders, giving us a couple extra feet there, too. Our thinking is with the fridge and the sink on the same wall, we would likely do a lot of prep on that side of the island. Because of the hard time visualizing the pantry, we've sketched in full-height pantries where the fridge used to be.

I've also drawn in the kitchen table we are currently using for all meals--at least the ones not eaten on the couch. :) We pulled it out of storage when we moved from our previous home into the one we're renting during construction because our usual table is too large. It is functional and we could use it in the new home if needed. We've made multiple sketches this morning trying to incorporate a table right into the island, but can't seem to get it to look "right." We're open to suggestions that combine the island and seating if somebody has them. We really need to stay within the footprint of the design...though I would love to add a couple feet as you suggested, angela12345.

Is the layout in the sketch an improvement?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:06PM
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I think so. That pantry was bugging ne because it gave you so little counterspace there. I like the fridge on that side.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 5:01PM
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Much improved - I like it - not an expert, but it seems to flow better :-)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 5:37PM
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Now the DW door will drop down, and block, the clearest path between fridge > sink > range.

If someone is getting something out of the DW, loading or unoading while someone else is cooking you have a bottleneck.

Any reason you can't add a prep sink, move the fridge across the kitchen so it and the pantry (food storage zone) are on a direct line to the range. This would keep your clean-up zone separate so work there would not intrude in the prep to range axis.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 5:53PM
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I understand, we also had to build within a certain footprint and could not exceed it by even one inch. Too bad though, it would certainly help !! And wouldn't cost too terribly much extra because most of the additional 2 feet would be garage space.

I am definitely not one of the design experts around here. That being said, I liked the pantry next to the fridge because all of that stuff was there together for putting groceries away and for gathering all the ingredients to prepare your meal. At our house, we use the peninsula across from the fridge and pantry as a landing space, rather than the space right next to them.

I do like moving both of the entries into the dining area closer to the living. Swapping the door with the window to the porch is a great idea, or either putting the door where the window was and getting rid of the window all together as you show above. On the opposite wall, I would center the open doorway to your table.

But, moving the doors doesn't mean you can use all that wall space where the doors were for fridge and pantry or cabinets. The clearance rules still apply ... If your original table could be 6 ft long and you used 2 feet for counter depth fridge where the original porch door was, then your table could be 4 feet long. If you also used the other end of the room for 2 feet deep pantry cabinets, then your table could only be about 2 feet long, LOL !!

I have seen some kitchens with table built in to the islands that looked Fabulous !!! I do not remember who had them though.

The corner pantry as before wouldn't be a walk in, but more a step in pantry. With that design, I would recommend 10" deep shelves (12" at the most) up the back wall and using the remaining space on the two sides to hang your apron, lean broom against the wall, or maybe hang from a hook, etc. Could maybe even have angled shelves that would turn the corner and square the space off.

With the original design, a prep sink in the island could bring the water closer to the fridge, pantry, and range.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 5:58PM
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Your original plan is very similar to my old kitchen and it worked very well. We did lengthen the stove wall by bumping out the top kitchen wall and turn the island 90 degrees. We only had seating on what is your dining room side. I would suggest dw drawers though. We stored dishes in the cabinet to the left of the window and the dw was often in the way. my trash pullout was in the island closest to the sink. We also had the fridge wall built 6 inches thicker and recessed a standard depth fridge into it which worked great.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 8:48AM
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Eliminating the angle on the pantry could give you more usable space in the kitchen and more wall space for the master BR if a single door entry works for you.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 10:27PM
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liriodendron gave you very important feedback--I'd pay very close attention to it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:13AM
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