Layout advice requested!

hvhaySeptember 4, 2012

Hi all!

I discovered the Kitchen Forum a year ago when in an excess of enthusiasm my husband and I bought a fixer-upper here in the Bay Area. We made our offer 3 days before having our first baby, so I think we might have been somewhat delusional. Anyways, long story short, we finally bit the bullet and hired an architect who has provided us with three very preliminary plans that I would love to get your thoughts on.

A little bit about us and our house... We are currently a family of 3, may grow to 4 or may not. We want a family friendly kitchen that is conducive to hanging out in. There's usually just one cook, but ideally we would be able to have another person around helping/cleaning up. As far as entertaining goes, we do like to have friends and family over for dinner from time to time, but if we have more than would be comfortable in the breakfast area we have a separate dining room that we can use as we do now. We aren't gourmet chefs or anything, but I do enjoy cooking and can't wait to have a kitchen that I will be excited about spending time in. I don't have any special needs as far as a baking area or anything like that goes. We have a big backyard (for our area, anyway), and would like to integrate the kitchen and yard better than they are currently. I don't know if I should go into the look we want or if that's TMI for right now, but in a few words we envision white cabinets, a light-colored, possibly faux marble countertop in Corian or quartz... sort of an unpretentious, sorta vintage-y look that will fit with the house (a 1914 Craftsman) that all my pastel Pyrex and Jadeite will look at home in. Light and bright is what we are going for.

The room is currently about 12' x 12', but the whole rear of the house will be reconfigured to include laundry, a bathroom, and a rear entrance, so the interior walls could theoretically move around a bit.

Out of the 3 plans, personally I like #1 the best, except I would prefer the range to be on the short side of the L instead of the island. I'm also loving the laundry room in this plan, although I'm not wedded to it. These plans are kind of a starting place for us so we anticipate changes as we move forward with the process. Any ideas or suggestions you have would be most welcome! Sorry this is so long!

#1: From September 4, 2012

#2: From September 4, 2012

#3: From September 4, 2012

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I'd do a kitchen and family room or living space [open style] across the back and the utilitarian things like half bath/entry from driveway/laundry along the side. Given what I know about Bay real estate, why wouldn't you play up having a lg back yard.... with the climate and high cost of real estate,design so that the open part of your design can fully embrace the back exposure. Moving in and out the yard to kitchen/great room,rather than thru kitchen to living/family room would be a lot nicer in my opinion.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 7:37PM
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Not a lot to contribute, but I agree with you: #1, but get the cooktop to the ell.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:28PM
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In all three plans you essentially have corridor-width spaces on each side of the island, making it awkward for two or more people to be in those spaces at the same time. Plan 1 doesn't have a pantry or foor/condiment storage area in the vicinity of the refrigerator, as does Plan 3. Is that an issue for your cooking/foor storage style? Good luck with your choice!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:45PM
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Are you in the SF Bay Area? I live in the east bay.

I like #1 too but I would agree to work the cooktop onto a wall. I was talked into doing that and am glad I did.

It's worth taking the time to keep switching up the layout until it works.

Have fun with your little one.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:51AM
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Thanks so much for the feedback everyone. I'm glad that it sounds like we're on the right track with #1 (and moving the range off the island).

Herbflavor, we definitely want to make the kitchen a hangout zone and we hope to achieve a comfy and cozy feel to the space without necessarily creating another living room in the back... Our house has a pretty traditional layout for its era, which we like. We do hope to maximize our yard access with french doors or something similar from the breakfast room that we can throw open on nice days.

Virgilcarter, the lack of a pantry is definitely something that needs to be addressed! I have to see if I can carve some more room out next to the fridge for food storage, or maybe I can put a pantry directly opposite the fridge and reduce that coffee/prep area that the architect put in. Currently that space has a door to the basement stairs (which would be moved elsewhere in this plan), next to a built-in china cabinet, so it's not like I would miss that chunk of space since it doesn't exist now. Regarding the aisles, right now we have like 2.5 feet between the island and the counters, so 4 feet seems like a lot to us! Right now you can barely open the dishwasher all the way. But we will keep it in mind and once the range is gone we will think about how big the island really needs to be.

Camphappy, I am in the Easy Bay too, in Oakland!

Thanks again! We will proceed with our fine-tuning and I'm sure I will be back with more questions!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 1:21PM
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#1 moving the stove. I'm assuming the dining room is below the kitchen? If so I think I'd try to get a few stools at the island if possible for breakfast and replace the breakfast area with more of a keeping/hearth room area. Basically a spot for a small sofa and chairs where your child could play while you cook or other adults could relax. Otherwise I'm afraid you'd feel cut off from the rest of the house with the kitchen tucked in back by itself like that. I think that would help relate to the outside more as well since it would be more of a living area. Here's an example from Houzz -

Traditional Kitchen design by Minneapolis Design-build Schrader & Companies

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 1:35PM
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Lisa_wi, that sure looks like a cozy area in that picture and I agree completely that the breakfast area needs to be a comfortable spot where the kiddo can play and adults can relax, but hopefully we can achieve it with a banquette-type solution instead of a sofa, where we can both eat, hang out, do homework...? You're right, the dining room is below the kitchen. We eat there now and don't have a big problem with it, but we would prefer to be able to eat in the kitchen when it's just the family. There were actually stools at our current island when we moved in, but it didn't feel like the space was big enough for that, though we can play with the idea now before we get locked into any particular design. As it is, nobody seems to do a lot of hanging out in the current living room anyway and I really see people gravitating to the kitchen once it's a nicer place to be. I hope that isn't wishful thinking!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 4:10PM
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Hvhay, I'm definitely inclined to the laundry setup in #3. I like the nice cross hall and think it would be a more than acceptable substitute for that extra, dark laundry space that's only good for standing. Is that really a place you'd care to hang out in? If you do definitely see yourself standing in there folding clothes, then it would likely be very worth the investment. If not, though, maybe grab your clothes from the dryer in what's going to be a pleasant, open cross hall? You can always go stand in that nice pantry when you need a moment to yourself.

Also, I'd recommend you hold off on building in a banquette until you've lived with your new kitchen for a while. This is The Day of the Banquette. They have some real virtues, and I've liked them longer than most people here have been alive, but I promise that in future they will never look as glossy and desirable as they do now, not for the next 60 years or so, and their negatives will become newly obvious. Especially to adults who've done the sliding in and over thing more than enough.

In future, once the in-style dazzle has dimmed, to still look as good banquettes will need to either create a truly special space for sitting or be an obvious answer to an obvious need. Those that don't will look like what they were, something that was "in" when the kitchen was remodeled. Conversely, a nice table and chairs will never look so...boring and unspecial as it does now. So, just be sure a fixed, inflexible banquette is the best option for you. OR, don't bolt it down. Just set it there.

If you do one, though, then the back wall of #1 would be great. This would create the rationale for its being that would make it always look right, and it looks like it would also create a particularly special, inviting space to enjoy. A mini sunroom looking out over the garden. In the other plans it lacks that compelling reason for being and is also off balance, a problem that can be fixed with decorative sleight of hand, but still...

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 4:34PM
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Rosie, I see your point and I wonder whether having a whole room for laundry is worth it. The room has a small window in these drawings so it wouldn't be all that dark, hopefully, and I could see myself folding there, but I wonder whether the space would be better used in other ways. However, I do think the room could be useful to store brooms, vacuum, other unsightlies, etc., which otherwise don't have a designated home. (There's currently a very small broom closet where the new back entrance is.) It's something I need to ponder, especially given my equally strong desire/need for a pantry. In #3 I suppose the machines could also be stacked, creating room for some storage beside them...

I didn't know this was the Day of the Banquette! My husband and I were interested in one at least partly because the built-in concept seems to fit with our Craftsman-era house, but maybe we were also infected by the zeitgeist without knowing it. I have seen a lot of pictures of completely adorable banquettes that look very uncomfortable, so we are on our guard against that. I appreciate the heads-up on the drawbacks and will keep them in mind as we proceed.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 8:49PM
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Sorry I missed the window. It does make it nicer. It's such a personal thing, but my choice would still be to put that standing space to different use. Definitely some space there or elsewhere for a dedicated broom closet or a dedicated pull-out broom/vacuum unit that'd fit in the same places a pull-out pantry would. Those things take surprisingly little room when storage is designed well. Mine is a tall shallow cupboard. Household chemicals go in an upper cabinet over a lower broom-hanging closet. Plus a 4" deep shelf unit is mounted on the broom-area door. It holds a ton of stuff. Only cleaning products used at the sink or on the counters go under the sink.

The built-in concept, of course, should be excellent for a Craftsman-era home. If you decide on one, I'd say try a bunch of banquettes out until you find one that feels really good. Don't just take dimensions from the web.

I built in an L-shape "banquette" with slightly slanted unupholstered back because of limited space, which did not allow enough room for a really nicely slanting, upholstered back that would keep heads from touching the wall. While I was still wondering how to design it and worrying if I would be happy with it, when vacationing in Key West, I wandered into a charming restaurant in an old building that had banquettes and benches built in wherever one would fit. Seats and backs varying tremendously according to the amount of space available--seat depth, seat tilt, various back tilts, no back tilt, no back at all, amount of heel space, no heel space, upholstered and unupholstered. Fortunately, it was late afternoon and mostly empty, so out came the tape measure, notebook, and camera, and I tried out every one of them and made my decision on what would work well enough for me to be happy with. They're used to tourist behavior down there, of course, but the staff's complete disinterest in me and what I was doing made me pretty sure they'd seen it before, probably more than once. :)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:06PM
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