Layout help needed with too big but too small kitchen

Molly PhillipsSeptember 9, 2012

Our current kitchen is large - between the stove and the sink, there is almost 9 feet of floor space. That's a lot of wasted space between the two and I would love more prep space that an island can provide.

An architect drew up this for me - it adds a 6x2.5 island with a prep sink, that will help shorten the triangle. It does shrink the footprint - between the sink and island and then the island and stove, the space is about 37" wide. This is a fairly new house and I don't want to knock down walls and do a complete reno.

What suggestions/solutions do you bright people have? And this may be for another post, but what do I need to have in the island (outside of electrical outlets) to maximize its effectiveness?

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"but what do I need to have in the island (outside of electrical outlets) to maximize its effectiveness? "

Two airplane tickets to Hawaii!

Sorry I'm not, and never will be an Island fan, at least the kind one finds in too many kitchens.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 10:49PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Do you have a built in refrigerator that is only 24" deep? Because unless you do, the clearance between the fridge and island is way way too tight. "Standard" refrigerators are around 30" deep, 34" with handles. That takes that 37" (which is already too tight) down to 27", which means you will never be able to replace that refrigerator, because you won't be able to get it out and a new one in place.

You've got room for a much smaller 24" deep rolling cart, not a fixed island.

If it were my kitchen, what I'd do would be to rearrange the cabinets and switch the DW to the other side, move the sink down to the left, and move the fridge across the aisle. Then do a peninsula out from where the fridge currently is, and put a prep sink it the corner that that would form. That would give you the proper prep space next to water, but closer to the range than currently exists. It would also keep traffic out from behind the cook, which is an existing safety hazard as the kitchen is currently laid out.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 11:05PM
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Molly Phillips

hmmm....that definitely gives me new ideas because, yep, we have a big fridge. The cost, however, just went up exponentially! Tell me why I'd need to move the sink instead of just moving the DW to the other side of the sink (which, confession: that does make me a little sad, as I prefer the DW to the right of the sink, but I like the layout you provided - it feels like much more space)

Would a prep sink look weird in the corner? I've never seen one in that spot.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 8:43AM
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I think that is where circuspeanut's was in her previous, or soon to be previous, house. I thought it was brilliant!. You may google it.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 9:16AM
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If you move the arched doorway to where the pantry cupboard is, you could put the stove where the original doorway is. Then you can have a smaller island with no prep sink.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Molly Phillips

I'm trying to keep costs at a minimum, as this redo is not going to add value to our house, just sanity to my brain, so I really don't want to move the gas lines for the stove. I'm not married to an island; I just need some more work space and have this big empty floor that seems lonely.

With putting in an island, I would be able to keep our granite countertops and not have to replace them. I actually don't like the color of them at all, but it seems such a waste to throw out something so expensive. I don't want to create another problem just so I can keep an old problem, though, either.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 2:19PM
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I have a big small kitchen too. :-) Mine currently has an island and I say "don't do it!!" because in a big small space, every island is a barrier island. I know it's tempting to want to put in an island since the floor seems so expansive, but in reality, it just isn't. The peninsula idea is a good one.

I also hear you on doing a redo that doesn't add value. It seems that everything nowadays is simply square feet no matter how nice or how functional or dated or crazy those square feet are! Frustrating. On the other hand, it's made me realize that in this renovation, there's going to be a lot of "off the rack" stuff rather than the custom stuff I've driven myself - and my wallet - crazy on before.

Oh, and after three renovations, I can also say, "Do not ever let an architect design a kitchen." My architect here drew a fabulous floorplan for the second and third floors, but his kitchen was a one way trip to crazy town. He actually had a peninsula with stools in a 43" doorway - that was a main traffic pattern. So not only were those stools never going to work, I'd have to pay for a $$$ island hood and still have a whack-a-doodle kitchen!

Let us know what you like to do in the kitchen - even if it isn't cooking - and see if folks here can get you where you need to be with minimal moving of utilities and services.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 3:06PM
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I can't quite tell exact measurements, so take this with a grain of salt b/c I'm not sure if it works or not. If you like the peninsula plan and don't want to change out ctops, could you just make the peninsula a different surface, say butcherblock for example? If you wanted a little more definition, it could be set a few inches lower (or higher) than the granite.

Just an idea. : )

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 3:24PM
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I could have written this myself a few months ago. I too have a big-small kitchen. I ended up with a similar layout which hollysprings posted. I feel like now, with my G shaped kitchen, aesthetically I have too much floor space in the middle, but there was also no way that an island would have been functional. I am free to move around and dance when i'm cooking, and I can spread my prep around leaving a mess in every corner for my husband to clean up (fine by me)

By contrast my parents have a very large kitchen but only have 37" wide aisles between their island and perimeter cabinets. It is much, much too small. I would bump my hips constatly on the island and the kitchen always feels crammed.

I still swoon over pretty kitchens with large islands. But like you (and most) I had budget and space restraints. Compromises had to be made and while my G-shaped kitchen isnt as pretty as the ones I swoon over, it's perfectly funtional for my familys' needs

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 4:44PM
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Molly Phillips

Twn85, do you have pictures of your final design? Would love to see it.

Laughable, that may be an alternative. I definitely don't want to go shorter, as I am 5'9 and DH is 6'3. My only thing is that I'd have to add some granite to the left of the stove (where the current fridge is now, before the corner begins to make a peninsula) but maybe I could take what I'd be cutting out on the other side where the fridge would be moved? I don't know enough about granite to know if that's an option. Honestly I'd love new counters but even getting DH to consider any of this is enough of a challenge - he sees the square footage and thinks I'm crazy and high maintenance (okay, I AM but still) to even talk about putting money into an already "big" kitchen with upgrades.

As for what I like to do in the kitchen - I'm a pretty much make-from-scratch cook. I am a SAHM and spend A LOT of time in the kitchen, either cooking, prepping or cleaning. I like having stations - baking, cooking, coffee, etc. I don't like a lot of appliances on the counter but I DO have a lot of heavy gadgets I'd want a spot in a cabinet or drawer for. There is a small TV in the corner of a countertop to give me company while I'm in there because I'm usually alone, although I'd LOVE to have (adult) company - other times, I have my small (ages 5 and 3) children to "help" out, and having a place for them to put their stools to spread out and pour ingredients is very good.

The breakfast nook bugs me right now - the window seat is not currently there and the outside chairs are right in the walkway from the garage door into the FR. However, I'm not a big fan of stool seating b/c family dinners are really important at this stage in our lives. I know eventually the kids will need a place to do homework but if a sink goes at the peninsula, that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. One thing you may be able to see is the architect suggested cutting out that pantry cabinet and extending the archway that leads into the dining room. The purpose there would be to make that more of a breakfast room than formal DR and maybe put some comfortable chairs where the current breakfast nook is for conversation. A peninsula would block that idea, though, I think.

After reading these responses, I've gotten to thinking. We currently have a temporary island where the suggested one would go. It's smaller and not as functional and I just assumed that functionality was what was missing. However, DH doesn't help me as often as he used to and now I'm starting to think it may be how tight the kitchen seems now, rather than him just trying to avoid any work (or miss my engaging and witty banter.)

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 8:58PM
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I love my corner prep sink! It's perfectly located so I can prep in the "U" that contains my cooktop or on my peninsula. One thing, a diagonal cabinet works best for a corner prep sink.

As to being a "disaster waiting to happen"...not at all! My DD does her homework at our peninsula all the time and it's never been a problem - and my peninsula is shorter than yours would be (at least I think it is...). I have also, on occasion, setup my laptop as a workstation without any issues. As long as you have at least 15" of clear overhang (after accounting for cabinets & decorative panel on the back of the peninsula), the peninsula should not be a problem.

Additionally, like HollySprings has drawn up for you, I have a "U" with my Prep & Cooking Zones inside the "U" and my Cleanup Zone on the opposite wall. This has been an extremely functional's great to work in and the "U" offers a protected area for prepping and cooking. It also provides tertiary prep space next to the cleanup sink and, more importantly, separates the Cleanup Zone from the Prep & Cooking Zones so people can be prepping/cooking while someone else is cleaning up.

In your case, unless there's an overwhelming need for that corner to the left of the cleanup sink, I would kill it and either have counter all the way across or put your tall pantry cabinet on that end to balance out the refrigerator on the other end. I would consider eliminating the corner to the right of the range as well and move the range down...but leave up a section of wall b/w the kitchen and Sitting/Dining Room to help direct traffic away from the Prep & Cooking Zones.

Eating meals...For what it's worth, we now use our DR for all our meals...we converted our tiny bay for the table into counter space by putting in a window that's 36" above the finished floor. I'm not saying do that in your kitchen b/c it wouldn't work where your bay is located, but in the future you might consider taking out the table in the bay area and have all your meals in the DR...then, create a cozy window seat in that bay!

Here are some pics of my corner prep sink and the overall plan so you can see how it works.

Corner prep sink:

You can see the Prep & Cooking Zones (cooktop & prep sink) on the left and the cleanup Zone & refrigerator on the right.

My kitchen's design/layout:
The peninsula with seats is 62" wide/long x 41.5" deep. The other peninsula is 53.75" wide/long x 27.75" deep.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Molly Phillips

Thank you buehl! Your pictures and layout were really helpful as I am a visual learner.

Couple of things: our two kitchen walls do not end at the same place on one end of our kitchen (where our fridge currently is) - the side with the sink and DW is longer. Picture the peninsula on the right of your layout (the one away from the sink). That would be where our peninsula would go. If we moved the fridge to the other side, it would stand in that box where the number "26" is on your layout - sticking out farther than the peninsula (I have no idea who designed our house, but they are WEIRD people.) Would we be sorry stepping around our peninsula to get to the fridge all the time? Trying to think of every worse-case scenario here.

Also, how do you determine how deep your peninsula is going to be? Is there a standard when you plan to add stools vs a standard to when you don't?

You all are really helpful in making me think outside the box! I appreciate every reply.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Rachiele, LLC

I like Hollysprings layout much better. The original plan has the refrig and a pantry causing a "cave" effect around the cooking area. Hollysprings opened up the cooking so it is much more ergonomically correct and the balance of the room becomes more pleasant because the refrig is partially hidden behind the wall. Great job!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 3:12PM
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If you plan seating at the peninsula, you will need at least 15" of clear knee/leg space after accounting for the cabinets and finished end panel or decorative door on the back of the peninsula. So, it should be at least 41.5" deep: 1.5" overhang + 24" deep cabinets + 1" finished end panel + 15" overhang = 41.5"

Note: the 1.5" overhang is the small overhang that is in front of all cabinets to protect the fronts of the cabinets and doors/drawer fronts from spills, etc. (the overhang directs spills to the floor and not down the front of the cabs/doors/drawer fronts).

You and your DH are rather tall, so I might suggest a little bit deeper overhang, maybe 17" or 18". We have 15" and while I find it fine (I'm 5'10") and my DD is OK with it (she's 5/11"), my 6'5" DH and 6'6" DS think it's a bit too shallow. They don't sit at it that much. Even the NKBA* recommends the overhang be at least 15" deep.

[*NKBA - National Kitchen and Bath Association]

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:16PM
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