The Perfect Layout - does it exist?

jenswrensOctober 24, 2012

In a perfect world, what really is the ideal functional layout for a kitchen? Does it exist?

If you could start with a blank slate, with no "design around this" obstacles, what would your perfect kitchen layout look like? Why?

I think this would be mine (below). But I'm not sure. I'm getting ready to go meet with the architect in a few hours, for a start-over discussion. And I'm worried that I may be backing myself into a corner, trying to design a whole house around "my perfect kitchen."

Is this even my perfect layout? Maybe I would actually feel trapped in that galley-like area behind the island instead of feeling super-efficient. Maybe I'm missing some huge glaring fault in design.

I know everyone works differently in the kitchen, and I think this would work for me. I think about food-flow --> from pantry/fridge to prep area to cook area to clean-up to table and back again. Does it seem reasonable? Would you like to work in this kitchen? What would you change?

And tell me about Your Perfect Layout (function-wise). What is it?

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I like your layout. I think it's very close to what I think of as the 'GW layout' of fridge and range/cooktop on one wall, with island/prep sink across from it. Clean up sink on the L (as you have it) but with oven/microwave opposite (close to the fridge and easy access to island).

What do you have opposite the island? That would be a nice area for a small seating area...if there's enough space.

Also, the sunroom/dining area is very nice. Is that your only dining area, now? One thing I miss about your old plan is the dining area/fireplace that was actually in the kitchen :)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:55PM
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I think that is pretty perfect if it's suited to the size of the house. This is a huge kitchen. It does seem to need a pantry, but maybe there's one there that I'm not recognizing.

I like the work flow. Only four things give me pause.
1) the acres of countertop on either side of the range; and
2) the seemingly small size of the breakfast (dining?) room (your table is drawn as only 24" wide!):

To combat these first two I would be tempted to get rid of the left wall cabinetry and simply put the cleanup sink and DW on the top wall next to the stove - the island then can become a bit bigger, have seating on that end, etc, and the breakfast room is not as cramped. Can you get rid of that middle wall, and/or move it and the corner of the kitchen wall east more, or somehow rework this? These concerns are not such a big deal if you have a dining room elsewhere, but if this IS the dining room I worry a bit.

3) the fact that the prep sink cuts the island space right in half: You already have 4' to the left and 3'(?) to the right, so that IS a lot and may be enough for you, but I prefer 5' of uninterrupted counter space :) so I would move it one cabinet to the east.

4) the in-a-line, "stadium" seating of the island that inhibits conversation: Everyone ends up at my kitchen island, and I'm very happy that I have seating along two ends and sometimes wish I had it on three.

By the way, your current (previous?) kitchen is one of my all time favorites. The windows are absolute show stoppers. I'm very interested to see what you do with this one!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:52PM
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How many people cook in your house? This kitchen would support 3 cooks easily. Nice layout, but it would be way too big for me.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 8:21PM
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No such thing ... because we all have a different cooking style, cook different things, and learned from different cooks. And we differ physically.

I'm left-handed, so my ideal work flow is different from a right-handed person's.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 12:16PM
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In my dream kitchen, I can take a step in either direction and reach everything I need. The kitchen curves around me in a big arc. The storage all makes sense and is all within reach, at the ideal location between knee and shoulder height. I have lots of light with windows all around. I can see other parts of the house from the kitchen, but no one can see the mess when they look back at me. There is plenty of countertop so I never have to search for a place to set something down, yet it wipes up instantly. The dining area is close at hand so we're not schlepping stuff back and forth all day long. It has a floor drain, with a tilt mechanism. We push a button, the whole kitchen tilts, all the debris falls to one spot and is swept away. The whole thing gets sprayed down and is instantly clean.

Then I wake up.

I just drew up a kitchen plan remarkably similar to yours the other day, but I haven't worked up the strength to post it yet.

These things give me pause in the plan that you have drawn: The fridge is miles from the table. We're not organized enough to remember everything when we sit down to eat. My kids would fulfill their gym requirement running back and forth for the ketchup, the milk, the salad dressing, and ohh, there's a bowl of leftover applesauce we can finish in the back of the fridge. Up, down, run, all through the meal. Do you want your fridge and table closer to each other?

Is that a micro in the bottom right corner, sitting all alone? Was it naughty? If not, I'd let it come back and play closer to the fridge and stove. ;) I would use it to melt butter, reheat things for the meal, and would not want to have to take those items to the bottom corner to do so.

Hopefully you'll get the "just right" kitchen figured out so we can all copy it! : ) Best wishes!


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 3:56PM
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I agree - it is big, but it's supposed to be a "dream" kitchen, after all. :-) I'm sure it will shrink a bit in real life. Designing it big now gives me some wiggle room to downsize it later.

Tracie.erin: funny you mentioned the acres of counter next to the range. I almost started a new thread before this one asking "how much space do you really need next to the range?".

I will still have a formal DR, but I do like the idea of opening up that sink wall. Maybe not feel so trapped in the U. Initially I had the table across from the island, but when I moved it out to the little "porch" area, I got attached to it there because - get this - I could eliminate a lazy Susan corner/ blind cab because I would be able to access cabs from the table area as well. Crazy, huh?

And thank you for the compliment on my current kitchen! I love my windows too, but I'm not happy with my layout - which is probably why I'm obsessing so much about the "perfect" layout.

Laughable: I love your dream kitchen! I want that one too! Yes, after I moved the table from its original location, I missed that the fridge is now too far away. Will have to rethink that.

The pantry is behind the fridge. And the microwave is right next to the fridge. In that "naughty" corner is a coffee/tea center, with a built-in coffee maker (another dream item that I may not be able to get IRL.) But, now again, I see it's way too far from the table.

Lavender: we met with the architect (finally) on Thursday, and completely reworked the plan - moved the kitchen, etc., and you'll love this - he suggested adding a turret! For where the kitchen table is, a round or octagonal turret room, with windows on all sides to capture the eastern and southern light. At first I was skeptical but after looking at photos of turrets, I think it might be perfect, if it's done right.

And then, we suggested a hearth room/sitting area opposite the island, for our computing needs, so I can be in the kitchen, DH can be on the laptop, but not be at the kitchen table or far away in the family room. Just a small space with 2 chairs and a little table. See photos below for what I'm thinking of.

He said he'd have the sketch to us by this morning, but I don't have it yet. :-( I was hoping to post it this weekend, but I guess I'll have to wait.

I never thought I'd be so excited about a turret!

Turret inspiration:

Traditional Exterior design by Baltimore Design-build Bryan Whittington

Traditional Exterior design by New York Architect Matthew Korn Architecture AIA

Traditional Exterior design by Boston Architect McKay Architects

Contemporary Family Room design by Grand Rapids Architect Visbeen Associates, Inc.

Hearth room:

Traditional Kitchen design by Charleston Design-build Solaris Inc.

Traditional Family Room design by Philadelphia Architect Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 12:51PM
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Jenswren- Did you draw it? I am very intrigued. I like laughables description of the kitchen arching around her. Can you imagine? :) What a fun thread and great pictures. Just thought I'd see if you mocked something up but just hadn't posted it yet.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Thanks Autumn, for asking. Yes, we did go back to the architect, worked with him for a little bit, and he came up with this plan below.

I don't think it really works for us, and I'm concerned that he's not really listening anymore, ever since we scrapped his first plan. He just doesn't seem interested in our project.

I'm probably being too restrictive - I should probably just forget about the kitchen and let the architect do it his way. Or maybe I need a new architect.

The dining room seems miles away, the hearth room we wanted turned into that tiny little box of an "office," and the living room we said we don't need (would rather have a screened porch) keeps turning up in every plan. I don't really know anymore.

Except that as lazygardens said above, I've realized there really is no "perfect" layout because everyone is different, works differently, lives differently.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 3:03PM
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There is no such thing about "Perfect Layout". every layout for any design you made is already perfect because you design for it..

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 1:53AM
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If you don't like the plan do not settle! If you're building a custom home the layout should be what you envision, not the architect. There will always be things you wish you had done or could have done but something didn't allow you to (board of health, setbacks, budget). But if the reason you're not getting what you want is because the architect just won't draw it or isn't listening? Well that's a big problem.

We had to switch architects for similar reasons. Our second architect was a world of difference from the first and I'm so glad we switched. The big difference was the second one sat at the table and drew out floor plans with us sitting there. We were able to say "Yes" or "No" right then. The first architect would bring us plans, mark them up, write down changes, leave and come back with the new plan. We'd say "No, we don't like that", he'd leave, go make changes, etc. It went on and on in a continuous loop. Is your architect working in either of those fashions? If he's like our first one maybe ask him if you can sit down and do a session together? We literally spent four hours one day doing this and ended up with a floorplan that's pretty close to our final design - which was only changed because of Conservation Commission stuff that came up.

In regards to the plan itself...

I noticed he wrote "optional sunroom" for the living room. Where do you live? If you have a longer cold season a sunroom would be better than a screened in porch, IMHO. You can open the windows all Summer and have a heated space in Winter. But if you're in a predominately warm climate, then a screened porch is better. However, if he's trying to say a living room and screened in porch can easily be swapped out? Well I'd be interested in seeing the exterior elevations because they are two *totally* different looks, especially if that's the front of the house.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 10:25AM
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Thanks chris! Yes, that is exactly how our architect works, and I'm finding it so frustrating. He takes our ideas and then goes away and draws up a big elaborate plan and then calls us in for a meeting to present it to us like a big "ta da!" And then we sit there for less than an hour and try to figure out if it's okay or not. And unfortunately, the "ta da" usually works and we are wowed - right then. We don't really notice what we don't like until we get home and have mulled it over for hours or sometimes days. Then trying to tell him we don't like it is a chore.

We also wanted him to come up with something completely different the second time around, and all he did was rearrange his original plan.

So yes, I'm beyond frustrated.

I'm in NJ, but I live next to an 8000 acre wildlife area and wetlands. So sitting outside in the spring, summer, fall, is a festival of bugs. If we come home after dark, we have to literally duck and run to get in the door, and even then we always admit a fair population of bugs inside along the way. I also have cats and tender plants I bring in every winter, and I really want a screened porch or at least a 3-season porch/sunroom so we can be outside, but not really be outside. And yes, the living room aka sunroom isn't what I had in mind.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 8:38PM
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jenswren-thanks for coming back to this thread! That dining room does look like a far stretch from the kitchen. You have to post a picture of that view when you are finished! That sounds so peaceful and stunning at the same time. I hope things improve with your architect.

Will you have an attached garage being in NJ? We are in MI and an attached garage is a must (IMO for me) but boy do they hog up light and windows!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 8:47PM
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An Architect is not a designer. I would never have an architect design my kitchen, again. Thankfully GW helped me fix what still could be changed.

Use a kitchen designer and GW for the kitchen layout.

Ask the architect to come over for a brainstorming session. Tell him to bring paper, pencils, and erasers. Tell him he will be drawing sketches not detailed drawings. Submit your ideas that you got from your KD and GW. Keep drawing and erasing. Send him away with the sketches to do more detailed drawings on the best ideas.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 8:56PM
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autumn, attached garages do hog windows and light! I've always felt it's like a huge black hole connected to the side of your house, which is one reason we are opting for a drive-under garage. We are very limited on footprint size due to the wetlands, so I didn't want to waste any views or living space on a garage. Drive-unders and detached are pretty common here in NJ.

I'm going to be posting a new plan in a couple of days to the Building forum that DH and I came up with on our own, that seems to address all of our particular "program" needs (something our architect didn't really go through with us). I'd love to get your honest feedback on that plan when I post it.

Also wanted to say that based on my experience, going to an architect with just a list of wants/needs and your survey doesn't always work 100% of the time, no matter how much the folks over there at the Building forum say it does. I thought that was the way to go, and was hoping for something super creative, but it didn't really work out for us. Maybe I am just a poor communicator. Or a stubborn bee-yotch. IDK.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:01PM
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Hi Jenswrens,
I just wanted to encourage you to keep persevering on your plans. If you are going to be building a house, then you certainly want to be happy with how the spaces work together. It's more important to get a good working plan that you will be living in day-to-day than to please an architect that you've hired for a short period of time.

Two little things: Have you read Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House books? They are very helpful in figuring out how to lay out the spaces so that they all work together and are what you will truly use. They are a pleasure to read and are usually available through the library as well as new.

Also, have you ever lived with the garage down below? I like the idea of it not taking up light from your living space (I'm a light-lover, too), but if you haven't lived with a kitchen upstairs, be prepared that it's a lot of hauling goods up and down. We had a raised ranch, and I always felt "upside down" living there, and getting the groceries in was an extra chore. We had plans of how we could install a dumb-waiter, but never put it in. On the other hand, I think I was in better shape from doing all those stairs regularly. ;) The view was fantastic, too.

I wish you the very best in your planning!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:16PM
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Great post, very interesting reading and what fun to plan a turret! We worked with an architect on our remodel. Older ranch on the Boston North Shore, very small footprint from the front. Our architect, who updates plans by pencil (I may be incorrectly describing the process, but let's just say, he's not in the digital age yet) came and listened. I had a very detailed list of what I liked about our old kitchen as well as what I disliked. Our initial plan was to bump out the back of the house but our architect zeroed in on two things I said: 1) I had very little sunlight and 2) I wanted a Cape vs. a Ranch. He suggested moving the kitchen to the front of the house, bumping this out 5 feet (we had a covered front porch). Fast forward 2 years and it's a different house.

My point is: if your architect is not listening to you, find another one. Ours listened to what I said and kept reminding me, what I had told him I wanted: natural light and a different house style. He gave us both.

Now... I LOVE the idea of a turret, what a magical addition (Lavendar_Lass are you listening?!)... what fun for an architect to design, think it's time to give my favorite one a call to see if he can design one for the back of the house :) Good luck!


    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:42PM
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And before anyone says it: the old house was charming and I will get to a landscaping plan eventually for the new version. (That's why it still looks a little cold). On the plus side, I have moonlight (and sunlight) streaming in through the skylight dormer on the right side. Jenswrens, hope you find the plan which gives you so much more than you ever hoped for! Best, oldbat2be

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:49PM
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debrak, that's a great idea - I'm just not sure our guy knows how to work like that. But I want someone who does.

I also think that the problem might be me. That I don't know how to effectively ask for what I want, without feeling like I'm throwing a temper-tantrum. I want to step back and let the architect do what he does best, but I also want the end result to fulfill certain criteria, and I feel silly asking for that. So it's probably just me. I probably need psychotherapy before even considering a building project. ;-\

laughable, yes, I've lived with a drive-under before, and I agree it is not ideal, but we have weighed this particular aspect over and over, and it always comes back as the best choice in our circumstances. We do plan on a dumbwaiter or elevator (or space for one in future).

A drive-under is really no different than what we do now, only hopefully it will be more pleasant, with real stairs and indoors. Now, because the house is so elevated and we have no garage at all and the deck stairs are at the opposite end of the deck from the kitchen door, we stop along the side of the 40' long deck and throw the groceries, luggage, etc, up onto the 6-7' tall deck (we removed the railings for better access - against code I know), then drive 40' to the stairs, park the car, get out, walk up the 15 stairs, turn around and walk back 40' to the kitchen door. Sometimes we make our daughter stand up there and catch the grocery bags as we toss them, like some kind of fire brigade! It's a crazy pain in the rear. Especially in the rain or snow.

oldbat2be, love your house! You are right, it may be time to consider a different architect. Or again, maybe I need advice on how to talk to this one. He did listen at first, but then lost interest after we didn't like his first plan.

This post was edited by jenswrens on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 22:03

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:56PM
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jenswren, You definitely need to be presenting the list of what's important; not only ask for what you want, but indeed specify it. Keep a pad and pen in the kitchen and write down your thoughts as they occur. This is what I would like to include. This is what I like about our current space (very important to include). This is what I hate about our current space. This is what I need to store. My architect said that I was 1 of perhaps 2 clients who came to him with this detailed list. I have to think that the opportunity to design something fun like a turret would mean a lot to an architect. If not... why not?! What's wrong with this guy/gal? Please keep us posted. Best, oldbat2beAllExcitedAboutTheIdeaOfATurretOfHerOwnAndThanksForTheIdea :)

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 10:26PM
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Sorry, I haven't been checking in that often...but I LOVE the turret!!!

Jenswrens- Your architect is not grasping your style, at all (IMHO) and your hearth room is wonderful! I really like your inspiration photos and I think they should make your design ideas much easier for the architect to realize.

Maybe try another architect? See if you can find someone a bit more open to a 'whimsical design' and I think you'll be much happier with the results.

Have you checked out this website? I know someone on GW gave it to me...but I'm sorry I don't remember who it was. (The red book actually contains some home plans.)

This might add a bit of 'fairy tale' to your designs :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to Storybook homes

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 11:16PM
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