Kitchen Layout Feedback

atlnonOctober 15, 2012

We are looking at having a house built by a spec builder and have the chance to modify the layout of the kitchen to some degree. My wife and I love to cook and entertain. She does the day to day cooking and I do mostly the gourmet and more involved cooking. We use the wok a lot. We use the oven a lot also, but mostly to bake casseroles, prime rib and some desserts. Not a lot of delicate baking or bread making.

Our vision is to have a big island with a cooktop with enough seating for 9 to 12 people. The closest thing we can describe it is like the hibachi grill experience in a Japanese restaurant where you get to interact with your guests as you cook and prepare the food. And the food would be served and consumed fresh as you finish cooking. We also want the island to be a place for the kids to do their schoolwork as me or my wife prepare dinner. We're thinking that island would also serve as the breakfast area so we can design the island to take up the space of the breakfast room also.

The builder we are working with has a floorplan with the layout we want. However, we have to modify the kitchen configuration as follows (see attached floorplan with our modification):

1. Enlarge the island area all the way to the breakfast area

2. Move the cooktop from behind the island (along the wall) to the island

3. Add a big island vent. Since we are considering a 36" Bluestar or Capital Culinarian, probably need an 1200 cfm oversized vent (42" or 48" by 37").

4. Move the built in microwave/hood combo from above the original place for the cooktop somewhere else (not sure where yet)

So here're my questions.

1. What do you all think of the layout and the idea of having a big island where you can cook while interacting with the guests?

2. Do you all think it's a bad idea to eat up the breakfast area with the island? Is our need so unique that it will be hard for us to resell the house if we don't have the floor space for a breakfast table?

3. The clearance in the modification between the island and the dishwasher is around 38" and between the island and the refrigerator is 42". Is this going to be sufficient or would this be too crowded?

4. Is the island too big for the space that we have that it will not look balanced?

5. Ideally, I would like the cooktop to be on the "long" side, not on the end of the island (on the "short" side). But this is the only way we can make the big island fit. Will I regret this and should I look at moving the cooktop on the long side (not sure if that makes sense with layout and space of the kitchen).

Thanks for the feedback!

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How many kids do you have? Where would you eat dinner on a regular night? If you eat family dinners on the island, are you comfortable with the prospective seating/serving/food passing arrangement?

Your kitchen is so large, I bet there's a better way to get the entertaing function you seek. For example, how about 4 seats at the island and a comfy banquette against the garage wall? You could still accomodate 9 - 12 people. You'd still have your "chef's stage," if you position the island and banquette creatively. But, you'd gain a family area. It would give you 2 conversation areas for parties and a little more flexibility for large or small dinner parties. With a 10 seat island, you're pretty much giving up intimate dinner parties.

If you decide to keep the layout in your drawing, I'd say swap the fridge and ovens. That's a long walk from fridge to sink.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 5:24PM
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This is a neat idea...I was at a restaurant where for speacial occasion you could arrange to sit at a horseshoe shaped table where the head chef would cook a full multicourse meal right infront of you - the interaction was great and it was very entertaining...
It was the first time I saw the use of an induction cooktop as the table was almost out in the main part of the restuarant and this cut down on the fumes somewhat.
On your design...I would consider a smaller island and a large table that would abut it...this would give you the same feel and give you (and other future owners) the flexibility of using the kitchen eating space in the future. If you used a bar height table, it would match counter height but you might need to have it custom ordered.

I would caution impacting your daily use of the kitchen for the once weekly or monthly entertaining.

I don't think your clearances will be enough when you drop 10 people on that island. No DW clean up will occur.

Also, for a cooktop on a island, you will need to have the fan/hood quite high to be able to see your guests, but that might mean that the size and force of the fan is significant such that they will see you but not hear you :-(

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 6:24PM
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A 1200 cfm vent over the island is massive. It will feel like its hovering over your head. A 36 " range should be against the wall. For a 6 burner range you won't need more than 600 cfms

And yes, The island is way too large and it's awkward in that space.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 9:19PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Resale would be awful. You'd have to plan to redo the kitchen completely if you ever wanted to sell. And there's no way you'd get that many people on that island either. You need 24-30"' per person, and 2 people can't share the same knee space at the corners. There's no prep sink and no room to actually prep for the cooking. So that would actually leave you facing the wall next to the sink for the 70% of the time you are prepping, and only facing the island for the 10% of the time you are actually applying fire to food.

Your kitchen layout would have to be massively different if you really wanted to accomplish this. The island would have to be much longer, say 20', include a prep sink with at least 36" of room between it and the cooking zone, and you'd need to account for makeup air to keep from poisoning all of your guests with carbon monoxide sucked back down the water heater flue.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 12:42AM
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Another problem is the width of the seating part of the island. It's not very nice or practical to be sitting 5 ft across from someone while eating/socializing. Better, as mentioned above, to put the cooktop on the wall and then have a T shaped island, prepping at the head with a longer, narrower seating area than shown above.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 8:59AM
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@peridot44 - we have 3 kids (ages 5 to 11). We also have at least 1 high school or college exchange student with us all the time. So there are 6 people around the table for dinner regularly. Our last house has a small counter height island where the sink was and we noticed that the kids and guests enjoy and are comfortable sitting around it while we do the dishes. When you said "comfy banquette against the garage wall", are you saying taking out the kitchen counters and move the refrigerator somewhere else and put the banquette in that space? I see what you are saying regarding the space between the sink and the refrigerator. Interestingly, that's the original design of the builder. The only thing we changed is made the island bigger and moved the cooktop.

@Caspian101 - I'm thinking that we will use that island as the gathering spot for day to day activities like doing homework or when my wife homeschools my littlest ones. So it won't just be for entertaining. At least that's the vision. Wanted to get all your thoughts if that vision is realistic. For the seating, I think we'll be happy with seating 8 comfortably, and being able to squeeze 2 more in when we have a bigger gathering. Good point about the fan noise affecting the table conversation... I'm thinking that we would really only run it at full speed rarely, and it would be at low to medium speed most of the time we are cooking. Would that resolve it? And yes, I am concerned about the clearance to the DW. That is why I didn't put an overhand there thinking that it would be too crowded to make that a seating area. With the clearance at the sink and no one sitting behind the DW, do you think that is still an issue with any DW occurring?

@felixnot - not sure how strong a fan we need. I used 1200 cfm bec that seems to be the guideline from the manufacturer and what I've read here for a 6 burner CC cooktop. When I talked with Trevor (from Eurostoves), he even said 1,400 cfm considering it's an island and that we would be doing a lot of wok cooking. There are some Chinese food that we cook that can have a very strong smell, not stinky, just strong. Why would a 6 burner range have to be against the wall?

@hollysprings - Yes, I agree with. The reason why I prefer the cooktop to be on the long side is to be able to do the prep and have a prep sink besides the cooktop. I've also been reading up a lot on Makeup Air (which I had no idea about until I started reading this forum). I have some question on MUA but that's for another thread.

@cheri127 - The reason why I thought 5 ft is alright is because we also have a big round table (5 ft in diameter) that seats 10 and have a lazy susan in the middle. We've had great gatherings around the table and the guests has remarked how well that table worked for having 10 people around the table but still follow the same conversation. Of course, that table was round and this one is square, so not sure if this will still have the same effect. I'll have to think about the T shape approach. That's interesting. It still doesn't address my lack of prep area that hollysprings pointed out, unless I move the cooktop to the long side, and I don't think I have the space clearance for that.

Thanks for the feedback. Would welcome more!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 10:49AM
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Speaking as an adult who was homeschooled 50 years ago: I strongly suggest you don't do your homeschooling in the kitchen.

Have school in another place so you can keep things out and don't have to pick it up before every meal. There's tons of support stuff needed for h/s: reference books, maps, equipment for science experiments, art and drawing materials, half-finished projects underway, etc.

It's also important to have some formal sense of "school" so it doesn't get just more and more subsumed into the other parts of your life. It's tough to keep at it day after day after day, but that's one of the things that school teaches, isn't it? In some ways it's the kids' job. Even if you are a deliberate un-schooler, you still must have a certain respect for what you're about or it doesn;t work.

The third reason for not homeschooling on your kitchen counter is that h/s will begin to take over every waking minute. Unless you want the entire nature of your relationship with the kids to be the teacher/student one, you need to take a break from it.

I'd plan on having part of the family room, or better yet, a dedicated room you use just for school work. Kids can still do homework in other rooms, but the daily instructional periods should happen in the "official" school room.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 8:12PM
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@liriodendron - Good point about having a separate area. That's probably why we're having a hard time with our 7 year old. We will probably transition him to a full time school next year. Even without homeschooling, we are still planning on having that area as the gathering place and doing homework. Not sure if you have the same concerns about that.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 8:40AM
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I know that my kids always liked doing their homework right in the middle of the action in the house. We don't have a functional island right now (soon) but I'm sure thats were they will be. This includes my kid in college.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:53AM
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