Struggling with layout in kitchen with shortish counter runs

3birdiesNovember 15, 2012

I am stuck on a workable layout for my kitchen. At 12.75x17 ft. the kitchen is a decent size, but the main work triangle is squashed into a 7x8 ft. U shape configuration, which does not work for our family of 5. I have cycled through countless of ideas of what we might do...but given the way the 4 entries and the wall of low set windows chop up the room, I have not come up with a brilliant way to improve the layout AND stay within a modest budget/avoid a major structural reno.

Loves about current kitchen: the windows and the view of the backyard, the desk area/paper cubbies (yes!), swingout pantry (love being able to see everything), 2 bowl sink, lots of storage (even if badly configured).

Hates: Getting trapped in the "U", lack of counter space, lack of drawers, lack of *wide* useful drawers, wasted awkward cupboard space, no ventilation above stove.

Goals for new space: Improve flow. Have more accessible counter space. Open up kitchen to family room. Improve storage.

Constraints: Need to maintain seating for at least 5 (prefer table or banquette, but counter would be OK too). I am not tied to island/peninsula/etc. Not a fan of bilevel counters. Prefer to have sink and prep area facing windows/family room. As long as I have fridge/freezer/oven/stove/vent hood/micro I am not fussy on configuration of these. Would prefer not to move/modify windows and door to deck. Willing to move/widen plumbing/entries/walls (except possibly load bearing wall). Overall I would like the kitchen to feel light and airy.

Kitchen uses: Cook every day, bake a few times a week, use microwave daily. Both DH and I cook/clean up, and the kids (ages 4, 6, 8) also like to help bake and do some food prep. I would like the kids to be able to help themselves to drinks, snacks, etc. and help tidy up as well. Eat in the kitchen unless we have guests; have tea with neighbours; read the paper. Kids do their homework/crafts and use the computer here too. Entertaining is fairly frequent and either small enough that we can sit at dining room table, or big enough (30 plus) that I set out buffet in the kitchen (need counter space for that!)

Below are the current layout, and a layout I keep coming back to. The new layout removes the wall between the kitchen and family room (bottom part of the U), so that the peninsula becomes an island. On the back side of the island I would add 12" deep storage (rather than seating). The fridge would move over to the pantry wall, and the desk would move to a window, out of the kitchen work area.

One thing I am still not happy with is the prep space around the sink (i.e. it would be nice if there were more of it). I know it would defy NKBA guidelines, but if I moved the sink to where the DW is (the second smaller bowl is like a landing area for me), that would create a bigger prep area on one side of the sink. Or is there a way to rejig the appliance placement that would free up more prep space? In this layout I also lose my 3 ft. pantry.

Any and all feedback and suggestions appreciated...I know there are lots of options that I am not seeing!

Current Layout

Where it all happens. Note open dishwasher across from fridge and the dinky opens into the range, the one to the left of the range is just a fake! Note also laminate counter with undermount sink (yikes!)

Will something like this work?

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Annie Deighnaugh

No, I don't think it works as there's no room to sit at the desk. In order to put the desk there, you would need to eliminate the door to the deck...either don't use it or change it out for a window, and then slide the banquette over. I would suggest doing that anyway as you have the doors right there through the family room.

I think you're on the right track, but I would go further and eliminate the doorway to the front's a wall you can't move anyway, so fill it in and make use of that area for more can then have an L shaped kitchen with an island that is open to the family room side and near the garage. I would put the stove on that load bearing wall...if there's room for other stacks, most likely they can fit a range hood vent in there too. That may give you some more space to add to the broom/recycling corner on the foyer side. Besides, I'm not a fan of coming in the front door and seeing into the kitchen...this will correct that. That may also give you room to play with the shape of the island to add more seating if you rounded the family room side on it...

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 4:50PM
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Thanks AnnieDeighnaugh. I have thought of filling in that wall, but I actually love the view through the kitchen into the backyard from the front door, and I think it would feel too closed in. But maybe this is a sacrifice that needs to be made. I have even wondered about making a passthrough to the front hall, so that I could have both the counterspace and the view (too weird?)

Re the reloacted desk area...I actually have a shelf unit there now that sticks out about 16 inches, and that seems to be working out fine beside the kitchen table. I was thinking that would work reconfigured as a desk...but again, something I may need to reconsider.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 5:32PM
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how strong is the desire to remove the 7.5 foot wall to open the kitchen to family room: the kitchen you are left with is very small. I'd think of redoing the pantry and swing out pantry on the right wall:find another spot for the desk. put fridge there and keep the U shape kitchen now with better counter run. You could put coat closet across on stairwell wall and use part of that broom closet/recycling section for pantry/recycling-streamline that kind of storage there. Your best bet might be to keep the U with improvements to it.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 6:50PM
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Thanks herbflavor. I agree, the U layout could be made much more functional...but I cannot picture a way to make it NOT be a bottleneck in such a small footprint. Would you leave the sink/DW/range where they are? Or would you swing the range around to the current fridge wall so that there would be a large span of counter between the sink and range? Or...?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:05PM
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Hi 3 birdies,

How about something like this: I'm picturing locker styel cubbies for coats and shoes along the stairwell. They'll help keep everyone organized and will be narrower than a traditional closet. Then across the way could be a long, narrow pantry. Just think of all the food you could store in there for your growing family!

Move the fridge over to the wall where the desk is. Then the stove can move to the old fridge wall, giving you a very nice work area between the sink and stove. You could open part of the area above this work zone so you can see into the family room if you don't need the upper cabinets.

The broom and recycle closet can go down closer to the eating area, which would be handy since it's where you probably need to sweep the most, and the recycling is right near the sink.

I tried to blow the picture up, but it gets really blurry, I hope you can see it ok. You can double click on it, which should make it a tiny bit larger.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:14PM
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p.s. I meant to say that the broom closet could open toward the table, rather than toward the countertop across the way.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:16PM
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How many re-makes of this general space have you sketched? The inches added together from left side-54 plus 46 plus 103 is a nice long wall if you remove the lower garden the family room passage....keep the top turn and run along load bearing wall I think. Place the banquette on desk and pantry wall.Where table and chairs are shown near windows, instead do an island with primarily "work" functions-squarish and walk space all around...can be nicely sized-maybe a couple stools. this is a good spot for island-near windows and with some counter run now furthur down in this area....I'd think about extending kitchen zone into this light filled area. [Or skip the banquette and make the island with designated seating if that's enough along with dining room]...

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:25PM
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I'd also move a doorway and (cough) some of the family room wall. This is just a general concept, not a plan.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 6:26AM
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I don't have any suggestions other than I think it would be fine to have the desk by the breakfast table. My dad has this and uses just one chair ... turned towards the table or turn the chair around towards the desk.

Ah, and a 2nd suggestion ... make the whole new fridge wall full height. Changing your swing out pantry to uppers and lowers really loses a lot of pantry space for you. We have a peninsula that ends in front of the fridge and pantry. We use the end of it as the landing space for the fridge and the pantry.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 7:16AM
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herbflavor, laughable, bmorepanic, angela12345...thanks for your feedback and ideas!

You have confirmed my doubts about the new layout I posted: I like the flow of it, but it does not give me enough kitchen. And that I would likely be happier with an improved U layout.

It also makes me realise that going for broke and removing the garden door (and possibly even raising the height of the windows along the back wall so I could put counter there) would give me so many more options.

Another idea I have toyed with is moving the dining room entry up to where the smaller pantry is, which would give me a longer run of counter along the dining room wall also.

Anyway, lots to think about and play with. Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:30PM
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Yes,both the dining room entry and family room entry should be looked at closely along their respective walls. It may not make a big difference with regards use of those spaces,but in the kitchen,a relocation of one or the other or both passages, can make a huge difference with regards to if you'll have a U,and which side the U comes off [perhaps the dining room wall], or an elongated L with island, or 2 runs opposite each other. Definitely worth the time to mock up dimensions and primitive layouts with that kind of change. It's an internal kitchen, so like the spokes of a wheel running off, get those walkways at the best spots for the net yield of a much better kitchen. Hope you come back and show a couple plans after you play with it for a while....and remember, you'll have sight lines so when you get to your style decisions, you'll want something you can really play up-it'll be so different from what you have now. Some kitchen designers are also interior designers-I wouldn't rule out finding such person after you get some decisions nailed down....the way this is positioned in the home means you want to notch it all up in looks/style...these people can have amazing ideas not obvious at this stage to get you a really beautiful space.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:01PM
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Have you given any thought to swapping any of the first floor rooms with the kitchen? I happen to have a kitchen that is directly connected to the front door, which is not everyone's ideal. You also have a kitchen that's in nearly full view of the front door, so this might be a nice time to make a change.

Is your dining room more suited to counter runs? Maybe you can post a first floor drawing, you might get some incredible ideas.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:35PM
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herbflavor: Yes, I will definitely be back with some new layout ideas! And yes, I think I do need some professional help...

laughable: good idea re the room swapping. Practically every other room in the hosue has better options for counter runs. When I repost some other ideas, I will include the full floor layout.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 5:34PM
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Picture got cut off.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:26PM
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Bemorepanic, I continue to marvel at how you can always come up with a good design for everyone's kitchen. It is so generous of you and the others on this site that share your design skills. I think this design you just posted is a great improvement for 3birdies kitchen.
3birdies I think you should seriously consider bmorepanics design. It gives you so much more usable space and is nice the way it is open to your family room.
Can't wait to see what you decide for your kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:46PM
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how about having a cab run where bmorepanic has the pantry/desk area for the fridge and mw. Then run an L where she has the island and table ares. It could be an island L with the sink on one part and the stove on the longer part.

Think of it as flipping the U you have now but leaving a walk way area into that U from the kitchen entry area (from the front hall).

You could do a partial wall for the stove hood / vent.

You could also do the L having it lined up where you now have the fridge and running across from where your stove is now.

I'd want to keep any pathway away from the cooking area. Have the sink close enough to the cooking area (so no need for a prep sink).

I think keeping the far right wall for pantry and desk area would make good use of that area.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 10:07PM
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Yes, thank you bmorepanic! I should, have clued in that something was missing. I am loving your concept. I was thinking something along those lines, but I had pictured a banquette where you put the pantry, which did not leave room for an island with prep sink. Love the prep sink/separation of prep and cleanup, since the morning dishwasher unload/breakast and lunch prep are a huge bottleneck. I just need to fiddle with the seating for 5.

desertsteph, some other good options to fool around with...thanks!

I am not as quick as you guys at whipping out these layouts, but will post again soon once I get something down on paper...

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 8:51AM
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How about having the family room side of the island in bemorepanic's plan have a bench attached to it and then use a table in front of the bench. It would provide more seating.
Here is an example of what I am talking about

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 11:18PM
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Thanks badgergal, I like that idea.

I dont know how comfortable/practical this is, but I always loved the idea of the Jonathan Adler Morrow Settee as part of a kitchen banquette setup:

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:25AM
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