help with kitchen layout, please!

emilymchNovember 6, 2013

I lurk here all the time (and post very occasionally) and have been biding my time until for our eventual kitchen remodel. We've had a precipitating event (30 year old fridge dying) that is forcing a few issues, so I need to figure a few things out, and would LOVE it if the layout gurus here could weigh in and help me get the most functional kitchen possible.

Backstory: we (me, husband, and our 5 year old son) live in a 1958 split-level. It was remodeled about 25 years ago, and the previous owner also added new appliances (except that darn fridge!) and granite counters about 2 years ago. The house is a pretty standard suburban split level. I'm very into mid-century modern decor and architecture, so where possible, I'm trying to play up the MCM roots of the house. At this stage though, I need to get a good layout. The rest will come later.

What I'm looking for: Overall, what's most important to me is an efficient, functional, easy space to work in. Our house is the family gathering house, so there are often several of us in the kitchen working on meals. An efficient use of space is EXTREMELY important to me, and things like symmetry are all secondary to functionality.

Why I'm trying to figure this out now:
We're a few years away from a full renovation, but as I mentioned, our fridge just died, and we bought a new one. The existing fridge was a 30 year old built-in, and a new built-in wasn't in the budget. So I picked out a nice counter-depth french-door fridge, with the knowledge that it won't really entirely work in the existing fridge area without being pulled out slightly from the wall. I was okay with this, because it will be a temporary situation until we can renovate, which will likely involve moving it to another location. (This is where the Gardenweb layout geniuses come in!)

With that said, here are some pics of what we have right now. First, my very rough sketch of the layout of the living room/dining room/kitchen level of the house, to give context to pictures:

The view from the front door (from the listing, with previous owner's furniture):

When you enter the kitchen from the front entry:

The view from the breakfast room/stairs to the family room, looking into the kitchen (previous owner's stuff - we don't use chairs at the island):

The view straight on from the breakfast room - the ceiling vaults to 12' at the highest (we painted, but otherwise haven't changed anything):

The pantry wall, viewed looking towards the front door. The one closest to the front door is the coat closet:

The breakfast room, which is two steps down from the kitchen:

And here's another rough sketch with some measurements (not to scale, even though I did it on graph paper. Sorry!):

So, for layout: I'm open to anything, and would love some fresh eyes on things. I've come up with a number of different ideas, but I really want to see what other ideas there are. I have toyed with moving the fridge to the pantry wall, and if that is part of the overall plan, I would look at the feasibility of redoing just that wall of the kitchen now (or in the near future), and have the rest wait. I am going to have to have some changes made to the water line for the fridge regardless of where it ends up (the line isn't in the right place now, even though we put the new fridge, which was delivered today, in the same place as the old one.), and if the new plan involves moving the fridge, I'd rather do it now if possible, so that I only have to have the water line moved once, rather than twice. (Make sense? I think I'm confusing myself!)

What I like about the current kitchen:
- the openness to the breakfast room
- the location of the sink. We eat all our meals in the breakfast room, and after meals, it is really nice to be able to put dirty dishes on the counter next to the sink, and then walk up the two steps and finish dealing with them.

What I want in the eventual new kitchen:
- Fridge is 36" wide, 70" tall, counter-depth.
- I'd love a 36" wide range, and whatever size, it will definitely be gas.
- An actual exhaust hood. Currently there's a downdraft, and it is almost completely useless.
- I really hope we're able to splurge on a built-in coffee maker. Don't know if it'll be possible, but I want to include it in plans.
- I'm open to moving anything and everything (water, gas, electricity) within the space of the kitchen in order to get what we want.

If I've left anything out, please ask me! I'm open to any and all solutions that will leave us with a functional, efficient kitchen. I'm really excited to see what happens here!

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Congrats on your new house! I miss my suburban split-level, and with your kitchen/breakfast room, we may not have felt the need to move!

So, without doing a full remodel now, what really do you want to do? If you move the fridge, it's in the more-used walkway, is that a good thing? And what would you do with it's old space? Can you just switch the pantry door over there, probably not. Can you match the existing cabinetry?

What is it you DON'T like about the current kitchen?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 10:10AM
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BP, here's what I'm hoping for - I'd like to come up with the plan for what we want to do, and if the fridge ends up being on that wall, we will consider redoing that wall now. If it ends up that that isn't the best place for it, we'll keep it where it is until we redo the entire thing. Does that make sense? I realize that putting the fridge in the current pantry wall will put it in a higher traffic area, which isn't ideal, but it may be necessary to get the most useful overall layout. If I can come up with a solid master plan now, it will help me assess whether we can make some incremental changes to move towards it, or if we have to wait and do it all at once. It'll also help me figure out a budget for the eventual full renovation, which will help me know when we'll be able to do it.
With the old fridge space: I'd probably put a temporary tall pantry cabinet in there. I won't try to match the existing cabinetry - I'm okay with it not matching for a few years until we can redo the entire thing. We're going to use Ikea cabinets, so I'd probably get a white door and leave it at that. I know it won't be beautiful and show-room perfect, but that's okay! It'll just be short-term. We plan on living in this house for 30+ years, so a few years of a wonky, in-between kitchen are fine with me. :)
What I don't like about the current kitchen:
- the dishwasher location. When it is open, you can't stand in front of the cooktop, and it blocks off that entire corner, so you can't step around the open door. Cooking and cleanup are clumped up in a corner, and I don't think it needs to be that way!
- the fridge and pantry being separated. When I'm getting food out, I feel like I'm walking around a lot to get things together.
- base cabinets instead of drawers. My previous kitchen was an Ikea kitchen that we put in, and it was basically all drawer base cabinets, and I loved them.
- Narrow aisles around the island! I am not sure how to fix this. I feel like the aisles are too wide without it, but too narrow with one. Although a 24" wide island would help the aisle sizes.
- the counter between the wall ovens and fridge tends to be a dumping ground for clutter, as does the counter to the right of the sink. Real prep work tends to happen on the side of the island closer to the cooktop/fridge, and the rest of the counterspace seems to be out of a good work area.
We've been in the house for a little over a year, which has helped me get a good feel for how we use the space.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 11:19AM
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For starters, I would swap the fridge and ovens, and I would move the dishwasher to the right of the sink (maybe dishdrawers?).

Second, I would both narrow and shorten the island, but just a bit. We made do with 39" between the island and adjacent spaces on all sides in our old kitchen and it worked fine. I wouldn't go too overboard though, maybe just narrow it to 30" x 56".

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 2:27PM
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If you can relocate the vacuum, I'd put the fridge where that closet is now...closer to the sink. Keep oven where it is and maybe add prep sink and coffee maker to that back, baking wall.

The fridge looks like it's in the doorway right now, but should be set back a bit, from the breakfast room entry...and easier to use. Also closer to the sink and island. Would this work for you?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 2:55PM
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Now I see what you have in mind. How about this: you do the prep on the island by the stove, right? So move the OVEN to the pantry wall or under the island, and make the fridge wall the food-storage wall. Maybe you'd want to put the fridge where the oven was. Then the wall from the door to the steps can have cabinets and counters for the dumping ground (doesn't every home have one?), maybe glass doors for storing your decorative things.

But moving anything major now, wouldn't that lead to a whole-kitchen-reno pricetag before you're ready to do the reno?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 3:34PM
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Yeah, I think I'm not being very clear - I'm sorry! What I'm hoping for is a master plan for the end result - I don't want to make an interim plan. I don't want to expend time/energy in moving things around for a temporary redo. I want to come up with a wonderful, functional floorplan. If it ends up that I can make incremental changes that will help resolve my temporary problems with the fridge not fitting perfectly in it's current spot, that's fine. But for all intents and purposes, let's forget I said anything about doing this piecemeal. The big question is this: what is the optimal floorplan for this kitchen, given my likes/dislikes/needs, etc.

Here's one version of what I have been kicking around in my head (just a rough idea of zones/general layout):

Thoughts? I'm also going to mockup the other options that have been suggested.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 6:27PM
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Sjhockeyfan, is this about what you're suggesting?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 6:46PM
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In your design it would be best to scoot the refrigerator over a bit such that it opens into the aisle between the island and sink wall. Then you will have extra space when you are opening the refrigerator, for the door swing and so that you do not have a blocked aisle. However, I do not think that is the ideal spot for it as that looks a major traffic pathway. I like it better where you had it in the second drawing with the addition of a prep sink in the island.

What you have now is called a barrier island as it is in the middle of your work triangle and so doesn't really serve much of a useful purpose since the majority of time is spent on food prep and for that you need a water source.

Another option would be to make the wall where you have the ovens and refrigerator into a focal point with a large range and decorative hood then locate the refrigerator on the wall where you have the cooktop and put the microwave elsewhere. With your high ceilings I think that would be my first choice.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 8:28PM
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Valinsv, I like the idea of a focal wall, with a nice range and hood. I feel like putting the fridge where the cooktop is now will make for a dark corner, and it still doesn't get the food storage (fridge plus pantry) close together.

Barrier island - you're completely right! Sometimes I feel like I've walked in circles going around the darn thing while I'm making dinner.

So, how do you avoid the barrier island problem? Add a function to it? Is it still a barrier island if it has a prep sink?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 9:14PM
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