U-shaped w/ small island or L w/ larger island? Help pls

berryjamNovember 11, 2013

Hello GWers! I've been mostly lurking on this site and I've really learned a lot and have such great respect for everyone here. now I'm ready to get some ideas for my remodel which will hopefully happen in the next year or two.

We are a family of four (2 children, 4 and 6 yrs). My parents are over quite often since they help babysit. Most of the big family events happen here so I would like a multi-person kitchen. We do cook most meals and usually sit together for dinner. We have an unfinished basement, 9 ft ceilings. Windows and doors have plans to be changed.

The idea is to relocate the kitchen, family and dining in a clockwise rotation and take down the walls between to make it more open concept. We also plan to change the back patio door to a bay window since we don't want the main entrance and back door in direct alignment. In its stead, we plan to enlarge the window that was originally over the sink to be the patio door and/or modify the bow window to become the back door in some shape or form.

Here's the what we are living with currently

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U shaped kitchen with a smaller island.

Pros: lots of counter and cabinets. Nice window over the sink.

But....I would like a bigger island. Since I've pretty much eliminated the breakfast area, I want to have more seating at the island to compensate. Also, I have 2 corners to deal with and the back patio door is on the other side of the house. I can just see DH standing half way in the door saying, "Hon, can you pass me the..." Is it really so hard to take off his shoes (or crocs for that matter) to come and get the whatever it may be? If I was free and sitting idle, I'd be out there with him and would have no problem getting it. But I'm not!! I'm usually busy with my hand full. Sorry, had to get that off my chest. So, I'm not liking the trek across the house for bbqing prep.

Maybe someone just has to point out why this may be a better design that I'm not envisioning

    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 10:45PM
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Next, the L shaped kitchen with the larger island.

Pros: more seating and the image in my head of a large island is what I like. And hopefully we can have the back patio door here. Much closer for the "hon, can you...."

But...I've spoken to a few window guys, and I should be able to get a back door here but I may lose out in the small square footage that the bow made. The footprint of the house follows the curve, but as one guy said, "you can't have a curved door". We may be able to angle 2 windows flanking a garden door instead of a sliding patio door which may help keep some of the shape.

Also, I have a small bump out in that corner by the bow window. Not sure what is there but hopefully it can be removed. Also the distance from the perimeter wall and the window frame is about 21" and standard cabs come 24", and I was hoping to do the 28" deeper cabs on that wall so I'm not sure how that would look visually.

I'm also not sure where to place the steam oven (on my wish list)/oven (27" or 30"). In reality, my family could get by with the 24" most of the time, but when family comes over, I do need that extra oven. Also not sure where to place the MW and DH not sold on the counter-depth fridge. However, we do have an extra fridge in the basement and a small cold cellar.

So kitchen gurus, which one is a better layout...or is there option 3? Nothing is set in stone and I'm open to ideas and suggestions. Thanks in advance for all your help and advice.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 10:47PM
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Is your family room your main gathering space? I'm not one of the layout experts....from what I see on my iPhone right now I think your U shape looks like a really awesome layout...

However what I really see as a problem is losing that nice big family room for the seemingly much smaller family room space your new plans show. Maybe
A different furniture layout would help, but do you really want room for just one sofa, seating for 3, in a space open to such a huge kitchen and dining area?

We actually just remodeled and did something similar, shifted all rooms clockwise. But in our case we gained kitchen space by eliminating a formal living room and in turn got a slightly bigger family room than we had plus the kitchen and dining room stretched out. I love love how much bigger our kitchen and 1 single dining area are, but I wouldn't have wanted it if it made our family room any smaller, and sometimes I still wonder if we made our kitchen/dining room disproportionately big.

Have you considered keeping the fam room in tact and working out a new kitchen and open dining spot with the existing kitchen/breakfast/formal dr areas?

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 12:37AM
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I have the same concerns as Homebuyer...do you plan to make the living room a family room?

If not, maybe this would be a possibility? You could also have a banquette on one or two sides of the dining table, rather than all chairs. Just an idea :) From Kitchen plans

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 3:24AM
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Ditto the concerns about the gathering space becoming too small and congested. Have you considered leaving the family room where it is, while consolidating the kitchen, breakfast room and dining room into one large space? Put a wall where it appears you have open space between family room and breakfast nook and make the other side of the fireplace open to the DR.

You could convert the sliding door into a single door in what is now the breakfast room, which would enable you to move the kitchen further that direction. Or could you move that door to a space between the kitchen and DR so you could expand the kitchen all the way to the family room?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 6:04AM
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I have thought about this and spoke to DH of the loss of space in the FR but we do have the living riom for extra seating and plan on renovating the basement to have the main rec room there when we have a crowd.

I have also worked up this option on paper but after speaking to a few GC gor quotes, They said I'll probably have to have a support post on the wall behind the sofa which cuts into my island. Also, there's a cold air return duct there. That doesn't have to be there by the post, it can be shifted towards the perimeter, but none the less I need to have that piece of wall somewhere there. I just thought it would be a good lace for light switches. Any other ideas? Maybe we can change the layout of the family room?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 7:09AM
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What if I changed the location of tv to over the fireplace and put in another 3 seater where the tv used to be?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 7:17AM
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I like small intimate seating areas, especially near the dining and cooking sections of my home. I like the flow it creates for entertaining. However, I don't put tv's in them at all. Our only tv is in our basement rec room. I prefer it that way for entertaining. Otherwise, my dad and FIL would have a constant need to put "the game" on and never talk to anyone. If watching "the game" is part of the purpose for gathering (pretty much never, in my house, except maybe super bowl) then our basement has a sectional for 6-7 and 4 other occasional chairs.

I know your basement is not yet finished. But would you consider making the living room the tv room? Not only will you have more space for seating around the tv, but you need room to play video games... I know.. I didn't plan for that either, and our tv space in the basement is tight (we finished our basement when the kids were about the same age as yours). But it comes. Trust me, eventually, the video games come.

Besides that, it is separated. So when the adults are sitting and talking after a meal, but the kids are bored and want to watch a movie or their shows, they can do that without conflicting with conversation.

Of course, I totally realize that tv plays a bigger role in some houses then it does in mine. That's fine. Just offering up alternatives.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 7:30AM
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Based on the relative wall lengths in the picture, I don't think another three-seater would work (and would be totally "off" if it did), but I do think putting the TV over the fireplace and adding a swivel lounge chair where the TV is now might work (and of course the kids would love the swivel chair).

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 12:25PM
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I have been evaluating how we use the FR and I think we're ok with it being smaller. Only thing is to increase the seating there for the odd time we have more than 4...so maybe change the layout, close up that space in the wall by the stairs. Why I say for the "odd" time even though we have big family gatherings? Most of the time the young adults are gathered by the dining table chatting, the "moms" are helping me in the kitchen or hanging around the breakfast area; and only dear grandma is eating and watching TV in the family room with my dad having a nap there. After dinner the seniors go off to play mahjong and now it's my uncles turn for a nap in the FR and the young adults go to the living room to chat if we want more comfortable seating. Oh, and the children are running around in the basement. We are not at the video game playing stage yet... But I have taken out the coffee table already for play in the middle of the room.

I did think of another layout but haven't had a chance to fully draw it up on graph and really look at it. I'd leave the current rooms in place but open up the walls. But effectively remove the breakfast area and kitchen peninsula by putting in an island btwn the kitchen and dining and have the column attached to the island and pushing it further to the right so that I have a decent size island. I just haven't worked out on appliance placement and windows and doors

Id also like your opinions on how big of an island is adequate. What is your size and would you want it bigger or smaller? Thanks a bunch

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 5:38PM
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How would it be if you closed the doorway next to the stairs and add a wall till the column(?) on the foyer side? You can have the TV on that angled wall and have a loveseat where you now have the TV. And if you add that wall maybe you can keep the back door in the breakfast area. Although it would still align with front entry, the added wall would be partly in between. You can have a door on the left and the right leaf can be fixed.

And a 3rd option for the kitchen. If you can keep the door in the middle area, not too bad for the "hon, can you...." occurrences I believe .

Though not an expert, I guess an island size of 48"x93" can fit your kitchen with L layout (reading dimensions as 12'x18'). I have a 12" tall cab b/w to fridge and wall, so doors can open freely.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 2:31PM
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Wow Sena! Thanks for taking the time to draw that up. I'm not very tech savy, hence my paper and pencil renditions. I did think to close up that space by the stairs but without the angled wall. I will have to think about your kitchen design. I like the island and that you kept the bow window, i'm just not sure about the fridge and ovens (I know, function over form). Also, I'm hoping the fireplace doesn't take up that much space.

But here is a rendition of a layout I had before thinking to move the kitchen to the opposite side of the house with a bit of tweaking from ideas from Lavender. I extended the wall by the stairs but now it feels like the living room is completely segregated from the "family". I extended the cabs to the dining, just don't know what should be there and then having the 2 sinks back to back seems very redundant.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 11:46PM
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In your last layout you can have the main sink at the bottom wall (maybe in front of the left window) and ovens and cooktop on the fridge wall as Lavender suggested.

This post was edited by sena01 on Thu, Nov 14, 13 at 7:10

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 2:52AM
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Now I'm kind of torn between 3 of the layouts. The initial "L" but with 2 3-seaters in the FR (see attached), Sena's kitchen rendition with the sink at the bow window, and my previous post with the larger FR and switching DR and kitchen.

With the new FR layout, do you still feel it is too small? I still have the living room and plan for a nice rec room in the basement.

I like the "L" kitchens because it gives me a larger island with more seating at the island. It's a place I hope my children want to hang out and do homework while I prep dinner. Currently, DD sits at the breakfast table doing homework while I prep at the peninsula and I think it would be easier to help her if she's closer to me. The only thing I find with Sena's kitchen is the East wall. It looks so bare.

With the third layout, I feel the hallway becomes a bottle neck and makes the house feel more closed, even though I'm making it more open-concept. Also because I've pushed the support beam a little further into the hall, I will have to reinforce it in the basement which I think may affect the openness of the basement "play" area. And, this only gives me 2 seats by the island which becomes an obstacle with larger gatherings and people sitting at the dining table.

Anyone have a preference and why? I'd love to hear your take on these. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 10:00PM
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I think DH and I still prefer the kitchen on the right side with a smaller FR. We figure there's enough sitting area and would like a bigger kitchen. Can anyone else help with the kitchen layout? Is the sink and window better? Or is the patio better? Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 8:36AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Moving everything there is and taking down multiple walls is VERY expensive. How many hundreds of thousands IS your budget to do this? Step back, and figure out if this house is worth that expenditure before you get too deep in with plans to do all of this.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 9:37AM
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What's the scale? Since the measurements aren't written on the graph paper, it's difficult to determine the measurements. I thought it was 1 box = 12" and I started counting, but it doesn't work out that way in the corner where you said it was 21" b/w the wall and the door/window - it appears to be more like 24" (if the scale is 1 box = 12"). Yet the refrigerator looks right (if it's 36" wide)

Counting boxes, I came up with 30'6" long and 22'0" on the wide end and 17'6" wide on the narrow end.

Long window wall:
24" wall (this is where you said it was 21")
8' Bay window/door (including trim - if that's what you show in your layout)
42" Wall
6' window/door
30" wall
6' window
30" wall

Is that correct? Or, is the scale different? Or are the measurements wrong (the first 24" is obviously wrong b/c you said it was 21")

Hmmmm.....could the 21" be between the small bumpout and the window frame? Is the bumpout approx 3" deep? But, it looks like it's 6"x6", which would make it more like 18" b/w the bumpout and the window/door frame....

[Edited to add last sentence about the bumpout.]

This post was edited by buehl on Sat, Nov 16, 13 at 15:00

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 2:55PM
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Hi Hollysprings,

You bring up a very valid concern. Thank you. Fortunately we are in a very well sought out neighborhood with good primary and secondary schools. Since moving here, our house value has increased considerably. If we were to look for another house in this neighborhood I'm not sure we could afford it now. The current real estate trend I've noticed in my neighborhood is that the home owners are renovating first and then listing it on the market for a higher amount. So I believe that even if we put this large sum of money into this renovation, we are still making money.

If I was just flipping this house, I wouldn't move walls but just renovate the basement and update the kitchen and bath, but we do plan on being here for a while so we want to make the house more functional for us.

Another consideration we thought about was to make an addition to the kitchen to make it bigger. This would be fine also because we have one of the smaller houses in this neighborhood of very large houses. However, this would probably cost even more and we feel that the space we have is adequate enough for us (take that as I don't want to have to spend even more time cleaning) and eventually we will do the basement too (when the children aren't afraid of being there by themselves).

So while I keep saving money for this reno, do you have any suggestions to help make this place more functional? Thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 3:15PM
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Hi buehl,

I'm sorry but I didn't draw the 21" to scale. It does look like 24" in my drawing but it should be 21". As for the remaining measurements, you are correct or as correct as I can get since I'm measuring around walls and kitchen cabinets. Thanks a bunch.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 4:06PM
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So - is it 21" from the bumpout or 21" from the back wall?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 4:30PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Average costs for a mid range kitchen reno is 58K, and only adds 65% of that expense to the value of the home, and that, only when you sell. In other words, you LOSE 35% of the 100% you SPEND on the project. You still have to come up with that 100% to pay for the project.

And that's the best case scenario. Yours proposed reno isn't average, as you've got to move all of the electrical, plumbing and deal with the HVAC too. Just movingthe kitchen alone is probably double that. You'll need to reconfigure walls, electrical, and plumbing. And structural supports to be able to take down the walls. In other words, everything that matters and is expensive to do. With all of the stuff you're doing, it might be cheaper to do a teardown and build an entire new home than try to renovate everything.

New construction doesn't have all of the old stuff to try to preserve and integrate and is cheaper per square foot than a major remodel.

With as many changes as you have in mind, you need someone other than a contractor to draw out the plans for you. You need an architect well versed in renovations, and who works with a structural engineer. And no, I don't think an addition would be more expensive. It's a lot more expensive to renovate old, especially while you are still trying to live in it. The order of operations is compromised by that. And, if you move out, you've got that expense to add to it.

Sure, your home value may have risen, but unless you can afford a higher home payment forever, cashing out your equity to do a reno like this isn't the smartest thing to do without a definite timetable to sell the home to take advantage of the newly renovated state. 10 years down the road, your "new" kitchen is 10 years old, looking dated, and doesn't add anything to the value of the home to speak of.

Now, you will have gotten 10 years of use out of it, and if it made your life more functional, then the only final judgement that you can make will have be in hindsight if it's worth 20K a year to have lived in the remodeled space. In some markets, the answer might be yes. In others, you can't begin to know what will or won't be considered a plus in 10 years time. Just be very careful in being sure that you're not looking at the project with rose colored glasses about how wonderful it will make your life in the home.

Memories are made even in modest dysfunctionally laid out homes. It's not the space. It's the people that fill the space! If the reno makes it easier to spend time with them, and you can very easily afford that, of course, it's an easy decision. But, for most of the population, the cost/benefit analysis doesn't have the benefit of being able to do such a large project without negative impact on the homelife and the budget to do other things.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 5:12PM
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OK - I may have gotten a little carried away...but here's a layout with what appear to be all your wants. I don't see a pantry, so I added cabinets behind the island as well as b/w the DR and TV room for extra storage. You actually have plenty of storage in this kitchen! The base cabinets on the top wall are 27"D (but could be as deep as 28.5"), the upper cabs on the top wall are 15"D.

There are two excellent Prep Zones, although I would prefer to prep on the island facing everyone! (Prepping is 70% or more of the work/time in the kitchen; cleaning up is 20% or less.)

The Cleanup Zone is out of the way of the Prep and Cooking Zones and there's no crossing through the Cleanup Zone to get to the Refrigerator or MW.

With an undercounter MW like a MW drawer, you don't lose counterspace or have anything in the vertical space b/w the counters and cabinets. There's a nice stretch of counter to the left of the ovens,for a snack center or even a tea/coffee center (43" of counterspace).

The ovens are in a 31.5" wide cabinet - the reasonable minimum needed for 30" wide ovens (which I assume the wall oven is at least - I don't know how wide your steam oven will be).

There's a 42" wide counter-depth refrigerator - hopefully that will allay your DH's concern about a counter-depth model...

In the DR, the table can be moved a bit to the left, especially if you don't put an outside door in the DR. Moving the table to the left will give you a few more inches b/w the shallow cabinets and the table.

Note that the cabinets b/w the DR and TV Room are 6" taller than standard - that means the counter will be 42" high (bar-height). The cabinets + counters not only give you more storage space, but they also provide you with a separation b/w the DR and the TV Room as well as provide counter space in both places. The cabinets are 12" deep, but the counter is 15" deep.

The TV Room has a sofa and chair - the chair can be moved to view the TV or stay where it is for conversation and visiting. (I even added end tables :-))

A note about the doors - I don't understand why you don't like the "line of sight" from the front door to the back door. The problem is, that middle section is the ideal spot for the back door - no obstructions, easy access to the kitchen, and out of the way of all work zones and seating areas. It keeps the traffic out of everyone's way - it's the perfect location! Put up some nice window/door dressings and you'll have a pleasant view for anyone entering your home from the front door.

I wouldn't want the door to be in the kitchen (in the 8' span) b/c it would draw everyone through the kitchen to get to the backyard - the last thing you want in a kitchen! The island will help direct people around, but inevitably, some people will choose to go through the kitchen (b/w the island and perimeter) and get in your way - especially if someone is sitting at the island. If you absolutely must have the door there, then I suggest a sliding door with the opening as far away from the kitchen as possible - so that would mean the bottom of the 8' span. The rest can be windows. It's still going to be an issue, though...

Here's the layout (select/click on a picture to see a bigger version):

I labeled the cabinets and counters with suggestions for storage and usage - but you should tailor it to what would work for you...

Here's a zone map:

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 7:47PM
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Thank you buehl for taking the time to work this out. I really like the seating at two sides and love the cabinet between the DR and FR. I think this is how I'd like to work in my kitchen. So based on your drawing you would be on team "L" and forego the sink under the window option?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 8:22AM
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I could go either way.

On the one hand, I think the "L" gives you more room for circulation in general, as well as a bigger island with 5 seats on two sides that is more conducive to conversation, and, given that you host most family gatherings at your home, it may be better for larger #s of people.

On the other hand, the "U" offers more places to work and more storage as well as, possibly, a Tea/Coffee/Beverage Center in addition to a Snack Center - but it's not as open and only has room for 3 at the island - and those three seats are like "ducks in a row".

Here's an idea for a "U" layout:

With Zones:

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 5:00PM
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Just realized that I didn't mention in either post that the top counters are 30" deep for more workspace.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 5:02PM
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I actually really like Buehl's "U" design. You can see from her zone map how excellent it will be with lots of cooks milling around the kitchen without really bumping butts at all.
I think it comes down to what's more important to you: the island seating or multiple work zones. I think most people would choose the "L" because gatherings with lots of cooks are rare for most families these days. But, the way you described your family get togethers puts the "U" in strong contention, IMO.

Good luck, you've got lots of great ideas here.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 7:32PM
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