Design-challenged...Please help with preliminary ideas!

blaster1492December 21, 2013

Hi all,
Thanks for taking the time to read this! My wife and I recently bought our first home - a 1919 frame bungalow in the suburbs of Chicago. It is a charming home, and we are looking to update the kitchen. Let me start off by saying that I know there are some purists on this forum who have strong beliefs about how to (or how not to) update a kitchen in an old home. We do planning on adding 21st century amenities/style, but are committed to doing it in a way which fits with the character of the home.

We are still in the early stages and haven't yet met with any professionals, but we are having trouble even coming up with initial thoughts to bring to whichever remodeling companies we will meet with. So I figured I could leave you all with the layout, and if anyone would be so kind to donate their creative juices and thoughts it would be oh so much appreciated! Here is a nifty link to our floorplan:

Here are some problems/issues/thoughts on our mind right now:
1. The kitchen is closed off from the rest of the house (we actually kind of like that in many ways, but it limits our options for expanding space)
2. The kitchen space itself is not that large.
3. At the very least, we are thinking of taking down the wall between the kitchen and pantry to create additional space, and stealing some space from the adjacent bedroom's closet. This will be helpful no matter what, but it is somewhat limited by what I think is a chimney which vents the furnace (see diagram).
4. We are considering the possibility of expanding the kitchen into the sunroom. This would create a huge amount of space! But the sunroom is not currently heated, and not sure if it is a "proper" structure in the sense of making it part of the inside of the house. Any idea on what would be involved or how expensive it would be to make this a true "inside" space?
5. If it were in any way possible, we would really like to have an island. But I don't see how that would be possible unless significant changes in layout were made (aka going into sunroom). Agree?

At this point we're not at the level of detail to discuss where to put what type of cabinet, etc, just how you all would utilize the space in general and if you have any tricks up your sleeve to make this a great kitchen!

Thanks in advance and happy holidays to you all!

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Congratulations on your home.

Having lived in an older home myself, I can pretty much guess that the sun room is not over a real foundation. Is that the case with yours?
If so, then to bring things up to code and enlarge the kitchen space into it (as 1 big room with a ceiling header where your outside wall is now) will most likely require to remove it entirely, get approved stamped drawings, pour concrete foundation under it, and frame the walls to be structurally up to code, adding insulation, heat, and electric, and new roofing.

So basically you are ripping it off and discarding it. Once you make peace with that, then the question becomes a might as well. If you do that, should you enlarge beyond the current footprint, possibly widening the actual kitchen? Should you add second story above? Should you add an attached garage behind? This can be a big decision, but essentially the cost per square foot of bringing in the sun porch to the bonne fide living space is an expensive one.

So, assuming you are not made of money and don't plan to stay here 20 years, you are most likely going to look at less costly options.

You could probably be OK with code to change the separation between the kitchen and the sun room to be french doors. (which you could of course keep open). And add a small mini split heat pump to the porch space to add heating and AC. (this would be probably about $3000-$4000 installed, and would make the space comfortable year round and not require any duct work.)This solution would allow you to add a family table to the sun room, and make it a comfy space without adding in the structural expense of making it part of the house proper. If you can add a vapor barrier and insulate the ceiling and under the floor that would definitely be worth it for comfort. Older houses are drafty.

Getting a nice eating area into the porch room allows the kitchen to become a nice work area. You mentioned an island. I think a butcher block work cart type of island would work well, (look at the John Boos website, a nice IL company) but a fixed island is probably too intrusive. You essentially have a hallway lane in the kitchen that has to be respected. Your overall layout appears logical. I think that getting a nice counter depth refrigerator would be important.

Adding a good storage design to the pantry area would be my preferred use of that space. But if you decide against the island cart, then a secondary built in there would probably be nice as well.

One of my friends with a nice bungalow home has a nice L shaped pantry closet with counter and uppers and lowers off her kitchen. It has very shallow counters and no door between it and the kitchen. But the counters and uppers provide excellent storage, and it is just big enough that 1 person can squeeze in there to do some prep if it is a holiday and there are multiple cooks using the kitchen. But mostly it is food storage and larger appliance storage.

Their pantry has electrical plugs so she can use the mixer, croc pot, electric carving knife, etc. in there.

This post was edited by juliekcmo on Sat, Dec 21, 13 at 8:06

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 8:05AM
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Congrats on your new house! For me, it would depend on how long I was going to stay in the home and what other houses in the neighborhood looked like - as far as the extent of the renovations. I'm not a purist... I love older neighborhoods but want a house that is very livable for myself and family. In my part of the country - many people would sacrifice the bedroom in the back - combine with the kitchen to make an open den/kitchen area. Of course, that would probably be combined with an upstairs expansion to ensure the house had at least 4 bedrooms post renovation.

I think you should get a couple general contractors out to look at your porch - it could be over a decent foundation and be possible to combine or you may be looking at tearing it down and starting over.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 8:37AM
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Thank you for your thoughts so far! To be honest I really don't know much about this kind of stuff to know whether our back sunroom is over a real foundation or not. What would one look for to determine that? If it did involve tearing it down and rebuilding, that would probably be beyond what we want to spend. But if not that idea of expanding out there would be terrific. And the idea of putting french doors and using it as an eating area has crossed my mind as well, and I think it could be a terrific idea if as you mentioned you got some utilities out there. There are already plenty of electrical outlets.

Opening up into the back bedroom has crossed my mind. But, as you said that would leave us with 3 bedrooms (1 downstairs and 2 upstairs) so that wouldn't be ideal. Plus I think to me that might be altering the character of this home more than I would like. But it would make for an awesome kitchen/dining area :)

Assuming we did not make signficant floor plan changes, I think we would still open up the pantry and eat a bit into the bedroom closet to increase amount of room in the kitchen. Although it sounds like it works well for your friend to have the semi-open pantry/work area, I think we would really appreciate a slightly more open feel. As someone mentioned, the fridge is HUGE (but new and beautiful :) ), so we were thinking about putting it in the space the pantry, and then maybe just putting more countertop/cabinet or built in pantry cabinet there.

Any more thoughts or visions or insight from anyone? It would be hugely appreciated! Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 8:35PM
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Let me add to the congratulations. That is a very neat application, I don't think I've seen anyone use it. It reminds of the real estate site viewers.

As mentioned above, you need to determine what is underneath that porch. It appears you may have some crawl space access directly under there, so the only way to find out is to look underneath. It does look like classic porch trellis on one side, and an enclosed area on the other. (And then get a contractor in there to find out). It seems like there was work done previously, so perhaps the plans are available from the second story expansion? The rear photos do not look as obviously "porch-like" as others.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 9:42PM
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Given that the roof and 2nd story of the house extend over the sunroom, I think it must have the same foundation as the rest of the house. And the interior finishes suggest same. So I'd wager that space is ripe for the taking.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 11:15PM
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In the basement utility room, there's a window facing the back that is closed up. Can you tell how it's closed up? It seems to me that if they made a foundation under the porch, they'd have removed the window altogether, no? Can you open the playroom door to the back?

If it's not a foundation allowing you to break out there, here's a thought for the kitchen. I moved the door to the other side of the furnace flue (and, if you ever get a new super-high efficiency furnace, it would vent out the side/back of the house and I don't think you'd need a chimney at all, would you?) Anyway, you may still not have enough room for an island, but the U would be bigger, and you could put a hutch between the kitchen door and the porch door. You could arrange the U however you like.

As for the bedroom, it shrunk to about 13x9, and a closet would render it about, what 10x9? A pretty small bedroom. If you remove the kitchen hutch, you could use the space for part of a closet. Do you use it as a bedroom?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 12:17AM
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Bpathome- That's a nice idea :)

Just a quick case you can incorporate the sunroom. Cute house! From Kitchen plans

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 12:40AM
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Nice, Lavender! It makes a big difference if they can integrate the porch :) Here's a flip of your plan that opens to the stairs, so they can wander blearily down and go directly to the coffee in the a.m. Keeps traffic away from the bedrooms, too. Speaking of which, while it's part of the bungalow charm, a bedroom opening off the dining room, if it's used as a bedroom, is not my cup of tea, so I moved the door.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 1:27AM
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Wow you all are amazing! Beautiful ideas! Thanks for all of the thoughts. You really have my wheels spinning now considering what a difference incorporating the sunroom makes. I am going to take some pictures of the sunroom structure (including underneath the structure) tomorrow and post it in case anyone is able to draw any conclusions from it. But until then, I can answer a few of the questions you had. The basement does have an exterior door, which is located under the sunroom (you have to walk up a few concrete steps to get to grade, at which point you can either exit into the yard or take the stairs up to the sunroom). The rest of the area under the sunroom is just a storage area where I keep bags of mulch, firewood, etc. I will check for more detail tomorrow,but the sunroom is supported by posts anchored into cement piers. What I don't know is whether those piers sit on a foundation or are just free-floating. I thought of two other things which might bode well for it being a well-supported structure which we could expand to: 1) our inspector told us he believes the sunroom is original to the house, so I would then assume it was built on a foundation (?); 2) the sunroom holds up the roofline - aka there is normal roofing above the sunroom, which makes me think the structure is strong enough to support the second story and roof and thus should be expandable (?)

PS - Intriguing idea about moving the hallway to kitchen to the other end of the house and moving the doorway to keep traffic and noise away from the bedrooms. Currently we use back bedroom as a spare room and the room off the dining room as an office. Someday we will use one (probably back room) for a kid's bedroom.

Thanks again and feel free to keep the creative juices flowing :)

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 4:00AM
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Here is the link to the pictures which showing the sunroom and the area under the sunroom:

I know ultimately I will need a contractor to give me a final answer, but if you see any clues in the pictures as to whether the sunroom is easily convertible or not, that would be so helpful!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Just wondering, what is your intention for an island? Do you want it for casual dining, for prep, as a space divider?

Kudos for going out in the wet snow today! Sorry, I'm not well-versed in porch construction. It looks like the foundation is the same as the front porch, so original, but not sure about its enclosure. Notice how the lattice-work ends about the same place the windows seem to be a little different? And the pantry window is at about the same spot? And the 5th window in the expanse is different? Usually those basement doors were not under the porch, I don't think. A PO may have enclosed the original porch up to the door, then another PO extended it, adding the 5th window. Research!

Then, you can decide what to do. The top and bottom floors already depart from the aesthetic, so how do you want to handle the main floor? It's up to you!

You could open to the back bedroom with partial walls, and steal doors from the house to use as double doors in the opening to maintain the aesthetic.

Would you consider closing off that basement door and enclosing the porch all the way across? That would give you a good rear entry from the garage, and maybe you'd do larger doors from the back out to a deck wrapping that wonderful tree. (Another thing you need to find out is whether it is a (doomed) ash.) Or, maybe you want to use that basement door, in which case you can either incorporate it into the interior, with access to the kitchen, or open it more to the yard.

I notice that the stairs make a "pie tread" turn at the bottom, so my thought to open it to the kitchen would require more changes, possibly to the dining room door height, so that might not work.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 8:34PM
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We did knock out a wall into a bedroom and it has made the entire house seem bigger. Our house is a 1910 Craftsman, sounds very similar to yours. I too like a closed floorplan, but that bedroom was never going to be utilized as such for us so we went for it and love it. The total square footage of our house doesn't really support five bedroooms. People looking to use all those bedrooms in 2013 vs. 1910 aren't going to want a 2000 sq ft home, you know? They'll want 3500 sq ft with huge closets and an attached garage, not a house like ours.

I know the real estate mantra is to preserve bedrooms, but it doesn't always make sense and in our case I know our home is worth more now with one less bedroom because we have a much better kitchen. We are planning to stay for a long time so we did what works best for our lifestyle.

Here is a link that might be useful: 1910 Craftsman kitchen reveal

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 7:46AM
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You really need to get an architect and structural engineer involved in your planning at an early stage. There's a lot of "if's" about what can and can't be done economically. Better to find out on the front end before you spend a lot of time planning a 300K remodel that can never happen.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 9:19AM
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Great suggestions.

bpathome - I guess I like the idea of an island to maximize prep space but also to put some seating into the kitchen. Especially since out living/dining rooms are not open to the kitchen, it would be nice to have some seating/entertaining there. My wife likes peninsulas better, I like islands better. Also, GREAT eye to pick up on the potential addition to the sunroom by a prior owner. That thought has never crossed my mind. We will need to make some tough decisions coming up.

threegraces- you did a beautiful job with your kitchen, and I agree our houses seem to be similar. It's hard to tell from your pictures, but it appears that your original kitchen space may have been a bit smaller than ours is currently, and I feel like even if we didn't go to the sunroom or into the space bedroom that we could have a good sized kitchen if we utilize the pantry space. I have mixed feelings about taking out the bedroom, but seeing your pictures really proved how much you can do with the space! If we had 5 bedrooms, I would not hesitate to take out one, for the reason you mentioned. We have 4 (2 upstairs, 2 main level), so I am a little more hesitant. My wife and I both use the office on a regular basis for work, so its nice to essentially have 3 BR + office space considering we are planning on having 2 children (in the next few years). We will have to see!

live wire oak - agree, we need to do that soon. I wouldn't have known where to start a few days ago, but you all on here have been so helpful!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 11:58AM
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Can't tell anything from those pictures underneath the sunroom. Most of the pics are looking up at the floor and a couple are wide angle of the space, but what's most important is the foundation, and the foundation isn't visible in these photos. Remember, "foundation" refers to the interface with the ground, which in this case is the perimeter of the structure beneath the sunroom at the ground.

Anyhow, regardless of the pics you take and the advice folks around here can provide, you're gonna need to have someone come onsite and assess the sunroom's structural viability, so might as well do it sooner rather than later. Lots of good ideas here so far, but I agree with others that it doesn't make sense to spend a lot of time on kitchen layout without a better feel for the space you have to work with.

This post was edited by GauchoGordo1993 on Mon, Dec 23, 13 at 14:12

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 2:04PM
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