Please Critique This Kitchen Design

RChicagoDecember 16, 2013


We're excited to embark on a complete kitchen gut in our late 60's home, where we'd like to live for the next 20 years. We couldn't make an addition work financially, so have decided instead to combine the existing kitchen and dining spaces into one larger, open space. Even when we had a formal dining room, our guests gravitated toward the kitchen, so we're okay with not having a formal dining room.

We'd like a kitchen that will be the heart of the house, where family can gather, and where two people can cook simultaneously. We also have pot luck parties where friends will want to prepare/cook their dishes in our kitchen. We have a ton of kitchen stuff, from the six quart KA mixer to the Italian gelato machine to a huge barware collection. It doesn't all need to live in the kitchen, but we do need a ton of storage. My husband and I have a baby, and plan to have one more child if we're able. Our aesthetic is clean, bright, and modern, with lots of wood and no ornamentation.

There are several design challenges in the existing space, including:
> The kitchen is only 13'4" wide;
> A load-bearing wall that's too costly to remove;
> A sunporch with doors that can't be moved much (the existing opening is 6', but we may shorten to permit a longer cabinet wall);
> The existing exterior window is 6' wide, but only about 18" from the floor, so cabinets can't go in front of that window; and
> Sub-8' ceilings.

Please take a look at the attached floor plan (sorry it's crooked!). The kitchen is too wide to be a galley and a peninsula would cut off the kitchen from the dining area, something we don't want. So, we appear to be stuck with a very narrow island (30") and narrow aisles (approx 40 and 42"). The sink is on the only wall that would permit a sink at a window (We don't want the sink to face a wall). The doorway to the foyer is somewhat moveable, and the entrance to the family room can be completely open. I'm not looking for precision at the moment, just trying to discern the best layout.

Any and all input would be appreciated. What's good? What's bad? How would you change things?

Should the kitchen and dining spaces be flipped, perhaps with a sink in an island looking out toward the sun porch?

HUGE thanks in advance. We've already gone through several designs, and would like input about whether this one is problematic before moving forward.

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Is your sunporch enclosed and climate-controlled?

In a late 1960's house, you have lower-than-8-foot ceilings? Did a PO raise the floor or drop the ceiling, or was it built that odd way?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 6:13PM
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Hi, bpathome.

The sun porch is enclosed - nearly all glass - but not climate controlled.

Yep, the house was built with ceilings a few inches short of eight feet. We have the original blue prints. Fortunately, we have a beamed ceiling in the living room that almost makes up for it.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 6:49PM
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How do you know it's "too expensive" to remove the load bearing wall? Unless it's a multi story home with snow loading, it's not usually more than about 5K and often well under that to do that. And replacing the window with something shorter isn't a big deal either. Unless you're wanting to do the whole project on a 15K budget that is. If you've got at least the national average dollars set aside (55K) and some DIY skills, you should be able to squeeze both of those alterations in to the project.

And don't be so quick to dismiss a peninsula. It works as a traffic cop, keeping people out of your prep area. That is not a bad thing. It's much better than having a major traffic route right through the hot zone, or having people feel like they're eating in the middle of your dirty prep stuff in the middle of your kitchen. That's a big issue with open concepts. You have to create room definitions or you get one space bleeding into the other.

Do a better measured drawing, and one that indicates the measurements and functions of the adjacent spaces.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 7:56PM
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Even with the long windows, someone may come up with different layout options if you give detailed measurements.

Here is a link that might be useful: AnneNJ's kitchen

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 2:40AM
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To be honest, your opening post gives too many restrictions. You're stuck with less than ideal when you begin the conversation with things like:
will only consider sink under window, won't consider a peninsula, can't do a galley, can't change the window, can't, can't can't can't.....

You need to be open to any and all possibilities in order to allow for the lightbulb moment.

Just my $.02

Oh, and I can't tell measurements, but I don't think the currently shown plan has nearly enough space around the range. Plus, I'd want the DW between the fridge and sink to get it out of the cooking zone. (yes, I'm right handed. Yes, in my 42 yrs. I've had DW's here, there and everywhere, it never made a difference, ergonomically)

This post was edited by controlfreakecs on Tue, Dec 17, 13 at 8:42

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 8:38AM
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wrap the 3 walls for a U shape...eliminate the island...the area between refrig and sun room door can be counter with no cabs under for a few bar stools...if that is a priority. The island is an obstacle and you are only getting minimal seating anyway. You have a largish dining area....try a cozyL shape banquette down in lower left corner.With table and other smallish chairs around, you'll still have space for some 12 in deep storage on load bearing wall so the pantry setup in the kitchen can become regular part of the u shape kitchen. Agree with others about need for more details with measurements before you proceed with anything.For example.... the "door" to sunporch...what is it-how wide...what about the sunporch and the usage there? Before I'd put any "new" window in a wall I'd look at that opening as an opportunity-transom on the side?-widen to French doors?/etc.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 9:06AM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you really have that many restrictions, then what's the point of remodeling? Just replace like with like and leave everything alone.

However, if you DO want to improve the workflow and function of the space, it can be done. And maybe with minimal financial outlay. If it takes more dollars than you have to get a better layout, then maybe you keep gathering information, tweaking, and accumulating parts and pieces a bit a time as you can afford it.

You also have to be more open to ideas. And ditch the island. It's a hindrance, not a help.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 9:18AM
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You can have quite a good functional kitchen in the space, but it won't be a soldier galley with every single zone lined up on one wall. A peninsula gives you better separation between the food prep and food consumption area. It also provides better seating, out of the traffic zone. It keeps the snackers and those who are doing cleanup out of your main prep zone, which is now under a window. You can look out the window or to one side to chat with family---and spend 70% of your time with a view or interaction. The cleanup and prep zones have much better separation, and you can actually have someone else in the kitchen now without excusing yourself all over each other.

Islands are NOT the "magical function bullet" that makes every kitchen work better. Sometimes, peninsulas work much better!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 10:13AM
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Wow, thank so much for the input. I am very happy to step back from the restrictions as much as we can.

Sorry about the delay in getting better measurements - had to go home to get measurements last night, and then back in the office this morning to scan.

This floor plan is the current space, minus the wall between the existing dining room and kitchen. Everything within this space is to scale. ItâÂÂs 13âÂÂ4â x 29âÂÂ6âÂÂ. Scanning as a PDF and converting to a JPEG so I could upload it lost some of the detail, including a clear view of the grid lines. So if you need more detail on measurements, please ask. I didnâÂÂt want to clutter the floor plan with too much detail.

A few notes and answers to questions above:
-- The sliding glass doors to the sun porch are 6'. We can narrow the doorway (less costly) and/or move it (more costly). We'll use the sun porch for dining, entertaining, and as an enclosed outdoors-ish place for our son to play while we're working in the kitchen.
-- It would be tough to reduce the height of the existing casement windows at the top of the drawing both because it would be costly to match the existing exterior brick and the new window would no longer match the elevation of the other windows on that side of the house. IâÂÂve talked to two builders whoâÂÂve said it would be tough to match the brick.
-- WeâÂÂve had several architects and a builder look at the blue prints, and all have recommended keeping most of the load bearing wall between the kitchen and the hallway. While removing it would create a bigger space, there are doors to the basement and powder room in that hallway, so you wouldnâÂÂt be gaining a clean wall. To GreenDesigns point, it is a multi-story home and we can get a lot of snow (if thatâÂÂs what you mean by snow loading). Architects have suggested moving the doorway(s) between the kitchen and the hallway - not eliminating it.

Have at it! THANK YOU AGAIN.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 11:22AM
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Here's the existing kitchen, so you can see the sliding doors into the sun porch.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 11:39AM
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And here's the existing dining room, with the casement windows.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 11:40AM
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Hi, live wire oak! Thank you so very much for taking time to play with the kitchen design. It's not very different from what we currently have.

Aethetically, I like the layout and like that it keeps folks out of the prep/cooking area. Love the huge prep area, too.

Where would you stick double ovens and the trash and recycling drawers?

Do you envision the "dish hutch" being the place we'd unload all of our daily stuff? Dishes, flatware, cups, tupperware, etc? Or would it go on the left wall, too. I appreciate being able to very efficiently unload the DW.

Also, where would you put groceries down to unload into the fridge? I also like having a nearby counter for that purpose.

I see how the island in the first drawing can create a barrier and how it's less than ideal. But I'm worried that I'd be walking too much around this design. It's a hike to get around!

Thoughts would be really, really appreciated.

Again, LWO, thank you!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 5:58PM
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Another one with a peninsula and a cart. There 's a prep sink on the peninsula. Tall cab next to the DW could be for glass/plate storage and maybe some panty items. I'm not too happy with the fridge and MW though.

Next to cleanup sink there's 15" trash but forgot to add one near prep sink.

edited to add comment re trash.

This post was edited by sena01 on Tue, Dec 17, 13 at 18:21

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 6:12PM
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Thanks so much, sena01, for taking the time. I love the prep sink, but also don't like the fridge in the dining area. Also, we have so much everyday dining stuff, that we need substantial storage near the dishwasher (dishes, glasses, mugs, flatware, tupperware, etc.).

Really appreciated.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 9:51AM
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Sophie Wheeler

The one that LWO did would suit your needs the best. If you have a separate pantry elsewhere, you could do a small beverage sink on that wall with the MW and that could keep people out of your prep zone even more.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 9:58AM
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How's this? It was inspired by AnneNJ's kitchen, which sena01 shared above.

It keeps an island, but it's really an L-shaped kitchen. The island isn't acting as a barrier, as you wouldn't need to walk to the left side of the island to prep/cook. By not trying to put cabinets on both long walls, there are wide aisles and a nicely-sized island. Plus, with the left side of the kitchen completely open except for windows and the six-foot glass door, the kitchen should feel large, despite being relatively narrow.

I like the fridge and pantry at the bottow, so kids can grab snacks/drinks from the family room.

I like that the range has its own dedicated wall to store pots, pans, spices, etc. The range is also near where the current range is, so we won't have to worry about difficulties with an exhaust vent. The range wall could be partially open to the living room, perhaps with a pony wall to keep cooking mess contained.

I like that there's so much counter space, that we could host a big pot luck party without folks bumping elbows.

I'm not sure if this kitchen design works best with one or two sinks, and would appreciate any thoughts.

A new window at the top left would allow a ton more light in, and provide views of the side yard.

The cabinetry to the right of the dining table could be floor to ceiling storage, or it could have a counter in the middle to use as a bar when company is over.

The left side of the island could be used as a buffet, and with 48", guests would be able to serve themselves and return to the table without walking through the prep/cooking zones.


Thoughts, questions, etc. would be greatly appreciated. What doesn't work in this space?

Hope I'm getting closer!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 10:14AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Doesn't work. The prep location should be the long location directly across from the range. You've got the short end with no room across the end with no prep space where it's needed The island is too long and awkward and there isn't enough room for seating there at all. Plus, if you want to do a budget kitchen , this isn't it as it moves every single thing and will involve remaking the entire space almost as much as taking down that load bearing wall.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 10:22AM
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Good morning, hollysprings. Thanks for the quick feedback. So much I don't know!

"The prep location should be the long location directly across from the range. You've got the short end with no room across the end with no prep space where it's needed."
The hubby and I usually prep to the right and left of the main sink. We've done that in our last several kitchens. We use the sink a lot; and we don't use the range everyday. We grill, we smoke meat, we roast, we eat salads, etc., so proximity to the sink for the prep zone(s) seems so much more important than proximity to the range. Seems like you could prep to the left of the island sink, and then have all of your ingredients within easy reach of the range. And, given that my hubby tends to make a mess and take up a lot of space when he's at the range, wouldn't it be good for the range to have it's own dedicated cooking area for him to spread out? I'm am concerned, though, that there may not be sufficient counter space adjacent to the range, so it may be advisable to go with a 30" range or narrow the opening to the family room. Please explain why the prep location should be across from the range.

"The island is too long and awkward and there isn't enough room for seating there at all."
We can certainly shorten the island. Would 9 feet be better? And, why isn't there enough room for a few stools with 15" for legs under the island? We could add a few inches of width to the island if that would help as the aisle between the island and the sun porch is probably wider than it needs to be. You'd almost never need to walk behind those stools when folks are sitting in them, and if you did, there seems to be enough room. Also, we don't NEED island seating, with the dining table right there. Just seemed like a nice thing to have, to be closer to the cook.

"Plus, if you want to do a budget kitchen , this isn't it as it moves every single thing and will involve remaking the entire space almost as much as taking down that load bearing wall."
Not on a budget, just trying to spend wisely. This is our 20-year dream kitchen, and we're ready to spend where it makes sense. I understand that electrical and gas are pretty cheap to move. The design would add some more plumbing, but not move it far from where it already is. There's an unfinished basement under this space, so I'm not sure where the big cost is. Please explain, thanks.

Thanks again, hollysprings. I hope my comments are taken as they're intended -- to understand how a kitchen best functions so that we can design the best possible space. Your time is really appreciated.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 10:57AM
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