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Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

Posted by matt92174 (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 26, 14 at 23:07

First off a big THANK YOU to all the folks who post on here. My wife and I are in the process of building a new home and it seems that nearly everything I search for keeps leading me to this site - so I joined! I've gained so much knowledge from this site and I truly appreciate it!

So we are focused on the kitchen right now and we've met with several kitchen designers in the hopes of finding the right one but so far the search continues. We have a construction "allowance" of $6,500 for all cabinetry - kitchen and bathroom, however our goal was to try and get decent kitchen cabinetry for that price and pay for the bathroom cabinetry out-of-pocket. We're quickly learning that isn't likely.

We have an approximately 19' x 13 1/2' kitchen including the breakfast area and the ceilings are 9' tall (link to photos and plans below). We tend to be minimalists which we hoped would keep the cost down and thought one way to do that with our L shaped kitchen would be to do only base cabinets along the long/outside wall and then base and upper cabinets along the short/inside wall. We even eliminated a cabinet in the corner and opted for 3 shelves instead. We also like the look of this so it wasn't strictly for cost reasons.

We've gotten quotes ranging from $6,750 to $11,000 for this and before we go back for our second meetings with these designers I wanted to see what I could get for feedback on this design and the pricing. We've told each designer to keep it simple - no extra features other than a couple super susans in the corner and a slide out trash can thingamajig. I haven't drawn in anything around the refrigerator as I am stuck between cabinetry or just asking the builder to create a space above it with doors.

The style cabinets we are looking for are white painted with either a shaker style recessed panel or with a wainscoting panel. I've read just about every opinion on the MDF vs. no MDF debate and while I don't want to start that up again I will say I'd like to avoid MDF but it seems in doing so I'll be limiting my choices. While I've read plenty of complaints about door frame and cabinet MDF failure I haven't heard of many complaints about the panel being MDF. Is this still something to avoid?

We are VERY new to this and VERY open to suggestions! I truly appreciate any advice you can offer.


Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen Design Pictures & Plans

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

  • Posted by buehl 7a, AHS 5/6 (MD) (My Page) on Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 1:57

Welcome Matt!

This is helpful as well - the entire first floor:

 photo 1stFloor_zps566a4536.jpg

What is "set in stone" and cannot be moved? Where are you flexible?

For example:

  1. Can the window be moved?

  2. Can the doorway to the Family Room be moved?

  3. Do you really need 3 different types of seating (island, Breakfast Nook, Dining Room with the Nook and island so close to each other)?

My thoughts based on what the picture in your original post shows:

  • Move the DW to the left of the sink and put dish storage in either the base cabinet to the left of the DW and/or in the island across from the DW. It gets the DW out of your Primary Prep Zone and allows someone to be cleaning up (or loading/unloading the DW) while someone else is prepping and/or cooking.

    This will also place your dishes close to the Breakfast Nook. I assume most meals will be eaten there...otherwise I don't think you need the Nook.

  • Move the trash pullout to the right of the sink so it's in the Prep Zone, near the Cooking Zone, and near/in the Cleanup Zone.

    Your Primary Prep Zone will most likely end up b/w the sink and the range b/c that's where your only water source is in the kitchen and it's very convenient to the range.

    The island will be useful as a Secondary Prep Zone for preparing items that don't need water - but it won't be as convenient to the range as the Primary Prep Zone.

  • Consider a single-bowl sink since you don't have a lot of counter space in general. This will allow you to have large single bowl rather than 2 smaller bowls. 36" is a lot of room to devote to a sink and anything smaller than 36" is really too narrow for a double-bowl sink (b/c the bowls are usually too small).

  • You really do not have enough room for a table and chairs in that 7' space b/w the entrance to the FR and the kitchen counters (perimeter and island). Instead, consider:

    • Moving the FR doorway down to the bottom of the kitchen

    • Then, put in a banquette in the left corner with seating on three sides - the top, bottom, and left side. That will give you space for 4. In a pinch, you could slip in 2 more chairs on the right side - but only in a pinch as there won't be enough space b/w the table and island for traffic to pass b/w them.

  • Refrigerator...You should be able to fit a regular refrigerator in that alcove. A regular refrigerator will cost much less than a standard depth. However, the 12" deep cabinet your layout shows is useless. Instead, get a full-depth (24") cabinet so you can actually reach the cabinet. It can be used for "tray" storage: cookie sheets, cooling racks, roasting pan, etc. In a kitchen with limited storage, this can be very useful space!

  • don't have room for seating on two sides. Besides, do you really need a lot of island seating if you have the Nook just a couple of steps away? Two seats should be sufficient for someone visiting with you while you work.

  • Seating Overhang...15" is considered the minimum amount of clear knee/leg space for counter-height seating. "Clear" space means no obstructions - after accounting for the decorative panel on the backs of the island cabinets.

  • Consider either a MW drawer or an under-the-counter alcove for your MW. Personally, I'd opt for the drawer as it is much easier to use than an alcove (unless you're all short), but MW drawers cost more than standard MWs. (They are coming down in cost...)
  • Finally, consider drawers for most of your base cabinets. They will cost a bit more than roll out tray shelves (ROTS), but they are more functional. ROTS aren't a bad choice and are much better than the builder-grade base cabs that usually have a single
    stationary (and sometimes fixed) shelf - but drawers are better. Check the cost differential with the cabinetmaker/cabinet sales people.

I drew up an example of what I discussed above. It includes your desire not to have upper cabinets on the window wall. It doesn't change much else. You want to keep it simple, so no complex ideas or drastic changes - other than moving the FR doorway.

matt92174's Kitchen #1 photo matt921741_zps68ea7cd5.jpg

Note that you have 30+" of prep space b/w the sink and corner (18" trash pullout + 12" of the corner susan) and 24" b/w the corner and range (12" of the corner susan + 12" cabinet b/w the corner susan and range) - in addition to the corner itself. That should be plenty of work space!

Here it is with a "zone map"

matt92174's Kitchen #1 - Zones photo matt921741Zones_zpsf131e89b.jpg

Good luck with your new home!

[Edited to add the discussion about drawers vs ROTS.]

Here is a link that might be useful: Welcome to the Kitchens Forum FAQ

This post was edited by buehl on Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 2:06

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

I can see the range and sink, but where is the fridge? Is it beside the pantry? If so, you have no landing area for it. Where are the glasses for drinks to be stored?
What are the dimensions of your island? What is the current distance from the island overhang to the entry door? Are you putting stools at the island?
What are the two closets behind the range? Can you steal their space? Then you could put the fridge on the sink wall where the cabinet to the left of the window is and shift everything right, then move the island to 54" from the sink, instead of 48" if depth allows.
Sorry about all the questions, but it's easier with all the dimensions.

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

+1001 buell

And i'd expect a decent mid grade line would run between 10-15K for that kitchen with all of the proper ends finished off and at least 42'' cabinets. Islands are double expensive real estate because they need to be finished 360 and corbels are i sanely expensive. Your builder's allowance is a joke. Better check the rest of them. They are all gonna be equally ludicrous. It's a famous low ball technique to make the house appear to be cheaper than it will really be.

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

Agree with moving the DW left of sink. Buehl's layout has much better flow with the doorway moved, too.

You have exactly my layout except the stove and sink are swapped and I don't have an island. The only thing I could add is to maybe squinch your DW down enough that the sink could be centered on the window (and this may not be important to you at all) making the end cab a little smaller but maybe then the trash could get bigger and you could have a trash/recycling pull-out.

To cut costs now, save the island for down the road a bit, go really cheap on the counter for now and consider Ikea if you are anywhere near to one. I agree the cab allowance is not at all reasonable for a kitchen much less adding the bathroom. Yikes

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

I really like the built in seating idea and moving the family room door. I was concerned that you were giving up a lot of storage space with that blank outside wall, but I see you have a pantry. Will you have enough storage for dishes, glasses, bowls, etc?

I have an upper cabinet over the refrigerator that comes out to the front of the refrigerator and I use it for trays and cookie sheets etc and we use it a lot. Happy we did that.

My main concern with your design is where the refrigerator is. It appears to not have a landing zone of any kind next to it. Nowhere to put down items. I would find that annoying very quickly. I know you can land on the island but I still think that is going to become an issue on a daily basis. Don't know what to suggest though. I don't see another place to put it in your design.

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

I couldn't get a landing zone per se into my kitchen layout, but the table and counter is just a step either way, so it really isn't an issue. You can get 10# in a 5# bag with the help of GW and good old ingenuity, but 15# isn't probably going to happen.

moving into a 5# bag

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

Instead of moving the family room door, why not just remove the wall and make the whole thing open concept. It will appear larger..unfortunately, it still won't help with the layout.
I do agree with behul about the dw. With that door open, you won't be able to reach any of the cabinets to the right of it. The space is too tight to get into. Or, even better, move the dw to the island.
I still don't care for the fridge location, though. If you have small children, that fridge will be used many times a day for drinks and snacks.

If the builder is "allowing" $6500 for kitchen and bathrooms (ludicrous), what do his stock cabinets look like? Is it something you can live with for a few years until you can get the kitchen of your dreams down the road?

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

Hi Buel and company

Thanks for such a detailed response! Nothing is set in stone yet, ground will be broken very soon but still plenty of time to make changes. To answer your questions:

1. The window can be moved. It was drawn in by the builder before he knew we weren’t doing upper cabinets so I know we need to do something more with that wall as there’s a lot of empty space. Not sure if it’s adding more windows or what but that wall doesn’t look “right” to me. My wife has an idea of putting some shelves there (aftermarket so to speak not shelves that match the cabinetry per se but it definitely needs something.

2. The “doorway” can be moved however it’s actually an opening in a half-wall as the original plan had it wide open to the Family Room which we were not a fan of (not into the open concept). We like some openness but not wide open. While I see where you’re going which is trying to get the Breakfast Area tables and chairs away from that opening we purposely had that half wall extended a bit towards the rear wall leaving only a 5’ opening (I believe it was a 7’ when we first added the ½ wall). The reason we extended it and shortened the opening is we wanted there to be enough ½ wall in the Family Room to put a couch up against and still have it centered on the fireplace. We’re a family of 3 so we won’t need a big table to fit in the Breakfast Area space and it is 7’ 4” across so I feel like we could fit a smaller size table and chairs there but I could be wrong. Maybe I need to do a virtual design of that space to get a feel for what would fit there comfortably. One thing my wife did that does help the cause is she moved the slider (and patio of course) to be off the Family Room rather than the Breakfast Area which is where it typically is so we could put a table right against the window if we wanted (not sure how that would look though) rather than blocking a slider. I guess I have some more work/thinking to do around this. I like your idea of moving the entrance I just really want to keep the wall there to allow the couch to be in line with the fireplace.

3. I’m not sure we’ll actually do an overhang on the island it’s just drawn that way in case we wanted to. I didn’t get into it with my initial post but if we are able to come up with a cabinet design at a reasonable cost my wife would like to add some additional cabinetry along the stair wall opposite the island. She’s thinking of something using matching cabinetry that would form a hutch ��" some shallow base cabinets with a shallow countertop that then some upper cabinets rest upon. I don’t know what to call this when it’s done with cabinetry but it’s essentially a hutch. We’ve asked the kitchen designers to price this separately and it’s a good thing as it’s been much more expensive than we thought it would be. The other option would be to buy a hutch that wouldn’t have to match as it’s not going to be up against the cabinets anyway and could be a contrasting piece. If we went with either of these options we’d nix the overhang on the island to conserve space and cost. My wife wants to store dishes and glasses in this piece but I really like your idea of a dish drawer MUCH better. No one had actually shown us those yet and now that I’ve checked them out I think that makes a lot of sense. Trying to decide which location you suggested makes more sense across from the DW on the island or next to the DW.

4. I should have mentioned we have already moved the dishwasher (in our heads at least) as one kitchen designer pointed out putting it to the left of the sink was a much better choice. Moving the trash pullout to the right of the sink is pure genius on your part and I do remember one designer saying that now.

5. I’ve mentioned to my wife your recommendation of a single bowl sink and that might be the way to go. Another great suggestion.

6. I did plan on a full depth cabinet over the refrigerator if we went that route versus having the builder just frame it in and put a door. Do you think building a space would look cheap though? Stick to the matching cabinetry instead?

7. We don’t microwave a lot so I’m actually thinking about keeping a small one on a shelf in the pantry (which will have power in it) for the occasional use. I love the drawer microwaves but I haven’t seen any much less than $1K and I just can’t justify that cost. I think having it in the pantry is equally as inconvenient as in an alcove as you mentioned but then it’s out of sight. What do you think about this idea?

8. I appreciate the suggestion on drawers versus roll out trays and will add that to the list for sure.

I see no one took the bait on the MDF question. Seems most lines use if for the door panels when going with a painted door as they are afraid of them expanding and causing cracks. I’m wondering if there’s much risk in that or if I should avoid it altogether. I really don’t like the stuff. I know it’s a different animal but I needed to replace the siding on my last house because of an MDF type product (Masonite Hardiboard) that failed which left a real bad taste in my mouth. I haven’t been a fan of engineered “wood” since.

Thank you all again so much for this help it’s exactly what I needed!!! I’m looking forward to more great ideas so please keep them coming. Also looking forward to returning the favor with what I learn myself through this process.

Have a great night everyone.

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

I hate MDF too. Especially since it used to have formaldehyde in it that out gasses into the air. Not sure if it still does, or if they replaced that with some equally unhealthy substance.

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

OP: we cut costs by building in a space for our fridge instead of going with a cabinetry box and I really like it. DH built the walls with 2x4 studs turned on the skinny side to save a bit of space. I'll bet there are plenty of pics out there (try of drywall enclosure for fridges. I can't seem to locate a pic of mine right now.

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

completely off-topic... buehl!! as one who has lurked on and off over the past 5 years... it's great seeing one of your awesome layouts again! There is something almost calming about seeing laid out so nicely with your color-coded work areas.

guess it speaks to the organizational geek in me. ;-)

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

Thank you LawJedi! (Like the name, btw!) I haven't had much time to more than stop by for a few minutes over the past 6 months or more! We've had some family medical issues and with this being my daughter's senior year in HS, lots of activities (including all her final year of varsity volleyball & basketball - I didn't want to miss any of her games!) I probably will still only be here on & off - but I do try to stop by occasionally as I find it a nice break from the "routine".


To address earlier concerns about the layout (prior to Matt's response):

The landing space for the refrigerator is across the aisle on the 22" counter next to the range. It's 49" or so away - close enough, IMHO, to the 48" max recommended by the NKBA. The island isn't that far away either.

As to the location other than the landing space - it's out of the main work area so any children, guests, etc. who want to get something out of the refrigerator will not be underfoot of those working in the kitchen. There really isn't any other place for it b/c the other two walls of cabinets aren't long enough to accommodate the refrigerator + other appliances and/or fixtures and adequate landing/work space for them.

That's also why I show the MW opening to the right - anyone using it for snacks won't be the way of those prepping (70% or more of the time spent in the kitchen is spent prepping).

The 45" aisle b/w the range wall and the island should be enough to have someone working at the range while someone is using the MW. Also, the MW and refrigerator are close to each other - useful b/c most MW'd foods come from the refrigerator/freezer.

If the representation of the window is correct - with a center "stile" down the middle (or two windows slid together w/frame b/w them), then I wouldn't want the sink centered on the window b/c they you would be staring at the "stile".

If centering the sink bowl on the window is important, then I'd either line it up with the left edge of the sink at the "center" point or center the sink on the window on the right.

With the sink as I show, if you offset the faucet to the right, it is centered on the right window. The faucet is the "visible" fixture when looking at the window so the sink will appear centered.

As for the cabinet "allowance"...most likely the builder is using a cabinetmaker s/he has an agreement with - the builder buys all cabinets from the cabinetmaker at the lowest level of quality/functionality offered by the cabinetmaker - so the builder is getting a "bulk" cost. If you don't get the cabinets, s/he will only offer the "cost" of the cabinets. IF the builder offers upgrades, you might be able to use the allowance on upgraded cabinets in the bathroom(s) or as, someone else mentioned, don't get the island and use the island allowance to pay for some upgrades to the rest of the cabinets. Then, get your island later with different cabinets with a different finish. Many people deliberately do this! Check the Finished Kitchens Blog for some examples (

Finished Kitchens Blog --> Find-A-Kitchen --> Search by Cabinets --> Mixed Cabinets perimeter/island (multiple colors/shades/finishes

Note that not all builders will offer upgrades - I looked at homes being built by a "chain" builder that were all being sold for well over $1 million dollars and I was told I could not upgrade the cabinets - there was one set of narrow drawers, no soft-close, no self-close, and no ROTS - just stationary/fixed shelves in the base cabinets!


BTW...ignore "iamcolin" - s/he is obviously a spammer and had absolutely nothing of value to offer!


I'll address Matt's comments in my next post - this one's getting too long :-)

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

(I'm working on it - I haven't forgotten you Matt!)

RE: Kitchen Design Opinions Wanted

I know you haven't forgotten me Buehl! Your posts continue to open up my thinking. We’ve met with no less than 5 KDs and not one has mentioned the fact that centering the window has you staring at the frame as you so accurately mentioned (it is 2 windows together). I’ve been feeling like one more window would look awesome. I wonder if that’s the best way to fix it ��" by adding a window and centering the middle window on the sink. I have added several windows up until now and the builder hasn’t charged me for any (yet) so it might not cost anything/much. My OCD might get the best of me if it’s not on center or if the frame is!

The good news is I lucked out and stumbled upon a GREAT kitchen designer/supplier this past Friday. I had taken the day off so the wife and I could do some browsing for kitchen and bathroom "stuff" and we decided to drop into a local kitchen and bath gallery we recently saw on TV. Our timing was perfect as the designer we met with was in-between appointments and had plenty of time for us without us even having made an appointment.

It looked like a high-end gallery so I was up front about wanting to stay as close to my builder's contribution of $6,500 for cabinetry but while still wanting quality. The designer came up with the KraftMaid Sedona in Dove White with all plywood boxes for the L shape kitchen area and the cabinet over the refrigerator for $9,491 +tax (layout attached). (We’re heavily leaning to not building a hutch and buying one down the road instead). This is with his suggestion of upgrading the tall upper cabinets to “furniture ends” so they’ll be flush for two reasons. One is because grease and grime will accumulate on the ends against the hood/above the range. The other is because the left hand one will be up against the floating shelves and should be flush. This made sense to me. This is also with a double trash can pull-out to the right of the sink and a dish drawer in the island diagonally across from the newly relocated dishwasher. After we left the showroom I realized we hadn’t accounted for super susans for the corner cabinet but it got me wondering if they have to come from KraftMaid or if it’s something that can be bought elsewhere for a savings?.

I’ve asked the builder for ideas on how to eliminate or replace the need for a cabinet above the refrigerator. That cabinet alone with associated trim pieces was around $850 and that’s money I could spend on something I’d enjoy much more than just a matching cabinet so if I eliminate it my number is down to $8,641 ��" not that bad against the $6,500 contribution.

One other thing you’ll see on this KD’s plan is he pulled the island 6” closer to the counters from 48” to 42”. He feels it helps with the flow through the outside area of the kitchen ��" would love anyone’s thoughts on this. He also has just 60” of cabinetry under the island counter whereas the plan had about 66”. It seems we’re in that place where we want the option to be able to have seating at the island for two but we don’t think it will be used all that much so we’re thinking of opting for about a 10” overhang on the outside side of the island. Any thoughts on this and whether it would need to be a supported edge?

Buehl once again is a step ahead of me! I have been kicking around the idea of a contrasting color or natural wood cabinets for the island base and the wife and I were just discussing it yesterday as a way to “tone down” the white kitchen. I love the examples of this in the link you provided!!!

As far as the builder’s contributions are concerned ��" there are no upgrades or restrictions on what we go with. Below is a list of what his allowance is and you are free to go to whoever you’d like or to use his suppliers. I’d say all but the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry were reasonable amounts and we are managing to stay within each. Also if we underspend on one that money is pooled together so it can be spent towards something else. Keep in mind , everything but the bedrooms and bathrooms had hardwoods included, even the stairs. That’s a rarity in this area even for a house in the $400Ks Same with a gas fireplace, full wall and crown molding in the dining room, we haven’t seen anyone else who does nearly this much at this price point.

Builder's Contributions:
Cabinetry (Kitchen/Bathrooms): $6,500
Granite (Kitchen/Bathrooms/Fireplace Surround): $3,500
Kitchen Faucet: $200
Electrical Fixtures (lights & doorbell): $1,200
Master Bathroom Tub: $1,000
Tub Faucets: $100
Bathroom Sink Faucets $50 ea.
Shower Unit for Master Bath: $725
Child's Bathroom Tub/Shower: $400
Shower Mixing Valves: $100
Toilets: $200 ea.
Carpet (2 of 4 bedrooms): $20 per sq. yd.
Floor tile $2.00 per sq. ft.
Front Door: $1,000
Appliances: No contribution

Once again I really appreciate the help! I hope everyone is enjoying this weekend!

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