Monday, September 28, 2015

Kitchen Nightmares

No I am not talking about the TV show with the angry, British chef.  I am talking about my kitchen.  It's BAD and it's on my radar for our next major project in the house.  Before I can get some serious quotes for cabinets and countertops, I need to nail down the layout. This is easier said than done because I am working with a space that is just shy of 12' x 12' with two doorways, a 3 ft radiator and a 5 ft wide window.  The typical solution when you've got a kitchen like this is to knock out a wall an expand.  Not an option here - I've got a stairwell on one side, a bedroom on another, the porch, and then one exterior wall (which, even if cost was a factor, we couldn't push back because the neighbor's house is too close).  I've made peace with the fact that I am not going to have an 8' island in the kitchen or a 36" professional range; I can live without those things no problem.  The question still remains - how the heck can you fit a functional, upscale kitchen in less than 144 sq ft!?  Oh yeah, and keep the budget around $10k?

Here is the existing footprint:

As you can see from the layout alone, we've got some issues here. We currently have an apartment size refrigerator basically floating under a 36" fridgetop cabinet.  Further, the fridgetop cabinet is 12" deep, instead of 24" deep, sacrificing precious storage space and making items stored in there practically unreachable.  Our range shares the same "floating" affliction as the fridge with almost a foot of unused space between the dishwasher and range.  What you can't see from this layout is that we also have 30" uppers.  Our ceilings are nearly 9' - who in their right mind would just have 30" uppers!?  Finally, we have a countertop microwave which is eating up valuable counter space.

Having used this kitchen for the last year, I have a list of a few things that must change to make this kitchen work.
  • More cabinet storage.
  • More (usuable) counterspace.
  • Either put the microwave in a base cabinet or put it over the range to free up counter space.
  • Replace fridge with either side by side or french door model.
Some things that I would like to change, but aren't musts:
  • Switch gas range to electric (I can hear chefs everywhere screaming, I know).  I just prefer electric cook tops and they are much easier to keep clean.
  • Eliminate any "blind" cabinets because I find them not to be very functional.
  • Install a light over the sink.  Right now we just have one overhead light.
There are actually a few things that I like about this kitchen, believe it or not:
  • The placement of the sink and the dishwasher.  I would like to keep these elements in the same location.  I especially like the sink underneath the window.
  • The deep, sink bowl sink.  Since we have a dishwasher, the only things that I typically hand wash are pots, pans, and the crock pot, so this large, open sink works well for this purpose.  I would not want to switch to a double bowl sink.
  • The original back door with transom window - that is totally staying (duh).
I've toyed around with a few options. The first and probably most functional option would be the u-shaped kitchen.

This option involves a few rather expensive modifications.  First, the radiator would need to be moved to another wall.  Next,  I would need to run either a new gas or electrical lines to the range and OTR microwave in their new location.  These changes will cost me about $1,200-$1,500.  Yikes! That's almost the cost of new countertops!

We could stick with an L shape, and swap the fridge and range.  This expenses would be fairly minimal as there is already electrical on the wall where the fridge would move to from the range.  There is actually also a gas line and electrical on the wall where the range would move to.  The gas line runs to the range upstairs that we have yet to take out, so we could just use that line and stub it out for the range on the main floor.  This doesn't add a whole lot of cabinet or counter space, but it is certainly more functional.  Having counter space on either side of the range is a HUGE improvement and the OTR microwave frees up even more space.  The money saved on mechanical changes could be put towards higher end finishes, like marble counters? :)

The next option would be to basically keep the same exact layout I have now, but better planned, and add a "buffet" type area on the empty wall.  While I don't love the range being next to the wall, the extra 12" of counter space and a small cabinet there would provide some extra elbow room.  The buffet I am particularly jazzed about.  I would do a 24" cabinet in the center with a reduced depth of 18" inches and two 12" side cabinets at 15" inches deep, and then a curved, decorative countertop detail, like this:

I would stash the microwave either in the buffet or in the base cabinet next to the fridge.  I think this is my favorite layout, but I worry that even with the reduced cabinet depth, it might feel like the buffet is impeding the walkway.

One other variation:

If I added the buffet, I am not sure that it would be worth the expense of swapping the fridge and range location, though I would much prefer the range in this location.

Ah, so many choices!  Would love input from anyone out there in blog land! :)



  1. Jen, the ONLY thing I implore of you - NO SIDE BY SIDE! They are an abomination! There is not enough room in either the fridge or freezer! French door is fabulous as is a top refrigerator/bottom freezer. More room for both and if you think about it, you go in to the freezer perhaps once a day but the refrigerator multiple times. My two cents worth.

    1. Good point! I have my heart side on a french door model, so this might have finalized that detail. :)

  2. One last comment - I know budget is always a consideration. I would advise getting the BEST appliances you can possibly afford and scale back elsewhere. You use them every day and they should be workhorses! I made a mistake and got a really inexpensive dishwasher in our vacation home and now consider it money badly spent. Should have gotten a better one. (For what it's worth.)

  3. I would agree with Denise. Best appliances-they will serve you well! Rest pick the layout that will help in daily workflow!

  4. Hoping to see you in newest ORC. Hope all is well.

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