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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Small kitchen with 2 short walls!

flypigDecember 29, 2012
Buying a fixer-upper with an ancient "farmhouse" style kitchen.

There are two walls that aren't very wide, and a third wall I'm hoping to keep open to turn a window into a door. Needs more counters and cupboards and a range hood.

See my ideabook for my photohopped ideas which involve moving the door and appliances.

Ideabook: Small Kitchen Layout · See Ideabook
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my ideabook url is houzz . com followed by /ideabooks/6142667/
    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 4:52PM
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How about an island? i'm assuming the plain wall with window is the one you want to chg to door. Plans for changing heating that runs on that wall? A small island (maybe moveable) would solve countertop & some storage. These kitchens were built for a table in the middle for a workspce. Its really hard to redo an old kitchen like this without moving a wall or two. I do love those old cabinets tho. I would try not to disturb them. If the stove wall opens to dining room, I would remove it and put stove in island across from sink with refrig in (window) wall at end of cabinets. Had a kitchen like this in an old farmhouse once. Sold it before I got the chance to really redo it.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 6:41PM
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I would rather see the stove and the refrigerator switched. Gas line would have to move, but you would have more working area on either isde of the stove, so I think it would be worth it. Another plue is that the refrigerator would be closer to the sink. You might want to switch the hardware on the door so it opens the other way.

The wall that you want to change the window to a door has the heating system on it. How are you going to handle that? Do you need the door next to the window? Could it be closed off and maybe opened to the other side. Is there a chimney in the corner? Can it be removed?
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 12:25AM
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Took a look at your idea book and it look likes we're on the same page. I don't think you gain anything by moving the door. Keep it where it is and put the refrigerator where the stove is. I think you can switch the hardware on your refrigerator so the door opens toward the sink. but even if you can;t you have that small counter to work with.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 12:31AM
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Is that a vintage 36" kitchen stove? Those old stoves are built like tanks compared to the new reasonably priced ones
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 12:43AM
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Is it possible to solve the baseboard heat issue by installing radiant heat under a new stone or engineered wood floor?
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 6:13AM
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I would keep your lovely old cabinets intact, but build matching ones with a counter-depth refrigerator and range inset on the two short walls where they currently are positioned (possibly reversing their placement to create more counter space around the range) and adding a hood. And I'd go with a 30" range for that reason.
4 Likes    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 7:38AM
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Dar Eckert
Where does the door on the right go? Is it to the basement? Would be helpful to have a floor plan.I was thinking that removing some of that wall might allow you to put a door outside there and a wall of windows in the kitchen. That way you wouldn't need to change the heating system.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 8:06AM
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From your ideabook, I can see you are giving this kitchen a lot of thought. The measurements help. A floor plan with details of where the doors are and their sizes would be an excellent addition to get more ideas from houzz readers.

What do you think about closing up one of the kitchen doors? Or translating your idea of a door to a deck so that the new door is in the adjacent room, not the kitchen? How about moving the solitary window?

HVAC vents can be moved relatively easily (if no asbestos). Chimneys, no. Windows, yes.

Wiil you need to upgrade the electrical system?

Will you be putting in a dishwasher or replacing other appliances?

Have you settled on a budget yet?
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 8:22AM
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THe door goes to the basement and the wall behind is a bedroom, so none of that is movable, nor the chimney. I will upload a floor plan sketch.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 8:45AM
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Added a before and after floor plan to the idea book. /ideabooks/6142667/.

The kitchen window is the only window from which you can see the backyard, as the other half of the back of the house is the stairs to the basement (this is an 800 sq ft bungalow). If anything happens to that window, it turns into a door or gets bigger.

I will probably need a new stove as that existing one is leaky and has pilot lights, which I don't like.

I don't think I'd add a dishwasher, but I realize a future owner might like to see one.

I don't have a specific budget, as I have a lot of other home repairs to do yet on this new purchase. But I plan to do a lot of work myself.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 8:52AM
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Dar Eckert
I think an arch instead of the doorway to the basement. Where are the stairs? Do they parallel the wall that has frig on it now? Are they inside? Just thinking that that might be a good location to exit the house & mudroom.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 9:10AM
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You may have a roof leak above the stove or it could be grease from the stove. A stove vent will need to be added when you remodel.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 10:28AM
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The floor plans are helpful, thanks. Your comments are practical and show a clear vision of what you want.

I bet dollars to doughnuts that there is a currently unused stove vent in the attic. When you have the inspection, you might take a look in the attic to see what is what. It could be quick to pop open the old vent hole and install a new vent fan. Sometimes these things just got plastered over by previous remodellers.

The kitchen looks like it was put in during the 1940's, meaning it was likely constructed in situ ("stick built") rather than made as boxes in a shop and installed later. That means you can't move them from one wall to another without complete deconstruction. And you will not be able to add easily to them because you will have to rework the top and bottom corners including new face frames which are not easy for a do-it-yourselfer. I think you may be better off spending money on what you really want instead (after you save up), and just swapping the fridge and the stove locations for now.

I suggest you start planning with a clean sheet. Mark the immovable features: the chimney and door to the back stairs (you might be able to make the door open into the basement instead). Forget about the two current windows. Start with your real goal, which is that door to the back yard and your future deck. Mark in a 36" wide glass door. Then try a sink with a big window over it next to the door, perhaps with an 18-24 inch space between sink edge and back door. You now have the small corner walls and a long empty wall to fill with cabinets or the stove or the fridge or whatever. I agree it is best to use the fridge as an end to a run of cabinets, because as you say, then you can open the door fully. If it seems like big bucks, keep your eyes open for bargains on used kitchen cabinets on Craigslist or think about using Ikea cabinets or plan to do the work in two stages.

There are several free kitchen design websites that are easy and precise.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:04AM
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That bump in the corner between the refrigerator and the range--do you know what it is? We had something almost identical to that in our kitchen, and it turned out to be a chimney from an old (now unused and sealed up) brick incinerator in the basement of our 1920's house. We ended up using the incinerator chimney to vent our range hood, though first we had to put in a stainless steel liner. Anyway, it is worth looking into what's in that corner. Our house did not otherwise have a vent for the range.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Dar: unfortunately, the stairs down parallel the south wall of the house, meaning the south bedroom has no windows.

For those who would keep the cabinets... those drawers have no gliders, they are like bureau drawers that just fall down when you pull them out. If I kept them, I'd have to figure out how to retro them with sliders. They are nearly 3 feet wide!

Apple pie: The house was built in 36 and I think all you see now is correct. I don't think there is a stove vent in the attic anywhere, it is a full standing height unfinished attic and all I saw was the bathroom stack.

Feeny, that is the chimney chase in the corner, unlined, and currently used for the hot water boiler. The cost differential between a regular boiler that vents out the chimney and a high efficiency boiler that vents out the wall is something like $4k vs $8k just for the boiler, plus the cost to remove the chimney through the whole house and fixing the gaps. That would likely far outweigh any budget I have to the the kitchen, so I think the chimney stays.

The rear door goes down to a landing and a back door, then down to the basement. So it isn't a mud room, but a small hall space. Not moveable.

The reason for moving the door is to get a lazy susan corner cabinet in that corner (which adds an L counter too) and another at the other end, so it makes a very shallow U shape around the sink.

The other nice thing is that the new kitchen door would line up with the front door and help the house look a little bigger, and improve the traffic pattern. With the door in the center of the wall in the dining room, you inevitably have to walk around the dining room table. It's a classic small bungalow and I find that poor traffic patterns make those houses feel really chopped up, especially doors.

Thanks for the ideas. I think in the short term, I will move the stove because the gas line was removed anyway, so I have to run a new hard line. I just have to deal with the HVAC register that is currently to the right of the fridge.

More soon...!
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 12:47PM
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Sounds like you have a good grasp on what you want to do. Those old cabinet drawers can be retrofitted with drawers using a router - its realatively easy to do, all it takes is time and patience. Sounds like you have more of that than $$. I did too when I started on our old kitchen. Took out three layers of old llinoleum to find birds eye maple floors. Ended up moving the door into the dining room over so the stove could set next to counter - losing corner base cabinet space but made it convenient to cook and took the traffic around the dining table area.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 2:05PM
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Carolannr is right, the big drawers can be retrofitted by using a router. Or you could use undermount slides (Rockler sells Accuride which is an excellent brand). I've installed the latter on old drawer boxes. It is fiddly work, but do-able. Take a look at the Rockler catalog and website ; they sell lots of bits and pieces for better drawer sliding. http://woodworking.rockler.com/c/drawer-hardware

After you get a new standard 30" wide electric or gas range, you can buy small RTA cabinets for each side, top off with tile or tiny granite remnants. You have 56 inches to work with, so allowing an inch for clearance, that'll give you 25 inches. I suggest 15 inches on one side and 10 on the other to give you room to set down a standard 14 inch diameter frying pan. A narrow table with legs or a metal-leg system like Ikea's would give you room for that HVAC vent. I'd go with a good new range hood with a new vent and ductwork since there is no ductwork in the attic (maybe a stove was placed on an outside wall with a cutout for an in-wall fan, common back then).

Have a good time with your new house.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 4:02PM
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Thanks for the links. I'll consider keeping the farmhouse feel. [ Though my furniture taste is Danish Modern, not the perfect fit for farmhouse :-) ]

It does makes sense to go with some sort of open shelf thing where the register is by the stove. Cookie sheets and utensils can be in more open storage of some kind.

The stains on the kitchen ceiling were from having no vent anywhere. Kind of astonishing.

Thanks for all the input!
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 4:20PM
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As I read your comments, I wonder how much return you will get for moving the doorway versus the effort and expense. At a minimum, I think you will have electrical to move which is quite doable but if plumbing there, more difficult. However, I can understand wanting to move it if it gets you a dining room wall sufficient for a buffet or china cabinet.

I'm not really thrilled with lazy susan corners. By the time you get the shelf assembly in, you lose quite a bit of space. A 36x24 inch space is over 860 sq inches but the lazy susan shelving is usually only about 32 and you only get 3/4 of that which is about 600 sq inches. Yes, you do get additional counter top inches, but who uses the back corner of a countertop? I've been much happier with the easy access hinged door corner cupboards than with lazy susans for base cabinets although lazy susans work well for uppers. With the proposed swapping of the doorway and the fridge, you find yourself with the fridge sticking out in front of the cabinetry and blocking your view to the front door. Your options then are to buy a counterdepth fridge which helps, but you still won't be able to see through it, recess it into the wall to gain a couple more inches or move it.

I would consider putting the fridge in the corner to the right of the sink. Now, I realize you've said that the door won't open all the way, but you don't have to place the fridge all the way into the corner. Leaving a couple of inches between the fridge and the wall gives you a cubbyhole to stash a broom or ironing board. That way when you're standing at the sink you only need look past the 12" deep uppers to see the front door. Plus if you leave 36 inches for your fridge, you can replace it without worrying about whether the new one will fit the open slot.

I'm a bit confused by the radiator and then the HVAC vent. What is the heating system?
1 Like    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 4:47PM
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I think in a farmhouse style kitchen you can use a big table and four or five chairs effectively. You can get some art onto one of those walls, and do something interesting with your windows. By all means replace your cabinets totally.
    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 7:12AM
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HI! We have almost the identical kitchen and same problem. I have sudied it for 7 years, and I think I finally have a solution. We even had the wall offset in the corner. So- we removed the corner offset, and will build in a combo frig enclosure and HUGE pantry with pullouts. Above the frig, we will put vertical shelves to showcase large serving dishes. A glass fronted cabinet could be added to the right angle wall, providing lots of glass and pretty dish storage. This will solve all storage problems. I did not want to sacrifice the center island (which we are lucky to have) due to the fact we eat healthy and tons of produce needs to be handled on the island. So.... we decided to sacrifice the left side of the sink counter (which is 5 ft wide), put in a dual fuel 30 inch stove to the left of the sink, and be able to add a great looking decorative vent above it. I got the idea from looking at small kitchen design. The designers we consulted kept going in the wrong direction, wanting to close up the kitchen and make it less open, or sacrifice the island. So- you could consider this, and have tons of storage. With the right angle on the wall, you also have room for a cool counter with specific functions. This allows for cost efficient outside wall venting, and allows us to easily bring a gas line to the new stove location. Good luck!! We have obseessed on this problem for the longest time.
    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 9:45AM
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Dar Eckert
emmethouseremodel2012 post photos!
1 Like    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Main Line Kitchen Design
I like moving the doorway but I would place the appliances and cabinets this way. In general keep tall and deep refrigerators in corners and keep continuous countertop between the sink and the range. Don't turn the corner on the other side it makes the countertop less usable and looks odd.. See drawing below:
4 Likes    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 3:42PM
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W2Design, LLC
This is a challenging space but before we made a suggestion we thought we should lay out a plan first. We left the door way from the dining room where it is do keep down cost but added french doors to the new deck. You're spot on on moving the range where you can have landing areas to the left and right of the stove.

This is one of the few situations where we didn't use a counter depth fridge in order to maximize the cubic feet available for storage- do you have room to the right of the window (at least 33") for a refrigerator on that wall. One would need to choose the appliance carefully to allow for swing and handles but it can work.

On the wall where the range used to live, we placed custom shallow depth cabinets to provide storage and a staging area for food going to the dining room along with upper cabinets with glass doors to add some reflectivity and to minimze their bulk.

As a side bar, we would not recommend IKEA cabinets in this case. IKEA makes a great product and the cabinets are a terrific deal if you assemble and installl them yourself but they are limited in the sizes and finishes offered. (This is from personal experience). To maximize your kitchen we would recommend purchasing from a manufacturer who makes cabinets that can be customized in all three dimensions - width, depth and height.

We wish you luck on your remodel; it sounds as if your home is charming and you are on the road to making it even more so.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 6:35PM
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W2Design, LLC
Meant to add these renderings apologies for triplication.
3 Likes    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 6:40PM
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W2Design - what a nice kitchen.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 9:16PM
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W2Design: Nice design where you worked with the owner's goal of putting in a door to the back yard and future deck. The renderings are great.
1 Like    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 6:06AM
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Main Line Kitchen Design
If you do the above design I would make the French door French sliders. French doors swinging into a small room and in front of the refrigerator has it's disadvantages. W2D did a lot of work for you to visualize their design. Nice job.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 7:14AM
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I think that you need to lower the cabinets so that they are attached to the table, then get another table that is on the perimeter
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 7:24AM
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flypig, I too have Danish modern taste and a farmhouse kitchen, but I think as long as the farmhouse kitchen is updated using a "clean" aesthetic, the two can co-exist quite happily. If you have enough money to totally gut and replace the cabinets, more power to you, but I don't think the two are incompatible -- count your blessings; you could be stuck with heavily-grained 80s oak cabinets!
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 7:25AM
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I would say W2Design is the ultimate kitchen redo for you. For a less costly? redo...I agree with your plan with a couple of changes. You could put the stove where you were moving the refrigerator and then leave the refrigerator next to the basement door with pantry cabinets built around it. You could raise the window and continue the cabinets along that wall for more workspace. If you desired, you could make the window wider and leave the space under the window with an open counter with a couple of stools, creating a breakfast bar.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 7:33AM
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Scott's Creative Home
W2Design really nailed this one. The only thing I would add would be to open up the wall between the kitchen and dining/great room. The glass front cabinets are great, but could be a furniture piece in the adjacent room. Old houses come with lots of rooms and not very many connected spaces.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 7:36AM
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Nice design W2Design. Have you heard about over-kitchening a house? To do this with custom cabinets as you are suggesting may make the kitchen more expensive than the house and as for resale, he would never recoup his expenditures. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this house type, we do have alot of those where I grew up and lived for many years. The basic design ideas are valid tho.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:25AM
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Thanks everyone, for your suggestions. Thanks to W2 for the drawings!

I do have to be careful on cost. The kitchen partially has to come out of the difference between a regular v a high-efficiency boiler ($4-5k difference) and I might not end up with all matching cabinets or such an awesome range hood. I am buying the house at a decent fixer upper price, so I have room up to the assessment, but long term I also may want to finish the upstairs, which will actually increase the property values more than any one person's unique kitchen preferences.

I agree that I would probably forego the upper cabinets for a pass-through and find a nice buffet piece for the dining room. I can use a kitchen cart in front of the existing rear window until I get around to the french doors. I could settle for a nice butcher block table below the pass-through, with a shelf and curtain for lower level storage. It would be in keeping with the farmhouse look ;-)

I would probably use nice exterior quality doors that open out, or maybe just a sliding glass door that could have a screen on one side for great breezes. It's more about the visibility than the traffic, as the actual rear door is only steps away.

Thanks again, everyone!
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 12:56PM
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What was W2Design's solution to the baseboard heating?
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 2:13PM
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Sarah Saunders
Flip flop stove and fridge walls. You'll have to move the elec outlet there to elsewhere. You can wrap cabinetry on the wall adjoining the sink wall. I know your window sill is low but a good countertop builder can make the counter top the new window sill - I did it my old 20's bungalow. You'll gain tons of storage and counter space that way. End that run with an angle transition cabinet. Don't go to a cheap place like ikea - go to a real kitchen design place and get it done right. You have plenty of space for a dishwasher - i'd probably put it to the left of the sink with a small drawer base at the end of the run. Then you'll have prep and bake area etc all free the other way to work. I'd go with a shallow depth fridge because of the tighter corner. A good cabinet co will be able to fit a base cabinet around your chimney with no problem. You can get alternative base board heat for in there that is incorporated into your toe kick. I doubt you have room for much of an island and when you get cabinets on all the walls you won't want one, it'll be in the way. I've been a kitchen designer for over 20 years. You need someone good and it'll be a great kitchen. Good luck.
    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 9:45AM
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Rustica Hardware
A standing butcher block might be a nice addition to your kitchen. With this you can move it to different places and it looks great where ever you have it. See: http://chopbloccuttingboards.com/butcher-blocks/
    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 9:33AM
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you can often find large china/hutches at second hand and resale places. I will provide extra storage without a major commitment. an island or a table at counter height would also help with storage and work space
    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 4:49PM
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I'm not convinced a standing butcherblock helps this kitchen. The main entry to the house from the back door and garage is through this kitchen, so an Island would really be in the way.

Sarah, the south wall with the window is being saved for a possible door, as it views the backyard and might take deck. That south window is not lower than the other window, the trim strip is not a wainscoting at chair height, it's oddly up at maybe 4.5 feet, so counters would fit it I wanted to, but there is also the door to the basement and I don't want the kitchen to feel claustrophobic.

The air vent by the fridge is AC, not baseboard. The baseboard is on that south wall where I would want the new rear door, so I would probably change it to a european style slim wall unit if I put the door in.

Sheila, I really prefer a european farmhouse style kitchen where nothing is built in, but it's not going to help the resale value of the house... the next person is 99% likely to want all built-ins, at least here in Wisconsin, in an old bungalow.

I think the layout I have now is good, fleixlble re south wall, and allows for a pass-through to the dining room, which will help the bungalow feel more open for entertaining.

Thanks everyone!
    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 1:56PM
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