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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Need Creative Solutions for Old, Incredibly Awkward Kitchen!

elizagriffFebruary 9, 2013
We recently bought our first house. It is just a tad over 1000 square feet, was built in 1939 and is adorable and perfect for us with one exception: a very awkward kitchen layout!

The kitchen is about 11.5' x 9' As you can see in the photos, there is one wall of counter space and that wall is chock full of cabinets, floor to ceiling. And after that it starts to fall apart... The other appliances are free floating on the other wall. We jammed our portable dishwasher between them for the time being, but obviously it isn't a good solution - among MANY other issues the cupboard doors are a bit blocked.

As you continue around the room there are a few other challenges. A chimney butts into the room next to the fridge. There is an open doorway to the dining room. And the next wall is mostly taken up by the doors to the basement and the bathroom.

Our problem isn't really storage. We have have room to spare in the wall of cupboards. Plus there is a fairly large pantry on the landing just beyond the door with the window. What I do dislike is the weight of the appliances on that wall, the way they don't seem to fit anywhere, and the way they don't seem to have any connection to the rest of the room. Also, the fact that we have a good deal of space, but not a lot of options as to where to move things!

A total remodel is not in the cards right now and I already have plans to help the color situation. What I wonder is, what is the best way to work with the space we have to make this room a little more cohesive and usable?
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Here are a few more pictures of the other side of the room. Note all the doors! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated - we're stumped!
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 7:35AM
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I think what you should do is draw a plan of the kitchen as if nothing was in it. Then play around with where you would like your appliances to go . For instance if you were starting afresh you would want your dishwasher next to the sink. You might want your range against the left wall and leave the refrigerator where it currently is. Then you can remove your cabinets from the wall and fit them around the new placement. I would remove all the top cabinets around the window and put them around the appliances that have been arranged against opposite walls. You will have a bank of drawers to relocate as well. ( removed for dishwasher) you could always put open shelving up around the window or nothing., but you will be surprised at how removing those top cabinets will open up your kitchen and bring in light. You said you do not need the pantry space you could also consider taking out the door and moving the refrigerator in that space, there is no pic so not sure how that would work.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:02AM
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I like the idea of moving the upper cabinets and having open shelving over the counters. I had thought of bits and pieces of that, but hadn't put it all together. I do wonder, though, what shape the cabinets would be in once we pulled them out. They've clearly been there for a long time...

Unfortunately, the stove wouldn't work on the left hand wall as the wall between the trim is only 22" wide. I had wondered about moving the refrigerator to the pantry and it might work okay, though the doorway would have to be made wider to get it in. Would it be weird to have the fridge off the kitchen like that? I'll try to get a pic up of the pantry and landing since that's space we might be able to work with too.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:47AM
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Dar Eckert
Yikes, its really tight. About the only thing I can think of to give a little more room near the cabinets is to:
1. move the frigerator to the short wall with the outlet. Keep it facing the same direction as it currently is.
2. Move the stove and dishwasher toward the refrigerator as far as possible
3. Put a peg board, chalk board or cork board on the side of the refrigerator to cover over the dead space behind the refrigerator.

This would give you about a foot of extra space to open the cabinets. Other than moving the frig to the pantry, it doesn't look like you have many options.

You didn't photograph the 4th wall so not sure if any options there.

I think I would get some appliance paint and paint the refrigerator white.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:53AM
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Dar Eckert
Oh, I see you did post more photos while I was writing. Looks like you will have many more options if you choose to open walls between the dining room & kitchen.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:55AM
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How do you feel about installing your dishwasher in whichever bank of drawers area it fits? It'd run a couple hundred dollars for installation costs, I think.

The cabinets look old enough to have been built on site. THey are not likely to be removed as boxes, unlike most new-ish cabinets. They look solid and sturdy. New paint and new knobs and pulls could make them look even better.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:01AM
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If the pantry walls are not supporting you might be able to take them down and give your kitchen more room.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:04AM
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How about an undercounter refrigerator? If you don't "stock up" on groceries and need a lot of refrigerator space. You could build (or buy an old table and put a butcher block on top) a table/counter on the right of the stove and slide the dishwasher and refrigerator underneath. You would also gain a nice workspace there. Or, buy an apartment size refrigerator (white) or the new retro refrigerators and recess it into the pantry for a "built in" look.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:12AM
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The best idea here for space is the wall removal ... modern kitchens are designed to be a part of the "party" so you don't want to isolate the hosts in the kitchen. Taking down walls also increases the light : even if they are "bearing" walls, its not a lot more expensive to figure out a way to make it happen. Also, consider skylights in the kitchen. This one is too dark and makes it seem oppressive. Even if you don't change the layout or increase the kitchen size, light helps the feeling of the room.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:12AM
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PS..If you move the stove over, can you still open the drawers? Here's a cute option. Add cabinets above the stove, and remove the doors on some of the others.
LeAnn · More Info
5 Likes    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:17AM
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It's hard to tell about how much space is there, but I would move the fridge to the outlet wall like somebody else suggested and then just move the dishwasher to the other side of the kitchen for now. Then you could put a little portable island next to the stove. I think you would have to have the fridge doors changed around so they open the opposite way though.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:33AM
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I really like the photo Darzy posted. In fact, I saved that same one myself the other day. Unfortunately, the stove moved over would block not only the drawers, but also the one vent to the room. Argh! I'm definitely leaning toward installing an 18" dishwasher. I think it could fit in the bank of drawers on the left of the sink. Any idea what it would cost to have that done in a kitchen that has not had a built in dishwasher before, in terms of plumbing, electrical, cutting out a space for it, etc.?

One other question, in terms of putting in more cabinets over the stove, would you try to find something that matched, be intentionally mismatchy, remove doors from the others leaving open shelving, and use them on other boxes over the stove? Something else?

I really appreciate the help. It's great to get fresh ideas since we've run out after looking at this room for too long!
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 10:16AM
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I like removing the doors and adding open shelving over the range. Or you could even put metal shelves oner the range to mix it up.removing the pantry walls may not be as big a deal as you think providing that they don't contain electrical or plumbing or do not support anything.
    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 10:31AM
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Dar Eckert
Here's another thought. Can you make an island out of the dishwasher? It would be nice with a butcher block top. Then move the refrigerator and range next to each other. I would then put open shelves on the chimney wall and counter along the short wall next to the frig. Maybe even a couple of stools.
    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 7:36AM
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How would the water drain out of the dishwasher or get in if it is not portable or near the sink? Just trying to visualize....
    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 8:44AM
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18" dishwashers are very expensive, more expensive than standard ones. By the time you get it installed, it would be close to $850-ish. I agree with misterzoot, it might not cost much more than that to remove the wall to the dining room and enlarge the pantry opening and then the world is your oyster!
    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:49AM
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Dar Eckert
I'm not sure what you are getting at but they have a small portable dishwasher now that sits between the stove and refrigerator. To use it you just roll it over to the sink. I'm suggesting that they use that for an island which would still be portable as it is now. Perhaps by putting a butcher block top on it they could camoflage it to work for a moveable island. Thus it stands in the center of the room instead of taking up room between the range and refrigerator.

When the range and refrigerator are moved closer together they would gain the 18" previously taken up by the dishwasher thus allowing them to access the cabinets nearest the range.

The refrigerator and range would be moved as close to the chimney in the corner as possible. This would create a small narrow space between the wall to the right of the refrigerator and the refrigerator itself. This is where small open shelves would be placed.

The counter would extend from the chimney to the door on the same wall as the shelves and it would be the width of the chimney.

This would allow the family to access the cabinets and still have the dishwasher. With minimal cost. They could also just move the dishwasher to the location in front of the chimney and not do anything else and would almost accomplish the same thing.
    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 2:48PM
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I was talking about a built in dishwasher.
    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:08PM
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First, is this a house with more than two people? If not, the best dishwasher I ever had was my own two hands. I love washing dishes, it's my time to let go of stress. Exit the dishwasher could be traded in for a bank of drawers. The kitchen looks way too busy, the valance was nice back in the 80's so I would cut it out. Lines are the new thing. Your handles and pulls look expensive so you have good taste, but routing fingerpulls in all the doors and drawers would look much cleaner. Too bad there isn't enough room on the upper cabinets to put some beautiful crown molding. But, underneath the upper cabinets you can put some molding. White is a good clean color. I can't tell if the counter tops are butcher block or stone. If laminate, replace with tile, and up the walls, or some nice granite or related material. Have you considered keeping the cabinets and replacing the doors with some glass doors? Good luck.
    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:22PM
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Lauren Stephens
whatever you do, keep those cabinets! they are divine!
    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:24PM
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