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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

New house, need help! Kitchen/dining room

ruffian829February 17, 2013
My husband and I just purchased our first home and neither of us are that great at interior design or decorating. The kitchen sits just behind a formal dining room/living room with a fire place and the formal front door (side entrance will probably be used more though). I worry we won't use this formal dining room at all (and we don't really have the space to waste). I'm tempted to knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room and expand the kitchen with maybe an island or peninsula where the wall was? I'd also like to do something to "show off" or use the fireplace...
Could I have the area open with a couch around the fireplace yet the rest of the room be a large kitchen?
Do I really need a kitchen table if we have a nice island?
Would I carry the same paint/colors through the room?
Would a half wall/breakfast bar idea work better??
Really any ideas would be great. I'm at a loss. If we take the wall I want to do it before we move in. I know suggestions may be to live in it first but with the mess that comes with it I'd rather not.
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I just wanted to add- I realize knocking down the wall will likely mean putting a support beam up. And obviously everything is getting painted/re-finished.
    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 8:32PM
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Barnhart Gallery
It does look like a load-bearing wall. Talk to an expert about your options for configuring support, because you'll have to design around that.

And I dove right into the wall coming down, as much as possible, because yes, you're right to combine the two rooms if you'll never use a formal DR. A FP in your kichen/great room will be a great feature!
    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 8:38PM
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My dad is a contractor, so putting up a support beam is NBD. We're having the engineering done for the strength we'd need, etc.
    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 8:47PM
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Urbana ~ Designer Ellen Crystal
if you have a formal dining table, no need for a kitchen table too. Just the bar stools at island will more than suffice.

How open you make your plan is dependent on lifestyle. Some folks are more formal, others thrive on a big easy keeping room where everyone can visit.

if you open up, then there are opportunities to rearrange your appliances and freshen your kitchen. As an example your island could have a cooktop with downdraft or overhead accent fan.

Similar flooring can blend right through from L/R & Dining space or switch to an accent tile in the kitchen footprint. If you wish a little separation, a part wall can be left in place and have a bar along it. It may seem out of proportion though and not really feel like the kitchen feels as cohesive.

Consult with a local kitchen planner to get the spacing right & see what upgrades you'd need to do to cabinetry to make it all work.

Consult with contractor regarding the structure to get that right!

Senior Designer~Urbana, Victoria, BC
    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 8:50PM
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We don't yet have a dining room table or a kitchen table (except our cheap one from Walmart that has got to go...). I'm thinking we'd want to have one or the other though right? Not just the island/bar?

I was hoping to have something "cozy" to sit on by the fireplace, but I'm thinking the area may just be to small to incorporate that?

And yes, we're consulting with a contractor on the support for the wall. Upgrading the cabinets is not really in the budget at the moment (the bathroom needs to be completely redone as well) so I was planning on painting/refinishing them.
    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 8:56PM
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I'm also attaching a floor plan and a photo of how I want to finish the kitchen (found it on Pinterest)... Any color ideas for the living room? Our couches are a dark green/moss color. But I want the living room to "flow" with the kitchen, so the house feels cohesive...
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 4:11AM
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I would definitely knock down the wall if it were me. I think an island with bar stools around it would be great. If you entertain at all, it's nice to have, not to mention having more counter space. Having a big kitchen is something I would have liked, but it was too complicated in our house. The layout was not right, etc.

If you plan on having kids, you will enjoy having a big kitchen. There will be room for the kids to play yet you can keep an eye on them. If you aren't going to have kids, of course, you will still enjoy a big kitchen and seeing the fireplace from your work area.

You can put a couch or armchairs around the fireplace area. Nothing wrong with having that kind of furniture in the kitchen.

If you can afford it, you might want to have a consultation with a designer just to plan the layout. It might be worth the money. It can save you time, give you ideas you may not think of, money, and headaches. I say money because then you don't make costly mistakes.
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 4:59AM
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I opened the kitchen to the dining room and added an island in my previous and current homes. Never once did I regret it. Everyone loves sitting at the island. It's great for entertaining. I don't have square footage to spare, either, so open concept gets my vote!
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 5:41AM
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Sue Ann Stevens
While you are collecting opinions, I think I would make the fireplace room a cozy living room with seating pulled in around ye fireplace an I would open up the wall between the kitchen and family room instead. You could use part of that larger room for an informal dining area with a tv/seating/family area. I would opt for an island or peninsula bar between those rooms.

I wouldn't opt for using the front room for dining. It's more suited to cozy fireplace conversation IMO.
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:09AM
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Sue Ann Stevens
Something to think about, even of you don't intend on using the formal front door, some people may and you may not want any possible kitchen mess seen right off the bat. It's also a deterrent when selling a home. People don't generally want a birds' eye view of a kitchen sink.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:12AM
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The floor plan clarifies the function of the rooms. The front door currently opens into the living room which the sellers have staged as a dining room. Rather than have the front door open directly into a kitchen, I suggest that you use the living room as a living room for the first year. You also have a family room. Over the next year, see how you really live in the house. Then make your choices. hmschoolmom brings up an excellent point about resale value.
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:17AM
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Thanks for the continuing suggestions! We have thought about opening the wall between the kitchen and living room instead but I believe it's going to take require more support than the other wall because I believe it used to be an outside wall. I get the feeling they turned a garage into that living room. Not that that's a huge issue, just something we're trying to weigh.

Also, I have dreams of insulating/heating that three season porch and making it a playroom right off the living room, as I already have a little two year old running around ;) I'm not sure if more kids will be in the future but even with just him a playroom would be sooo nice.

But I do agree the fireplace room would be a nice cozy room. I so wish it faced into the other living room.

My dad just said he is going to have his carpenter friend and interior designer come and look at it an throw out ideas! Their tastes tend to run on the expensive side (more used to multi million dollar houses) but I think it'll be great for them to come and look! And free for ideas! It's making moving back "home" seem worth it lol.
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:17AM
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Apple_pie and hmschoolmom:
My only true concern with that is I really think we absolutely will not use that room at all then. I think we'd congregate in the family room (probably where we'd put the TV). Maybe if we put the kitchen/dining room table in there we might occasionally eat there but I really worry/think the space would be wasted. We definitely can wait and see, but it'd be easier to take care of the "messy" projects before we move in with the baby and two dogs, KWIM?
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:23AM
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What you have here is two different schools of thought. Those that are more traditional vs those that are more open concept. Done right, I do not believe it will hurt the resale of your home. There are plenty of examples on houzz of dining rooms with hearths. You should do what will be most functional for your family. I lived in a neighborhood of outdated split-levels and almost everyone opened their kitchens up in one way or another. Some did it on the dining room side, but some did it on the living room side as well. Resale never seemed to be a problem. I do recommend enlisting the help of an architect. It is well worth it.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:06AM
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The great room is back. You have a lot of space. I wouldn't touch it without professional advice, contractor/architect/designer. We did a total remodel, gutted everything. An architect spent a few hours in our home, but didn't draw plans, the contractor did. The architect only charged $100/hour; without drawing plans. Don't rush. We spent 8 months gathering ideas, likes, pictures, etc., then went forward. Your LR/DR/Kitchen with an open plan would be wonderful. We love ours, but we spent most of the time looking at everything. Finishes, countertops, flooring, appliances; everything. We ended up with something completely different than we would have done originally. Take your time and be sure. Good luck!
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 1:22PM
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It sounds to me that you want to do it. You keep saying that you are afraid that you won't use the dining room which means to me that you aren't into formal dining rooms.

I wonder if you might want to move the sink so that if you are standing at the sink you would be facing the front and you would be seeing the main area where the fireplace is. Like in a penisula or island. And you could have another higher level of the counter to hide the dishes behind. At this higher level you would have a whole row of bar stools. Just an idea. But I think the main thing is whether you want to tear down this wall. It seems like you do. And I would too.

If you have been to houses with open concepts, did you like them?
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 1:36PM
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Both of the adjacent walls are weight bearing, so they will both take beams and that means opening to either one will work just as well since existing garage was framed with original house. I can't recommend your first instinct, but have two other options for your consideration. One is a big blowout of the whole first floor. One creates a better family room/kitchen connection.

Blowout Option. I see many other options for living space (family room, sun room, rooms upstairs), so I can't recommend you open front room to kitchen unless you also open wall to family (take down walls between family room and kitchen and 1/2 of livingrm all at once) - and create new entry hall. I'd then put up a new entry archway closet / storage wall dividing existing living up nearer the bay window to cut the existing formal down to make a larger / formal / more closed off entry.

That may be more than you can conceive / want to tackle but is just as easy to plan structurally. When done, you enter front door to large entry hall, then turn right into eat -in area of great room and pass kitchen on left as you enter family ahead - your bedroom hall would basically just continue into great room from private spaces. But you give up some kitchen function this way - in the long run, leaving the wall between this and the original living room may be preferable.

My experience is that as they get a little older, and a little noisier, an away room where grownups can retreat is very valuable - you will use it. Just stop thinking of it as a place to eat and consider your other quiet uses - painting it out and making it your library space so all the noise is somewhere else and this is a pretty, clean grownup space all the time. This is very therapeutic when your kids don't need / want supervision or closeness all the time. Or when you want to call a family meeting. It is nice to have levels of hands off be different in different rooms so you can teach kids the concept of formal and informal behavior (like indoor voice and outdoor voice). Choice of television shows change, noise of friends over playing changes, clutter of kids and dogs changes and in a few years, not sure you would be glad you opened it all. Nice to have space where grownups can retreat after family dinners and talk out of earshot.

Like the olive and white - can see adjacent space in stone greens, spa blues, cottage whites.

Family Room option
If I were opening only one now, I would open wall between kitchen and family room completely, and relocate some doors / widen several others. Then extend a peninsula / big square island in the top left corner of the family room - this would extend your kitchen and connect it to the family room. Even a 4' x 4' island depth (base cabinets back to back with bar overhang) with a 5' top starting where the old wall was / adjacent to end run of cabinets leaves room for seating and a relocated double french door to connect to sun room / playroom that would bring in more light. With 11' in the other direction 4'6" open walk /entry to family space gives you room for 6' return x 5' island and pantry cabinets on the now bare wall. Just add tall white pantry storage all along the common wall with the living room (think full height pantry cabinets down that wall) This will give you amazing cabinet storage and function, but you will be room is now - move the door to the new "playroom" over and make it a double french door to bring light in here.

Kids and Dogs mean a lot of entry / backpack / laydown / mud room which is much more conducive to connection to kitchen. If the side door is to be used most, open the kitchen in that direction.

Lots of other things to do here first - if you paint out the front room in a pretty color, whitewash the cedar plank and brick, then just think about reading chairs and ottomans and one sofa, you will have a nice retreat space. Consider Susan Susanka's "away room" theory.
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 2:52PM
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Thank you libradesigneye- you've given me a lot to think about! I think it's hard to picture an "adult away space" when my son is still so young and needs more supervision... But your right that time will come when that is not the case.
    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 5:20PM
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From my experience when kids get older they tend to gravitate to the lower level/basement especially if they have friends over. Most teenagers seem to want to get as far away from their parents as possible. ; )

The idea of an open space allows you to connect to other people in the family room or living room. When the cook is in the kitchen and everyone else is in the family or living room you can't be part of what is going on.

If you open it up you still have the family room or the front living room as a separate space. The kitchen can be combined as a kitchen and living space which is separate from the other living space.

Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide and enjoy your new house!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 4:16AM
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Thank you! We are still leaning towards taking the kitchen/dining room wall down. We like the large living room on the right and I'm not sure I want to impede on it with part of the kitchen as I'm sure it'll quickly fill up with toys.
But we have a bit of time to decide. I know we both favor open plans and never wanted to feel like we are closed off in the kitchen from the rest of the house (which is why I suspect we simply wouldn't use the formal dining/living room).
Hopefully in the future a second floor will be in store for us as well.
    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 1:50PM
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If you don't have a second floor now, then what about a nice home office in the front room? For a family that opened up to the front (because the fireplace made connecting to the back not quite right) see YoungHouseLove.com
    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:37PM
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