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Kitchen remodel (dining room & maybe living room too) - Ideas Wanted!

3 years ago

Hi everyone,

So, we are hoping to remodel our kitchen. This is a really long post, trying to anticipate possible questions.... grab your favorite beverage or snack before you start reading. I'm going to include photos from how the property was staged when we were buying it, because it doesn't have all the "stuff" cluttering up from daily life. Our family currently consists of 2 adults and a 13-year-old... and two dogs, three cats, and two kittens. (All of the four-leggeds are spayed/neutered, don't worry!) And as always, we need to be cost-effective.... I'm perfectly okay with this being over-analyzed to death for form, function, and ways to stretch the dollars where they can be stretched, within reason.

Why we want to remodel:

1. The existing kitchen layout and cabinetry doesn't work for us.

A. When someone is standing at the sink, and someone else is cooking at the stove, we bump into each other. At best, it's annoying; and at worst, it's a hazard. One time I had a pot of boiling water with pasta in it, and I was picking it up from the stove to turn to the sink and drain it - not realizing that someone else happened to choose that moment to have put something in the sink - and when they turned and bumped into me, that big pot of boiling water nearly ended up all over me. To me, the sink and stove are too close to each other when multiple people might use the kitchen at the same time.

B. Lack of counter top space. Staging photos look nice... but when you put a large microwave (22") on it, a coffee pot (7.25"), the coffee (6.5"), blender (7.5"), a cooking utensil container (6.5", electric can opener (5.5"), knife block (4.25") and a toaster (10.5") - we have no work space. Those are the things that are on the countertop 24x7. Add in other small appliances that might be put in use - large crockpot (17"), food dehydrator (14"), belgian waffle maker - and I just want to cry. I want/need more counter space. What I have (and is mostly covered by aforementioned items), is 58" from the left back corner to the edge of the sink; from the right back corner to the sink is 33", and then 15" on each side of the stove.

C. Wall cabinet storage isn't as usable as I'd like. The cabinets have fixed shelves, anchored into the actual framework of the cabinets. They don't move. So nothing taller than 7.5" can go on either of the lower shelves in the wall cabinets, and the highest shelf can only take something 8.5" or less in height. A lot of the items we buy are taller than those dimensions. 2-liter bottle of soda? 13". 1/2-gallon of apple juice? 10.5". Cereal boxes? 11"-11.5". Benefiber? 9.75". CheeseBalls snack container? 10". Crisco? 8". Bottle of Olive Oil? 11". Cases of Red Bull, Glucerna, etc. ... Nothing fits. Where does it all end up? On the counter, or on the bench, or on the floor. Seriously.

D. The space under the sink is a black hole of doom, also known as a "blind corner". Stuff goes in there... and sometimes never comes out. When I did a deep clean of it... I found the previous owner's waffle maker from the 1970's. Plus bending down and then trying to reach in sideways doesn't work well for me. I'm short (5'0"), have psoriatic arthritis, etc.

E. The space from the countertop to the bottom of the wall cabinets isn't consistent - it varies from 17" to 18", depending on the stretch of wall. And the blender doesn't fit under any of those spaces, so it has to live right on the edge of the kitchen sink where there is no wall cabinet.

F. The door from the kitchen to the patio, when swung open to take advantage of good weather - like spring and fall - blocks the first 33" of the cabinets, including the dishwasher. My boyfriend smokes on the patio. so everytime he is going in/out for a cigarette, he's got to make sure that he's not going to whack me, or a cabinet I've opened, or the dishwasher if I'm loading it.

G. No table and chair combination fits in the room. When I open the freezer drawer of the refrigerator, it leaves only 44" of space. If we were to put a table with chairs, it'd be really tight, I think.

H. Lack of drawer space. There are two 15" cabinets, and the drawer width is 10", and the depth is 18". No glides supporting those drawers either; the further you pull them out, the more the front dips down.

I. Even the bench has some storage limitations. The previous owner built it, but with the interior framing and the slope he put in, the usable bottom is only about 11". So a lot of smaller appliances don't fit in there very well; we tend to use if for canned goods.

2. Overall flow in the house issues:

A. I hate having to carry groceries up the half-flight of stairs, sort of into the dining room, through the opening into the kitchen, and then to try to find space to put things away.

B. Except for the bi-levels (aka "raised ranch") houses in our development.... EVERY other bi-level I've ever seen you walk into the kitchen, not the dining room... and then the dining room and the living room have an open flow, to make it easier to entertain, etc. In our current layout - the living room is diagonal to the dining room. It's not conducive to being able to have more than a few people in a single room.

C. The dining room is cramped with the table, sideboard and china hutch. The dining room is only 10' wide. The table, by itself, is 48" wide, and the sideboard takes up another 20" of space. That leaves just 26" between the table edge and the nearest obstruction (wall or sideboard) to allow for a chair, someone sitting in the chair. Technically doable, but cramped; It doesn't leave enough space for people to easily pass behind someone who is seated, though - and especially not if they are carrying plates of food

Some basic ideas we want to consider - but want more points-of-view:

1. The 10' wall between the kitchen and dining room is 98% likely not a supporting wall. That should be able to be removed.

2. The 13' wall between the kitchen and the living room IS probably a supporting wall. At a bare minimum, we'd need to keep a beam and post (or two) as supports.

3. Strongly considering swapping the dining room space for the kitchen space.

3. I'd like more space between the sink and stove.

4. I'd like to keep the sink on the same wall, to minimize plumbing changes (as well as to avoid drywall repairs to the ceiling in the room underneath). The sink can slide along the wall, however.

5. A pantry - with a door, and adjustable shelves is desirable.

6. More countertop is wanted.

7. My significant other does not like open floor plans... my initial thought was to take down both walls and have a supporting header, but he was pretty adamant that he doesn't want noises fro the kitchen/dining room area to reach "living room B". He IS okay with the idea of creating an opening between "living room A" and the future kitchen/dining room area, and having some sort of door (sliding barn door, french doors, etc) to close off the spaces from each other when desired.

8. We are considering the possibility of combining the existing dining and kitchen space to be an eat-in kitchen, and converting living room "A" to be a dining area, and then using living room B as the only living room.

9. Boyfriend dislikes wood cabinets and would like white cabinets. I happen to prefer a medium cherry wood - and that may be a less-expensive option, depending on the cabinet line, so I'd count that as a win-win for me.

10. The current stove absolutely needs to be replaced. I'm holding out until we can remodel, as long as it continues to sort of work. I would really like a slide-in induction stove. And we'd like to get the microwave off the countertop; but he doesn't want it below the countertop either.

11. Keep in mind that I'm short (5') so while I would like storage to the top (goodbye soffits), the very top would be used for decorative items and/or items very infrequently used (such as my china).

12. I'll happily ditch the china cabinet and sideboard for permanent cabinetry storage.

13. I want to take my boyfriend's concerns into consideration; but ultimately, I own the house and am footing the cost of any remodeling.

14. I'm hoping to someday retire in this house (I'm 57), and most likely, if I'm still in it when I drop dead, my 13-year-old granddaughter will inherit it - so also want to at least hear her thoughts. But again... I'm footing the bill. She loves open floor plans, but also sees the value in being able to close off spaces when desired.


Kitchen, 10'x13 (wall-to-wall dimensions, includes space taken up by cabinetry, etc.) Current cabinetry and counterspace. Dishwasher and Refrigerator has since been replaced with stainless steel appliances that are new enough. 10' wall on back - from the back left corner, bottom: we have a bottom cabinet with a utensil drawer. These are blocked when the door to the patio is open. Standard 24" dishwasher, also blocked by the same door. Sink with blind corner. Turning to the stove wall, 15" cabinet with one drawer to the left of the stove, and a 15" drawer cabinet to the right of the stove. The the refrigerator; and then an open passage from the kitchen to the dining room. From the back left corner, top: three 15" wall cabinets, with fixed shelves. Window over kitchen sink that I can't reach unless I get a stepstool. A diagonal corner unit. A 15" wall unit, a pair of short cabinets over the stove, and a 15" wall cabinet between the range hood and the refrigerator. Visually, when I bought the house, I really liked the kitchen. It wasn't until I really started living in it that I realized the storage limitations, and now that we have my granddaughter with us, and we all have different preferences for food, snacks, and drinks - it's a storage nightmare.

In this photo, you see the swing-in door that connects the kitchen to the patio. When the door is open, it blocks access to the upper two left cabinets, as well as the bottom cabinet and the dishwasher, which has to be closed for the door to be opened. There is a bench, but with the angle and interior bracing, only 10" of floor space is available for storage. Where the realtor had put the fake flowers next to the door is where our trash can sits. The floor is not hardwood, but a laminate that is clearly different than the hardwood in the rest of the house.

Dining room, 10'x13': The back wall with the windows is the 10' wall. This is the actual table we still have. The realtor didn't want to have it hauled out when we bought the house. Where the picture is on the wall is where my china cabinet and sideboard are now. And because I have no space to keep personal papers, I have a lateral file cabinet on each side of the china closet. It makes the space cramped. Expanding the dining room to the room behind the picture isn't possible - that's our bathrooms, remodeled in 2017. Notice the hardwood flooring; if we combine the rooms, we'd need to decide on whether to try to put a matching hardwood in the existing kitchen space, or to do something entirely different for the space, such as ripping out this hardwood in the dining room space and putting tile. . This hardwood flooring (oak, with a golden hue to it) runs from the dining room to living room A, the stairs, etc.

Living room A, Living Room B, and a bit of the Dining room and hallway: So, our house has two living room spaces, divided by a partial full wall and a pair of half-height walls, creating a "T" opening between the two spaces. In this photo, we are standing in the front corner of the house in Living room "B", looking towards living room A, the hallway closet, and the dining room. We are considering an option to turn living room A into a semi-formal dining room space, using the current kitchen and dining room to create an eat-in kitchen, and then using Living room B as the only living room. The carpet is gone and has the same hardwood as the current dining room. And yes, that's real brick you see on this side of the wall. The previous owner had put an extension on the house to create living room B. Pretty certain that there is extensive framing/bracing inside the walls and beam to keep the roof line supported and intact. If you look just past the full-height brick wall, you see a fake tree sticking out where the wall is shared with the kitchen and living room A. That's approximately where we might consider putting in an opening (and french or barn doors) from the future kitchen space to living room A.

Here's another view of living room A; this is the space we are thinking about making into an informal dining space. The carpet is gone and has the same hardwood as the current dining room. The half-height wall towards the back left in this photo is where the half-flight of stairs is to come in at. The distance from the inside of the half-height wall to the other half-height wall, along the window, is 13'. The length of the half-height wall seen in the bottom-right is just 4' 9". So clearly if we were to use this space as a dining area, we'd have to be careful about how we put a table in, so that it doesn't obstruct the natural path through the room.

This is living room "B", which would then become our only living room if we used living room A as a dining space. Again, the carpet is long gone. However, this room has a different hardwood - still oak, but with a more reddish town.

This is the back of the house. The current kitchen window is to the far right; the current dining room space is the window pair just to the right of the tree. As you can see, there's a significant slope with plenty of trees around the back; the concrete patio is just off to the right behind the bushes. Also, you can see the exterior is brick; so I'm trying to avoid plans where we'd have to rip out brick, expand exterior walls, etc.


If you've read down this far.... thank you. It's a lot of information to read and absorb, but was hoping to avoid having multiple people ask the same question over and over again by getting as much information out and available upfront.

Looking forward to reading ideas from everyone. And if anyone has suggestions for free layout/design software.... please let me know.


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