Monthly Archive: September 2011


I have been working on the following plans for the kitchen proper for the past couple of months. They are by no means final. I have gone through several iterations, and I am sure there are more revisions to come — especially since we met with Gina (Greg’s mom) who is a kitchen designer.

First up, plan view.  Click on the picture for a version where you can actually read the text. Gray is upper or full-height cabinets. Up is the foyer, and the half bath is in the lower left corner.


Going counterclockwise starting from the foyer door (12:00):

  • The foyer wall has been moved down 3 feet to make room for closets in the foyer, as previously mentioned
  • Dishwasher below, with storage for tupperware etc. above it, along with bags & foils.
  • Sink, centered on the right-hand side window
  • Work space between sink and stove, with pot & pan drawers below. Window over this space as well
  • Our existing BlueStar range, with a real range hood above it
  • Tray / baking sheet divider storage below, oils, salt, and other items needed at the stove above
  • In the corner: a Super Susan (lazy susan) below, Easy Reach (L-shaped hinged door with no stile in the inside corner) above. Dry goods & cans go in these 2 cabinets.
  • Continuing around the corner, lower drawer storage for silverware, cooking implements like spatulas, cooking spoons, whisks, potholders, baking pans, etc. below. Day-to-day plates and bowls above.
  • Door to the pantry & existing bathroom
  • In the pantry: The door to the outside has been replaced with a window to make room for three 24″ deep floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets: space for bulky items, infreqently used appliances, a stepstool, and extra supplies of pantry items.
  • Back in the main kitchen: a short counter with space for the toaster oven, with a microwave drawer below. Day-to-day glasses above.
  • 36″ wide counter-depth refrigerator
  • Drawer/door base below with cat food. Infrequently used items above.
  • Our existing round kitchen table & chairs
  • Door to the new sunroom.
  • Continuing around the next corner, existing French doors to the dining room
  • Peninsula with seating for about 3 people on this end, primarily a hangout space so guests can be in the kitchen while I cook. I would like this area to be in different materials to set it off from the perimeter cabinetry; probably a wood countertop and backsplash matching the cabinets.
  • Above the seating part of the peninsula, glass-fronted cabinets for fancy glassware, dishes, etc. Underneath, a single full-height-door cabinet for deep storage of large, seldom used items.
  • Continuing around the peninsula: drawer storage for prep tools like knives, peelers, rolling pin, etc.  This section of peninsula has no upper cabinets.
  • Cutting board divider cabinet
  • Sink base for prep sink on island.
  • Shallow spice storage cabinet, on the end of the peninsula facing the range
  • Pull-out double trash cabinet, for trash & recyclables
  • Continuing around the back side of the peninsula, a bookshelf for cookbooks.
  • On the other side of the dining room door, a message / phone / charger station.

That’s the tour.  I feel like this plan needs some more tweaking, but it’s a start.  Or maybe we will come up with something entirely different.

One more picture: some elevations to help get a feel for how this plan would look. First is the fridge wall, then the stove/sink wall, then one view of the peninsula. Some of the details don’t match what I’ve described above, but these elevations are really just for sense of scale anyway.



Moving the first floor’s one closet to someplace near the front door makes a lot of sense. Right now we hang our coats on pegs, put our briefcases & gym bags on a bench (which means you can’t sit on it), and keep our shoes on some old shelves I originally bult to fit beind a door in the old house.  All of this makes for a somewhat messy foyer area.

While verifying some measurements, I also discovered what I think is some dead space next to the house’s chimney — space that could be used for storage. Here’s the current plan; front door is at the top.

The dead space I described is marked “cubbies” here.  Of course, we won’t really know if it’s there without poking a hole in the wall.

The space on the right in this drawing has a place for all of our day-to-day items I mentioned above: briefcases & gym bags in cubbies, our daily-use coats on hooks, shoes under the bench. The new closet on the left (that’s a plumbing/electric chase in the corner) would have a hanging rod and be used for off-season storage and guests’ coats.  All this would be hidden behind doors that match what’s already in the house — in fact, the door for the new closet could be the one from our current closet. The wood floor can also be extended (and some stained areas patched) with wood salvaged from the sunroom.

There are some other things we would like to do to the foyer if budget and time allows: an octagonal window on the stair landing to let in some more light, replace the stair treads with clear-finished (rather than painted) wood, reconfigure the lowest stair slightly so it’s easier to use with the front door open, re-case the front door so its moulding matches the rest of the house. We’ll price out these optional projects and may want to tack them onto the remodel.


We loved our 3-season porch at our old house:

We tended to spend a lot of time out there during the warm months.  We would like to re-create a space like this for the new house.

We recognize that the sunroom’s style will have to be adapted to the new house and neighborhood, but we still feel that a lot of the same character — lots of wood, lots of openable windows while stil maintaining some privacy — can carry over just fine.

The current plan is as follows: remove the current deck, and replace it with a 3-season sunroom that’s octagonal, roughly 16 x 13 feet, with the long edge along the house. Bias the sunroom forward by about 3 feet from the corner of the house to allow for more patio space between the house & back fence.  The primary door to the patio would be off the corner of the sunroom, next to the house.

I think we will want straight-grain fir floors (just like the old house), with a tongue & groove wood ceiling following the pitched roof, and tongue & groove walls (where there’s not window). We will want to strip the shingles off the portion of the house wall that winds up inside the sunroom since they’re quite worn. The street-facing windows may want to be higher, or at least have curtains, for privacy.

Since we use the current deck frequently, we’ll want to replace it with a patio in the space behind the house & sunroom.  This is the most private area of the property, and with proper hardscape design I think it can be quite attractive and functional, without crowding the lawn area too much.

Project summary

I’ve established that we’d like to redo our kitchen.  But what are we doing?

I have not had much success finding a new configuration that works better in the kitchen’s current footprint.  The room is too wide, and has too many doors, to be an effective two-counter parallel galley kitchen. But the room is too narrow for an island.  If we didn’t cook much, or were on a more limited budget, I think we’d make a more attractive space with minor improvements in function.

But the way things stand, the plan is to annex the adjacent sunroom.  This involves removing a section of load-bearing wall, which we’ll need to replace with a header. It also means removing the one closet on the entire first floor.  The logical way to address that problem is to expand the foyer slightly into the current kitchen’s footprint, making room for a coat closet that’s actually near the front door.

Annexing the sunroom also means we lose the sunroom space itself, which we do use.  We have been planning since we moved to create a new 3-season porch, replacing the current deck, like we did in our old house.  Since this is a significant but not huge project, the logical plan is to do it at the same time as the kitchen.

One last item: expanding the kitchen’s footprint means either matching or replacing the tile floor in the kitchen. I’m not convinced we could match that floor, so we’re probably looking at ripping it up. And if we’re going to rip up the floor, we shoud put in radiant-floor heat in the newly-renovated space while it’s easy.

If we’re putting in radiant floor heat, it may be time to bite the bullet and update the heating system with a more efficient modern condensing boiler, with domestic hot water supplied by a zone off of it rather than the standalone water heater (hey, look! something else from 1983!). And I fear the number of electrical circuits required by code in a kitchen these days may require doing something to our main electrical panel.

So there you have it, the master outline: construct a new 3-season porch, replacing the current deck. Do a gut remodel of the current kitchen, including relocating a wall and removing a load-bearing one. Bring the exposed electrical, plumbing, heating, and insulation up to code, also fixing any “oh my god” structural issues discovered in the process. Construct a new patio to replace the lost deck functionality. And then get on with our lives. Sounds simple enough, right?  Right?

What we’ve done

Here’s what we’ve done to the kitchen to make it more liveable.

P1000262.JPGPretty much immediately, we installed some sliding mesh baskets from Container Store into the lower cabinets. Thanks for the help, Stefan!

DCL_9512.JPGInstalled some open oak shelving we brought with us from the old house. At the time, we thought we might be able to do a minor remodel of the kitchen and wanted to test how some cabinets or shelves here might help. They’ve been invaluable.

Installed a new faucet (Kohler Simplice) and a filtered-water dispenser, and replaced the garbage disposal (which had a paper clip lodged in it and was rusted out).

P1000333.JPGRipped out the old recirculating range hood and replaced it with an over-the-range microwave, freeing up valuable counter space in the process. Though I picked the unit with the best exhaust power (CFM) I could find, and while it’s better than nothing, the new project will need a real range hood.


Replaced the stove! The old stove was actually not horrible, given its age. But my Garland in the old house had spoiled me, so I bought myself the same range (now BlueStar brand). We will clearly be keeping this stove in the new kitchen. You can see the OTR microwave here; it’s a good microwave, just not a very good range hood.


Replaced the dishwasher, when the old one started putting food back on the dishes. This Bosch is much quieter, and uses a fraction of the water and detergent. We’ll be keeping this one too.

One thing we did not replace is the fridge. According to its Energy Star label, it was the least efficient model you could buy in 1983. But idly shopping for a replacement led us to the conclusion that we’d probably want something wider — and perhaps counter depth — in a new kitchen. So we’re hoping it survives until it can be replaced.

The existing kitchen

Here is a picture of the kitchen from when we first saw it; this is still the previous owners’ stuff.

And here is the current floorplan:
You can clearly see that it’s straight out of 1983, including all the appliances.  There’s a short list of things we like about this kitchen:

  • the floor (not visible here): 12″ square quarry tiles, set on a diagonal. Durable, well-installed, attractive.
  • spaciousness: the physical room is large, accommodating a lot of people.  That’s important because, of course, everybody always winds up in the kitchen at parties.
  • room for a table: Lis and I eat in the kitchen most nights.
  • pantry storage: the adjacent bump-out contains an extremely useful pantry cabinet

Just about everything else here could use improvement.  I won’t even go into aesthetics, just functional issues:

  • insufficient working space: given the amount of counter in the room, you would not think that’s a problem. But the primary working space is between the sink & the stove, and it’s tiny.
  • insufficient cabinet space: this room is somewhat bigger than our old kitchen, but we had to struggle to find a home for everything. We also have more stuff in offline storage (basement) than we did.
  • cabinets: they are 1983 builder-grade. One tried to fall off the wall.
  • fridge & sink: 25 years old. We’ve replaced the rest of the appliances, which I’ll describe in another post.

Now about that decor.  This house is 120 years old.  You would think there would be some hint of that in the kitchen (besides the far-from-level floor, I mean). But no, it’s crappy 80’s builder-grade modern. I think we can do much better.

Kitchen remodel project

This past spring, Lis turned to me and said “I think it’s time to redo the kitchen.”  I think she’s right.  We moved into this house about 2 1/2 years ago; we knew at the time that the kitchen was serviceable but dated.  What we did not realize is that its layout is poor — making it operate as a much smaller kitchen than it really is — and that just about everything was wearing out.

I am starting this blog to collect my thoughts, share progress with family and friends, and document the process.  I intend to publish a flurry of entries now to catch up to real-time; the pace will then slow considerably as we select contractors and work on plans. You can expect an uptick of activity as we actually begin work, followed (we hope) by a steady stream of progress until we’re done.

I’ve set this blog to publish new entries at the end, so it reads like a diary. So if you don’t see anything new, you’ll need to skip to the end.