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Help me make this tiny kitchen work!


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It's funny--I started looking for a place to buy our first house by proximity to ethnic food and good supermarkets. But I fell in love with a place that has neither. Then I said I need to have a spacious kitchen and a dishwasher. My husband and I fell in love with a 1925 Craftsman-style bungalow that has neither. Hey, at least it has a gas stove.

We intend to do some remodeling in a few years to get some extra space in the kitchen, so I don't want to do anything major right now, but I do want to preserve the original features while making the space more workable (and add a diswasher!). Prep space especially is very limited.

The kitchen is 9x10 with a 5x5 attached pantry. There is beautiful built-in cabinetry in the pantry but just one original cabinet above the fridge in the kitchen itself. There is a standard Home Depot-type cabinet with sink that has been added. That's where we'd like to put the dishwasher--either carve out a space for it in the existing cabinet or get a new unit for that space. The main limiting factor is the built-in table that swings down from the wall. I love it, but allowing space to eat around it cuts down on the possibilities a lot.

Here are some pictures, going clockwise around the kitchen starting from the living room entrance:



Believe me, there will be more hanging from this area than 3 pans and a potholder. This area is too shallow for cabinets (the fridge, which the owners are taking, is sunken in) but I have lots of ideas in mind, such as using medicine cabinets for spices, etc.


Here is a shot of the cabinet over the fridge, the pantry, and the built-in table:


To the right of the table is the door to the outside/basement, then a radiator in just the wrong place:


And we're back to the living room doorway:


All comments & suggestions welcome!

Queen of Grilled Cheese


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Dishwasher must go next to sink due to plumbing and electrical concerns

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Yes, I had planned to put the dishwasher next to the sink. Doesn't look like there's 24" on either side so will probably need a new cabinet.

Therese, you can't really tell from the pictures but that wall is rather close to the table & chairs--it would mean the table would have to come out. You're absolutely right, though. The only horizontal space anywhere near the stove is the table itself.

Queen of Grilled Cheese


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Yes, I'm having trouble seeing just how the table works---where it starts and stops, basically. It would be helpful if you could post a floorplan, even a rough hand-drawn one.

Given the size of the kitchen and the present layout, I'm not sure you'll be able to have both a table and a decent workspace, and I vote for the latter. When you do the remodel you'll be able to design things much more efficiently.

Would there be a way to flip the fridge over the spot where the range is presently? It's sort of a dead end, so an ideal place for the fridge.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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If you go to this IKEA link, scroll down a bit and there is another link called "kitchen planning tool." This will take you to a pop-up that will let you download a program for laying out kitchens using IKEA products.

-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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My kitchen is much smaller than yours, but has the advantage of the 18" of counter space in between the stove and the sink.

The first thing that came to mind when I saw your space is that you must check out the metal frameworks that hang from the ceiling with sturdy metal hooks. These are the ultimate space savers because you have a lot of unused space that can be maximized. If you can work in one of these frameworks, it can make your cooking space more efficient - you just reach up and get what you need instead of scrambling around in cupboards. That cupboard above the fridge is a tough one. Have you thought of removing the doors? I picture the whole place opened up, much like a restaurant kitchen.

The ikea idea is great because they have a lot of things on wheels that can be pulled out and lets say used as a cutting board or work space for rolling out pastry or kneading bread dough and storing stuff on the shelves below.

I personally have very little in the way of appliances beyond a blender and a toaster, fridge and stove. Everything is done by hand including the dishes. Outdoors is handy for grilling, since I have my barbeque at the ready, so I have a bit of extra room there.

I think that table has got to go, unless your cooking space is not as important. You know it all depends on how much you cook and how you cook. I have a small cafe table in my kitchen with two chairs and a bigger table in living room, when we have friends round, we eat in there.

If you can, take a look at some restaurant kitchens in your neighbourhood for inspiration. Some of the ones you know to be small.

Good luck in your new home,


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I live in a 1906 bungalow, and I'm seeing things in your kitchen that are giving me flashbacks. That freestanding stove next to a door, for instance. It probably wouldn't work for you, but I ended up moving the bathroom doorway into the dining room, which gave me enough wallspace for a respectable L-shaped countertop.

Don't rush these things. You want to make sure your ideas are fully planned before you start breaking walls and shelling out cash.

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Do you have a dining room? If so, could you live without an eat in kitchen and get rid of the table?

There is also more space for wall hung cabinets, although not terribly deep ones, above the stove (with a range hood of course) and to the right of your sink. Since you are only talking a small number of cabinets you could look into having them made to match your existing very lovely cabinet. Or, check out a local salvage place. You might find just the right thing, even if it doesn't match perfectly. Sometimes older medicine cabinets or doctor/pharmacy cabinets can have a very nice look. An older stove or a reproduction, gas of course, would be cool too. and might have some extra space for you.


What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?


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There is a wonderful book called Bungalow Kitchen (I will leave the Amazon link to someone who can follow directions better than me.) It will help you see how the original kitchen might have been laid out. It is arranged by obsessive restoration (yes, that's the author's term) and modified restoration, so you can update the kitchen while showcasing that BEAUTIFUL pantry of yours.

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Here's my kitchen:


It's even smaller than yours, literally 20 square feet of space, but it's a pretty thoughtful layout. The major advantage is the bar opposite the stove/fridge/sink wall - creates lots of horizontal counter room. Given that, could you pitch the table and install something a little taller that could be surrounded with comfortable barstools to eat on, but is tall enough to use as prep area? I'd also rotate the stove 90 degrees clockwise, to back up to the fridge wall, and fill in the space with counter or another tall table, maybe a drop leaf.

Edit: the pot rack is also an enormous space-saver: it holds all my pots and pans, utensils, and sundry stuff like coffee mugs and paper towels. Consider one...mine is a cheapie deal from Ikea that I installed myself in an hour and holds a great deal of weight.

Edited by eunny jang (log)
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In our first apartment we used wall hung CD storage in the kitchen. The system worked well for spices, mugs for tea and the jar that I kept my wooden spoons in. They were inexpensive and readily available, and when we moved to a place with a bigger kitchen, we used them for CD's. Good luck!

If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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Thanks for all the helpful comments.

Here is an approximate floor plan of the current kitchen:


I also downloaded the IKEA software but got aggravated with it so I just did it in Quark. It was a very helpful exercise in and of itself.

Other comments:

- "Tiny" may have been the wrong word. "Awkward" is more like it. My current kitchen is larger but with almost a worse setup. Also, we have a computer corner and an eating area since we have no dining room or office. I know there are plenty of smaller kitchens out there.

- A dishwasher is an absolute must. Not because I can't live without one, but because I have been for 8 years. Having one will allow me to cook and bake more, since neither of us is good at keeping up with dishes. It's a personal choice but one that will make me very, very happy! I don't think I'll really miss the cabinet space since I have plenty in the pantry, and can put up upper cabinets.

- We do have a dining room (you can see the doorway in the layout). I'm fine with using it for everyday eating. I want to make sure it gets used and not just for formal dinners. But I still balk at the idea of taking the table out of the kitchen. Hopefully it is attached in a way that we could take it down intact, then have the option of putting it back up. A table for 2 would make sense now, but not when we have kids.

- Bungalow Kitchens--there is another book, too, called Bungalow Basics: Kitchens. I think the one you've suggested looks better. In fact, it's in my shopping cart...

- Pot rack: I have one too. Very useful. And will be even better when I don't need to keep paper towels, tupperware, sugar & flour, etc. on the top shelf. I like the CD holder idea too.

Queen of Grilled Cheese


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Can you possibly remove the door that goes to the stairs? That would give you some additional wall space.

And, if you took out the table, you would have room for a rolling unit that would provide additional counter space.

Yes, a dishwasher. You can have counter on the top, and remember, that a dishwasher is good storage for dirty dishes!

On the recent thread started by Dave (click Here) several people mention using pegboards as storage, as well.

Your pantry area is going to save you!

Your house looks beautiful. We recently moved from a house with a huge kitchen to one with a much smaller (very small) kitchen. I have not regretted it one bit. The rest of the house is so great and meets so many of our needs that I haven't looked back. Sure, I spend plenty of time in the kitchen. But, I spend far more with the family in other areas of the house, or outside.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Thanks for the sketch---much easier to see the limitations.

Suggestions for the short term:

1. Either remove the fold down table entirely and replace with a rolling breakfast bar/storage unit sort thing (some of these actually include storage for the stools themselves, and I've found these very handy).


2. Cut the table way down, such that it extends no further than the far edge of the fridge. Only room for two, but believe me, you do not want to be using this hellish little kitchen with little kids around. When you do your real remodel you may want to consider a built-in arrangement, very period and very convenient with kids.

3. Get new unit for sink to include space for dishwasher.

4. Flip range as I initially described and install counter/cabinetry as appropriate along that wall.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Check out the book Small kitchens : making every inch count by Robin Murrell. Yes its a little dated, and yes a lot of the kitchens are European, but its a book with lots of conceptual ideas. One kitchen was entirely made of one large metro shelving unit -- sink, stove, storage, bookshelves, everything!

I just checked Amazon and this book appears to be out of print, but its available at Half.com for $4.00.

In addition to lots of pictures there is an appendix that has table/counter height dimensions and other ergonomic planning information.


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I feel for you. That's a really awkward kitchen, not much smaller than mine, but the layout scares me! (and makes me grateful for my own kitchen). If you haven't yet, check out that home site's kitchen forum. It's a fantastic resource for people going through exactly what you are. They can help give you ideas on what to do temporarily until you can manage a real remodel.

Then take your time thinking about how you want to redo the space.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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I see a lot of possibilities to make this a much "bigger" work space.

First of all, if the cabinets in the pantry are not built in, I would take them out, remove the walls between the pantry and the kitchen, as they are probably not load bearing. Then remove the table.

You can put in an inexpensive breakfast nook like this, in the corner where the pantry is now. Put floor to ceiling cabinets where the refrigrator is now, even with the upper cabinet and continuing into the pantry space where the wall is now with a step-back end section with open shelves for dishes, handy to the breakfast nook. The opposite wall could have a shallow floor to ceiling storage unit, either open or closed. Take a look at local unfinished furniture stores. They have a lot of modular units made to fit into tight areas with efficient storage solutions.

The refrigerator would go on the wall where the table is now.

The stove would be rotated 90 degrees and have a countertop cabinet next to it. You can have open or closed wall cabinets above it for more storage of items in frequent use.

This would give you the triangle work route from stove to refrigerator to sink. and more counter space.

Opening the room up this way would make the space seem bigger and the work flow would be more efficient.

The table is in the worst place and takes up far too much space. It is a poorly conceived construction and I don't believe it is original to the house because I have looked at a great many craftsman homes and have never seen anything like that. I have seen several homes with a similar configuration with built in benches on either side of a room like the pantry and with a mission style table in the center. I would make a guess that the original layout was like that. The fact that there is a window in the pantry is the tip-off. A pantry in a craftsman or arts and crafts home would not have a double-hung window. It would have at most, a high window perhaps 12 inches high and 24 inches wide, that would unlatch and swing up, like a transom, for ventilation. Pantrys were designed in these homes to store things away from light.

My dad was an architect and studied the work of the designers of the arts & crafts and craftsman style homes and drug me around to look at a lot of these homes in Pasadena and surrounding areas where there are a great many examples. I listened to a lot of lectures about how and why they were designed the way they were.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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Snowangel, Cusina, and others--thanks for the nice comments.


On the Craftsman issue: this is not a Craftsman bungalow, it's a Craftsman-style bungalow. It was built by the original owner in 1925 who was probably just a regular guy who liked the style and adopted it to his needs and budget. I doubt a stick of Mission-style furniture ever lived under this roof. Like most 20s bungalow owners they probably used whatever they had and took elements from popular design of the day. The built-in table is clearly not Craftsman style but it is definitely original, or at least added by the original builder sometime during the 70 years he lived there, and the same for the pantry.

We are buying it from the second owners, a household of women who have kept the house up but thankfully not replaced or painted over any of the original features. They most certainly would not have arranged for a carpenter to build period cabinetry. However, they may be responsible for the odd window. When you said that I remembered that the pantry window is the only modern window in the house. It is possible that there was a smaller window there before. Maybe they were having trouble with it and had it replaced with the double-hung window, for any number of reasons.

Your suggestion makes a lot of sense space-wise, with the constraints of the gas line and plumbing, but I could not rip out the pantry cabinets. The table--maybe--you all are slowly convincing me--but not the pantry.

Queen of Grilled Cheese


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andiesenji is on the right track.

The trouble with this space is not that it's too small, its the narrow opening into the pantry area. I like andiesenji's idea about turning what is currently the pantry into a breakfast nook. Good use of space, and it keep everyone else out of the kitchen if it's being used at the time.

Moving the fridge where the table is now will be problematic as it won't allow proper clearances from the back door (top of the stairs). That outside corner of the "room" where the stairs are is your nemsis here. I've left the fridge where it is for now. It's a 36" side by side, and unless you're prepared to replace it, I really don't see a better place for it.

Again, I like andie's idea of moving the range around the corner to the adjacent wall. I'm going to go further and suggest you run some cabinetry up the wall where the range used to be. This will help make up for the losing your pantry to the breakfast nook.

Here's what I came up with:


Hope that helps.


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I'll give some more advice.

Move in. Do nothing, other than some maybe really cheap things like peg board, hanging pot rack. Live in the house for a while. Experiment with the table down, experiment with the table up.

After a few months, do the kitchen. I made a huge mistake in our former house. Having no idea I'd need to move 18 months later, we redid the kitchen. Sure, we recouped our investment (but not much more), and I was sick to move from this wonderful space I had created. You say you will have kids in a few years, but you never know what will come into play. Had things gone according to plan, we would have one in college right now, and one just a few years away. "Nature" delayed things by almost a decade. Never know what life will throw you.

So, when we moved, the kitchen was awful. The layout not as bad as yours, but we weren't in here but a few months than we made some major changes. Moving is a bitch, and since I intend to be here for a few years, we decided that we can keep the current vehicles running for a while longer, cut a few corners, and actually live here long enough to enjoy the space.

I did wait about 3-4 months before making any big changes, just so I could figure out the flow of the whole house, and how the dining area and the kitchen work together.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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- Bungalow Kitchens--there is another book, too, called Bungalow Basics: Kitchens.  I think the one you've suggested looks better.  In fact, it's in my shopping cart...

Bungalow Basics: Kitchen is one of a series of little 5-inch books. The photos in them are all from his terrific book The Bungalow and Inside the Bungalow, so if you buy The Bungalow, you don't need to buy the little books.

Please think long and hard before you change a thing in that pantry (or your house in general.) You will substantially decrease the value of your home if you take out original cabinets or move doorways. At least in the Bay Area, there is a cult about Craftsman homes with their original cabinetry/ woodwork. People will pay obscene sums of money for ones that have them, or even bigger sums rebuilding the things that are missing. You have stumbled into an amazing find by having a home with so few owners. I've lived in a few Craftsman homes, including my current home, which is a new home rebuilt with many faithful details after the Oakland hills fire. The style grows on you. The best book on the syle in general is a book called American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter, although Paul Duchscherer's book has a lot of floor plans in it-it may help you more at this point.

I've never seen a table like that. They more often have little breakfast nooks, although they are usually very small. That I might take out, unless the wood was gorgeous, and even then I might try and sell it to a Craftsman dealer...

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Fridge: the owners are taking it so we do need to buy one. I was thinking of a counterdepth model so it would lie flush in the recessed area and open up the pantry doorway (if you look at the thick line in my drawing you can see where the doorway is blocked by the current fridge).

A (can't bring myself to call you Daddy), thanks for taking the time to draw it up! Extending the countertop over the radiator is brilliant. I wonder if it would affect the heat distribution, though.

Snowangel had previously suggested removing the nemesis-door to the stairs. I don't know--might get drafty in the winter but it's worth a look.

Marie-louise, thanks for the info on the books. I do have Inside the Bungalow so I'm glad you told me. And rest assured that I have no intention of taking out the pantry cabinets. Rather, like Cusina suggested, I intend to build the kitchen around them. And I only halfway stumbled onto this find. I told my realtor up front that what I really wanted was a Tudor or Craftsman style with good bones that hadn't been renovated too much. She gave me this look like "kind of picky with your budget, don't you think?" I was almost ready to admit she was right and settle on something average when this house came up. Like I said before, it's not strictly Craftsman in the California style, but I love it for what it is and as a product of the original owner's dedication. I want to preserve what is there and use it as it was meant to be used--not as a museum but as a home. I will think long and hard about every decision and not do anything until I'm sure and I can afford to do it right and do justice to the house.

Snowangel, I fully intend to follow your advice and do little until I get a feel for the place. The only reason I'm obsessing over it now is that I need to make some large purchases up front, like the fridge, and I want to make sure that they will work with whatever layout we end up with.

Phase one will just involve swapping the current cabinet with a new one with a 24" section for a dishwasher and putting in a shallower fridge. I imagine that we won't change the orientation of the stove right away although it seems inevitable.

Queen of Grilled Cheese


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