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Budget remodelling challenges


Jon
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Hello everyone, and sorry that my debut post is a request for help. I found these forums while researching my kitchen remodelling project, and the creative energy here was irresistable.

My wife and I have a tiny 1930's bungalo, and the kitchen isn't working for us. It's a galley sort of layout, and shares the same room as the only dining area in the house. The whole room is 19.5' long and just over 8' wide. The dining area consumes 7' at one end of the space, with the transition to "kitchen" indicated by a switch from hardwood flooring to vinyl and by two built-in, glass fronted cabinets that are about 4 1/2 feet tall, hiding the countertops from view.

As it is, the kitchen is reasonably functional for one cook, but virtually impossible for two. The tall cabinets seperating kitchen from dining room make the adjacent countertops uncomfortable to use (no elbow room) and the lack of a dishwasher means that about a third of the counterspace is perennially occupied by a wilting plastic dish drying rack: a real eyesore.

The good news is I'm very handy; I'm a custom furniture maker with a fully equipped woodshop on the other side of one of the kitchen walls. I'm not scared of building round cabinets, new doorways, moving windows or any other such mischief. There are, however, some challenges I'm unsure how to deal with. Principal among these is the budget; we've got $2-3k to play with, which I'm realizing isn't a huge amount, even with the expectation that I'll do all the work. Another is that my wife is short (5'2") and has a mild case of cerebral palsey, which means her balance isn't so hot; she can't reach high shelves and though she's requested a stepstool I can't imagine her using one without creating more excitement than one likes to be involved in when reaching for the flour tin. Also, since the only indoor area we have for dining shares a room with the kitchen, I'm hoping that whatever we come up with can be kept tidy-looking during meal prep; I don't want guests to see a lot of chaos in the kitchen and feel obligated to clean up after me.

My thinking so far is based on normal household occupancy of only two, with occasional dinner parties for about four others. My best plans to date involve blowing away the tall cabinets and extending counters over that area. I've found an affordable 18" dishwasher that I like, which would get the dish rack out of the picture. I'm thinking concrete countertops, because I can make molds in my shop and cast them on the back patio next spring, and because they will facilitate an undermount sink (I hate the rim around our drop-in sink and Corian is out of the question). There's space for a pantry closet in the adjacent hallway. I'm also thinking of a bank of shallow cabinets along one wall of the dining area, with a built-in, U-shaped table extending from it. The table could be relatively small most of the time, but be extended with additional leaves when necessary.

KitchenFloorplan.jpg

I'm open to rethinking any part of this plan. One particular problem I'd appreciate comments on is the sink. There don't seem to be a lot of functional small sinks available, particularly in the U.S. I've found a neat one made by Franke, with a large bowl that is just big enough for a half-sheet but with the large dimension front-to-back rather than side-to-side. It also has a smaller, oblong bowl next to it, and the whole thing is only about 21" wide, which would allow me about 28" to the left of the sink and 19" between sink and range. Unfortunately it's only available through U.K. distributors, so with transatlantic shipping I'm looking at ~$650. :shock:

What do you think?

--Jon

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Just thinking outloud here...... If you are going with an undermounted sink, couldn't you use a wide, but not deep sink that you can find locally and turn it 90 degrees before mounting it? Since it is undermounted, the faucet cut outs in the sink portion shouldn't matter, just the counter cut outs.....

-parker

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Thanks for replying, Parker. I'm up in the air about the one/two bowl issue; we've only got one bowl now, and it tends to fill up with pots and colanders and such as we cook, sometimes making it difficult to get into. I'm assuming this will continue even if we have a dishwasher, since it would have to open into the (rather narrow) aisle and we won't want to be opening and closing it every few minutes. The second bowl seems like it could be handy, but I've never had one of those smaller side-bowls so I don't know. The issue is complicated by the fact that I'm right-handed and my wife is a lefty, so it's not clear which side the smaller bowl should be on if I get one (the Franke is available either way.)

Blanco makes a sink that I've considered using as you suggest. It's 8" deep, which is an inch deeper than the Franke, and if that goes under a 1.5" countertop, the bottom would be pretty far down there. I've read a few warnings about sore backs with deep sinks, but everything on the US market seems to disregard such concerns. Again, I've never lived with anything deeper than typical contractor-grade sinks; the one we have now is only 6" and drop-in.

--Jon

Edited by Jon (log)
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Wow, that redrawing took some work. Yes, the wide opening at the top opens into a "living room" that also needs some rethinking; bad lighting, generally not comfy. Otherwise, hmmm.... I like that the work areas in your drawing are broken up so that multiple cooks don't need to be bumping butts all the time, but I can't see having the range off by itself without a counter next to it. I also don't know where we'd seat our guests when we had them. That said, you're helping break down my preconceptions; my drawing has the appliances and dining area exactly where they are now.

--Jon

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I have the same sort of situation in the house I'm moving into in a month.  Very curious--what is the 18" dishwasher you found?

I thought someone might be interested in that. It's made by Danby, which is a Canadian company that specializes in smaller appliances. The model is the

DDW1802. It's only been available for a year or so and doesn't have the widest distribution, but the few reviews I've found have been raves. I live in Ohio, not far from where Danby's US branch is headquartered, so I stopped by their corporate offices and looked over the unit they had in the lobby. It looks very nice; upper and lower spray arms, stainless interior, supported by a good warranty. It's not the most stylish thing, but at $300 (discount online retailer with a warehouse near me=free shipping) I'm not complaining.

--Jon

Edited by Jon (log)
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Let me think for a moment...........

to the left of the stairs, in the upper left hand corner,  is that a doorway to another room or a wall?

-parker

Think of the space between the double pantry doors and the stairs as a hallway. If you walked through that hallway (facing left on the drawing) then the door into the bathroom would be directly in front of you, the door to the back bedroom on your left and another short hallway to the front bedroom (which we use as a library) to your right.

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Frigidaire also makes an 18" dishwasher.

Yeah, I looked at that one, and I think a kenmore iteration as well. They were so similar that I thought they must share a common manufacturer, and both seemed chincey. The "tower wash" system means they have a rather phallic apparatus that rises, under water pressure, through the center of the lower rack. As a result if you were to lay a larger item across the lower rack, the tower wouldn't get where it was supposed to go, and dishes on the top rack would stay dirty.

--Jon

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The unexpected is a good thing. There's no structural reason that wall couldn't be shortened, and doing so would make the area feel bigger. There is one tradeoff that comes to mind: right now we have a door at the base of the stairs (which ascend to a finished attic with very low, sloping ceilings; we affectionately call it "TV Camp"). The door is akwardl because it opens into the hallway, blocking traffic, but it is useful. That would disappear with the wall.

--Jon

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The first floorplan pkenna did is almost immediately what popped into my head as far as placement of the dining table goes. We're a two-person household as well, so HAVING a table is important; having a great table to entertain at? Eh, our friends like us enough that they'll put up with being a little squished.

A thought (I'm 5'2" as well). . .when we remodeled, the boyfriend dropped the outlets on the wall down a couple of inches so that I could reach them without climbing across the countertops. We emphasized the undercounter space as much as we could so that I wouldn't have to reach up for very much, and when the upper cabinets themselves were installed, they dropped them about an inch lower than is standard, so now I can reach right to the bottom shelf of those cabinets without stretching.

Regarding the deep sink. . .if the wife is short, a super-deep sink is NOT going to be much fun for her.

As for clutter--quite honestly, once I had a place for everything and everything in its place, clutter virtually disappeared. Cleaning wasn't an issue, since putting something back no longer required moving 18 other items. And since it's working so darn well for us, I'll chime in with the rustic charm (?) that pegboard brings to a workspace.

Our kitchen is similar in size to yours, but a different layout, which alleviates the galley dilemma. Ours is an "L", with the long part of the L being a workspace over the dishwasher (left of sink), sink, and workspace (right of sink). The short part of the L is a stove and a pantry. We moved the fridge off the linoleum (KITCHEN STARTS HERE!) area that we're currently ripping up (who puts linoleum over hardwood???) and re-established the kitchen boundaries, making it a "U" instead of an "L".

Pegboard, left side of sink. All prep here is for baking & mixing.

pegboardleft_001.sized.jpg

Pegboard, right side of sink. If I reach up from the cutting board, I have all my oils & vinegar on the bottom shelf of the upper cabinet. The corner cabinet holds all kinds of papers (plastic wrap, plastic bags, parchment paper, foil) and the tupperware containers (there's a lazy susan in there to make it easier). The large corner upper cabinet holds mixing bowls & large serving dishes.

pegboardright.sized.jpg

Diana

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Diana, I'm curious what you find appealing about that placement of the table, other than the freedom it would offer for laying out the rest of the room. It's probably a moot point because I think putting it there would make access to the stairs down to the basement and out to the patio and my shop difficult (the room is less than 6' wide at that point.), but still I want to understand where you're coming from.

I'm also hoping to make the best of the undercabinet space, particularly by putting in large drawers instead of the standard cavities with half-depth shelves that we have now. Even I think it's a pain to get into the back of those, and my balance is fine. I'm trying to think of as many options for use of the above-counter space as I can; spice racks, knife racks, open shelves? How do you keep all those oil and vinegar-type bottles from becoming a chaotic jumble on that bottom shelf?

Another part of the problem is that we have some stuff that we don't use, but which my wife isn't willing to part with; a bread machine she used in her single days, a waffle maker and a fondue pot that were wedding gifts. We have an obnoxiously loud blender that I'd like to to pitch just because I find using to be so unpleasant. I tend to be of the "do a lot with a little" school of cookery, but my wife is tough to convince.

. . .if the wife is short, a super-deep sink is NOT going to be much fun for her.

This surprises me. I was thinking that since she's shorter, she wouldn't have to bend so far to reach the bottom. I was more worried about myself, since I'm 6' tall so my shoulders start so much higher to begin with. After reading ergonomics recommendations to avoid sinks deeper than 6", I was disappointed to find that most sinks seem to run from 8" - 12", with undermounts effectively deeper because of the counter thickness. What's the deal here? Is this all some sort of status thing, or do these monsters have some real purpose? To help myself imagine the effect of a 10" deep undermount I mocked up a sink-sized box from hot glue and pink insulation foam board, and was shocked to see our 6 qt. stockpot looking tiny in the bottom of it. How deep is too deep?

...and the tupperware containers...

Ugh, a nightmare on their own.

--Jon

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The table placement I like because, yeah, it's out of the way. And secluded, in a way, more intimate. A chair pushed in shouldn't hinder movement too much (in my mind's eye), and if anything, it'll be a great place to set things as you're going in & out. Plus, if a good amount of prep work is being done and you or the wife want to sit while doing it, you're still IN the kitchen.

I don't know if it's feasible in your plans, but our ultimate goal is to build a true "nook" extension on the house. Two benches, with storage underneath, and a table in between them. Nothing else, just windows on the three walls. Seats 4 comfortably, 6 in a pinch, 7 if we bring in an extra chair.

We do have the benefit of living in Florida, so most of our entertaining is outdoors, and having seating indoors isn't a top priority, so my view is a little skewed :)

About the sink. . .if it's deep, and something's heavy, us shorties have a heck of a time lifting--we just don't have the force someone up higher does. My kinesiology teacher would be SO embarrassed by that explanation.

I was thinking that since she's shorter, she wouldn't have to bend so far to reach the bottom.

But she won't be bending from the waist. . .she'll be reaching in and lifting with only shoulder power. I'm a sturdy gal, but the 12 inch cast iron being rinsed in the sink we have now (9 inches deep?) is hecka hard for me to handle.

The oils & vinegar are set upright, vinegars on the left side of the cabinet, oils on the right. A few have to lay down, those are in the middle, kinda keeping everything separated. I'm a wee bit compulsive about things (I'm a divider user at the grocery store!), so I just kept fiddling with the height of the shelf above it until it was high enough for most of the bottles to slide under and low enough for me to still reach things.

We're actually building a case for the room outside the kitchen (a mud room) to hold things like. . .the old blender I can't convince him to get rid of, the coffeemaker I know we need to keep but never use, and other "things". Is there a similar compromise you could reach for things like the breadmaker & the fondue pot? Or a place you could put a shelf (up out of the way) to display them on?

Diana

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Have you seen the recent issue of Fine Homebuilding? It is for kithchens and baths. In this issue there is an article on nooks with benches and underbench storage. I like the susanka idea in there which is proportioned for short and tall. Have you thought of this as a possibility? And is there any way you could vary counter heights so that a pastry area for you could double as a workspace for your wife? Good luck!

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

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I see. I envy your outdoor dining; right now were slipping into a 6-month stretch of too-damn-cold, to be followed by a month or so of absolutely delightful weather before the mosquitoes hatch. We need to make sure we have good indoor seating, especially since the house is so tiny; the dining table holds my wife's knitting projects, a laptop, whatever books we're reading, the day's mail ... it's a catch-all.

Thanks for the insights about sink depth. I've long-since given away most of my cast iron, for reasons like you described, and learned to live with nonstick. Do you have any thoughts about the second bowl? That fancy sink I like is available with a colander for the smaller bowl, but I've never had access to such toys and can't judge.

I'm actually thinking a single shelf in the pantry could hold the extra appliances. I guess I was just looking for sympathy.

--Jon

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  Have you seen the recent issue of Fine Homebuilding? It is for kithchens and baths. In this issue there is an article on nooks with benches and underbench storage. I like the susanka idea in there which is proportioned for short and tall.

Thanks for the tip, I'll check it out.

And is there any way you could vary counter heights so that a pastry area for you could double as a workspace for your wife?

Another good thought. On the floorplan I originally posted I was thinking of lowering part of the counter on the left (the upper, rounded end) as a low work area, and also to put it closer to table level so it could hold serving dishes when the table was expanded for entertaining.

--Jon

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Jon-I'll give you the same advice I gave babyluck: buy the book Bungalow Kitchens. They have great pictures in there of everything from original kitchens, what they refer to as obsessively restored ones, and finally, suggestions for ways to create a modern kitchen that "looks like it belongs."

You don't say where you live or what style of bungalow you have, but all over the SF Bay Area, people pay obscene amounts of money for these homes-especially the ones that have original details. I'm guessing your kitchen is the result of combining a breakfast nook or pantry with the original kitchen. while you might not want to or be able to restore it back to its original design, at least out here it would be a wise investment to install a kitchen and dining area that looked as if it belonged. For instance, not many bungalows have curves. Unless your house is a Spanish-style that has them elsewhere-arched doorways or coved ceilings-I would not round off the edges of your counters.

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Heh, around here (Northeast Ohio) bungalows are regarded as cheap postwar housing, though come to think of it mine is of 1930's vintage so it doesn't quite fit that mold. In any case, noone pays obscene amounts of anything for them. The bay-area fetish you describe makes me wonder whether, out there, the term "bungalow" means something more specific than it does here; ours seems like a very generic (though generally cozy) little house, with very few outstanding features that I can imagine someone being hungry to preserve. One that I can point to, however, is an archway with nicely rounded corners, between the living room and dining area. That's one reason for my rounded counters, but another is that major traffic paths go through these rooms, and I didn't want a lot of sharp projections to whack myself on as I passed through.

--Jon

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