Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mission Possible? OR, Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down That Wall!

Note: Non "house-y" friends, please disregard this long post. Decorating friends, please dive in and give me advice! I drew floor plans but couldn't get the scanner to work.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to help me re-imagine my kitchen using the least amount of $ possible.

You see, our house is a 1960's split level. On this main level, there are only 3 rooms: kitchen, LR/DR combo, and foyer (dubbed an "Elegant Reception Room" in the 1960's advertisements!) This means our main level is a relatively small area, with 3 different floor coverings, lots of walls, and stairs going up and down. I feel trapped in this dark space.

The only room we use on this level is the kitchen, which is at the front of the house. I feel as if we spend an inordinate amount of time oriented toward the driveway, rather than the center or the back of the house. Ick.

The kitchen was completely renovated in 2000, 3 years before we bought the house, so the cabinets and appliances are in good shape. I would like to have the cabinets professionally painted a creamy white. I would keep the appliances, counter tops. and possibly flooring until we could afford to replace them.

I'd like to tear down a wall (load-bearing, darn!) between the kitchen and the living room, and turn the lower cabinet drawers (+ 2 new ones) into an island flanked by square columns. I would top the new island with butcher block stained dark. Here are some photos of the current kitchen.

Work Triangle:

Side door into the house is to the left of this photo, door into foyer on the right of fridge, so the area in front of the black stools between the work triangle and the breakfast nook is a major artery of the house. One person can work comfortably in the work triangle area...if you don't open the oven and the d.washer at the same time. The fridge wall is the wall I'd like to take down.

Breakfast Nook:
Looks right into the driveway, and the neighbor's house. To the left is the doorway to the rest of the house, to the right is the doorway to outside.

Pantry and Hutch:

Pantry is wider than it appears. Hutch stores cloth napkins, cookbooks,and art supplies. I would like to move the fridge into the pantry area (recessed) and replace the hutch with the upper cabinets from the "crap and fridge area" and add a new lower cabinet beneath them, only about 12 inches deep.

Crap and Fridge Area:

To left is doorway to dining room. To right is doorway to foyer. This is where I pile my mail and paperwork. I would like this area to open to the Living Room. I would have to purchase another set of those deep drawers to go where the fridge is now to form an island. Question: Where will all the crap go?

Wider view of fridge and crap area and doorways:

You can see the kitchen, foyer (tile floor) and Living room from this angle. Not sure if that small wall in the foyer is load bearing too. Probably is.

Mini Mudroom: AKA "My door opens right into the kitchen:"

More lovely driveway views.

I hope that this level will ultimately seem like one room rather than 3. I am hoping it will orient us more toward the center of the house and away from the driveway. Right now, the living room and dining room get no use whatsoever.

Here are various views of the offending wall/s.

From the living room:

From the foyer:

From the Dining Area:

Potential difficulties.

1. Budget. My husband is totally NOT on board. This would have to be a very much in the future project.

2. This plan would disrupt my tight but efficient work triangle. The fridge's new location would be across traffic. I wonder if it is worse to feel hemmed in with no connection room to room, or to have to cross extra steps and in front of a doorway to get to the fridge?

3. When you take down walls, where do you stop? The LR and DR both have little walls jutting out. What do you do about those? If you take one down, do you take them all down?

4. Does opening up an area make the house feel messier? No one uses our living room now, so it manages to stay neat. Would having a big jar of Mayo and dinner dishes in my sight lines make me enjoy the rooms less?

5. The expense of buying new lower cabinets to match existing ones. This brand is pricey.

6. Moving wiring, lighting and H20 (for fridge ice maker)

So that's all for now. Creamy cabinets and carrera marble are my dream. This kitchen is my reality. I'd love to hear your thoughts and advice!


Jill said...

As someone who is currently house hunting (online right now, but in person in less than 6 weeks) ... the kitchen is the first place I've been looking. Women spend more time there than anywhere else (besides the bedroom / bathroom). I am ALL for making a kitchen into a haven, where you don't mind spending your time when you MUST be there cooking for the family... :)

While I'm sure it must be a far away project, my only two cents are for you to do whatever makes you happy there. You don't use what you don't like ... so you can always tell your hubby that he'll get better meals out of you if the kitchen looked the way you want it. You win ... he wins.

And a creamy white sounds divine! BTW, your house is lovely - can't wait to see it in person. :)

I can't find my blog said...

Could you just ditch the doors, widen the doorways, bull-nose all the passageways? It would give those rooms a more roomy feel, less closed off. That would be a much less pricey way to start to achieve what you're looking for.

But, yes, I'd want to knock out at least part of that wall, too.

(Fwiw, I'm trying to convince my husband that we should ditch our 'formal' living room, build a couple of 1/2 walls, and turn that space into and office/study area.)

Lynn from For Love or Funny said...

Wow, this is a tough one Anna. It was my impression that you can't take down a load bearing wall, but it sure would open up the kitchen. I think painting the cabinets white would really lighten up the space. I'm anxious to see what solutions you come up with!

the Hawks said...

What a fun problem. I used to live in a split-level with orange carpet---your home looks nothing like that design travesty!

Here are some thoughts: That built-in hutch looks divine. If you remove/replace it, please find another home in your house! It's just too beautiful from the online photos.

I wonder if you couldn't take the walls between LR-DR, DR-K, and LR-hallway down. I would think the load bearing would be the center of the house (the wall your fridge is currently against). At the very least, you could take the "insides" of this and the other walls down, leaving the load-bearing pillars in place and transforming them into an architechural interest points. You might consider this, too, because with a second island into the LR, you'd have 3 separate kitchen-like seating areas, and little couch/chair entertaining. Unless you'd prefer that!

And the door you showed: is that the front door? If it is, I'd move the bfest nook and transform that into a real foyer-like area, but if it is not, then I get your concern about the fridge, but you might be okay. I'd suggest practicing for a week. You already use the pantry, so you're used to walking over there, but maybe keep a cooler of things there and see how it feels? Would moving the fridge there hinder any light?

Hope this is helpful. I love that you're thinking outside your house's box! I can't wait to see what you do...


L said...

I have no suggestions, but I want that shelf/bin/tower thingy when you get rid of it ;).

Christy said...

I think you should go post this question to Liz of It's Great to Be Home or the Young House Couple. I bet they'd have great ideas - both having recently re-done kitchens on a budget. Liz and her husband are just now flipping another house too!

My two cents - I echo what Jill says. LOVE it already and can't wait to see it in person sometime! Matt and I (and my dad) tore down a wall between the kitchen and dining room in our last house. Not load bearing. We left a little half wall in one place - so you can do that. Or what about tearing the whole thing down and then putting in a massive island with bar stools? I wouldn't worry about losing the work triangle. And since no one uses the living room, I'd consider selling that furniture and making it into a family room - put usable stuffs in there and peeps will use it! Whatever you do, keep us informed. I LOVE house porn.

Christy said...

ps - I made my blog private - sent email invitations to both of your email accounts - just check your spam folder!

purejoy said...

i too live in an unfortunate 1960 split foyer. enter the house and it's an immediate decision. Up or Down??
we had a livingroom that Led into the dining room. the kitchen could be entered from the living area (through a convoluted space-wasting hallway) or the dining room. we checked our attic. thank goodness a truss sytem (whatever that means) but none of the walls were load bearing so we ripped them all out. and, praise Jesus, the mauve carpet.
we replaced a peninsula with a taller bar-like deal that works as a visual barrier to the kitchen. we find we eat most of our meals here (especially with the kids gone) but also that we use our living room and dining room all the time now. it's part of our living area.
i would rip out your peninsula and maybe see about opening the wall between your dr and your kitchen. expand your kitchen to your nook, and use your dining room for meals. for me… having to navigate around the peninsula to get to the fridge would drive me insane.
if you had an opportunity to sketch out your floor plan from above, that might make making decision a bit easier.
have fun with the process. if you know a handyman with an eye for design, you could invite him/her to weigh in, too. (it worked for us!)

Suzie said...

Anna, have you thought about ditching the wall to the dining room instead? You could combine that room with the kitchen, which would be a nice flow-through to the screened porch.

If I were you I would wait until you can do it in a way that makes you very happy/not feel like you are compromising. So you don't want a 'redo' in years down the road :)

Nichole@40daysof said...

You have tons of great ideas! Two things:
1. Would you have a counter near the new fridge location? I think it will be very obvious both visually and in practical terms that "something is not right" if there is no counter next to or very near the fridge.

2. I too, love the look of carrera marble, but the maintenance and potential for catastrophic damage makes it not worth the investment. There are a couple of Italian tile makers who make good marble look alikes in porcelain floor tiles. Maybe they have a slab product as well? Send me an email if you are interested in the company names and I will dig them out of my file cabinet.

Good luck convincing the husband. :)

Ellen aka Ellie said...

Wow! I love that people feel so free to share their opinions. I do not, but I can't wait to see it as a work in progress!

It's really quite cute now, but I can see why you want some updates. My house is only three years old, and there are a few things I'd change.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I've lived in three different homes since 1999 and and ALL have tormented me with awful galley kitchens. We just make due. But I often think about how to open the space up without getting too "open plan" (I don't love the idea of being able to see my kitchen sink from the living room). Sadly - I have no advice for you. Demo just isn't my area of expertise. But having been in your house, I have to say that it really does look great for all of your pet peeves. It's a roomy comfortable kitchen with a nice seating area. I personally thought the first impression walking through the side door was charming.

Lisa G said...

Well, you know I love puzzles like this! Since you don't use the dining room, why don't you take the kitchen/dining room wall down to a half wall, add a small section of raised counter, then turn the dining room into the breakfast area/dining room. You could rehang your upper cabinets over the counter that faces the street and convert your current breakfast area into a mud room/small gathering room. I could see a couple of cute chairs and a low table there. These changes would orient your living space to the rear of the house. You'd have to replace your stove with a something that self vents, and you could relocate your micro to the unused space next to the fridge. I know you have your heart set on creamy white cabs but I would wait to paint them until you do the countertops or until you switch out your black appliances. Cheapest solution - switch to bisque appliances and live with the counter a while longer. (You can resell your old appliances) My other comment is to add lighting. The biggest cost with this reno is going to be rehanging the upper cabs because you can't do that yourself. You might cover the exposed raw sides with some beadboard and trim. The new small, raised counter between the kitchen and dining area is a good place to add an accent material like granite or marble. It's a small area but since it's raised, could be a nice focal point.

Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Oooh! Thank you for all of this great advice! I will ponder it all as I eat my cheerios each morning! xo, A

Amy said...

I like the previous idea of opening the wall between kitchen and dining room, and I had this thought about the fridge. The one trip to the fridge for milk and back isn't bad... but... what about when you've got 3 kinds of lunch meat, 2 cheeses, mustard, mayo, soda, and iced tea... back and forth, back and forth. Make sandwiches and back and forth back and forth while your family is trying to pile in that doorway...

Or perhaps you eat healthier than that and this is irrelevant - in which case I just say... you need a doughnut! :-)

Sorry... first visit... ;-)