A Year of Planning: The 12-Year Kitchen

Kitchen Remodel

Photo: Shutterstock

We never had any doubt about what architect we wanted for our kitchen makeover.



The existing kitchen layout, with the first proposed layout

The dotted line here shows the original layout of the kitchen, along with Norm's first proposed layout.

Norm Davis had done the plans for our bathroom project ten years earlier, and we’d found him to be a wizard at space design. He was also in synch with our philosophy of home renovation – we wanted modern convenience that still showed respect for the origins of the house.

Lucky for us, in the fall of 2009 Norm agreed to take the job. We knew from experience that the planning stage would take a while – not only is he extremely busy, but he needs a lot of rumination time. In our initial meeting, we gave him our wish list:

Cabinets – our current kitchen had storage only in the butler’s pantry.

Countertops – believe it or not, our existing kitchen had zero counter space. A microwave cart and the top of our portable dishwasher were the only work surfaces in the room.

A refrigerator in the same room as the other two sides of the work triangle – a luxury!

A ground-floor powder room – which guests, wet kids, and muddy gardeners (us) could use without traipsing up the center stairs.

A mud room – or at least somewhere to drop the coats and boots and backpacks that were cluttering up our front entryway.

If possible, some eating space, just big enough for breakfast, coffee, and snacks – if nothing else, at least we’d keep the Cheerios off the dining room rug.

Maybe, if at all possible, find us a tiny area for all the phone charging, message taking, and recipe note taking we do – not quite a home office, but a little work space?

One of the stages of our kitchen floor plans

In this iteration, we have a nice, big square kitchen -- but we've lost access to it from the entry hall. But Norm was on to something by turning the basement stairs around to make them open from the hall, not the kitchen.

Finally, expand the footprint of the house if necessary, but don’t eliminate the small patio space beside the kitchen—we loved being able to eat out there in the summer.

We knew it was a modest list in many ways (really, a kitchen should have some cabinets and counters), but it would be a challenge given the small space. If anyone could do it, Norm could.

One of the biggest problems with the existing kitchen was all the doors— there were entrances from the center hall and the dining room, a doorway to the basement, and three doors to the extension (a door to the pantry closet plus exits to the “refrigerator room” and butler’s pantry). We knew we wanted to open up the space into one room, which would eliminate some doorways there, but we’d still have entrances to the kitchen from two sides, plus the doorway to the basement. To complicate matters further, the main entrance, from the center hall, was not centered in the kitchen wall but at the far right—just where a wall of cabinets should begin.

It took six variations on the floor plan before we hit pay dirt—and with each iteration we could see our kitchen coming to life. Reconfiguring the basement stairs to bring them out into the entry hall rather than into the kitchen gave us a whole wall uninterrupted by doors.  To transition from the center hall to the kitchen, Norm created a new space, a vestibule of sorts, for the powder room and relocated coat closet. That transitional space  not only jogged the kitchen entry back into the center of the wall, it also kept the powder room from having to open into the kitchen—a major plus.

Final floor plan

In the final plan, we have access to the kitchen from both sides again, as well as access from the dining room to our beloved patio space through the mud room.

A 14-foot-long wall on one side of the galley kitchen would contain the sink, dishwasher, range, and cabinets (!) The opposite wall, half the length, would have a full-height pantry cabinet, a refrigerator, and another small length of cabinetry. The old extension would be demolished, and a new, slightly larger one built in its place. That extension would have a walk-out bow window, providing just enough extra square footage for a small round table. A small counter next to the refrigerator would be our station for phone charging, cookbook browsing, and memo leaving. Finally, a side door leading in from a deck that would replace the patio would open onto a wall for cubbies, hooks, and shelves – our “mud space.” We had it all!

The whole space planning process had taken more than six months, but we were thrilled with the results. Now we just needed our builder and a building permit, and we’d be ready to go. Norm filed the plans with the city, and we called our first-choice contractor.

Next: Kitchen Planning, Act 2—The Contractor.

For more on kitchen remodeling, consider:

Quick Tip: Budget Kitchen Remodeling
Planning Your Dream Kitchen
Maximizing Your Remodeling Dollar