Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Art of Planning: Karen's Kitchen

Photo by Donna Griffith, for Style at Home

You may remember last  year I prepared some design sketches for my cyber friend Karen’s chicken coop gates.   If you’re a fan of the Art of Doing Stuff blog, like I am,,,you know Karen doesn’t often need help with anything because she’s a master at figuring how to do stuff herself.  She has a wonderful character style house and over the years she’s done many home improvements and decor projects inside and out.  Not your average homeowner diy's,,,,Karen has an impressive archive of magazine quality 'afters', in fact the inside of her house and her backyard have both been featured in Style at Home magazine which you can admire here and here.

Clearly Karen doesn't need any help in the decor or handyman departments but one of the few things she hasn’t tackled is the house's original 1940‘s kitchen.  She's pretty attached to the old kitchen and its easy to understand why - it oozes an authentic nostalgic charm that’s hard to replace (top photo).  Even the editors at Style at Home couldn't resist photographing and featuring it just the way it is.  Yah, even the "before" picture of Karen's kitchen is magazine worthy. ; )  Inevitably the time has come to replace it and Karen knows enough to know this in’t something she wanted to tackle on her own because the consequences of making mistakes or oversights are daunting, and expensive.  So this is where I came in.  Karen hired me thru my  e-design services to work on the new kitchen plans.  As far as finishes and appliances went she knew what she wanted but what she was struggling with was how to fit all of the new elements together.  She needed a plan.  

The first step I take is to review the existing space to assess what's working and what isn't.  The whats not working about her current kitchen might be obvious, but its not all bad.  There are aspects of this kitchen layout that Karen enjoys, particularly the huge expanse of uninterrupted counter space between the sink and range....and having a kitchen table and chairs. To be frank the shortcomings of the kitchen were easy to find solutions for but doing so and maintaining those elements that she loved was truly the challenge.  That and accommodating all of the other things on her wish list.

- 'not cookie cutter'
- no new construction
- non-custom cabinets
- more storage
- a range hood
- a glass door fridge
- a furniture style pantry
- a stand alone butcher block table
- a place to sit
- a fixed budget
- did I say 'not cookie cutter'..

Knowing that we couldn’t alter the bathroom, laundry room, mudroom or doorways,,,,,I recognized the biggest obstacle in Karen’s kitchen was the counter height window on the end wall.  It’s location was a prime spot for a range and hood, or a fridge,,,or wall cabinets.  Ideally it needed to be moved to best utilize the space. Unfortunately the window was fairly new and had involved re-stucco’ing the exterior of the house.  The option of moving it or changing it now was not in the budget so it was staying.  Had we not been able to find a workable layout that Karen loved, I would have suggested she hold off until her budget allowed to move the window because it would open up so much more layout potential. 

This is an example of how we could have utilized the wall had we moved the window. We quickly eliminated this option (and variations of it) for budget reasons and moved on.

Even though this layout doesn't appear to be drastically different than the existing, the changes are significant enough that with new, more efficient cabinetry and appliances it would be a big improvement.  This option ticked all the boxes including a 36" range.  It was the front runner,,,,,until,,,, Karen came home with an antique butcher block island that she couldn't resist and that meant a change in plans.  But I've seen and completely approved,,,it's a beauty worth changing things up for.

After exploring more than a dozen layout options we arrived at a final plan that Karen loves (shown above).   You can read Karen's first post about her kitchen reno plans here .......and you'll notice she received no shortage of opinions and suggestions from readers too. ; )   I'm confident in saying they can rest assured that the planning process was extremely thorough and not a single possible option was overlooked.  : )  (We are aware the fridge overlaps the window a tad in this layout but this is the worst case scenario and we're prepared for how to deal with it.  The fridge she's hoping to get is narrower than this but we're planning for the larger option just in case).

True to her vision “not cookie cutter” would be the design mandate and concept for Karen’s new kitchen.  This applies to the layout too. There are a LOT of kitchen design standards, rules of thumb and conventional layouts with their regulated work triangles - well this plan doesn’t necessarily follow all those rules.  And that's perfectly ok.  I can say from experience that the clients who do a lot of serious cooking are the ones who's kitchens stray from generic design standards the most because they have much more specific needs, usually simpler.

When I approach a kitchen plan from scratch I use spacing standards only as a starting point (which also is an instant way to gauge if your footprint is considered tight or generous).  From there I determine how and where adjustments can be made to suit the space and the users specific needs.  There's nothing wrong with conventional layout standards but they simply don’t always fit or work for every situation, that doesn't mean you can't still have a kitchen that's functional - it just means you need more adaptable solutions (while maintaining safety and functionality of course).

In addition to the floor plan I also worked out all of the wall elevations which detail Karen's new cabinetry and will facilitate getting it ordered.  The task of pulling this entire plan together is now in her very capable hands and I can't wait to see it all come together.   Karen has done some savvy networking to co-ordinate a few great collaborations and sponsors for this project.  The design layout reflects the products and publication opportunities that are anticipated thru the collaborations as well as some of Karen’s unique finds so it promises to be an interesting and beautiful transformation story for all parties involved.

You can follow the kitchen reno progress over at The Art of Doing Stuff and I'll post updates here as it starts coming together!


  1. So so good. Can't wait to see how it progresses!! Your ability to see all the layout options is incredible.

  2. Thanks Janice! I love the space planning aspect of interior design, and the fact the one space could potentially have a different solution for each different individual ~ C

  3. I would love to see the inspiration photos that Karen sent to you, if you felt like sharing. :)

  4. CarolReedInteriorDesignJanuary 29, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    Hi Alana,
    Karen has a lot of posts planned (and a magazine feature) on the kitchen reno so keep following along on her blog to see what she shares..... ~ C


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