Mountain Fixer Upper: The Final Kitchen Layout & Cabinet Function
A few years ago, designing the layout and functionality of a kitchen would have felt similar to me building an engine of a car…without ever having even driven. It would have been totally intimidating and poorly done. Years later…I love going deep in a kitchen design. All of a sudden, I care about where I place my measuring cups, where I stack my stoneware, and, more importantly, at what angle the handles of my pots and pans will rest. This is not because I cook more, but because the deeper you get into your own career-science, the more you want to do it really well which, in terms of the kitchen, means to home in on what makes it not only stylish but smart and functional. After all, where is the smartest place to put the wine key?
That’s not to say that this kitchen is designed perfectly. I’m sure it’s not (y’all were already upset about the disruption of the sacred work triangle). “Perfect” is subjective in design after all, and what is perfect for me (natural light, real wood and stone) is very imperfect for others. Enough of the lecture. Let’s see this sucker.
But first, here is what the floor plan was like when we bought it.
As you might remember, the living and kitchen needed to be opened up, the island was a super funky shape, and the finishes were dated. It was like a 1992 kitchen prom…on a budget.
As you can see, the kitchen was also the darkest room in the house, and this is something I knew HAD to be changed (see “what is perfect for me” above). When we spent time there pre-renovation, everyone hung out in there despite it being a bit drab, so we knew that in order to really love it, we would need to add natural light. There are so many times even in our current home where I’m like “Why are you all standing here? Please remove yourself and sit in the living room or on the patio!”
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, even when we don’t really cook, imagine how much it’s going to be when we do!!
After a few months of planning, tweaking and permits, here is the final kitchen cabinet layout for the mountain house:
When laying out any room, you need to ask what you want to DO in this room? Not everyone’s function for a kitchen is the same. Likely, a professional chef and I would layout the kitchen differently. You have to consider your own goals in a space; ours was to make this room one that we want to be in, to hang out in, pass through easily and be open to the rest of the house while we make some food. We’ve considered how we live while opening up the space a lot. Visually, we want it to be streamlined with as few unnecessary visual stops as possible while still having some contrast (more on the design later this week).
We made three major design and style decisions that drastically affected the layout of the kitchen.
1. We put in a large 72-inch window on the wall where the range was. Yes, this reduced our storage, but I personally think that we as people are prone to hoarding and storing too much as it is. We chose light over storage and likely always will :).
2. We knocked down the wall where the fridge was and put in a bar/peninsula to accomodate more hang time. The combination of the window and the removal of this wall meant that we will not adhere to the work triangle. I’ve heard this causes eternal pain to one’s physical and mental health. I’ve already scheduled my therapy session. More on that below :).
3. We hid our appliances, opting for panel-ready (almost all Viking from build.com – see below). Now, many people who cook frequently like to really feel access to their appliances, regardless of the function being the same.
Those were our choices and they did and will forever affect the flow and function of the kitchen. Designing a house is about choices, folks, based on your own goals. I begged Brian to speak up about the fridge location and he was like “No, it’s perfect. We want that window. We want the flow. We can walk a few feet.”
I’m only saying that because I think it’s important for people to feel empowered to make choices based on what they value, not what is the norm, expected or worse…”the rule.” You can do whatever you want in design and style, and when armed with knowledge, you make a choice, not a mistake. The more you know about how a kitchen functions and how YOU function in a kitchen, the more you can reject the rules and make the choice to do whatever you want. Of course, I understand that the traditional work triangle is the most comfortable for a reason, and if 100% function is what you choose then all the power to you. I just want you to understand that if you veer from that BY CHOICE, and create a space you think works even better for you, IT’S OKAY.
It’s like choosing high heels over sneakers – you are choosing to look a little fancier, more elegant, more elongated, your butt will look lifted and you might feel sexier. But you should know how far you have to walk and think about what level you plan on dancing. This is why I wore Aerosoles at my wedding. And this is why I chose the bathtub that we did for the master bathroom. As someone who values aesthetics very much, I generally choose fashion over function, but I want my fashion to be as functional, practical and smart as it possibly can be.
Let’s break it down.
That window (a three-way slider from Marvin) is going to absolutely transform the feel of the space. It’s huge and functions without a lot of lines. We are also replacing the two permanently dirty skylights with two bigger brand new ones from Velux. It’s going to be so clean, and streamlined but full of light.
There was a decent amount of debate over whether the cooktop or sink won the award of the window wall. Ultimately for us, we clean dishes more than we cook so I wanted to be able to watch the kids (with the sink on the island, facing the playroom), and on the occasion that I cook, I can stare out at leaves. We also had a lot of suggestions that the cooktop on the island could be a little dangerous with kids. I think either would be fine and we went back and forth and back and forth. A plus is that we didn’t have to move the plumbing or gas lines.
As you can see above, we are maximizing the space with spice racks, pull-out shelves and have thought carefully about the depth in association with the storage needs. Every family is different. Some want easy access to everything with a one-move action (drawer opening). I’m fine with having to open a cabinet to pull out a shelf to find that mixing bowl I use once a month.
On the island, we have a wide and deep waste and receptacle pull-out drawer. And thanks to your suggestions, we moved the dishwasher on the other side of the sink (to be closer to the drawers) so I can ensure that my kids are executing their chores efficiently. HA. More on the sink and faucet on the “kitchen design” post coming up soon.
On the wall opposite the window, we have floor-to-ceiling cabinets. This unit hides it all: wall oven, pantry, appliance cabinet, fridge and dry bar.
When it’s closed, it looks like the above. All the cabinets have the same fronts, with the fridge having a different profile but the same paneling.
Here’s how it looks open:
Floor-to-ceiling cabinets with integrated appliances are a current trend that replaces the more traditional (and also great) uppers and lowers. This allows things to look more streamlined as you have fewer surfaces and lines, but as much function.
The left pantry has pull-out drawers with shelves and this will be all the kids’ snacks/food (I actually need to confirm those drawers since it looks just like shelves in the above shot). Anything low gets a pull-out shelf drawer and anything high is just shelving. The shelves aren’t very deep (because the washer and dryer are on the other side) so I don’t think things will get too lost. We will likely even put a door to the storage above and below the wall oven, so when you open it, it’s clean (and yes, that means two moves to open those, but those would be for special occasion pieces).
It’s now time to talk appliances – what we chose and why. Once we selected what we wanted, we reached out to build.com to partner up with us on these bad boys and all that you see below will be covered in our cabinetry finish (except the cooktop) which is not yet revealed.
The wall oven was the first thing I saw (it comes in white as well as many other colors) and even though it’s behind a door when not in use, it’s really pretty when it is open.
We opted for a 36-inch single door with two freezer drawers. We have found that our freezer fills up so fast and gets jammed really easily so I loved the idea of two drawers.
The 15-inch wine cooler is enough for us, and my friend has it and loves it. I’ll go more in-depth on the appliances when we reveal the kitchen.
We opted for a cooktop versus a range because I loved the idea of the hidden wall oven, which meant we didn’t need a range, but just burners. I didn’t want a hood to break up the space or be in front of the window so we opted for a downdraft instead. That is another reason we put it in front of the window, so we can open it if needed and have it be a natural vent.
The Viking Dishwasher and Marvel Refrigerated Drawers can both also be panel-ready and we can put on whatever hardware we want :).
I will write more thoroughly about the panel-ready option when we go to install. I’m so curious myself how thick the wood has to be, how they attach it and how to make it as seamless as possible with the cabinetry.
When not in use, these floor-to-ceiling cabinets will look similar to my best friend’s kitchen which is what inspired much of the design:
It’s just so beautiful. You get all the function of the great appliances (in my opinion) but all you see is this stunning wood, which keeps it so streamlined and clean. Her fridge and freezer are in the middle, separated into two 30-inch doors, which I wish we would have done. Originally we thought we couldn’t move the HVAC and if you look at the plan above, that would mean that there wasn’t room for more than a 36-inch fridge. But now that we have that space (which is the bar), technically we could have fit two 30-inch side-by-sides. Appliances are already on site :).
The wall oven in my friend’s kitchen is to the right of the fridge; a poorly shot detail of that below:
For the wall oven, appliance cabinet and dry bar, we are doing retractable door fronts like above. This means that they open and then slide back into the pocket on the sides of the shelving or appliance. By doing this, you can bake something without having the cabinets flapping in your way, and make coffee without creating this big obstacle for people to walk around. I wanted integrated appliances, but I didn’t want them to be annoying.
The main difference between mine and hers above is that my fridge has two drawers so you’ll see that horizontal seam.
While her kitchen does come off rather modern (yet warm), you can absolutely do the floor-to-ceiling cabinet style in a traditional kitchen, as well.
I’m especially excited about the small appliance cabinet. What is that? A pantry that has a counter space and electricity to permanently house your everyday appliances that typically sit out on your counter. Like so:
This new trend is meant to streamline and hide daily small appliances so life feels as clean as it can. We drink a lot of coffee, but that doesn’t mean I want my coffee maker out on the counter all day. An appliance cabinet handles that. A few notes if you’re interested in building something like this into your own kitchen design: make sure it’s wired with an outlet so you can use them right there. It’s also best if the cabinet fronts retract back so they are easy to access from every angle.
It’s really a messy mom’s dream come true. It does take one more step – you have to open and retract the cabinets, so I suppose you have to be willing to do that. (WE SURE ARE).
At the right end is a dry bar with a wine fridge which officially means I’ve reached maturity in life. Not that you have to have one to be mature, obviously, but up until this point I thought that wine fridges were something that only real adulting adults have. So be it. Above my adult wine fridge, there will be a spot to store all the liquor as well as our pretty glassware.
Here are some inspirations for cabinet bars or “dry bars” that I love:
We aren’t fancy wine drinkers, but it seemed like if we are really building our dream home that we should include some of these amenities. For us, it’s more that our mediocre wine takes up space in the fridge and since our fridge is 36 inches, we wanted an alternative place for that vino.
A bar like that was never on my life goals, but when designing this house, I kept asking myself what I would want out of a vacation home and while we don’t have one at home nor is my life worse without it, we both admitted that if we were staying at an Airbnb with a wine fridge, we would like it.
Speaking of what you want at a vacation house…what point is a fancy liquor cabinet without a bar? The following peninsula is between the island and the living room. On the kitchen side, we have our ice maker, beverage fridges and drawers for daily dishes.
The fridge drawers are for sodas, mixers and garnishes. Because we chose to have a 36-inch fridge, we loved the idea of adding more fridge storage there (we will also have a “garage fridge” – a sign that we likely party and entertain probably too much). Additionally, with that ice maker, we hope to never have to run out for ice AGAIN. WAHOO.
The three drawers house the flatware on top, plates and bowls in the middle, and all kids Tupperware, sippy cups, etc. on the bottom (for easy access).
As a recap, here is a map of the proposed kitchen. The living room is to the left and the dining room to the right. It’s going to be so open with such good flow and, of course, a lot of natural light.
I know you are wondering about the design. What will the cabinets be made out of? What color will they be? Where is the lighting? What hardware will embellish those cabinets? So much to tell you and yes, a lot for you to decide.
Come back later this week for the follow-up post on the kitchen – the ‘I Design, You Decide’ Mountain Kitchen post. For now, let the functional questions and suggestions roll…