Sometimes you walk into a prospective project, and within seconds, you see the solution – just like that! In this particular little house, it was the kitchen that was of most concern. Built in the 1940’s, the L-shaped kitchen was everything the foodie couple buying the house did not want. It had doors and windows in all the wrong places, minimal countertops and the traditional eating nook taking up potentially valuable kitchen work space by the window. The eating nook measured just short of 5 feet across, so extending the existing kitchen counter into the nook would not just feel cramped – it would also not pass inspection. They couple – for the most part DIYers – had budgeted for IKEA cabinets and appliances, but the problem of where to add the cabinets remained. There just wasn’t enough usable space! I was called in to help them out.
The answer was in the nearly 12’ tall rear entrance hallway that housed both a half-stair leading up to the kitchen, and the stairs going down into the basement. Thanks to a Portland building code that, for existing conditions in old houses allows a minimum ceiling height of 6’-8”, we were able to borrow enough space from the generously dimensioned stair well, to add nearly 7 feet of additional counter space. Including the counter above the oven brought it up to 10 feet of new work surfaces. In addition, our crafty maneuver opened the old kitchen up considerably and let more light in.
To further streamline and maximize the floor area, I convinced them to invest in a refurbished Subzero 24” deep refrigerator that would not jut out beyond the cabinets, instead of your usual 30” deep monstrosity that so often looks so out of place in a small kitchen. This cleaned up the appearance of their new kitchen even more, preserved uncluttered sight- lines, and gave them a high-end refrigerator to boot, suitable to their foodie lifestyle.
Thanks to sufficient headroom above where the stairs reached the basement floor, we managed to squeeze a bank of drawers in. The remainder of the wall separating the kitchen from the headroom of the stairs, was faced with cherry to match the rest of their chosen cabinets. By using a cooktop with a separate oven, we managed to make the best of the limited space. To replace the eating nook, we removed an old cabinet that was gobbling up too much kitchen space in the place where the range used to be. Instead, we installed additional storage space in the form of overhead wall cabinets with under-cabinet lighting, and a breakfast bar below, with barstools for the quick and easy meals. Any larger dinner events will take place in the adjacent dining room.
This was a really fun project because we were able to do a lot with very little. The moral of the story is; Think outside of the Box. The benefits often far outweigh the expense, if you are willing to take the chance!