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Kitchen Floor Plans: Before and After

See how Tobi's kitchen is taking shape

By Tobi Fairley

Remodeling a home is probably my favorite type of design project. I think it’s because taking something that doesn’t work and fixing it is so rewarding for both the designer and the client. So that is definitely true when the designer is the client!

My kitchen prior to the remodel doesn’t look too bad in plan view (see floor plan below), but it was certainly dysfunctional! U-shape kitchens are known to be one of the most functional layouts, but in my home there was a lot of wasted space with this U-shape plan. Living in my home for a few months (let’s be honest, almost two years) before we began construction really made me realize how badly we needed a redo. 

As you can see in the before version of the floor plan, there was an awkward open space in the middle of the U-shape space—not large enough for an island but too big to be left open. It felt sort of like a skating rink for my daughter in her socks but didn’t have a real purpose other than that.

Now if you want a truly scary visual of the kitchen before the reno, here are a couple of the photos. YIKES!

Ok, I get that it’s not the worst room ever, but it was very dated and its function (or lack of it) was even worse than its looks. The cabinetry offered little storage, and the shelves were not adjustable, so full-size dinner plates had to be turned on an angle just to wedge them into the upper cabinets.

There was less than ample storage in the old kitchen, which was partly because the cabinets didn’t go all the way to the ceiling. There were outdated features like a lazy Susan where my colanders and mixing bowls would fall off the back into a black hole never to be seen again—or at least until the demolition began.

Light fixtures were dated (gigantic fluorescent anyone?) and switched in random places. Plus the undercounter lighting wasn’t hard-wired. It plugged into an outlet in the backsplash, so I was often unplugging the lighting to plug in small appliances, which made it hard to see and was inefficient to say the least.

Now let’s talk about that very dated pass-through between the kitchen and the sunroom with the decorative “scalloped” trim above. I felt like the Brady Bunch most of the time, except I only had one kid.

The refrigerator was one of the most unusual details in the kitchen It was recessed into a hole in the wall under the entry staircase that backs up to the kitchen, and there had been an attempt to make it look like a normal location or creative idea thanks to the addition of unsightly decorative molding that  trimmed it out like a picture frame. Wow!

As if all these features weren’t bad enough, there were the finishes. I am not sure how anyone ever put these warm and cool and generally unattractive colors together. Let’s see, we had cool gray and burgundy tile on the backsplash with floral accents in green. It was paired with creamy yellow cabinetry with a heavy faux finish glaze and granite in tones of mauve and green (but not the same green as the backsplash). To round out the green story, there was a completely different green paint on the walls with brown-stained crown molding and baseboards. All this was topped off with a bad faux-limestone flooring probably added in the 1990s. Needless to say, for a color-loving designer like me, this mish-mash of warm and cool 1960–1990s colors and finishes was a nightmare at best.

Seriously, nothing worked in this space. The appliances were dated, and there was a desk area that was not functional and became a catchall for produce, homework, mail—you name it. And there was even a gigantic 1960s intercom system still in the wall that played one radio station as long as it wasn’t too cloudy outside.

Thankfully demolition began and even the “down to the studs” kitchen was prettier to me than the kitchen before. And it became especially beautiful once the sheetrock was installed (see below). What a breath of fresh air, right? 

For the “after” layout, I included my must-have ideas, like taller upper cabinets for more storage. I created more linear feet of cabinetry by moving the south wall back 3 feet. I took out an awkward laundry closet in a hallway behind the kitchen range to allow for this enlarged layout.

 

I removed the peninsula that blocked off the traffic flow between the kitchen and breakfast room and replaced it with a long kitchen island with bar seating and lots of appliances. I also added a large new built-in refrigerator, freezer, and wine center where the seldom-used desk once was. And I used the awkward refrigerator “hole” under the stairs for my new Thermador steam oven and additional cabinetry to store small appliances and bakeware.   

You can see in the floor plan that the new layout offers much more function, which is what a kitchen should be all about! And the plan even changed a bit from this drawing. Because the range needed to be vented through the hallway behind the kitchen, through the second floor, and out the roof for proper exhaust, I gained a walk-in pantry where part of the hallway used to be. 

The new pantry was a happy accident as I call these types of decisions that crop up mid-renovation. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? So I invented a pantry, and I couldn’t love it more.  

And what you may not notice in these drawings is this: I changed the old swinging door to the new study (old dining room) into a pair of gorgeous double doors that open to the hallway and the bar near the pantry for better flow. I also added a door between the breakfast room and the dining room for ease of serving meals. I made it extra stylish with an oval window, vinyl upholstery, and nailhead trim. Here is it before it was upholstered. 

One of my favorite details in the new kitchen is the oval window I added where the pass-through previously was. The window alone took this room from looking cheap and dated to looking architecturally interesting and classic. 

I added a lot of gorgeous cabinetry with dreamy features like pullouts for small appliances, a baking drawer to hold my dry goods in containers that the drawer was designed to fit (above), a pullout shelf with an outlet inside of a cabinet for my coffeepot, a paper towel holder under the counter next to the microwave so the towels don’t have sit on the counter, and a built-in china hutch area that holds my five sets of china and my hobnail collection so they are at arm’s reach at any time.

After being brave enough to show you those terrible before photos and some promising progress pictures, I’m so looking forward to you seeing the gorgeous finished room later this year. It is probably my favorite place in the house!