“Cookie-cutter” Kitchen Had Many Problems That Became a Success Story With A Boot

Tualatin remodeled kitchen peninsulaDo you see a “boot” in the peninsula countertop? That’s what we called the peninsula — the boot — after one of the daughters gave it that name during our design discussions. I’m going to start at the beginning so you don’t get confused.

Every great project begins with a “Why”

Sitting in the kitchen’s adjacent eating area the first week of December, Tom and Elaine told me why they wanted to remodel their kitchen. “It doesn’t work for us.” They are a family of five, with three adult daughters. Two of them were in college, and the youngest would be graduating in six months. The family loved to cook together, but two people couldn’t be working at the same time. They had figured a way to separate the cooking chores and work in shifts. Tom said, “We want the kitchen finished so we can have a big party on July 4th.”

There are always problems and challenges!

What were the problems? Do you have similar challenges?

    1. The rectangular island was opposite the refrigerator. The aisleway between them was too narrow for anyone working at the island if someone else opened the refrigerator door.
    2. The refrigerator was too close to the adjacent wall, so it was nearly impossible to remove the chiller drawers.
    3. There was an enormous desk adjacent to a pie-cut shaped “walk-in” pantry.
    4. The kitchen had one sink, located in a corner, which allowed only one person at a time to use it.
    5. The open dishwasher door blocked the sink area, locking the user into a tiny footprint.
    6. White tiles with white grout made keeping the countertops clean.
    7. A single fluorescent fixture was the main source of light.
    8. The step down to the adjacent family room was dangerous because there wasn’t any visual contrast between the two levels. People, including members of the family, had fallen because of the hazard

The kitchen malfunctioned, and it looked dated, although the house was only 12 years old. Oak cabinets had a finish that had yellowed. Soffits and walls were covered with blue-and-white stripe wallpaper. The off-white vinyl floor had a small tile pattern.

Decisions require communication: Open, honest discussion and feedback

They knew the look they wanted, but it was the layout that had them stuck. I prepared five alternate designs for the family to discuss. Two design features required lengthy discussions because the alternatives were outside their comfort zone:

  • Replacing the island with a peninsula. To help them, I suggested placing chairs at the end of the aisleway between the island and the refrigerator. They had to live with that for several weeks before they gave me their decision. At the end of the test period, they realized that walking around the island to get to the eating nook was only a problem when someone wanted to get something out of the refrigerator. Other than that, they saw the benefit of a peninsula with all of the features I was recommending.
  • Replacing the massive desk with accessible pantry cabinets. I showed them the elevation of the pantry wall and gave them the storage calculation, their decision was amazingly fast. The calculation showed that they’d get three times the accessible storage with cabinets versus the original cramped pantry.

Every problem has multiple solutions; finding the right solution can be challenging!

Here’s how we solved all of the problems and created a functional and safe kitchen the entire family could use.Tualatin multiple-cook family kitchen before and after

    • We replaced the island with a large peninsula that had a continuous overhang adjacent to the eating nook. At the end of the peninsula, we installed a prep. sink and storage for salad-making vessels and utensils.
      • A downdraft gas cooktop was placed perpendicular to the prep. sink so that the pull-down faucet could be used as a pot filler.
      • This area allowed three people to be working at the same time without obstructing each other.
    • The desk area became a massive pantry with pull-outs and drawers. This area tripled what the family had stored in the original pantry, with better function. A built-in refrigerator was installed across from the prep. sink, with a generous 5-foot aisleway for maximum traffic flow and function.
    • One cabinet in the pantry area was used for a second microwave that could be used for food thawing and preparation, and re-warming of food and drinks convenient for the nook area.
    • Deep soffits became an area for additional countertop task lighting. They were also a decorative feature, with crown molding at the top and bottom. The angled soffit above the sink became a decorative focal point because it was wood to match the doors.
    • Carefully-placed dimmable recessed LED fixtures lit aisleways and traffic patterns. Dimmable under-cabinet LED strips provided task lighting for countertops and accent lighting for the backsplashes.
    • Double ovens and a microwave oven became a wonderful baking preparation area, with drawers and rollout shelves in the base cabinets. Vertical tray dividers were installed above the ovens for muffin tins, baking sheets, cooling racks, and cutting boards.
    • A countertop between the peninsula and sink could be used for food preparation and cleanup without creating a “traffic jam.”
    • The new floor was Forest Service Certified, engineered Brazilian cherry. The step had maple nosing, which made it safer because of the color contrast.

The family soon discovered how much fun it was to cook meals and get ready for parties together at the same time. It was exactly what they wanted. They fell in love with the new look, too.

    • Cabinets with raised-panel doors gave the kitchen an elegant traditional appearance. The natural alder prevented the kitchen from looking too formal.
    • Granite countertops and shimmering silver slate backsplash were a perfect complementary contrast to all the wood.
    • An angled display cabinet provided a focal point that was visible from the family room.
    • Blue light fixtures chosen by the wife added a unique, fanciful touch to express individuality.

Conclusion

It was wonderful to work through all of the possible solutions with the family. Everyone had an opinion, and it was delightful to see how they interacted to make the best decisions for maximum function and appearance. Fantastic communication made a big difference. The family provided honest feedback and wonderful suggestions. We all had a great time, especially after one of the daughters looked at a proposed plan and named the peninsula “the boot.”

If you are stuck trying to figure out your kitchen’s layout, whether you need it to function for multiple cooks or not, I’d love to help you! With over 36 years of education, training, and experience, I offer compassionate creativity that inspires communication. Contact me so we can talk about your specific needs!

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.