My sister recently came to me with a challenging design problem: design a kitchen that will easily accommodate entertaining (read, I want an island) and open it up to the living room. No big deal, right?
Oh, by the way, the kitchen is long and narrow and there's a STAIR between the kitchen and the living room. Challenge accepted.
Below are some crude Sketch Up shots of the existing kitchen. You'll see by the little green arrows that it is situated in a corner of the house but in the heart of the circulation. From the kitchen, you may access the garage, basement, deck and back yard, as well as the living room. Its a busy place.
The layout of the kitchen has the tradition 'work triangle' that works well. At just under ten feet wide, the kitchen is too narrow to drop even the tiniest of islands. When you include the dining area, it is about twenty feet long. Narrow and long.
The simple fix is to replace the cabinets. Replace the uppers with boxes at least 42" tall in order to gain storage space. Lower cabinets could also be redone for better storage capability--I'm a big fan of deep drawers as opposed to doors. Additionally, the major pinch point is at the fridge--it's so close to the pantries and directly in the way of the path to the basement and garage. No more than one person can be in the area at a time without doing a little dance shuffle.
Solution: The wall comes down. Obviously, the main wall between the kitchen and living room is a load-bearing wall. However, we can open it up with an I-beam spanning the almost twenty feet.
The walls around the stair become counter height with an island that spans the area. Circulation is opened up on each side so getting to the garage or the top of the stair is no longer a pinch point. The cabinets reach to the ceiling for extra storage. Finally, the fridge, pantry and range are moved so they are not all concentrated in one area. The bigger triangle is sacrificed but the island creates a long, continuous prep area and landing space for items coming in and out of the fridge and stove.
My favorite part is the built-in bookcase on the living room side of the island. It acts as a good transition from lounge space to utility space. Now...if I can just convince my sister to go through with it! Who doesn't love renovations?