layout -- ugh -- gc needs me to make a decision

January 24, 2008

U shaped or peninsula or L with island? Help! I can't decide. I've drawn up a U-shpaed with a smaller island and less seating. Does this resolve the problems? have I (once again) created new problems? TIA! I cannot tell you how valuable your help has been in this! Thanks for sticking with me. I promise a good pay off at the end...

GC needs me to start making some decision about which direction I want to go so that we can get REAL architectural drawings (progress!) started.

Here's the latest version:

U Shaped Layout

Comments (44)

  • mnhockeymom

    I like it!!

  • fnzzy

    looks nice to me.

    One question/statement - maybe I missed it in another thread - but to me the fact that your sink isn't centered on that big window looks a little off to me. I see that you need the uppers over the DW for dishes and glasses so shifting everything messes that plan up...a bit. but maybe I missed the reasoning for it. :)

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  • sweeby

    How many plans are you considering?
    I visited your site and saw a bunch -- many of them quite functional and attractive.

    What would make it easiest for 'votes' is if you could embed the top contenders into a post clearly labeled Option 1, Option 2, etc., and list your top functional and aesthetic priorities for the space.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    Good idea, Sweeby! I've been through so many different iterations I've lost count.

    Goals in design: separate work zones; island seating for 2 kids (would prefer extra room for their friends in future, but not entirely necessary); decent pantry space for bulk, cans, regular items; snack zone outside of work areas for kids; baking zone; feature range wall; take advantage of backyard views; eclectic/semi-fitted look; STORAGE!!!!

    Here are the contenders:

    U-Shaped Layout with Island

    U-shaped with peninsula

    L-shaped with island

  • malhgold

    I like the L shape with island, but I would like it better if the slider was centered on the island and then you could have some tall cabs or something on either side of the slider. But, I'm not sure it's worth it expense wise for you to keep the slider, but just move it down. Also, I'm assuming it doesn't bother you to have your clean up sink on the island?

    So....if you don't want to do that, I would vote for the U shape with island. You have separate zones, views of the backyard and lots of storage.

  • rhome410

    My vote is the U shape with island. Good use of whole space with clear separation of zones, while tasks overlap, especially with getting to the fridge, in the L plan.

  • plllog

    Congrats on a design that gives you lots of storage including your pantry, an island, and wide aisles!

    1st choice: U with island
    2nd choice: L with island
    3rd choice: U with peninsula

    Re U with island: I know you wanted to be able to seat more at the island. You could do a 12" pull out between the cabinets and counter on the window side of the island (or both sides, if wanted), and stash the stools in the dining room corners when they're in the way.

  • sweeby

    Of the three, the L-shaped with island is the one that makes me say "oooh!"

    - Great feature-range space
    - Ample island seating that's out of the cook's way
    - Lots of opportunities for unfitted cabinetry vignettes

    On that plan (for me - every cook's different) I'd make the following tweaks:

    - Scoot the island down toward the range a bit more, or enlarge it in that direction. Why? I view the space between range and island as a one-butt zone, so you don't need a very wide aisle. And if you prep on the island, a narrower island would actually be more useful.

    - As much as I love prep sinks, I'd drop yours - if that's what it is in the back corner. Why? because in this plan, the island is where I'd prep, and the main sink will be right there.

    - I might change your bulk storage cabinet in the top right to a corner cabinet. Why? For pantry use, two shallower shelves along the two corner walls would be twice as useful as one deeper shelf. You could also trim the French doors from 8' (huge!) to 6' (generous) and have that corner be something similar to the corner where the prep sink is/was.

    - Have you considered a plan that rotates that island 90 degrees clockwise? Basically putting the sink and DW directly opposite the range? If yours is a one-cook kitchen, that would be a very efficient plan. If my rough calculations are correct, you could still have an 8' wide island, which would leave 24" on either side of your sink.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    Mahlgold, I'm confused. Do you mean make one sliding door in the center instead of 2 sets of french doors? If so, we would have to add redoing the patio to the budget in order to be able to access the patio and yard from that area (it's a split level that has steps down to the patio from the two current door locations & plantings and crawl space access underneath that area in the center). I assume you would also mean to put in windows where the two doors are now to preserve the view?

    pllog, by pullout do you mean a hidden eating bar under the counter overhang on the island? Were you thinking something like this?

    High Horse Pull Out Eating Bar

    Would I need a wood counter on the island to make a pullout work?

    Sounds like the U-shape with the island is the winner. On the U-shaped with the island, other than buffettgirl's comment re centering the sink under the window (which could be done by breaking up the 24" drawer bank into 2 smaller drawer banks, one on either side of the sink, and making the trash pullout smaller), did anyone see any other pitfalls that I'm missing? I've looked at this so often that it's really hard to catch the mistakes.

    Also, does anyone else think I should go with 2 smaller drawer banks and a smaller trash pullout in order to center the sink under the window, or is the window large enough that it doesn't need to be centered?

  • fnzzy

    I like L with island too!

  • sweeby

    Darn it - Lost my long post!...
    OK - You asked for any problems with the U-shaped with island. Here's the problems I see:

    Imagine cooking vegetables. Pull veggies out of fridge and set them on island landing zone. Island is most likely landing zone (versus adjoining counters) because frisge is 42" wide - so French door or side by side. Them pick up veggies and move them either to prep sink or around island to main sink. Wash veggies with your back to kids. Then either stay there to cut them (again with back to kids) facing wall, or move them back to island and work there. Then across the aisle to range for cooking.

    In the L-shaped plan, the island functions beautifully as a prep zone.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    I like the openness of the L shape, but worry because it requires a much longer island, creating aisle spacing problems with the dining room table and has much less storage. I also lose my separate cleanup zone and walk in pantry.

    What if I keep the U shape with island, but move the prep sink to the island instead of the corner? I could put the pantry in the opposite corner in lieu of the corner sink. This would allow me to enlarge the window to the current 11' size of the existing slider (less work on the exterior. BUT it would also reduce the amount of upper cabs on the Fridge wall and might impact the book/message center storage.


  • worthy

    Hands down for L shaped. It's the layout with pizzaz.

    You don't need a four-foot aisle between the stove and island. So extend the island. If you move it over instead, move the fridge too.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    Sweeby, I missed your earlier long post (which is suddenly there!). I would prefer an island rotated, but when I calculate it out, I can fit only a 5" island (leaving room for access to the doors and a corner pantry. I also played with the idea of twin corner pantries, but I was afraid this didn't leave enough landing space on either side of the range, and made fitting the island difficult. If you have the time, could you show me what you mean?

  • plllog

    Yep, the pull out in your link is exactly the kind of thing I meant. And no, you don't need a wood top to do it, though if you're doing stone on the island, you'll want a plywood surface between the stone and the pullout. It puts the eating pull out a couple inches lower than the work surface, but that could even be better for the kids for quite awhile. There are some compromises there, but it's a way to maximize your utility.

    Pros L with island:
    What Sweeby said. Plus keep the french doors (not your dream total glass wall, but still a lot more open than with cabinets and removes a goodly cost). It's really pretty. It's airier.

    Cons L with island:
    What you said: Lose pantry, separate clean-up, etc.. Though in your U with island you've removed the buffet, and you could do that as well here, which would free the aisles. You could also remove the prep sink, as in your discussion of the U shape, and put a double sink in the island. And if you're tall, you could make the island high enough to do an eating pull out there and widen the little used storage cabinets.

    Pros U with island:
    More kitchen. Walk-in pantry. Separate clean-up zone. Etc. What you said :) You could easily move the prep sink to the island corner by the range and put the pots and pans in the corner lower. I can't give an articulate reason, but I like the pantry better where you have it.

    Cons U with island:
    More structural work, plus losing the look of the doors from the patio. Smaller island with reduced and/or compromise seating. No buffet with art over it (though you could put in one of those self bracing shelves :) ).

    How do they make you feel? Do you want to be more connected to the outside? Or do you prefer a kitchen that hugs you? A couple months ago someone posted a picture of how making her glass doors into large windows actually improved the view, so it's a matter of will you feel closed in by cabinets and windows rather than doors? Or will you feel cozy? Will you open the doors on lovely days? Or do they just give you a view of the patio floor?

    It's so hard to anticipate who you'll be and who your family will be, in 7 years. Can you fit your current life into the L with storage to spare? Since the biggest difference is storage, do you have any other storage places in your house? Are there bathroom vanities with room for tissue? A laundry room with room for cans and paper towels? A top of closet where you can store big, awkward entertaining supplies like the turkey roaster and serving platters?

    Are you the type of person who clears out cupboards and gets rid of stuff regularly? Or do you store the odd kitchen gadget you only use once in 18 months because you really like using it when you have call to use it? Do you shop at Costco or the farmer's market?

    In other words, how much do you need places to put stuff, vs. how much do you want that long island for seating (imagine 4-5 teenagers--they run in packs)?

  • mom2lilenj

    L shaped with the island, hands down. You've got plenty of storage and counter space, flow is nice for a single or multiple cooks, so why not have beautiful french doors to the back yard?!?!

    I do however like sweeby's suggestion of narrowing the stove to island isle. Maybe expand the island by putting in a cabinet that faces the stove rather than move it.

  • toddimt

    I believe Sweeby is referring to the L shaped with Island and the recomendations of turning the island. This looks ike it fits no problem. If you are trying to do this on the U shaped layout with Island that is where there is an issue.

    If you shrink the French doors in the kitchen down to 6' so that you gain 2' more of wall in the upper right, then what sweeby was saying is that you could put a corner type cabinet like that is on the left side where the prep sink is. The other option is then you may have enough room to put the corner pantry back in this location as well.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    I'm sorry, I'm just having a really hard time visualizing this. If I go 8' wide for the island, that narrows the passage way between door/wall and island to 2, not counting the overhang -- pretty narrow for getting around the island and to a corner pantry, isn't it?

  • sweeby

    I tried drawing it out, but didn't really love the results...

    Bottom line, the L-shaped with the island as drawn, with just a few tweaks gets my vote:


  • sweeby

    And if you're willing to lose the buffet or shrink the depth, I'd vote for that too!

  • DYH

    I like the L shaped. You don't need a prep sink with that configuration. You don't have to change your doors. Money saved.

    You prep on the island facing both the view and your kids.
    You have two large pantries.

    You have good "landing" space and elbow room flanking your range.

    The fridge is convenient for the kids to use out of your way and for you to access for prepping food.


  • mayland

    I've been sort-of following this since the beginning b/c we also bought an old split-level that needed lots of work, so its close to my heart! i havent posted much as i am really not very experienced with layouts (having only worked on my own!) -- so please disregard this if it makes no sense.

    I like Sweeby's plan above best, love the french doors in the kitchen (fresh herbs in pots right outside the door, and with your lovely weather you can have them open a lot, how wonderful!). The only thing that bothers me is the dining table not being centered on the french door in the dining room (i know someone else pointed this out in an earlier thread).

    I know you want to keep the buffet -- since you are going for a semi unfitted look, how well would that buffet work sitting with its back to the end of the island? That would give you the ability to move the dining table down a little. Might look weird, might look cool, depends on the buffet style and on the look you are going for.

    The other option (more radical) would be to leave some of the current kitchen/dining dividing wall, so that you have a wall at the end of the island (and back the buffet onto this wall in the dining room), and a wall at either side where you currently have the 6" column on left and the skinny cab between the 2 glass cabs (can't read it) on right -- walls only as far out as the cabs are deep (ie, 24"). then the "openings" (the two 48" aisles) could either be left as floor-ceiling or could be arches, or even french doors if you wanted to be able to close them on occasion. I only thought of this b/c I think i remember in one of your very early posts that you were looking for a semi-open kitchen/dining, rather than a fully open room. Please feel free to ignore, I dont want to confuse things any more for you!

    Overall though, this layout looks beautiful. Good luck!

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    Are there 36" tall corner pantry cabinets? I don't think I've ever seen anything like that. Would it still be a step-in type pantry? I don't want deep shelves -- I hated the deep shelves in our last house.

    I hadn't thought of putting the buffet against the end of the island; that's worth thinking about, although I was really planning to include storage or a bev center or something on that end facing the dining room.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    I'm bumping this because I am confused. At the beginning of this thread, all the votes were coming up U shape with island for better zone separation and more work space. Now it seems everyone has shifted gears to the L-shape with the island, but that all brings in the same zone overlap problems that everybody pointed out in the previous thread. Also, what about these 36" corner pantry cabs? I've never seen anything like that. I've only ever seen drywalled corner pantries, and my understanding is that these are generally 4'X4' or larger. Won't that interfere with the island width if I do matching corner pantries?

  • plllog

    I have seen corner pantry cabinets, but I don't know the sizes past 24" and 27" for stock. Are you getting custom? Because a cabinet maker should be able to make them out of cabinet framing (i.e., plywood or mdf). You don't have to waste inches with drywall!

    I like both plans. At this point it really comes down to which suits your style of cooking and living best.

  • rhome410

    I'm still more in favor of the U w/island, with Sweeby's plan 2nd. Hers gets rid of the criss-crossing traffic, because the prep sink is gone. But you are right, this means you lose your separate zones and the ability for more people to work in the kitchen simultaneously without overlapping. As someone who has kids who want to work in the kitchen along side me, I wouldn't give that up. When everyone feels crowded they are less motivated to help and you are less motivated to welcome them in to start learning tasks.

    I don't know what is available in different cabinet lines. You might have to have 36", full ht cabinets specially made...But as I said, I'm no expert. They would pretty much amount to a tall corner cabinet like might normally house a lazy susan, but you'd probably want shelves the way Sweeby has them drawn. Cabinets that size shouldn't interfere with your island depth.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    Thanks, rhome. We aren't quite as crowded as you (there are only 4 of us, and knock on wood, I'm done), but the kids are pretty little, and I expect that once they start school, they will start traveling in packs. Much like wolves. Hungry ones, who will want to hang out in the kitchen. ;-)

  • raehelen


    Can't imagine how you feel, cuz my head is spinning with all the layout options!

    Have you added up the base cabinet, upper cabinet, pantry storage space in each option? That might help with the decision?

    Personally, since you have the french doors off your dining space, I would go for the U-shaped to gain more storage and once the kids are older, better space for multiple cooks.

    But, only you know how you use or plan to use that outdoor (deck?) space. My sister has french doors right off her island, and they have their barbeque there, so it's used like a second oven, and it's handy to have it so close.

    Our barbeque (and we barbie 12 months a year) is off sliding glass doors which are at the END of our 25 ft kitchen, so I've never gotten used to the convenience of having it closer.

    Would having a second entrance right into the middle of kitchen be a blessing or a hindrance? Would your table be right there, so you could converse with guest sitting outside while you work? That would be neat...

    So, when are you making a decision? Lots of us want to know? :>)


  • Fori

    I'm not ready to decide for you, but I do want to remind you that YOU are the boss and you can't be pressured into making this fundamental decision before you're ready. If you aren't sure, don't move to the next step!

    I'm sure you'll get it nailed down this weekend to offer a plan on Monday, but don't be rushed!

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    Oh, no Rae! You've added a whole other issue! :-) I do like to keep the kitchen door open during the hot months. Then the kids and dog can come and go as they please. Makes for messy floors, but ... The kitchen doors would make a nice conversation area for an indoor-outdoor space. OTOH, might be nice to keep the foot traffic in the dining room and just use a pass-through window in the kitchen -- keep conversation going, but limit the in-and-out traffic in the working kitchen. UGH.

    I'll try to describe the patio as best I can. If it's not raining tomorrow, I'll take some pictures. At each door (currently they are sliders) there is a roughly 4'X8' red brick landing "step" that leads down to a concrete patio. The previous owners had a large rose garden area cut into the center of the patio off of the dining room slider so that there is less patio in front of the dining room doors and a larger section that is good for a table and chairs off of the kitchen slider. There are landing steps off of the family room and master bedroom, but these both lead directly to the grass yard and do not have useable patio space. The existing dining room slider is broken so we have the BBQ placed on the 4'X 8' landing step off of the dining room. This works rather nicely since it keeps the BBQ out of the patio traffic zone (my 3 year old likes to ride her bike on the patio -- since the yard is flat, but the sidewalks in our neighborhood are all on inclines, it's the easiest and safest spot for her to ride). I would prefer to put the BBQ against the wall area between the two rooms, but the landing steps don't include that space in the backyard. Instead, the previous owners put plants there, and there is a rain/water catch area with a screen for the crawl space ventilation right there. Ideally, I would like to remove the plants (don't like plants up against the house here anyway since we live in major termite territory) and extend the brick landing. Then we could move the BBQ out of view. But that is another project for another day.

    There is currently no patio cover -- also another project for another day. Must get working kitchen first. Tried to go the cheap rainy day route and just replace the ovens and cooktop only to discover that I have to replace the cabinets anyway because they don't make ovens that size anymore...and there went the snowball down the mountain.

    Thoughts? Opinions? My head is spinnng.

  • mayland

    can you get some input/opinion/decision from someone else who knows the house well -- ideally your DH? or if not then a friend or relative who can see the house and knows you well? Its a hard decision to make on your own.

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    DH is NO help when it comes to this stuff. He leaves it all to me. That's nice sometimes, but every now and then, an opinion would be nice, too.

  • toddimt

    I would think the benefit of keeping the doors in the dining room area is that it keeps any traffic out of the kitchen altogether.

  • sweeby

    The 'L with Island' plan does have dess storage space than the 'U with Island' plan.
    And if you really need all of that storage space, then that's an important advantage.
    However, if you don't really need all that storage space, then it's really just a lot more cabinetry to pay for, so rather a disadvantage.
    But really, only you can know how you want to live in the space and what's important for your family.

    If you like some aspects of the L plan and some of the U, you could simply eliminate the French Doors on the L plan, fill it in with cabinetry, then move the cleanup area to the former French Door site, replacing it with a prep sink to keep the 'work on the island' flow.

    Just another option, since it seems, you didn't have quite enough! ;-)


  • sarschlos_remodeler

    So you would keep seating on one side of the island in the U + island form? Should it be on the side where the fridge is, or where the cleanup sink is?

  • sweeby

    Personally, I would keep the seating on the clean-up side.

    - But I'd make sure the counter stools were of a sort that could be pushed in easily and fit relatively snugly under the countertop -- NOT a really bulky stool. OR, lose the 15" cabinets and make the island a bit narrower. But I'd suspect 48" is fine really. Can you mock it up to see?

    - My thinking is based on my own experience. Lots of people like to visit in my kitchen when I'm prepping and cooking. But somehow, when it's time to clean up, visitors are scarce!

    (Well, actually, I'd go with the L-shaped plan, but only because I first, vetted through my kitchen stuff and tossed a lot of junk I rarely used, and second, KNEW exactly how much storage space I needed.)

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    I vetted and tossed when we moved into the house in September. With the addition of the two pantries (or one large corner pantry), I could get away with the L shaped now, but I would have every drawer and cab full, which doesn't leave any room for adding things.

  • malhgold

    I saw how you were "distressed" about your decision on a different thread. What about if you went with the "L" but where you used to have the buffet you went with a wall of 12" deep pantry cabs. You could even possibly recess them into that wall a few inches and maybe eeek out an extra couple of inches. Would that help with the storage?

    Do you have any storage in the basement where maybe you could put those rarely used items?

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    There's no basement (we're in a So. Cal. split level built alongside a hill). We don't have a mudroom or a laundry room to borrow storage space from. The laundry is in a closet off of the family room.

    We're currently storing paper towels and bulk items in the wetbar that we don't use (also in the Family Room -- but it's going to get the boot one of these days).

    The wall between the dining room and family room is only 4" thick -- total, although I'm probably going to beef this up slightly because the family room is currently covered in paneling (it's been painted, but as long as I'm remodeling, we might as well fix that) and there's no insulation in the walls. Other thought I had was to do a partial half wall with support columns there to open the family room up to the dining/kitchen area. I would have to keep part of the wall so I have something to set my barrister's bookcase against, but a half wall would let the cook see the TV.

    I could move the message center/backpack storage into the closet in the Family Room with a bit of an interior closet remodel (it's currently our games/toys/crafts/office supply closet). That wouldn't be too inconvenient since it is just around the corner from the front entry at the top of the stairs.

    Here's my floor plan again to help with visualization. The master bedroom is missing from this drawing (it's on the other side of the kitchen) and the kids' rooms/bathroom/linen closet on the third level are not quite to scale (they were sleeping when I was trying to draw it out).

    Here is a link that might be useful: Floorplan

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    ARGH. I thought I'd made a decision -- really, I did. Thought I was done. A little disappointed that I hadn't been able to work in a lovely hutch like I wanted, but overall liking the L + island layout.

    Then I was over in Mahlgold's thread and there it was. My hutch. So here I am, back again looking at the U + island. It's more money all around -- more cabinets, changing out doors for windows, farther distance for moving the plumbing. BUT...BUT...that hutch. That pretty dishes hutch along a separate cleaning zone.

    How can I make it work with island seating? Ideas?

  • malhgold

    why don't you think your "U" shape with island seating works. I know this has been mentioned before, but can you reduce the width of the island slightly? If you were willing to give up some storage to go with the "L" shape with island, I would think maybe you could give up some depth in the island storage??

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    I can reduce the island to 3 1/2 feet, which would give me storage on one side and overhang on the other, but then it will have to be off center from the range in order to provide enough room for seating on the side.

    What if I make it shorter, keep it at 4' wide, and have a seating area at the end?

    I'm concerned that seating will interfere either with the fridge/snack area or with the cleanup zone.

  • rhome410

    With something like Sweeby's last plan above, you still have your seating and can still fit the hutch, right? Or put the seating across the end, like you'd planned once? Or her plan above has a version of the L, but with a place for the hutch on the right wall, doesn't it? OR am I missing what you mean?

  • sarschlos_remodeler

    The Sweeby plan dimensions are off. She used a version that I had created with an 18" hutch (bev center turned on the side), so it looks roomier than it is. If I only have 48" aisles on each side of the island (which is what, 45" when you take into account overhangs?), there won't be enough room for seating, right?

    Really trying to find a way to get the main sink out of the island, and I still need to fit my table & chairs in there, too.

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