I need help with an awkward floor plan layout!

Zach Neitzke
October 19, 2019

Hi all,

I bought a house back in November and am at a complete loss with what to do with the main living space layout. The kitchen is closed off, dimly lit, has three entrances, and is awkward all together, because of this, I hate to cook (which use to be my biggest hobby). The living room is awkwardly long and narrow and is quite open making furniture placement difficult. I have had multiple interior designers look at the rooms and layout and none of us can come up with a good solution. So I am in dire need of feedback and ideas so I can hopefully make this a livable space again.

A little back ground on the house, it is a 1980s ranch with a finished basement. The main entrance is in the basement with a staircase directly off to the right and large living room to the front and left. The stair case goes upstairs and leads directly into an open living room to the right and closed off kitchen to the front and hallway to the left to get to the three bedrooms (to include master).

Again my main concern at this point is floor plan layout, but I would like to keep in mind resale value. Conversations with professionals so far have led to two options:

1. Swap the kitchen to where the upstairs living room is to create an open, well-lit, grand entrance to the main second floor (an environment that would feel welcoming and encourage hosting). In turn the living room would be moved to where the kitchen currently is to create a small living room/conversation area with a couch and TV/focal wall on the opposite wall (I already have a large living room downstairs and with this being a smaller house, I don't need two large living rooms). This room would also be well lit with a sliding glass door to the rear of the property. (I completely understand the level of work this requires).

2. Leave the kitchen where it is, update it, and remove the non-load bearing wall between kitchen and dining room to open up the floor plan. My only problem with this is even if all of these fixes occurred, I am really not gaining any counter space, I am losing significant cupboard space, and I still feel as though the kitchen is awkward size/shape.

There may even be several options that haven't been considered, which is why I am reaching out to you guys for assistance, feedback, and opinion. Any help is greatly appreciated because at this point I am out of ideas. I will try to attach pictures below of floor plan and current situation. Thank you!

Comments (78)

  • bens bride

    Even with an L and island you need a minimum 12'9" across for the standard base cabinet against the wall + aisle + base cabinet + seating overhang + aisle.

  • bens bride

    Of course people crowd those minimums, but it's not the best idea.

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  • Karen


  • Zach Neitzke

    House Floor Plan · More Info

  • Zach Neitzke

    Island is poorly proportioned. That would allow for about a 12 inch overhang for the seating. Keeping 36 inches on each side for the aisles.

    House Floor Plan · More Info

  • shead

    A cooktop in an island is rarely ever a good idea (and I know because I've had one before!). With your above configuration, the dining space is hard to get to and too small to be all that usable. I think you should go with a more open concept that allows cooking, dining, and conversing to be much more fluid.

    This is definitely a work-in-process concept that can be greatly tweaked but I like how open the space would be and how the kitchen would yields plenty of workspace. Having the range on an exterior wall definitely helps with ventilation.

  • Buehl

    36" is much too narrow for a work aisle, especially with all three work zones crammed into one space. The bigger issue is that the aisle is really only 33" in front of the sink and less than 30" in front of the refrigerator.

    Aisles are measured to/from the items that stick out into them the farthest -- counters, appliance handles, etc. The minimum recommended width is 42" for a one-person (and always a one-person) work aisle and 48" for more than one person.

    Behind the seats, you need at least 44" if not much traffic and no work aisle; in your case, 48" b/c of the sliding door (and that's the minimum, I would rather see 54").

    12" is too narrow for seating, unless everyone is a small child or under 5' tall. 15" is the minimum recommended seating overhang for average height adults (which includes teens, btw).

  • Buehl

    You love to cook, so plan for a Kitchen that will let you cook while others do things like cleanup, help you do the more menial tasks, etc. This means separating work zones -- a separate Prep Zone, a separate Cooking Zone, and a separate Cleanup Zone.

    You get the Prep Zone and others can use the sink in the Cleanup Zone when they're helping you!

    Put the Prep Zone where you like to work the most -- island or perimeter. Most people prefer the island, but some like the perimeter so they can prep right next to the range and not have to cross an aisle.

  • Buehl

    Your layout is missing key measurements, could you please add them? Black is taken from your measurements, blue are the unknowns. You can either "fill in the blanks" using the letters/numbers in your post or re-post with the measurements included in the layout. Thanks!

    Yes, I know they're a lot, but you have a lot of jigs and jogs and windows and doors!

    You may have most of them already on your original layout, it's just that it was difficult to read.

  • btydrvn

    For practical and re-sale reasons....I don’t think most people will want the front door to open into the kitchen...and since most social events center around the kitchen..i think your seating area should be at least equal to the kitchen area..if you wish to entertain on another level you should consider adding a sink...a mini kitchen counter/ bar..fridge ...microwave...so that going up and down the stairs will not be necessary..also unless your home is big enough for large families..a”formal” separate dining space is less useful than an in kitchen dining area

  • Zach Neitzke

    Bens bride and Buehl, you are absolutely correct in that the size I allotted for kitchen in my sketch is much too small. It looked better on paper, I did replicate the dimensions of work area you alluded to in your reply Buehl and they were spot on. In order to be comfortable and efficient in the kitchen I will need a bit more space thank I was originally thinking!

  • Zach Neitzke

    Shead I love the open concept of your most recent design! I also like that you can see the majority of the kitchen when walking up the stairs but its not the first thing and only thing you see. With that load bearing wall placed where it is, it blocks all views of the kitchen if left in its current location or back right corner of the house (current dining room). Obviously the view from the stairs isn't a huge factor to take in to account but I think its important for a first impression for guests!

  • Zach Neitzke

    It sounds as though regardless of which direction I go, modification or removal of the load bearing wall is going to be our biggest ticket to success. Whether it be Mama Goose's open wall with posts, Bens Bride's centering of the case on the back window, or Sheads complete removal with a post. Once we get a better sense of the direction I will go I will need to get someone out here to look at that. I am sure this could be a separate discussion entirely, but who would I talk to about working with the beam? General contractor? Structural engineer? As stated previously beneath these three rooms is a two stall garage. There is a steel I beam that spans the entire 24' directly under and parallel to the load bearing wall. Additionally, the open space between the dining room and living room must be a recessed beam already, leaving just the 81" wall in between the kitchen and living room to be addressed. Again, I wouldn't shed too much light on this topic as I am sure it is a project for later in the design process, just speaking out loud here, sorry for the ramble!

  • btydrvn

    It seems like an L shaped island in the same area as the walls would be the shortest/cheapest way to preserve some of the support system...when you get an expert in ...ask them how they can get you there..this would get you lots of counter seating as well

  • btydrvn

    Also keeps the kitchen located where all the plumbing ..etc. is in place...saving very costly project of moving them

  • Buehl

    Moving plumbing is usually pretty inexpensive as long as you don't have to jackhammer into a slab.

  • bens bride

    I don't know what is typical, but we started with a structural engineer. Ours was not interesting in spit-balling ideas, though. We had to tell him specifically what we wanted to do and he drew up how to specifically achieve it.

  • btydrvn

    Didn’t this start as a sort of handy guy diy project? ...not the forever dream home?...maybe i misunderstood?

  • Zach Neitzke

    Buehl, I sincerely aplogize, the initial floor plan did have all those but you are right, its next to impossible to read! Also your write up on asking for floor layout was very helpful, thanks! You are absolutely correct in separating my work zones, that is a must for me, something my sketch didn't represent :/. Prep is huge for me, I prefer that to be in the island with lots of space! The separate cleaning zone and cooking zone would also be huge and increase comfort and efficiency! Measurements are as follows:

    A- 78"

    B- 76" This slider goes to raised porch. Overlooks street 75' from front of house and rest of city.

    C- 96"

    D- 75"

    E- 38"

    F- 37" Hallway leads to guest bathroom on right, then master bedroom/bathroom again on right. Two guest bedrooms on the left, two storage closets on left.

    G- Please refer to original floor plan, my animated sketch shows that the staircase and this wall are even, this is not the case. The far side or wall of G is centered on the staircase of E. G would realistically be 16".

    H- 35"

    I- 81"

    J- 285"

    K- 111"

    L- 247"

    M- 280"

    N- 36" This window overlooks left side of property (facing road), lawn and woods.

    O- 48"

    P- 33"

    Q- 149"

    R- 76"

    S- 100"

    T- 20" Entryway closest to T leads to a small deck in back which overlooks woods. Ideally we removed this and put in double french doors or a slider preferably centered on current kitchen or dining room (in place of one of the double 36" windows).

    U- 13"

    V- 96" This window (double 36 for 72") is to a deck overlooking backyard and 5 acres of woods

    W- 13"

    X- 298"

    Y- 13"

    Z- 56"

    1- 76" This window (double 36) is also to back yard overlooking woods.

    2- 147"

    3- 36" This window overlooks left side of property (facing road), lawn and woods

    4- 48"

    5- 20"

    A little more background since we are talking about window views and house positioning. The house is located on small hill overlooking the city on the edge of city limits of a small suburb of Rochester. It sits on a 5 acre wooded property. The house is fairly secluded despite being in the city. So preserving as many windows for the view and natural lighting is a priority!

    I wish I was as handy at drafting as you guys are. I apologize. Is there a specific program you recommend so I could assist you all more? Thanks! Zach

  • btydrvn

    Plumbers...electricians...contractors....all money pits....never mind all new appliances...cabinets...then furniture?...decor?..what about unexpected practical needs...roof?...leaky windows?..whatever comes up..unseen until you start removing walls etc....my theory is working as closely as possible.... with what is there ..

  • bens bride

    If you're going to remove the load bearing wall... go big and vault the whole thing http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/02/24/what-it-took-to-vault-the-ceiling/

  • Zach Neitzke

    btydrvn, you are correct in that this is not a forever/dream home but I would still like it to be comfortable while I live here and ultimately make some money off of it when it comes time to sell. The kitchen is where I spend all my time cooking and hosting when I am not doing projects and is realistically the only room in the house I am concerned with. I feel given the current kitchen even before I built the temporary cabinets would be a hard sell. Paying a few thousand to modify the load bearing wall to give a much more open and comfortable layout would then lead me to be able to do my DIY kitchen build to include plumbing and electrical :). Soooo if thats what needs to happen, albeit more work than aniticapted, I am ready to do so!

  • Zach Neitzke

    btydrv, I absolutely agree, if I can make something work while keeping everything in place that would take a lot of pressure off me! But I am really liking the open concept designs coming forward. Plumbing and electrical I am comfortable taking on, I'd rather not spend $60 an hour on those trades at this point. Cabinets I will build myself. Appliances are all brand new, bought with the expectation of needing to be moved if need be! Roof is new as of 2018 so I hope thats no the case :(

  • latifolia

    Do you have, or could you have a deck across the back? I know someone who has this identical home/layout with a back deck. If so, you could change the kitchen windows to sliders.

    Take down the wall into the dining room. You can have cabinets along the two walls, with an island in front of the sliders, so your view is not impeded.

    I would not spend the money to remove the supporting wall. Nor would I eliminate the upstairs living room (resale). Families would likely use the downstairs for a family room.

  • mama goose_gw zn6OH

    Opening the wall for the island in the plan I posted should be easy (relatively), since the steel beam is directly under the wall. The posts for the new beam would be supported by the metal beam in the garage. Are there lally columns in the basement? Same with plumbing--fairly easy to run in the garage ceiling space. Rochester MN or NY? Does code allow plumbing on exterior walls?

    Whether it be Mama Goose's open wall with posts, Bens Bride's centering
    of the case on the back window, or Sheads complete removal with a post.
    It doesn't need to be all or nothing--you can take ideas from each, add your own, and consider new ideas to make a great kitchen that works for you. Also, I agree that the kitchen is the most important room in the house. We in the Kitchens forum refer to that as being TKO. (Totally Kitchen Obsessed ;)

  • Zach Neitzke

    Latifolia, yes I currently have a small deck about the size of the kitchen of the back side. Expanding the deck is a must, and one of the easier projects I plan on tackling this coming spring. The deck will most likely be expanded to the master bedroom to have a private walk out (slider or french). I would still need access from a public location whether it be the current kitchen or current dining room which would require expansion to both the left and right. Decks are also a great location for hosting so I am fine with either option!

    Good point on the resale from a families perspective, that is something I had not thought of. Being a 3 bedroom, 2 bath there is a good chance that would be the target buyer population.

  • bens bride

    Your layout sounds very similar to what is called in my area a split level or split entry. Maybe some google searches of split level kitchens will bring up some ideas for you.

    A 3/2 on five acres sounds like a family home. We're a family of four and the existing proportions of your rooms appeal to me. A change in those proportions to a gigantic kitchen would be a turn off for me as a buyer. The basement room would be a play zone--I'd like living room you presently have.

  • Zach Neitzke

    Mama goose. Rochester, MN! Yes, there is a single lally column. Looking in the garage the front, right side, and back are all cinder block which the beam rests on. The left side is finished and I have yet to scan it yet, I would imagine it would be wood frame. The lally column supports the beam right where it enters the left (most likely wood frame) wall. Yes, the steal beam would make modifications to the above load bearing wall quiet easy, I would just want to verify that I wouldn't need to beef up the footings or supports for the steal beam with whatever route I decide to go. Otherwise, I may be able to do most of the modification myself. I do not believe there are any codes against plumbing exterior walls, I would have to read up on current codes regarding that. To my knowledge and just doing a quick search, there are no codes against it. I would be leary of exterior wall plumbing given MN winters, if I did go that route, I would want some pretty significant insulation surrounding the pipe.

    Yes, I would say I fit into the TKO category quite nicely then. As you have probably seen in the above pictures I am slowly going crazy given my current kitchen! :(

  • Zach Neitzke

    Bens Bride, the vaulted ceiling looks gorgeous! Id be curious to get see an estimate if I get a structural engineer between just removal of the load bearing and the vaulting. The house layout is very similar to a split level! Ill take a peak at some photos!

  • PRO
    Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc.

    I would like to keep in mind resale value.

    There are a lot of very expensive ideas being tossed around here. How much money do you think you can spend on this to get an adequate return? Budget and design go hand in hand. Determine your budget first...then design a floor plan option that will fit within it.

  • Zach Neitzke

    Kristin, I haven't given much thought to budget so far. As far as the kitchen goes I would say ideally 7,500-12,500 keeping in mind the appliances are already paid for and I would be doing cabinets and countertops myself. But as stated earlier, the kitchen is my primary focus so I could be quite flexible with my budget if there is more value/functionality to be gained. When I say keep resale value in mind I more or less mean that I don't want my decision to decrease the value. I understand that most projects you do not get 100% return on so the least amount of money spent to get as far as possible would be my ideal route to go. I really like the open layout of Sheads design. At this point I am leaning more towards that or the back right corner design like Bens Bride posted. Both of these designs would allow me to retain my current kitchen while working on the other. Additionally, demolition of the non-load bearing could be part of the original project, but the load bearing wall could be dealt with at another item (whether it be installation of LVL beam or modification of casement), although that would be less ideal. Going off of Shead's open concept design with the kitchen on the far wall, does this make coming up with a sitting arrangement any easier?

  • Zach Neitzke

    And I know size can be greatly variable, as it stands in the sketch it is almost 24' wide for concept purposes, but would this setup create too "gigantic" of a kitchen that it would turn off interested buyers like Bens Bride alluded to?

  • btydrvn

    Just a little personal insight on stoves on the island ...if i am cooking i really hate having my back to the rest of the room...looking at the wall ...on the island i can visit with people and be a part of whats going on...i also hate cleaning backsplashes ...reaching over the stove to clean grease and splatters....but more importantly...friends enjoy sharing in the cooking by cutting the veggies, or trimming the cookies as they come out of the oven...i think i have already agreed with Ben that a disproportionately sized kitchen is not good...a well laid out kitchen means less steps for the cook and a proportionately laid out kitchen will have more appeal to future buyers

  • btydrvn

    My other concern is when too much or separated space is assigned to dining areas...which in the scheme of things is used rarely ...while a sizeable island is used almost exclusively in most lifestyles for all meals...and other projects like paying bills ....reading the morning papers...I-pad sessions...a comfortable open living space will be more useable and will allow room for added table/tables to be brought in for big holiday dinners if needed...once or twice a year

  • Buehl

    "friends enjoy sharing in the cooking by cutting the veggies, or trimming the cookies as they come out of the oven"

    That's all PREP Zone work, not Cooking Zone work. You don't spend much time actually standing there staring at your food while it cooks on the range, do you? Yes, you spend a minute or two here and there adding ingredients/stirring or checking food, but you don't stand and stare at it while it cooks. In addition, I wouldn't want the range getting in the way of the space on the island for all the items you listed. Nor would I want a hood hanging in front of me while I'm working at the island or trying to converse with visitors.

    "...while a sizeable island is used almost exclusively in most lifestyles for all meals..."

    "...allow room for added table/tables to be brought in for big holiday dinners if needed..."

    Islands are not used exclusively for all meals by most people...maybe a single person or a two-adult household with the adults not taking the time to sit down to a meal, but not families. So, if resale is an issue (or a future family), plan for one table somewhere permanently. More and more studies are showing that taking the time to sit down as a family (entire family) for at least one meal per day and talking to your children during the meal dramatically reduces things like drug/alcohol abuse, suicides, etc. That means sitting down where you can actually converse and bond. Most island seating is not conducive to conversation/bonding. Most islands are like diner seating (seats all in a row) and island seating doesn't usually encourage sticking around for conversation/bonding...it encourages "eat and run". An island can be great for a snack or quick meal and for cookie decorating, etc., (see above), but don't plan it for all meals and don't eliminate a table space.

    The lack of a place for a table in our area would be a deal-breaker.

    I do agree, though, that only one table space is needed (you often see plans with two table spaces, that's overkill/a waste of space, IMO, if you don't have decent sized spaces in other, more used spaces.)

  • btydrvn

    Buehl..you make some good points about different lifestyles...but i always wonder why these replies have to be so confrontational...aimed at pointing out that other opinions are wrong rather than just different...thats the point of these discussions isn’t it?...to share different views for the poster to consider?

  • cpartist

    My other concern is when too much or separated space is assigned to dining areas...which in the scheme of things is used rarely ...while a sizeable island is used almost exclusively in most lifestyles for all meals...and other projects like paying bills ....reading the morning papers...I-pad sessions...a comfortable open living space will be more useable and will allow room for added table/tables to be brought in for big holiday dinners if needed...once or twice a year

    There was nothing confrontational about buehl's reply. It was direct and to the point. And I agree with her 100%.

    And my kids have flown the coop, but any night we eat at home, we absolutely NEVER sit at the island to have our dinner. We sit at the dining table (our only one) and actually talk to one another. In all our shared spaces over the past 15 years, the only time we had dinner at the island was in the rental (while waiting for our house to be finished) and that was because we needed our dining table as a dumping ground. But then again every single thing about that apartment we rented was dysfunctional.

    The only time we sit at the island is if one of us is preparing a meal, or sometimes at breakfast.

    Just a little personal insight on stoves on the island ...if i am cooking i really hate having my back to the rest of the room...looking at the wall

    Actual cooking takes maybe 10-15 minutes and I'm guessing you are not standing over the stove the whole time unless you're sautéing.

    ...on the island i can visit with people and be a part of whats going on

    So for the majority of the time you're prepping food your back is turned to your guests but for the 10-15 minutes you can converse?

    friends enjoy sharing in the cooking by cutting the veggies, or trimming the cookies as they come out of the oven

    As buehl said, that's not cooking, that's prepping which ideally is done near a water source. Especially cutting veggies.

    ...i think i have already agreed with Ben that a disproportionately sized kitchen is not good...a well laid out kitchen means less steps for the cook and a proportionately laid out kitchen will have more appeal to future buyers


    To the OP: You have three of the best working on your kitchen, Mama, Buehl and if it's who I think it is, Bens Bride. (welcome back!)

  • cpartist

    Do you have the setup to build your own cabinets and have them made updated with all drawers for the lowers with Blum hardware? How will they be finished so they stand the test of time?

  • Kristin S

    OP would know best, but from what I know of Rochester (we have family living there, and many friends in nearby Minneapolis), I think no dining room would be a deal breaker for many. It definitely would for us - all meals are eaten at our dining table, none at the island, even when it's just one of us eating, and certainly when it's the whole family, or family + guests.

  • Zach Neitzke

    Again, I want to take time to thank everybody for their assistance and opinions thus far, you have all been amazing! CPartist you are correct it looks like I have an amazing team working to help me!

    At this point I have decided on having the stove and sink against the wall and the island completely void of appliances. I know with spaces this size I may not get everything I want but at the very least I would like completely separate cleaning, prep, and cook zones, much like what Buehl is talking about. If I end up doing an L shape or G shape kitchen I would ideally have the sink on one stretch of countertop, the stove on the perpendicular aspect, and the island being wide open. As stated earlier, I would place my priority on a size-able island both for the increased counter space for prep work and backside seating for guests without sacrificing too much dining room space.

    I completely agree that I need to retain a dining room for both formal and informal dinners, I think it would be a huge decrease in selling appeal to remove/sacrifice it. I also agree with the importance of sitting down with family and being able to converse with them during meals. I would not want more than one sitting area especially given the lack of significant square footage, hence why a comfortable and efficient concept using all three rooms is so important.

    CPartist, I do not have a professional setup by any means, but it does the job for me ( I believe would be passable for the average buyer). I just finished my 60" bathroom vanity and am very happy with how it turned out. I can comment pictures if you are interested. I did the box out of maple pattern MDF with shaker style oak face frame and doors. The hinges are soft close and slides are soft/self closing, full extension, and ball bearing.I colored it with a medium gray paint so that the grain of oak came through for character (something I was shooting for. I like clean and simple but don't like the smooth plastic feeling box of store vanities/cabinets). The only thing I would change for the kitchen would be a gloss/semi gloss urethane over the top for ease of cleaning.

    Kristin, you are correct lack of a dining room would be a huge deal breaker not only for me but I would anticipate even more so for a family and therefore I must insist I have at least one!

    Sorry for the delay in response, I have been busy with work! I will be free for the weekend so can reply much quicker!

  • cpartist

    Zach I'm always impressed when someone can build things like cabinets. My ex was able to do that, so yes, I'd love to see the pics.

  • Zach Neitzke

    Apologies, I don’t have the best pictures n hand here. I’m trying not to get too far off topic but it’d be nice to get feedback on these as well, if you all don’t like them that would lead to buying custom or box store cabinets which of course affects budget.

  • Zach Neitzke

    Higher quality pic

  • Zach Neitzke

    Sorry for lack of doors and trim, I had to special order and they haven’t arrived yet :/

  • Karen

    I think you did a beautiful job on the cabinet!

  • shwshw


  • cpartist

    Zach those are gorgeous.

  • Zach Neitzke

    Thanks for the compliments on the vanity everyone! I have been messing around with some more concepts. Let me know what you think of this, I have really been toying around with making the current kitchen work. My biggest fallbacks regarding previous concepts was inability to furnish living room/ have a space for the TV and guest seating (mostly limited by awkward patio. This concept addresses those issues and saves me a TON of work, biggest projects would be shrinking existing double 36 window to cabinet height, reworking plumbing, moving 240V oven receptacle, and removal of non-load bearing wall (addition of sliding glass door to dining room in short term future). I have tried to keep the proportions of rooms the same per request of the families looking for a family home.

    House Floor Plan · More Info

  • bens bride

    The distance between center of sink and center of range should be between 4 feet and 9 feet, preferably with continuous counter between the two and definitely pathway between the two (like the path between dining and back yard.

  • Zach Neitzke

    Center to center puts it at 8.75 feet, but I completely understand if that's too far for most to walk. I really liked the idea of having completely separate work zones and the flow of things seemed to be fairly efficient going from fridge to sink to prep to cook. I very well could be missing some big points though! Any plays off this concept to make it better?

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