This story originally appeared in the Spring 2022 Issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.
Creating A Cozier, Open Kitchen
Most folks enjoy intimate get-togethers as much as big gatherings; in an ideal world, homes have space for both. That’s precisely what designer Sean Lewis was able to deliver in the renovation of the kitchen and hangout space in this 1929 Tudor Revival in Ardmore, PA.
Gutting the kitchen area delivered a roughly 9-by-17-foot space where the sink, appliances, and cabinets now line two perpendicular walls, while an island provides more workspace, plus seating that edges into the dining room thanks to a large cased opening that joins the two spaces. The adjacent unheated mudroom, which held the refrigerator and dishwasher, was transformed into a cozy lounge with bonus storage, while preserving back-door access.
“The open concept makes it easier to interact and entertain, while the new nook is perfect for small groups and alone time,” says homeowner Samantha Chapman. Deadpans husband Adam Langley: “Having the food in the same room as the stove is a nice change, too.”
What they did
Opening up the footprint allowed for a large 149-square-foot kitchen connected to the dining room and a 52-square-foot lounge that holds a table and built-in banquette.
- Created a new sink and range layout by demoing a wall that enclosed an existing dining nook, the old booth seat, and sink cabinets, closing up one small window in the process.
- Created a large cased opening to connect the kitchen and dining room, adding an island with seating that edges across the room divide. Rebuilt an original dining hutch, replacing a lower cabinet with a beverage fridge.
- Put the main refrigerator on the wall where the range had been and amped up storage with tall pantry cabinets.
- Added an archway to a lounge area with a table, a banquette with storage, and a coffee bar with wall
Making Space for Laundry
Laundry—it’s a dirty job, but it’s gotta get done somewhere. For Lyla Duey and Dan Schultz, that meant a bare-bones space just outside the equally makeshift kitchen-dining area in their 1896 farmhouse in Elkins Park, PA. A peninsula hemmed in the cook space; bulky appliances crowded the laundry, with just enough space left for another necessity, a toilet closet.
First order of business for Sharp + Grey Interiors designer Libby Rawes: Rework the kitchen to give it the breathing—and storage— room it needed, and create a comfortable dining area that easily fits the family of four. Turning her attention to the laundry, she moved the powder room to the back of the 77-square-foot area, clearing space for a stacked washer/dryer with a laundry sink and cabinets along the wall opposite.
Shown above: A stackable washer and dryer saves space, as does a pocket door to the powder room. “We love big family gatherings, and part of properly hosting is having an accessible bathroom where guests can fit comfortably and have privacy,” Lyla says. The rooms’ blue floor tile and white cabinets echo the kitchen colors. The laundry sink and butcher-block counter come in handy for party-prep overflow.
- The island overhang on one narrow end is a favorite perch for the family’s two children—for snack time, doing homework, coloring, or to “help” when their parents are cooking. Susie Brenner
- A thick seat cushion adds comfort to the dining area’s 10-foot built-in bench, which offers window views and under-seat storage concealed in pull-out baskets for easy access. Susie Brenner
- 10-foot ceilings. “I love the big triptych window, which opens on both sides to let in fresh air,” Lyla says. “The large farmhouse sink makes it easier to wash dishes, too.” A beverage refrigerator is tucked into the 69-by-30-inch island, which has two stools at one end for snack time. Susie Brenner
- Lighting can be an economical way to elevate design. Three bold brass library sconces accent the windows, brightening the sink and countertop at night, while playing nicely with the faucet’s subtler nickel finish. Susie Brenner
- Laminate finishes defined a kitchen that had virtually no upper cabinets. The peninsula was a magnet for everyday clutter. Susie Brenner
Dan’s reaction: “It can be fun and relaxing to hang out in the kitchen—who knew?” Adds Lyla of the three-part project, “The whole space feels bigger, functions better, and looks beautiful.”
What they did
Reorganizing the shared kitchen-dining space allowed for twice the cabinet storage and prep space, plus an island with two stools. Moving a cramped toilet closet to the back of the laundry gave it 24 square feet for a proper powder room.
- Enlarged the kitchen from 90 to 150 square feet by removing a peninsula, extending the range wall’s cabinet run, and making the dining area smaller. Centered the sink under three large windows.
- Scrapped a pantry closet and put the refrigerator in its place, for a more functional U-shape layout. Placed a narrow island in the center.
- Tucked a stacked washer and dryer in a corner where the toilet closet had been, with a sink and cabinets opposite it in the 52-square-foot laundry.
- Built a half bath at the far end of the laundry, closing it off with a space-saving pocket door.
Adding a Larger Island
For a homeowner who likes to cook, a cluttered kitchen can turn a pleasurable pastime into a chore. Add in the care and feeding of two large rescue dogs and one teenager, and the pressure on a cramped cook space mounts.
To make room for showcase meals and entertaining and to organize the flotsam of daily life, home chef Byron Brown and his wife, Lesley Schaaff, wanted to add a mudroom to their 1933 Tudor Revival in Silver Spring, MD. Enter Aidan Design’s Nadia N. Subaran, who optimized the 220-square-foot cook space with a large island and a mega-range by annexing the eating area. She designed the adjacent 80-square-foot mudroom to get dog-related gear out of the kitchen and contain coats and mail that pile up.
- Left: Island cabinetry holds everything from paper goods and cutlery to pots and pans and small appliances. The beverage refrigerator is convenient for entertaining, just steps to the bar cabinet outside the living room. Right: Wood shelves against a backsplash of handmade crackle-glaze tile creates an attractive contrast of natural textures. “We gave up some utility forgoing closed cabinets, but the open shelving helps keep the space feeling open and airy,” says homeowner Byron Brown. Robert Radifera
- Mudroom lockers, drawers, and baskets organize family gear (right), while a walnut bench is a helpful perch when dealing with boots and leashes. “Moving the dogs’ bowls out of the kitchen was key,” says Byron, conceding that their Irish wolfhound mix can make a mess. A drop zone for mail (left) is also a place for family files, schedules, and a concealed paper shredder. The house’s stone exterior serves as a handsome accent wall. Robert Radifera
- A shallow endcap cabinet is ideal for dog leashes, right where they’re needed by the side door. A wine cabinet stores bottles at the ready. Robert Radifera
- “There was very little prep space and light, and the cook was stuck in a dark corner,” Byron recalls of the former kitchen. The other end of the room held a table and chairs, right outside the dining room. Robert Radifera
“The mudroom brings order to chaos, so the house stays neater,” Byron says. “And it’s easier and more enjoyable to prepare meals and entertain with the big island counter—the cook is now the main attraction, so it’s dinner and a show.”
What they did
Getting rid of a redundant table and chairs and removing a flow-blocking peninsula doubled the kitchen’s usable area. Adding a mudroom made space for pet gear, outerwear, and paperwork.
- Removed a peninsula that cut the space in half and annexed the seating area, adding a large 81/2-by-3-foot island with a prep sink and stool seating.
- Put the range where the refrigerator was and added a refrigerator and freezer column along the same wall. The sink location stayed the same.
- Built a mudroom off the kitchen with storage for dog food and pet gear, as well as a spot for the dogs’ bowls. Now a functional side entrance, the mudroom also has lockers for outerwear and a mail-sorting center.