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Before & After: Multifunctional Kitchen Designs

With the kitchen devoted solely to cooking having gone the way of the butter churn, it’s no wonder that today’s kitchen remodels are multifunctional, too.

For gatherings large and small, a large cased opening where a wall had separated the kitchen and dining room allows for unimpeded flow. In one corner, an archway frames the entry to a snug hangout space for morning coffee, Zoom calls, or family game night in what was once an unheated mudroom. 
Rebecca McAlpin

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

BEFORE: The kitchen was chopped up into multiple dysfunctional areas. Rusting metal sink cabinets were squeezed into a corner with an eating nook walled off to one side (on the left), and the dishwasher and refrigerator were relegated to an unheated mudroom (on the right)
Rebecca McAlpin

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.

Left: An upper cabinet and drawers of varying sizes organize everyday gear, from art supplies and tools to water bottles and paper goods. The countertop serves as a coffee station. Right: A banquette adds seating and storage in the now-heated hangout space, a.k.a. “the jungle cafe.” Colorful cushions and wallpaper—depicting the flora and fauna of North Carolina, Adam’s home state—give the room its own identity.
Rebecca McAlpin

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 passageway to the lounge area was widened and given a flat arch to make it feel like entering a special space. Each member of the family of four has a dedicated storage drawer.
Rebecca McAlpin

“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.”

Both wetland ecologists, the homeowners found the sea-blue paint a natural choice. The fishscale ceramic wall tile was selected for its ease of care.
Rebecca McAlpin

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.

Floorplan Ian Worpole
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Put the main refrigerator on the wall where the range had been and amped up storage with tall pantry cabinets.
  4. Added an archway to a lounge area with a table, a banquette with storage, and a coffee bar with wall

Making Space for Laundry

Open to the now-smaller dining area, the enlarged kitchen has a clean and crisp “refined farmhouse” look, with an island at its center and cabinets that tap the full height of the 10-foot ceilings.
Susie Brenner
Laundry room off of a kitchen Susie Brenner

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.

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.

Floorplan Ian Worpole
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Built a half bath at the far end of the laundry, closing it off with a space-saving pocket door.

Adding a Larger Island

Kitchen with a large island
The island has a sink big enough to fill a large pasta pot and seating along two sides for guests to watch and applaud the chef. “We love the amount of prep space,” Byron says. “The stone is a great surface for presenting food.”
Robert Radifera

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.

The 48-inch range has six burners, a griddle, side-by-side ovens, and even a warming drawer—“everything I wanted,” Byron raves. The entry to the mudroom can be glimpsed at left.
Robert Radifera

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.

“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.

Floorplan Ian Worpole
  1. 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.
  2. Put the range where the refrigerator was and added a refrigerator and freezer column along the same wall. The sink location stayed the same.
  3. 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.