Kitchen Brain Dump

True to form, we’re all over the place over here. After switching up the ol’ blog design (and figuring out why the header was MIA for 20% of you – here’s hoping it’s back) we’ve also been plugging away at our $6 cabinet makeover but aren’t quite done with the painting/building-up process (here’s hoping we’ll have photos and lots o’ words to share early next week). But crazily enough, in the meantime we’ve also been doing some yard work, a random bedroom project, and have even started brainstorming the next phase of the kitchen. Hence this brain dump.

We’re still saving our pennies for things like new appliances to begin the next step of our slow & steady kitchen overhaul (remember when we upgraded the fireplace and wood paneling a little while back?). So as we wait for the bank account to say “sure, go buy a new wall oven that’s not bisque, and a new microwave that’s not black”, we thought meeting up with an old friend of ours to get a few kitchen ideas might be nice. Who is this mysterious old friend that we speak of? Why it’s Nancy Kulik, the lady who helped us plan our first kitchen makeover through Home Depot (they offer up Certified Kitchen Designers to help for free if you buy cabinets or counters through them, of which we got both).

We knew that we wanted white cabinets and light marble-esque counters (they were actually granite) during the planning stages of that makeover back in 2007 – so we didn’t look to Nancy for much “style advice” during our 113 day kitchen reno. But she was truly invaluable when it came to space planning. She just knows how people use kitchens and where appliances should be placed to maximize function, and we fully believe that our first kitchen would have been half as useful if we didn’t have her free-with-the-purchase-of-cabinets advice when it came to where to squeeze in a dishwasher, relocate the fridge, and build in the microwave. Lesson learned: sometimes the pros know best. So take their advice whenever it’s free (and even when it’s not if you need it). You know, so you don’t DIY a kitchen all alone that’s semi-functional when you can DIY something twice as useful with some pro advice and a smidge of well-spent cash (assuming you can’t track down free services like those from HD or Lowe’s).

But back to our buddy Nancy. We actually kept in touch with her over the last three years since our big kitchen makeover in 07′ (she and Clara are practically BFFs). So she was sweet enough to offer to glance at a floor plan and a few photos of our current house’s kitchen to give us a little here’s-what-I-would-do advice. Second lesson learned: there are definite perks to staying in touch with any kitchen geniuses that you may encounter.

But first a little refresher. You’ll remember that the eat-in part of our kitchen currently looks like this:

We’ve always planned to add a built-in island in place of the too-small dining table, just because when we knock out a huge doorway in the wall across from the fireplace to connect it to the dining room we thought two tables lined up through that opening would look odd (a big round one in the dining room and another one so nearby in the kitchen = crazytown).

So we thought a big round table in the dining room and a smaller built-in island by the fireplace would make sense and be less “hello table, meet my friend, table.”

Here’s an old floor plan that we shared last November before we even moved, just to give you an idea of what we thought might work when it came to the island (with the new wide doorway to the dining room that we plan to add worked in there too):

Oh while we’re on the topic of someday dreams, we’d love to paint our cabinets white and craigslist our white, bisque, and black appliances and upgrade to stainless steel. When it comes to our counters, we plan to work with the granite that we have, but completely redo the backsplash for a crisper, lighter look. And those florescent tube lights and big brown fan? They gots to go.

While we’re rattling off things on the list, of course we’d love to redo the floors but aren’t sure if there’s hardwood running all the way under the entire kitchen that we can refinish (we know it runs under part of it, but haven’t confirmed all of it) or if we’ll have to just redo them with something new entirely. The challenge of that is that we’ve learned that our floor joists aren’t built strongly enough to hold the weight of stone or ceramic tile (I thought slate would be awesome in there, so yeah… le bummer). We’ve toyed with everything from lightweight cork to some sort of linoleum (Candice Olsen has done some surprisingly awesome kitchens with that on the floor) but we’re nowhere near a decision. We’ll keep you posted though.

But I digress (who’s surprised?). Back to our talk with Nancy Kulik and the big kitchen idea she came up with (pretty much on the spot because she’s cool like that). Are you ready? She looked at the new to-scale floor plan that we brought with us (and a few photos) and realized that something was wrong, wrong, wrong on our little whole-house floor plan (seen three photos back, which we did months ago in November). That something? The fireplace is almost in the corner of the room in real life. So the placement of the fireplace in that old floor plan is totally off.

Thankfully it was drawn in the actual correct location in the newer kitchen-only floor plan that we brought with us to our Nancy meeting, but since it’s not actually centered on the wall (and practically kisses the door that leads to the hall), no island could be centered on it without nearly touching slash completely blocking that doorway (which we definitely want to keep open). So Nancy suggested something that we never would have thought of ourselves. And I mean never. Brace yourself. She proposed a floating L-shaped banquette that faces the fireplace and the frame wall.

Note: don’t mind that vertical line that follows the back of the banquette to the door to the living room, she just dropped that in to tell us that we should line those things up- but the banquette wouldn’t be attached to anything, it would just float in the middle of the room to keep things open- just like an island would, but since it would face the fireplace in a way that an island wouldn’t it could make a lot more sense.

I’m not going to lie. Both of our first impressions were “thanks, but no thanks.” But as she further explained her vision we slowly started to come around. See, I’ve always adored the cozy-factor that is an L-shaped banquette. And if you search “banquette” some pretty cute images come up on google and Pinterest. A breakfast nook-ish type space like that might not be everyone’s cup of tea (there are definitely some die-hard island-lovers out there), but we actually thought it could be even cozier than our previously considered idea of an island. Especially because it would make sense of the off-centered fireplace in a way that an island never could (since it couldn’t ever be centered on it or lined up in any real way). So we took Nancy’s little scrap paper sketch home and taped out her floating L-shaped banquette idea on the floor:

To explain what you’re looking at, the smaller L that’s being spooned by the bigger L would be the actual bench seating that faces the fireplace & the frame wall (which would make sense of the layout a bit more than a big floating rectangle that doesn’t line up with the fireplace at all). And the bigger L would be built-in cabinetry that wraps around the back of the bench seating to create a nice nestled nook that looks as good from the back and the side as the front (and provides a nice amount of concealed storage that’s accessible from the back, just like an island would have done).

As for the height, we thought keeping the tops of the cabinetry and the banquette seating the same height as the lower cabinets in the rest of the kitchen would make things feel cohesive and open (many of our inspiration images above have banquettes that are the same height as the base cabinets). And of course knocking out a huge 6 foot wide doorway to the dining room behind the banquette (which will have pretty cabinetry that faces the doorway so it looks good from behind) should keep the flow nice and airy – so nothing feels too boxed in.

I know it’s pretty much impossible to picture, so here’s John sitting at the fake banquette (although the table would be a smaller pedestal based thing, possibly square, oval, or even round – and possibly white or even a color, but probably not dark brown).

Note: we’ll have to move the lighting on this side of the room regardless of an island or banquette creation since it’s placed too far apart to make sense either way – and in the case of the banquette we’d center it over the table, not the seating (like many of the inspiration images).

It’s admittedly still impossible to picture (and I would bet $20 that nearly everyone reading this is completely not sold on this idea), but here’s a round pedestal table tossed in there in case that helps the picture come together for a few of you (since our banquette table will definitely have a pedestal base to make maximum room for legs).

And here’s a lower square table (of course too low for a banquette, but this sized top might be right) to possibly help the vision come together a little more. As of now we’re both actually bigger fans of a rounded top – like the one above – but who knows where we’ll end up.

Who am I kidding. This probably doesn’t help anyone. And you all think we’re crazy to consider this. I know it. And we might be. But we’re excited enough about it to at least keep this idea on the table for now. Har-har.

See how the fireplace in the corner almost makes sense in that location with the cozy banquette facing it (which will be lined up with the doorway to the living room, so that doesn’t feel random either)? Nope. You still don’t see it. Haha. Well in person it actually has a lot of balance and makes considerably more sense than any island shape / placement that we’ve taped out on the floor over the last eight months (of which there have been many). We might just have to build our cabinet-backed banquette with cardboard or something to try to envision it further. Or use some serious photoshop magic to help picture it (the challenge is finding photos of the backs of banquettes since so many shots are looking into the L-shaped seating nook as opposed to looking over its shoulder from this angle).

Oh and ignore the crazy white fireplace surround on the floor, since it seems to encroach and crowd the table waaaaay too much. When we redo the flooring in the room that’ll be remedied since we have plans to double side the fireplace down the road so you can peer into the living room through it (but will either make it gas or keep it completely inoperable so kiddo(s?) can crawl through the hole like it’s a secret passageway – so there won’t be a huge tile rectangle on the floor anymore).

I’ll leave you with this picture again, because it’s the one that makes my brain hurt the least when I try to picture things:

So all of this is to say that we taped off a crazy shape on the kitchen floor and we’re seriously considering some sort of cozy banquette-ish breakfast nook as opposed to a centered island with an off-centered fireplace nearby. It should be interesting. And the odds are that we’ll end up making some semblance of a decision someday. And we promise to keep you posted. Off to dip back into the aforementioned bedroom project and the office cabinet makeover. Ah DIY, you fickle friend. Maybe next week we’ll be less scattered. Who are we kidding? Probably not.

Comments

  1. Amanda T says

    Love the new blog look. Just letting you know, I’m on IE and the header is still MIA. When I open it on my iphone I get it though.

    Keep up the great work!

    • says

      Oh boo. We thought we fixed that. So sad. Can we ask what version of IE you’re in? Possibly a very old one? We thought we had it working 100% in IE7 and IE8. Thanks!

      xo,
      s

    • Amanda T says

      Hey, I’m running 7 and now I can see the header, but none of the pictures will load. I just get the blank box with the red X.

      Thank goodness for the iphone!

      Good luck!

    • says

      So sorry! We didn’t change anything on our end with the pics (they’ve been stored on an amazon.cloud server for the past three years) but it could be something like the anti-virus software on your computer (it can inexplicably block our pics, but if you enter YHL as a safe or authorized site they might pop back up). Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  2. says

    I think the idea of a banquette is great! It’s super cozy looking, especially near the fireplace. Can’t wait to see what you decide on!

    • Kelley says

      I totally fell for it as soon as I read the first mention! I think it’s a great idea. I can’t wait to see it unfold!

  3. esther aka craftyvox says

    While a breakfast nook like that would never be something I could have come up with myself (gotte love having Nancy’s around that do!!), I have to say the idea is totally awesome. I can definitely imagine how it’ll look in your kitchen, and I think it’ll fit the rest of the place really nicely!

  4. Kim says

    I think it’s smart to use “stand-ins” to try out the island/banquette (Isle-ette? banq-land?). Before you spend money on something like this, you want to make sure you will like it and it will work in the space.

  5. Meghan, UK says

    The kitchen friend is a keeper. This idea looks completely freaky with the kitchen-as-is, but thinking of it with the blown-out wall helps a lot. I’m excited by your plans! Can’t wait to see how it turns out (eventually!!)

  6. says

    I love the idea of a banquette but totally agree on your bet that most readers aren’t completely sold. Guess I’d need to better visualize what it’d look like with the opposing wall opened up because for now it seems to break up the room too much. It’s awesome though to play around with several ideas! Good luck!

  7. says

    You know what? I totally love it. We have a loveseat in the kitchen at my mum’s place (it abuts the cabinets) and it’s everyone’s favourite seat in the house. If you make the banquet semi-squishy it will give you the “two cosy places to sit” that you lost from ditching the formal living room (which you might miss once kiddo(s) is (are) older.
    I never really was sold on the idea of an island to be honest, with the long and skinny-ness of the room. I think they’re nicest if you have a proper “great room” style room, to define the kitchen area. I think this could be totally great.

    But I might pretend I’m not sold on it, just to make you build a banquette out of cardboard. haha.

    (You could have a bench on the side nearest the fire and a stool near the hallway (or that old high chair thing for clara!), as I think it would be nice to have the option of facing the kitchen whilst seating).

    Woo. Love it! That lady friend of yours is a genius.

    • says

      “…as I think it would be nice to have the option of facing the kitchen whilst seating.

      That was exactly my thought. Why would the short side of the L face the hallway when the action usually happens in the kitchen. Would it work to flip the banquette, so it opens into the kitchen? It would feel part of the kitchen since it is your “eat-in”, the view would be more interesting, it would be easier to serve food from the kitchen, and when Clara is older, you can keep an eye on her while she does her homework.

      BTW, I immediately loved the banquette idea.

    • says

      Our favorite two views from the kitchen are the frame wall and the fireplace, so we wouldn’t mind facing those areas (as opposed to looking at dirty dishes in the sink, haha). That’s actually the way we sit at the current table, so maybe we’re just used to it. We just think the L facing that way is the only way to balance the off-center fireplace (by facing it, and sort of hugging it from afar so it makes sense). If it faces the other way it would just make the room feel bottom heavy I think (fireplace too close to the wall, with L-shaped cabinetry down there next to it). So hard to explain, sorry! Hope that makes sense!

      xo,
      s

    • says

      Martha – I meant like a padded ottoman bench, not one of the built in ones. This wouldn’t interrupt the visual effect of nestling the fire, but means you can sit facing the kitchen if someone is cooking or you just really want to stare at dirty dishes :)

  8. says

    I love it! When you were talking about having the island i never really thought it was a good idea. I thought it would block off the fireplace and you would never really be able to see it. Maybe you can try putting your bench from the kitchen table there to test it out.

    • says

      Oh yeah! We could definitely break out some ottoman benches that we have around the house to make an L shape! We’ll have to drag some more stuff in there soon!

      xo,
      s

    • Hayley says

      Ditto. The island idea didn’t jive with me – the kitchen is a slightly odd place for a fireplace, but with a banquette you’ll make sense of it rather than hide it. Kudos on being open to such a left field idea!

  9. Lucy says

    hey guys!

    just thought I’d let you know, Firefox 6 isn’t showing blog post photos today :-( But I can see the header! (Looks great!) x

    • says

      Oh man, I have no idea why that would be. I don’t think that’s a browser issue- so maybe it’s anti virus software that you have running on your computer that’s blocking them? I have heard you can go in and tell it that YHL pics are “approved” by entering our url or something and all the pics will show up. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

    • says

      Same here – I could see photos yesterday but now they’re gone on all posts, just not this one.

      Work blocks photos on some other sites, but never this one…

    • says

      We have our pics on the same amazon.cloud server that they’ve been on for the past three years so we’re stumped. Wish we changed something so we could change it back- but we don’t touch that stuff! Maybe it’s just an amazon.cloud glitch for some folks and they’ll fix it on their end? No idea!

      xo,
      s

    • says

      Same here – work blocks photos from some blogs, but never this one until today. I can see the header and all the pictures on the sidebar, but none in the post.

    • says

      So sorry guys! Wish we could help! It seems like it’s affecting around 2% of our readers so it’s odd that it would be an issue on amazon.cloud (which is where all our pics are stored) since it would most likely affect everyone. Can’t figure it out though since we didn’t change anything and it seems like most folks can see them- which is what leads me to think that it could be a virus software that just got an update (which can be remedied by adding us to your safe list so it lets those images load). Again so sorry for the trouble! Wish it was something we could fix on our end!

      xo,
      s

    • Jamie says

      I am having the same problem. I am usually always able to see the pictures so I don’t think it’s an anti-virus software problem

    • says

      You might just all be running Norton or something else, so in general those issues usually happen to a number of people at the same time and Norton makes an update or a change and it occurs. We didn’t change anything about our photos at all (we never do, they’re always hosted on amazon cloud, where they’ve been for the last 3 years). So sorry! Wish it was on our end so we could fix it!

      xo,
      s

    • Clarissa says

      Same issue to report as well. Firefox and IE both don’t have photos. Not sure what could have changed. This morning the header didn’t show up on IE but the pictures did, now the header works and the pictures went kaput. There’s always tomorrow!

    • says

      So sorry guys! We can promise you that the photos are being hosted in exactly the same place they always have been so this has nothing to do with the blog redesign but does occasionally happen to small groups of readers. And it kills us! There’s nothing we want more than you guys to see our pics! But it’s sadly not anything we can do on our end. We have passed along that anti-virus tip since it has worked for people in the past. Hope it helps and we hope they’re back up soon for ya!

      xo,
      s

  10. says

    I love those cabinet designers and they’ve helped us twice so far! We went to Lowe’s both times and as long as you have your dimensions and make an appointment, they’ll give you a little virtual layout for free! We did it with our old kitchen and it was great to be like “add a corner cabinet there, wait no a lazy susan, put glass in it” and actually be able to see it. The second time was for office built-ins, for which they wanted $5k, so we obviously didn’t go through with…

    And you got yours for $6. I’m still jealous about that… ;)

  11. says

    I love the pictures of the already done kitchens and I think it would look great in yours. Are you going to change the flooring? susan

  12. Sarah says

    I really love this idea. Can’t wait to see it realized. Also can’t wait to see when your cabinets are painted!

    • says

      What? Oh no! The pics in the post are missing? Yikes, don’t have any idea what would cause that since we haven’t changed anything on our end with regard to those. We have heard that some people’s virus software can block them (but you can go in and enter our url to tell it to unblock them). Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

    • says

      So sorry! That issue doesn’t seem to have anything to do with your browser or the redesign (we didn’t change anything with regards to our photos) so our best guess would be that your anti-virus software might have started randomly blocking them but you can add YHL to your “safe” list to hopefully get them to pop up again. Hope it helps! Wish there was something we could do on our end to help!

      xo,
      s

    • Ally says

      i’m on windows 7 and i’m good to go, everything looks great. It must be the work of an anti-virus program. New format us suuuuperb you guys :)

    • Pammy says

      This is the saddest thing ever. The blog photos in this post and all previous ones aren’t loading anymore on my office computer… I don’t have the ability to change any of the security settings. I guess i’ll be reading YHL in the evenings from now on :(

    • says

      So sorry! It also could be that your work blocked out pics. Here’s hoping it’s just a day or two glitch. Sometimes a few folks say they’re gone and a day or two later they say “yay! they’re back” – which of course thrills us to no end!

      xo,
      s