The Meadowlark Blog
Meadowlark Design+Build

Remodeling Your Kitchen – Seeing Beyond the Obvious Challenges

This 100+ year old Victorian was beloved by our clients as they had lived there for over 30 years. They loved the home and its location right in the heart of the Old West Side of Ann Arbor. What they didn’t love was the small kitchen that was long overdue for some updates. They had a vision of more storage, more countertop space and a more efficient layout, but with two windows, three doorways and a chimney, they just couldn’t envision a layout that would achieve their wants and needs without having to do a major addition. Adding insult to injury – the home had been registered historic by the local Historic District Commission (HDC), making any renovations to the exterior of the home complicated. “Complicated” to them translated into “costly” and they did not want to break the bank on this remodel.

Taking on the Challenges – Before and After Photos of Kitchen Remodel

The clients came to Meadowlark looking for solutions that would transform the space without having to make any major modifications to the home. Having dealt with many small kitchen remodels – our designers were excited to take on the challenge!

A Small Kitchen Footprint (125 Square Feet)

Before and After floorpan of small kitchen remodel

Two doors, one passageway, an awkwardly placed window, and a chimney created a kitchen that had limited wall space to utilize for cabinetry. Our designers immediately were drawn to the wasted wall spaces next to the chimney and from the window to the basement door. Capturing that wall space in some fashion would open up loads of opportunities for reconfiguring the kitchen space – greatly improving the function and storage. Moving the window was an obvious solution. However, with HDC registry, this was not trivial.

Historic Registry – Moving an Historic Window

Clearly – moving the window on the north wall would open up additional wall space. To accomplish this, approval from the HDC was required. Having completed many HDC registered home remodels, our design team was well versed in the steps needed to accomplish this goal. In the end the window was moved approximately 6 feet. With this newly gained wall space, our designers were able to relocate a larger refrigerator in its place – opening up the opposite wall for opportunities for more storage and counter space. The new window location also created the perfect space to accommodate the clearance needed for the basement door opening. In addition, permission was granted to change the existing glass to a more energy-efficient tempered glass.

Before and After Photo of Small Kitchen Remodel in Historic Home

Working With Existing Obstructions – Turning Challenges into Opportunities

The existing chimney stuck out like a sore thumb with the current kitchen configuration. Moving the chimney (used for venting mechanicals in the basement) was not an option, thus our designers used the old adage “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” and created a peninsula that would help to “absorb” the weight of the chimney dimensions. To balance the chimney scale they designed cabinetry that lined with the chimney that went all the way to the ceiling and framed everything with beautiful crown molding. The result is a design feature that instead of sticking out – now looks like it was intentionally added to create interest and to frame the kitchen space.

Before and After Photos of Small Kitchen Remodel

100 Year Old Construction – Uneven Walls and Ceilings

Our clients wanted a traditional feel to this Victorian home. Using crown molding not only created the traditional aesthetic, it also helped tie in the cabinetry to the chimney structure and provide the perfect frame for the taller to-the-ceiling cabinetry. The existing structure had walls and a ceiling that were out of plumb and uneven. If you have ever tried to put crown molding on an uneven ceiling and walls that are out of plumb – then you understand how difficult this is. This remodel provided the perfect opportunity to rebuild the existing walls and straighten everything up so the crown molding perfectly framed the kitchen space.

Before and After Photos of small kitchen remodel

Using Semi-custom Cabinetry to Utilize Every Square Inch of Space

Our very clever designers are well versed in our semi-custom cabinet lines and know how to come up with solutions to optimize the function of the kitchen. Our clients wanted to come up with solutions that helped to get the everyday “stuff” off of the kitchen counters. Customizing a standard drawer base cabinet to work around the chimney bump-out created drawer space to help with the daily clutter and a wine rack to keep your “everyday” wines. In addition a customized drawer-microwave cabinet keeps the microwave off the counter.

Before and After Photos of small kitchen remodel

Keeping a Realistic Kitchen Remodel Budget

Kitchen remodels are great for ROI (Return on Investment), but you don’t want to break the bank or put more into the home than the neighborhood will justify. You never want to be the biggest or most expensive house on the block. The good news for these clients was that this home was in a neighborhood that had shown consistent appreciation since they purchased the home in the 1980’s. Even with that, it is important to determine a realistic budget that accomplishes what you need, but does not stress your financial situation. Our clients realized that and decided (for many reasons), adding on to the kitchen wasn’t feasible. The good news is that with the design solutions that were presented to them, they knew they could achieve their goals working within the existing kitchen footprint.

Keeping it Fun and Personalized

Historic Home Small Kitchen Remodel

Our clients wanted to add some of their fun personality to there new kitchen space. With a love of all things vintage, they brought our designers a photo of a cherry-red Big Chill range and vent hood that they had been lusting after. Our designers quickly embraced the wonderful line of Big Chill appliances and featured them into the new kitchen remodel. The mix of retro-style appliances helped to meld the existing historic aesthetic of the home with the homeowners’ fun personal style.

The Perfect Small-Kitchen Remodel

Despite the challenges presented by the small footprint, this quaint 100-year-old Victorian’s kitchen was brought into the 21st century by using creative space planning melded with the clients fun and funky design aesthetic. With a pat on the back from the local historical district commission, this new kitchen stays true to the original architectural style of the home but gives the clients all the modern bells and whistles packaged in a colorful, yet classic room that fits seamlessly into the surrounding spaces.

Small kitchen remodel before and after photos

Have some challenges with your small kitchen? Not sure what you can do with the space? Our designers are well equipped to take on the challenge and would love to start the conversation.

By Susan Christian