Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kitchen Renovation: Updating a U-Shaped Layout

I'm sure that the thought of undertaking a kitchen renovation has given pause to many.  After all, the kitchen is known for its potential to be one of the most expensive areas of the home to update.  Add to that the inconvenience & time required and even the most stout-hearted homeowner must become trepidatious.

I knew that careful planning was in order. To start with, I needed a clear understanding of the benefits that we already enjoyed as well as  the problems that we expected this renovation to solve.  In other words, I needed to identify The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly!

Now I've had years of experience analyzing & architecting computer systems but experience reviewing a kitchen, not so much.  Let's face it, developing a critical eye can take years and though I was capable of doing the research I was unwilling to pay for the mistakes I knew I would make along the way.  So I took a practical approach and consulted with experts.

Tanya Collins (Tanya Collins Design) and Richard Heller (Richard Heller Renovations) helped me navigate the renovation perils and revealed wonderful options that I never would have discovered on my own.  I could write a whole article on the benefits of including experts on your renovation team (and probably will at some point) but right now I'll return to the task at hand, analyzing the state of the old kitchen against my family's current requirements.

Here's what we came up with.

The Good

The U-shaped layout had a fairly efficient work triangle.

The Kitchen size was adequate for my family.

The Pantry provided for ample storage.

The Breakfast Area accommodated six comfortably while the Dining Room accommodated at least ten; additional seating in the Kitchen wasn't a requirement.

The island made a great buffet for large dinner parties where both the Breakfast Area & the Dining Room were used.

The Bad

The cupboard valances hung so low that it was difficult to utilize the counter space underneath.

The island provided the only good preparation area.
The island provided the only drawers.

It was a tight fit between the island & the fridge.

The fridge & the range were on their last legs, in fact the fridge died before the renovation actually began.

The ceramic tile floor had failed, tiles were cracked & loose and grout was missing.

And The Ugly

The original white, melamine cupboard doors had yellowed (all in different shades).

The bulkheads meant to be decorative were anything but.

Viewed from the Dining Room, the back of the island looked like a huge, white coffin.

The fluorescent skylight (need I say more?).

The Preliminary Floor Plan

Although I was committed to correcting The Bad, I have to admit it took a while for me to come around to addressing And The Ugly.  After all, ugly can still be functional and after absorbing the shock to my budget that the replacement of 700 sq. ft. of tile entailed I was reluctant to keep adding to the tally.

Fortunately Tanya & Richard managed to talk some sense into me and we arrived at the following.

Removing the bulkheads and extending the cabinets to the ceiling made a big difference but the most audacious change was the elimination of the upper cabinets on the back wall.

Looking at the diagram you can get an ideal of how dramatically the space was expanded.

Total cupboard space remained the same; what was lost from the back wall was recovered from higher upper cabinets and additional depth of the upper cabinets on the fridge wall.

Twelve new drawers facilitate storage & organization.

With additional preparation space on each side of the range we discussed eliminating the island.  In the end I opted for a slightly smaller, more elegant piece.

Valuable inches were gained with a new, counter-depth fridge.  The fridge could have been moved back even further but it required a change to the load-bearing wall behind it.  I just couldn't reconcile this with the budget and I don't regret passing on this opportunity.

With the preliminary floor plan in place it was time for the final specification of the finishes & fixtures.

Time to stop swooning over pretty pictures & make a commitment!


Kitchen Renovation: Updating a U-Shaped Layout by  on 2014-04-14  Identifying The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly of my current kitchen design.

Find Tatiana Dokuchic on Google+


  1. This sounds like a great update - I can't wait to see it finished!

  2. Good luck Tatiana! Looks great so far. Memories of our painful process but it's SO worth it!

    1. Thanks, Andrea!

      It's funny how the painful memories fade away so quickly (though it seems like a nightmare while you're living it). I agree, it's very much worth it :)

  3. Love how you organized your thoughts in terms of The Good, Bad and Ugly. I have to admit a agree with your 'uglys'. The ceramic floor with the wear and tear and the fluorescent lights. The cupboard valances would be frustrating too. I do love the island and I am looking forward to seeing the after with all of the new 'good' features! Great post to read!

    1. Hi Thea!

      Since I picked those categories I keep thinking of Clint Eastwood coming in & shooting up the kitchen as part of the demolition. It appears I'm highly influenced by old books & movies ;)

      I was always scraping my hands on the valances when I moved things to the back of the counter so I'm really glad to see those go. I'm still whining about the cost of replacing the ceramic tile (it's everywhere) but on the up side it does look much better now and the fluorescent lights were just a bad idea from the very beginning.

      Thanks for dropping in, perhaps next time you come over you could bring a slice of your Angel Food Bunny Cake ;) It looks delicious!

  4. Lol that island does look like a bit of a coffin!! The new layout looks great -- can't wait to see how the room comes together :)

    1. And you didn't even see the back of the island, Tia!

      Once I got the coffin image into my head it was a goner even though it was very functional, On the bright side, it did find a good home in my contractor's workshop so I'm not feeling too bad about its removal.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Coffin haha. I'm looking at doing a kitchen reno soon too. I can't wait to see it when it's done.

    1. Kind of scary isn't it, Dana ;)

      Good luck with your own kitchen reno. I found that the initial research part, where you get to dream about what you would like, is really a lot of fun. Take a moment or two to savour it before the realities of budget & timing set in.

  6. So glad to hear you brought in experts. It's worth every penny when doing a costly reno. Looking forward to hearing about the process and seeing it finished. Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Vanessa!

      I agree, bringing in experts was worth every penny. I'm from a family of hard-core DIYers (my father built his own house from the ground up & it came out great) so it took me a while to accept that the most efficient & cost effective way for me to do this was with help. So glad I figured that out first.

  7. Looks like you covered all the bases. I laughed at your "ugly" list! I think you made really good use of your experts - I'll keep that in mind next time I am contemplating a reno.

    1. Hi, Dani!

      I had a lot of fun writing up the ugly list, living with it not so much ') One of the great things about both Tanya & Richard is that they were there when you needed them and were otherwise happy to let you do your own thing which made for a great team.

      Thanks for popping in to take a look.

  8. Kitchen renos must be my fav, I love the design concept, can't wait to see the finished product! :)

    1. Thanks, Laurie!

      Yes, there's so much to do in the kitchen it certainly makes for an interesting reno. I didn't even realize how many details were involved until I had to start doing the research on all of them; from cupboard pulls to countertops so to speak.

  9. I am going to keep monitoring and see your " frame of mind" at the end LOL

    1. Sounds like a plan, Linda :)

      The very worst part was when they were pulling up the tile floor. Dust everywhere & I'm allergic to it. After that settled down things got a lot better. Thanks for taking a look!

  10. It seems like your current kitchen provides a pretty great canvas for a renovation. I think that your idea about the higher cabinets to increase the use of counter space is something that will make your kitchen feel bigger. The plan looks good, I can't wait to see how it turns out!

  11. My kitchen has a U-shaped layout, so these instructions will help me know a few tips for renovating it. You're right about how the kitchen island can make for a good buffet style dinner. Perhaps I should keep it and repaint my cabinets and add new flooring to make it look more modern. Thanks for posting this!

  12. Nice blog and nice concept. You have used your experts in a very good way to make your kitchen beautiful with updated with a U Shaped Layout. Nice update of kitchen renovation you did it, keep share with us.

  13. Can you post picture of the update please?