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Monday, 24 August 2009


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Two appliances?...now you really better check into the "cash for appliances" program that is apparently forthcoming. It's supposed to be the next "cash for clunkers." Seriously.

At the risk of sounding simplistic, couldn't you just extend the wall where the range already sticks past an inch, maybe just a painted 2x4 on the corner or something, slide the range over another 3/4 of an inch, move the cabinet also, and you can fit a standard size 28 5/8" refrigerator in there. And the gov is getting ready to do something simular to cash-for-clunkers with appliances.
Yes, I know, it's the tightwad situation. But since I've retired I've been paying more attention to the "do more with less" attitude.

Woohoo for the solution to your kitchen woes. I've a freezer on the bottom model and just love it. I also am in a small kitchen. Good design is so important. :)

Mike, I like your thinking, but one thing to keep in mind is that the refrigerator, range and sink should form a triangle to make cooking and prep more convenient. That could be accomplished by moving the range to the space by the double cabinet on the wall. Doing that might also free up some space to put the microwave in a more convenient spot than on top of the refrigerator. Also, don't forget that if you buy a fridge with an ice-maker, you will have to run a line to a nearby cold water pipe to provide water for it. Best of luck, my kitchen has plenty of "issues" too.

As regards the 24 inch stove. Are we to assume that you will be getting the "ECK L0HO - Special Model for Elderly"?

Hey, don't rush me. I'm moseying along taking my own good time getting elderly.


Roger Engle is right! Do that first!

Dear Mike,

If all this started because of your back. why don't you simply construct - or have constructed - a 28" wide platform - complete with storage drawer, fron painted white - under the location of you current fridge? This would raise the fridge up to a comfortable height.

The microwave would move over to the left top cupboard, ( with or without doors) and the contents of that cupboard could be stored in the new bottow drawer under in the platform under the fridge.

No need to sell that three volume set - if you do it's gone forever. And, no need to spend large amounts of money new appliances you may not need.

Anyway, them's my thoughts.

Best wishes


(Beware fancy new appliances. I recently bought a $50 20-year-old used Maytag washer to replace a computerized state of the art washing machine that broke down after three years - just after all the warrantees had expired. It was too expensive to fix.)

If it were my place...
1) I would rip out that cabinet thing on the left of the fridge. I have to believe, even though the horizontal surfaces inside that thing may be full, much of that space is wasted inside of that thing.
2) Rip out the counter unit between the fridge and the stove.
3) move the stove over an inch so I didn't have as narrow an opening into the kitchen.
4) get a regular sized fridge and throw it into the corner.
5) make a table/butcher'block thing that fits tightly in the space between the fridge and the stove with open shelves underneath (I wouldn't worry about aesthetics, I would just want to try out the concept before making or buying a quality item).
6) Put in a shelf running about refrigerator height from the fridge across to the doorway above the stove. I would put hooks under the shelf for hanging pots, pans, etc.

I really would want that extra space between the fridge and stove as prep space and would pretty much do anything to get it.

While it's true that a work triangle in kitchens is generally desirable, moving the range to where the double cabinet is wouldn't provide a very nice one in this case. Ignoring the fact that there may not be electric for a range anyway, that would leave *a lot* of space to traverse between the three points of the triangle -- and probably a worse situation than exists at present.

Oh, and Mike -- you may want to check out http://theslowhome.com -- it's a site that talks about these sorts of problems every day.

Why not put the fridge to the right of the double cabinet on the right wall, and give yourself an extended countertop to the left of the range, perhaps with a shelf below for the microwave?

Anyone else interested in seeing what Mike F. comes up with as a solution? I sure am!

In light of your description in the previous post, it looks like your kitchen is actually fairly roomy and square-ish.

To add to the list of conflicting advice:

1. Is it impossible to move the fridge to the opposite corner, beside the dishwasher? That would relocate 28" of counter space beside the range, above which you could reclaim some cabinet space.

2. Otherwise, I think I would tear down the built-in cabinets/drawers and move the fridge there to free some counter space.

Remodeling is always easier when it's somebody else's house, I've noticed... ;)

Put a full size fridge next to the double cabinet and the opening if it fits. Electric(if needed)is easier to deal with in this situation than H2O for ice. You don't need no stinkin' ice maker!That way you get a 36" base cabinet and counter top next to that range.

hey mike... how much room is there between the double cabinet on the wall to the right of the double window and the doorway there... ? You could move the fridge over there perhaps, and get some cheap ikea/target solution for the space between the counter unit & range and that built-in white cabinet. Having the fridge over there would likely make the whole space much friendlier, and you wouldn't have to deal with the headache of a 24" range. Ever cook anything in the oven?

Sorry, the drawing is not to scale over there. The double cabinets are 36" wide, but the space between them in the door is just 14" or so. Plus the cabinets couldn't be removed to make way for the fridge, because it would overlap the window.

Man, I sure hope nobody brand new is discovering TOP right now! They'll think we don't talk about photography at all. Yeesh.


Don't worry about the off topic content Mike. If anyone is concerned tell them this is actually a redesign of your 'homely feel' darkroom and you are using everyday items to denote positions ie fridge is fridge for storing film, the cabinets to store the necessary paper in various sizes, the cooker is the enlarger with your camera day-bag casually hanging on the door handle. I do like your modern touch of the illuminated timer on the wall, complete with the white on black configuration.
Think of it that way and you and a couple of thousand others will soon have this fixed! :-)

i'm a industrial designer - I mostly make shops where clients want to put more stuff in than legally allowed...

My take:

Pull out stove and small useless 10" counter.
Pull ou big cabinet, put next to small cabinet.
The whole right wall is now free.
Put stove near window, put big freezer next to door.
Fill space between the two with a real work space.

I don't have the exact size of all your furniture, but you might even be able to do:
cabinet, big cabinet, fridge and have a near perfect layout.

In any case the back to back layout is the one preferred by most good professional chefs.


Yeah, my solution of moving that wall where the double cabinet is would be good. :-)

Otherwise: move the tall and narrow cabinet beside the fridge to the wall with the double cabinet. Or, if it's too wide, build a new one there. It's easier to buy a couple of planks than to buy a new electrical appliance. And you'd get a much wider work surface. 25 cm is not enough.

Second: if the area between the dishwasher and the wall is wide enough, move the tall cabinet there. Move fridge to the corner, hang the cabinet from above the dishwasher to between the fridge and the stove. Now you've got a wider work surface plus you can have some decent drawers between the fridge and the stove.

You can also move the sink and the dishwasher to the left. 6-7 inches or so. (It should be just the matter of putting longer pipes in.) You can put the fridge in the corner. The single hanging cabinet goes to the wall where the fridge is now. The remaining 12" to the left of the sink would be enough to put stuff temporarily.

Your current layout is problematic in one more sense. You should have the stove near the sink with a work surface between them. Ideally, it would be sink-dishwasher-stove, where the dishwasher would have a work surface on top. Is there a particular reason why the sink has to be right below the window? I'm assuming you have the typical American windows that go up and down instead of the European ones that open like a cupboard.

BTW, just a cultural observation: that stove is wasteful. Why should there be so much empty space between the rings? I'm certain that a European 24" stove does its job equally well. Yeah, maybe you can't put a 15 kilo turkey inside the oven, but how many times during a year you do that anyway?

Mike, I just emailed you about the Leica books.

As for the kitchen, how big is the space next to the double cabinet on the right side of the drawing? (between the cabinet and the doorframe)


Dear Mike

I recommend about a quarter of a pound of Semtex (after evacuating the house and your neighbours) and then employ Mike F on the re-design and re-build.

Richard Kevern

Bad knees as well? Rats! Caught both ways then.

Like b. Kelley, I would put the fridge by the door to the living room. The double cabinet can be altered or cheaply replaced, but you could have the fridge that you want. It would not be hard to install a socket outlet to power the thing, if there is not one already.

To give better access to the back and basement doors the range can be moved along about 14". There would probably be little or no electrical work. A 24" cupboard and worktop can be installed to the left of the range. The microwave can go above on a shelf at at eye level. The narrow brown cupboard could go to the right, with a nice radiused corner to save your hip bones. The worktop would not be too far from the fridge.

This plan requires as little disruption and expense as possible to get a better kitchen. The only downside is that although you may end up with more cabinet space some of it might be be lower down, according to what you can do with the double cabinet.

I'm intrigued by "bisque". I think Billy Connolly refers to it as "beige".

You should at least put an affiliate link to 24 in electric ranges on Amazon.


How about - rip out the token 10 inch unit between the fridge and the oven, thus leaving plenty of space to juggle the fridge and oven to make a better fit regardless of the width.
Then, relocate the double cupboard out of the corner and refix it close to the doorway into the living room.
Having done that, make a new 20 inch wide workbench to run across the whole width of the room in front of the window from the top left hand corner (just clearing the dishwasher door) to the top right hand corner, now vacated by the cupboard. You can put doors and shelves underneath for more storage and you get a working surface that's around 13 ft long!
Sure, it takes up floor space and makes the kitchen narrower, but you gain a big work top with good window lighting, storage space underneath, you can fit 28 inch plus appliances, and you don't have to change plumbing or electrics.
And with just yourself and Zander there I don't think the narrower floor space would be a problem. And since you're 6'2" you won't have a problem reaching over the 20" worktop to open and close the window.

"spatial visualization,".

I wish I'd used that when I bought a four poster bed for a room that's 11ft x 8ft

Hi Mike,
When my wife and I designed our kitchen, we drew an accurate scale plan of the room including window and door locations, and then cut out paper shapes for all the standard cabinet and appliance sizes. Then we just re-arranged the shapes on the plan to get the most workable solution. Maybe not as elegant as software, but it worked for us.
Another thought - talk to a boat designer. They are used to getting the most functionality out of small spaces.


What a cool kitch(en)-shot ;-)
You do of course know, that there is a Flickr-group for afficionados of vintage kitchens?

(totally uncertified DIY kitchen builder)

I'm waiting for the "Cash for old film cameras" stimulus. In the current Washington mindset, it's not that far-fetched an idea.

Would it not be much easier to remove the white cabinets in the left side and replace them with overhead cabinets. This would open up so much room for the refrig. In fact you may be able to change the cabinet doors on the white cabinets and not even have to buy new cabinets, use them for the overhead design? Seems like a simple and cheap fix to your current challenge.

Geez why does anyone care? Mike needed some filler...

Mike, if this was one of those fancy photo columns you would have a 360 degree QuickTime VR photo so that we could snoop around your kitchen. You would set up links so that we could check out your beer supply, find out which spaghetti sauce you use and and look at the dirty dish rags under the sink.
On second thought, maybe you shouldn't.
Just don't use the same kitchen guy I did. $20,000 later and I have a 1/2 inch gap behind my built in stove, so the crumbs can fall down.

OT: If those meds bottles on top of the fridge are in use, place them elsewhere. Heat ain't too good for meds.

Mike, Just get rid of the small cabinet between the range and refridge-- Get the bigger refridge and move the range over to the left 6". Then make a drop leaf prep area or get a rolling cart that can be moved around for prep, pots & pans.
I wish I had as much space as you do to change things.

Jeff Hartage has it right, the double cabinet to the left of the range is your enemy. If you really need the space, put in some upper cabinets along the wall and do a microvave combination range vent thing over the stove. Next, take your girlfriend to Cambodia, get her a lobster dinner, pay more than a dollar, the second you get back, get rid of that wood paneling. ch

ps, the freezer on the bottom thing is really sweet, one of those things that will cause you to marvel at the improvement every day.

Maybe you have discovered a popular topic for a whole new blog!
"The Online Kitchener" debuts.

Well, considering Mike's PHOTOS of lovely mid western weather, and my personal thoughts about my own house on my "bad" days; maybe the remodeling tool of last resort, a mild, roof removing "tornadic" episode is called for.

Just a thought on a "bad" morning.


Have you by any chance considered separating the freezer and fridge? We wound up buying a full-size Whirlpool fridge (no freezer unit) and sticking a chest freezer in the basement. For us, this works really well because of the amount of fresh produce we eat, and we only dive into the freezer a couple times a week. Best of all, the combination was only about $700 total.

This wouldn't work for folks who open the freezer five times a day, unless they really felt they needed the stair workout, too.

Good luck with your solution. We're currently living in an old 700 square foot ex-hovel that was built by some creative recyclers about seventy years ago. Challenges abound.


If you're worried about being off-topic, why don't you make a photographic record of the evolution of your kitchen, and post the results after the transition is complete? I'm sure there's an interesting conversation in there somewhere about photography's power to document change, and its usefulness as a medium for exchanging information.

Since your achy back is what started this whole process, perhaps you won't be too keen to personally take on some of the reconstruction projects suggested here; yet then you would have the issue of paying others to do that kind of work, and you've already made it pretty clear you want to economize as much as possible. You might want to therefore simply replace the fridge with a more slender (and energy-efficient) model with the freezer on the bottom, and get a supplemental "dorm size" fridge for the basement if you're worried about having less storage capacity. You could keep less frequently-accessed items, and the beer and cheese, down there...the exercise would be good for you ; )

This would keep upheaval and cost to a minimum. And if your current fridge is still functioning well, sell it (instead of your Leica books!) locally or at least donate it if you can find a non-profit that wants it, and take the tax deduction.

I agree with a previous poster who recommended skipping the ice maker. I know someone who left on vacation and came back to find the line to the ice maker (they are usually only plastic tubing) had come loose and flooded the kitchen.

Why don't you try to hang in there a little while to see if the "cash for clunker appliances" program materializes, or at least until Labor Day, which is typically a big sale event period for appliances (at least it is here on the east coast)? A matching fridge/range set in stainless steel would be groovy.

And I would love to see photographic evidence of the albino squirrel.

Jeff Hartge is right! Do that second!

Solution is fairly obvious.

Remove the verticle cabinets and install horizontal cabinets w/full sliders to acess things all the way back. This would alow reg sized fridge increase your counter space between fridge and stove and you could align stove with door jab.

Added bonus install microwave in the cabinets above fridge and you wouldn't have to bend over to acess the lower drawers in the verticle cabinets.


And by the way, the Leica books sound absolutely yummy. But my ability to spend hundreds of dollars on wonderful work that I approve of but really have very little use for just isn't there, so I won't be bidding I'm afraid.

Not to derail things from the topic at hand, but I for one would be very interested in hearing about the albino squirrel.


That corner cabinet's gotta go. Take it out, move your new fridge to the corner. Add counter and drawers/cupboards between fridge and stove (after moving stove 1" left), and put a row of cupboards above the counter and fridge. You'll have more counter, cupboards, and fridge! (Put the microwave on a shelf above the stove.)

Looing at your kitchen plan I realized that the source of the problem is using inches I'm sure it'd fit if you try in meters and centimeters. :-)

I lived in an aparment that had a tiny toilet (smurf measurements, I'm sure), it was like sitting on the floor. Anyway, we tried replacing it, but we couldn't change it for anything bigger, otherwise the door bathroom wouldn't open.

I know this post doesn't help you at all, but at least I want to show my support

Save $ and the World...

Look here Mike


Mike, you know how people love to be right...why don't you charge everyone with an idea for your renovations $5 to join a pool, then when you decide on a winner, the person(s) submitting that idea gets 50% of the pot and you keep the rest. It's all about cash flow. Or is that illegal online? Just a thought. On the other hand, a limited-edition run of prints if you can get a shot of the elusive albino squirrel might pay for a complete remodel.

I see what the problem is. You're in the wrong universe. Now there is a parallel one just around the corner (to translate into Earthling tongue), and in that one fridges are not necessary. You do need toewarmers though.


"I'm waiting for the "Cash for old film cameras" stimulus."

problem is you will be only allowed to buy new gear from US companies (not by Canon, Nikon, Fuji...) Basically, this leaves you with the option of getting an iphone ;)

Couldn't you just convert the space to a proper darkroom? If I remember correctly bisque doesn't look that bad under an OC12 filter.

I'd go with your revised suggestion of removing the built in and placing the fridge there with a widened working space. A place to look for new/used cabinets, possibly even matching your existing cabinets is a habitat for humanity re-store or a similar salvage/repurposing store. You can get it cheap, its recycled and it matches (well, if you can find it). For a counter top solution, Ikea sells butcher block couters at very good prices in custom sizes.

My wife and I went with the re-store option when remodling our kitchen. We found a 15" bottom cabinet, an 18" botton cabinet and an 18" top cabinet that matched our existing ones, though the finish was wrong. All were being painted white anyway, so the finish didn't matter. It helped that our kitchen is pretty standard builder grade from the late 80's early 90's, but you'd be suprised what you can find at some of the re-stores. I doubt the total cost was $150 for the new cabinets.

It's probably not very helpfull, but I can't help making a comment on standards and design.
In Denmark, where I live, build-in kitchen cabinets and appliences have been standardized since the late 1960's. A number of firms supplies pre-build cabinets in widths of 40, 50, 60 etc. centimeters, and in different (standard) heights and depths. Refridgerators, owens, dishwashers, etc. allso comes in standard width - usually 60 cm, but 50, 70 and 80 cm. models exists - so as to fit into cabinets. Other elements, such as racks, cupboards, etc, fits into the standard as well.
I made a complete renovation of my own kitchen some years ago. The hard stuff was breaking down and rebuilding walls and floor. Putting up the actual kitchen elements was more like building with Lego-blocks....
The sweedish company Ikea is a typical example. Even though their kitchen-range is modestly priced, they seem like value for the money. They have shops in the USA - take a look at http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/departments/kitchen/
If Mikes experience is typical, it seems to me that this type of standardization is much less common in the USA. That puzles me, since being a historian I know that USA has generally been pionering mass production, standardization and scientific management in industry through most of the 20th century....

We have a Fisher Paykel fridge with the freezer on the bottom. Very, very quiet. I'm an audio engineer so a quiet fridge was the most important consideration. Costs a bit more but worth the psychic and aural piece of mind.

Here's a fridge modification that may help put your situation in perspective.

Whatever layout you end up with, get a Liebherr fridge........


You know, Mike, you have this captive audience whose hobby is to think about the spatial arrangement of things. And now you throw us a nice, juicy spatial puzzle - a sudoku for the visually oriented if you will. Of course you'll have anybody and everybody jumping onto it.

By the way, we have an ice maker in our fridge, but it's not connected to a water line. There's a small container in a corner of one of the cabinets that you take out and fill from the tap. As long as you need ice you just keep it filled. When you don't you just leave it empty. No messing with hoses and no risk of flooding, and I bet the container uses less space in the fridge than a water line arrangement. In fact, that's the only kind of ice maker I've seen around here.

@Lars K. Christensen: I also redid our kitchen, when we lived in Denmark (yay for HTH køkken) -- too bad our Copenhagen appartment had not been standardised! ;)

What I have heard in Canada is that having a carpenter custom-build a kitchen will hardly be more expensive that having pre-built elements installed... Not sure if the story is similar in the US but that may explain it... Also appliance sizes seem to be all over the place here, as opposed to Europe's fairly standard 60cm width.

*Stefan ... what is the issue of taking Iphone as a camera? Even though I love my Deardroff 8x10, the world has adopted iphone as their main camera -- it is now tie with a dSLR as the no. 1 camera in flickr and would soon be number 1!

See http://www.flickr.com/cameras/

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