DEAR DESIGNER: So I have the world's smallest kitchen in my Portland house and I don't have a clue how to make it livable. It is in an old farmhouse (I do love the house) and presently I have too large of fridge, an old crappy stove, a tiny sink and no dishwasher. Any tricks of the trade in old houses? I don't want to do a huge remodel and would like to work with the existing room. I think my plan is to live in it for a few months and then put it on the market. -- Sue
DEAR SUE: Farmhouse kitchens can be a rewarding project to the creative person. My favorite part about remodeling a farmhouse kitchen is you don't have to worry about being perfect. Cabinets and moldings can be distressed while notched height charts are completely acceptable on door frames. When you start with the existing plan and integrate some new conveniences along with the old style, your kitchen will look great and serve you well.
Though you may be working with the majority of what is already there, a remodel of any sort can become pricey. It's important to determine a budget before you make any plans. A budget helps to keep you focused when decisions need made. You will save the most money if you are handy, and you like to price shop.
To make a realistic budget, start with making a list of all the things that need to happen in your kitchen. Consider having a plumber and electrician come in and look at the existing services. Many times these need to be upgraded, which can lead to massive expenses. Then shop for the items on your list. Plug in prices and add them up (preferably while drinking a glass of wine to soften the punch you will feel when you see how quickly all the little things add up).
Take a practical approach to the project and remember that form follows function. Simply put, start by listing the things that are most important. Appliances usually top the list. Nothing makes an old country kitchen look more out of sync than a large late-model refrigerator. Decide if you are going to replace the appliances with country looking appliances or the newest modern stainless appliances, which go surprisingly well in an old farmhouse.
The scale of the appliances should be in keeping with the rest of the room. Decide if your appliances can stay where they currently are, or if they need to be moved to give the room greater function. As a dishwasher is a necessity these days, you will have to decide if it's worth sacrificing cabinet space. A dishwasher fits into the same spot that a 24-inch-wide base cabinet fits.
Whatever you decide on the appliances, make them match. Consistency in appliances will help to give your kitchen a well-designed, less choppy type of look. A website that carries some fun retro appliances is www.bigchill.com.
Most old kitchens lack cabinet space. Instead of replacing all the cabinets, call in a handyman who can duplicate the exciting cabinets. Then paint them all to match. Your newer cabinet will probably have melamine interiors but the exteriors will match your existing cabinets. Paint the interiors of the old cabinets to freshen them up.
Or, in lieu of building more cabinets, consider shopping for an old style buffet and hutch. This will give your room some diversity while providing more cabinet space. The hutch can be painted to match your existing cabinets, painted a coordinating color or be stained wood.
Something as simple as a farmhouse sink with the apron showing in front of the cabinet, marketed by most manufacturers today, can give your small kitchen added flair (see featured photo). Retro faucets are available in all price ranges.
Many farmhouse kitchens have floor space enough for a kitchen table. There are a couple of options here that can help with storage and counter space. If you need the table to remain in the kitchen, consider purchasing a counter-height table so it can also be used as a prep area. Don't forget to buy counter height chairs, as standard chairs would be too short.
Or, if you have a dining room, consider making that the official eating area and add a small island with bottom cabinets. Hang a pot rack above your island, freeing up even more cabinet space.
Although the task at hand may seem overwhelming, break it down into little bits and tackle it a little at a time. Review your list and make all your choices before starting any work. Find out if anything needs to be ordered and when it will come in. Nothing delays a job more than a back-ordered item that holds up production.
Usually the electrical and plumbing are upgraded first, taking into account the new appliances and where you are placing them in the room. You will need plumbing and electrical for the dishwasher, and your refrigerator may need a special plug. Next you will patch all the holes and prepare the drywall for paint or wallpaper. Cabinets will then be installed and then the countertops placed. The walls are then ready for paint or wallpaper. Finally, the floor will be installed.
A country kitchen floor can be inexpensive. There is a wide selection of vinyl floors that are easy to stand on, easy to care for and easy on the pocket book. Real wood is always my first choice, but when the budget must be kept, I will generally sacrifice the wood floor for a good appliance that will be used daily.
I must add, although it is a pricey addition, that a great way to make a small farmhouse kitchen feel large is to open the ceiling up to the rafters. If there is an adjoining room, consider taking out the wall to integrate the two rooms.
In the featured English kitchen, Antique Buildings Ltd. of England did just that. They restored an old barn and created this great farmhouse kitchen that opens to an added family room, which was created from a lean-to.
To sum it all up: Make lists, shop, dig in and have a great time creating your new, old kitchen!
Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. Email questions to her at deardesigner@ projectdesigninteriors.com or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesigninteriors.com.