An Elegant Low-Cost Modern Kitchen

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A Compact, Elegant Kitchen
A Compact, Elegant Kitchen

This is a continuation of the previous article describing how we reconfigured my client’s home for a new life with creative friends and music in Silver Spring, MD.

Re-Sculpted for Function and Light

We radically re-sculpted her home within the existing footprint starting with the kitchen.  By moving the kitchen into the old dining room we created a light-filled kitchen with a much better connection to both the outdoors and to the music and living rooms.  (View before and after floor plans in the first article.)

Kitchen is Well Connected to the Garden
Kitchen is Well Connected to the Garden & Flooded With Light
And Also Well Connected to the Rest of the Home
And Also Well Connected to the Rest of the Home

Efficient, if Somewhat limited, Storage

The kitchen is very small but better configured than its darker, cut-off predecessor.  Valuable storage space was sacrificed for even more important windows and doors.  The cabinets we used, though, were configured for maximum storage and utility.  The base cabinets are all drawer cabinets (not easily seen in the photos).  While my preference is for 30” wide drawer cabinets, for this project, we had to compromise and accept several narrower base cabinets to maintain counter space where needed.   One 30” base cabinet, one 33” base cabinet and one 30” pantry cabinet provide great flexibility for storing everything from pots and pans to dishes and platters.  We gained valuable drawer space in the work area by using a cooktop with drawers below instead of a range.  The single oven is placed out of the main work area.  We gained a little additional storage space – and saved money – by using a single oven instead of two ovens often found in higher-end kitchens.   A smaller microwave sits on a shelf above the single oven.  Putting the oven in a cabinet with a drawer below also puts the over at a better height for our aging bodies.


Single Oven Plus Microwave
Using a Single Oven Plus Microwave Instead of Double Ovens Saved Money & Space

We made up for the lack of storage space in the kitchen proper by building a long pantry closet in the music room between the kitchen and living room.  The Pantry is only 18” deep – deep enough to hold small appliances and big platters but shallow enough that nothing gets lost.  A light in the pantry makes sure items can be located quickly.  The bypass doors don’t take up floor space in the passageway.


A Shallow, Long Pantry Closet
A Shallow, Long Pantry Closet Supplements Kitchen Storage
Pantry Conveniently Located Alongside Kitchen
The Pantry (White Bypass Doors) is Tucked Into Music Room and Conveniently Located Alongside Kitchen

Eating Nook

We even fit an eating nook into this small kitchen.  It’s perfect for my client when she is without guests.  It also makes an intimate setting with one to three guests and provides space for a buffet for larger gatherings.  The backless bench to the left is on casters and can be rolled out of the way for additional seating in the living room or to provide a wider passageway during large gatherings.


Cozy Eating Nook
We even fit a cozy eating nook in this compact kitchen

Design Decisions to Lower Costs

There were a myriad of design decisions that kept costs down including 3 primary decisions:

  1. Working within the existing footprint.  The decision to work within the existing footprint means that the window over the sink looks across the areaway to the basement at the brick wall that forms the original L wing housing what’s now the master suite.  In the future, we’ll use stained glass or an art window film to hide the view of the brick while still allowing in light.  This decision, of course, saved tens of thousands of dollars.
  2. Using laminate countertops.  This decision saved at least $3,000.  Everyone wants stone these days.  Personally, I think granite is a bit overdone.  One of the big objections to laminate is the inability to use an under-mount sink.  The sink we used is a micro-edge sink that all but eliminates that objection.
  3. The Lighting Scheme.  We used surface-mounted ceiling lights instead of the ubiquitous recessed lights.  Go back to the 2nd photo in this article to see the surface-mounted fluorescent lights that provide ambient light.  These lights are augmented with another surface-mounted light over the sink, undercabinet lights, and a single (large) pendant over the eating nook.  The lighting scheme, again, saved more than $3,000.
  4. The selection of appliances.  We used a relatively narrow, full-depth refrigerator that appears built-in.  The 30” width allowed us to recess it into an existing header in the brick wall.  The full-depth results in a lot of storage space.  We sacrificed a little bit of space in the new hall bath and the Pantry to accommodate the full-depth.  As mentioned earlier, we selected one oven instead of two.  The hood, while modern and attractive, was much less expensive than most similar models on the market.  We re-used the relatively new dishwasher.


A Large Deep Sink Hides Dirty Dishes
The Micro Edge Works Well with a Laminate Countertop While The Large Deep Sink Hides Dirty Dishes & Drying Clean Dishes Helping Keep the Counter clear


A Regular Depth Fridge Looks Built-In
A Regular Depth Fridge Looks Built-In And is Recessed Into The Bath & Pantry Behind


Special Design Features:

Even while controlling costs, there were many special features to make the design special.

Integration between rooms – Note how by integrating the cabinetry with the door jamb separating the kitchen from the music room, we help bring those rooms together.  You can see this in the photos above and below.

Tiled wall – Rather than a simple tiled backsplash we tiled the entire walls behind and beside the counters.  We used large format 12 x 24 concrete-look tile with a brushed aluminum trim.  This maintains a clean, modern look.

Deep, Wide Sink – The sink, in addition to having a micro-edge, is very deep and wide.  This keeps dirty dishes and drying dishes off the countertop.

Original ceiling beam details – These details were maintained but painted while to keep some of the original feeling that the client liked but made for a less busy treatment.


Deep Door Jamb Integrated Into Cabinety Helps Integrate Rooms
Deep Door Jamb Integrated Into Cabinety Helps Integrate Rooms

Large Format Tile Wrapping the Walls Provides a Relatively Low-Cost  Wow-Factor


Kitchen "Before"
“Before” From Same Angle as Picture 2


Original Kitchen "Before"
Original Kitchen “Before”
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8 thoughts on “An Elegant Low-Cost Modern Kitchen”

  1. This transformation of the kitchen has been brilliantly thought out, and make use of any space available. Did the client have any issue with you putting the pantry around the corner from the main kitchen area?

  2. The new design of this kitchen is perfect and maximises the natural light available with the large windows and doors that open out into the garden. You’ve completely transformed it into what looks to be a comfortable living space. Great work!

  3. Jackie, I’m captivated by this rambler kitchen redo… such an inventing use of that space. I’m planning my own kitchen remodel and would like to consult with you. When can we meet? I am in Chevy Chase DC. Hope to speak soon!

  4. My new kitchen is wonderful. It is relaxing to sit in the eating nook and gaze outside to the patio and backyard through the glass doors. Having glass doors on either side of the peninsula makes the kitchen feel larger than it really is. I am very pleased with Jackie’s good design ideas, her attention to detail, and her flexibility in finding fixtures and appliances that fit a small 1950s rambler.

    One more cost-saving item about my kitchen: once Jackie’s team lifted the existing sheet linoleum they discovered beautiful hardwood floors that were hidden for at least 40 years!

    (I am the home owner.)

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