As a production housing architect, I have always been challenged to design houses that can be built at the lowest possible cost without sacrificing functionality or aesthetics. In today’s economy, that imperative is magnified. In fact, it’s become a matter of survival.
The kitchen is a great place to start value-engineering plans to eliminate wasted space. One of the first areas worth scrutinizing is cabinet placement. The upside of this exercise—when done right—is that weeding out expensive cabinetry configurations can sometimes improve ergonomics and openness, resulting in a design that feels more luxurious and works better. To illustrate this point, I’ve provided two examples of houses I recently designed for St. Louis–based home builder Payne Family Homes, in which minor kitchen alterations resulted in cost savings while improving the plans and offering more value to the customer. Price estimates are based on mid-level builder-grade oak cabinets and laminate countertops.
Example A: Galley Loaded
Converting this closed, U-shaped kitchen into a galley that’s open at either end improves traffic flow while resulting in net cost savings of more than $650 on cabinets and countertops.
- Corner cabinets create awkward storage cavities that are deep and hard to reach.
- Solid walls make the kitchen feel cramped and closed-off from the rest of the house.
- Opening the kitchen to the hallway creates a longer, more usable stretch of prep and undercounter storage space. This move also provides direct access to the mudroom for bringing in groceries.
- Taking out the upper wall and adding a 7-foot, raised breakfast bar creates a secondary eating and serving area, and visually connects the kitchen to the great room, making it feel less claustrophobic.
Example B: Walk-Ins Welcome
Replacing a blind corner base and wall cabinet with a carpenter-built, walk-in pantry provides more generous storage with little to no cost increase. The material costs for a corner pantry versus a side wall placement are virtually the same.
- Deep corners are hard to reach, making portions of this countertop and the cabinets beneath it unusable.
- Sacrificing a little prep surface for a walk-in pantry is a good trade-off. Pantry shelving can be stacked floor-to-ceiling, providing more storage capacity than an undermount cabinet.