Before we started the reno, we had a dining room of sorts. Essentially, when you came into the front of the house, there was a small foyer, and then you went up two steps to a big room that was one-half living room and one-half dining room. It was configured as such, but we never used the dining room, for a couple of reasons.
First, we like having our table in the big kitchen. All together, easy to move from one to the other. It’s also how I grew up, one big kitchen, and while I’m not against a dining room, I don’t mind the kitchen and eating area being one.
Second, we didn’t like the location of the dining room. If you were eating, you would feel a lot like you were almost at the front door, particularly if anyone came by and knocked. Sure, lots of people say, “Oh, eat in the kitchen when it is just you, but use the dining room when you have guests.” But, then I’m just using the dining room on the rare occasions when we have guests? Plus, hello, would you eat dinner on your front porch? There was no separation from the living room or the foyer, so it just felt too close to the front of the house, too exposed.
So the dining room was dead space. We had an idea to make it into a gaming area, i.e. with a table for board games and some shelving, but we hadn’t ever gotten that far in our plans yet. We had a coffee table sitting there that Jacob used for Lego, and a big china cabinet that we really liked but was pretty big for our needs. Early on in the planning, I was worried with the initial redesign that we wouldn’t have enough cupboard space, and I was wondering if we could blow out the wall in between the kitchen and the dining room and just enlarge the kitchen another couple of feet. Seemed doable, and got us thinking along those lines.
However, that wall has a LOT of ducts running through it, some pipes, etc. All movable to some extent but it’s also load-bearing. We could have worked around it, but that would have necessitated a lot more cost and some changes in the basement config we had already done (one option was to MOVE THE FURNACE!!!), so we eventually took that off the list. They finally agreed that they could open up the wall somewhat, enough for a door. Which eventually got us thinking about a walk-in pantry.
This was a pretty attractive idea, and while we debated if we actually needed it or not, we never doubted that it was highly desirable. In the end, the cost differential with and without was minimal in the grand scheme of things, so we started factoring it in. Then we had a small brainwave — what if we moved our upright freezer from the basement and put it in the pantry. The idea blew our minds. The convenience would be AWESOME. I had almost convinced Andrea that we could afford a big honking new fridge (one of my main complaints in the old kitchen was not so much flow as the limitations within the fridge and lack of adequate prep area for making lunches each night). The new fridge had more interior space, ice and water, a separate deli tray with separate temperature control (to change it from cooling snacks for a party to being same as your fridge or even keeping fish fresh), and a decently-sized bottom freezer. More space than we had in the old fridge’s freezer, but moving the full freezer to the pantry? Genius.
So we blew out part of the wall to make a door, had them put in some cupboards, left room for the fridge, and added a broom closet. That doesn’t sound that exciting, a broom closet, but when you have no place on the first floor to even keep a broom, a broom closet can be VERY exciting. Trust me, I saw the excitement, even if I didn’t feel it. Of course, adding a pantry ate into the dining room space, and we got rid of the china cabinet (replacing it in part with a new built in one). It also gave us a small nook to put the aquarium in, and add some open shelving to put some candles on, etc. All good options. Shortens the big room, or alternatively, enlarges the living room. Much more functional use of the space.
Only one problem. The idiots designing the pantry didn’t take into account the size of the freezer, swing space for the door, depth of the cupboards and swing space of those doors. Seriously, I’m not kidding. They built it, and even before they put the cupboards in, it seemed a little small. Plenty wide, but depth seemed low. They knew the exact dimensions of the freezer, including even which way it opened (it isn’t a reversible one). They get it all built (I had to warn them repeatedly about the width of the door to get the freezer even into the room), put the freezer in it, and it doesn’t fit. I mean, I came home that night and it was ridiculous, not even CLOSE to fitting.
If you pushed the freezer right into the corner, and turned 90 degrees, the door would open and hit the wall before it cleared enough to get into it. If you pulled it out from the wall far enough, it crowded the cupboards. If you turned it to face the cupboards (which is the solution they had gone with, and left it with us to see if we could “live with it”), there was about 8-10 inches to open the door. Which would mean the basket wouldn’t come out either. Plus, even the doors on the cupboards didn’t really open properly if the freezer was there. There was no excuse for this error, they had the full dimensions of the freezer, and the cupboards, and we even asked if the room needed to be bigger — another foot or two into the dining room would have made very little difference to us, but no, they assured us everything would fit.
So, with a messed up pantry, we had a few options:
- Move the freezer back downstairs;
- Squeeze the freezer into the corner of the unit and deal with the incredible tightness, lowering the functionality and convenience considerably, plus upping the regular annoyance factor, and requiring the doors come off one section of the cupboards too so the shelves would be accessible;
- Ripping out part of the cupboards (losing close to 40% of our cupboard space) to force-fit the freezer into one of the corners; or,
- Ripping it all out and moving the wall back another two feet or so.
None of the options were palatable. If they hadn’t taken six weeks to get to that stage, and they weren’t even done yet, I might have said, “Sorry, your error, you move the wall so it fits”, but that would have added at least another week to the project as well as spread dust everywhere, etc. We weren’t willing to do anything that would be setting us back that far in the process, and we didn’t want to lose the cupboard space. We can always do that at some point if we want to, or put in a small chest freezer, but in the end, the simplest solution was just to move the freezer back downstairs. They ended up having to take the freezer back downstairs again, the third time they had to empty the freezer to move everything (they tried once, early on, got it emptied but then couldn’t get the door off…it has special locking bolts built in, so they put everything back in until they got the right tool).
And it has been okay…we ended up with a fairly roomy walk-in pantry. Andrea tells me there’s a door there, and I saw it when it was put in, but normally we just leave it open (she shut it for a party recently). We haven’t organized it yet, at least not to my satisfaction (I want more space for extra food more than just all our extra food equipment), but it’s completely workable for now. I’m waiting until the new year when Andrea will be done her schoolwork, and we will have some time to decompress a bit with it.