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The Small Kitchen Challenge

The kitchen was only 75 inches wide! I’m not kidding. That’s smaller than your average sofa.


When my clients purchased their historic home in downtown Sacramento, the 1910 house had been on the market for a long while for one reason only – potential buyers were stopped cold by the narrow kitchen. Could anything be done to improve that narrow space? Adding on was cost-prohibitive and nearly impossible. The main floor of the flood-plain era home was 7 feet above the ground, so adding on would have required an extension to the basement level below. And in this neighborhood, there were significant restrictions to changing the exterior of the historic structure.

Remodeling the kitchen posed a difficult design challenge, but one Penny Lorain of Lorain Design Associates enjoyed taking on. She immediately saw the potential of the space and how to preserve and maximize the original 10-½ foot high ceilings and lovely tall windows that faced the bamboo-wrapped rear yard.

“When I looked at the wall confining one side of the narrow space, I realized there was a large spice cabinet recessed into the stud-wall, meaning that there couldn’t be any studs supporting the weight of the floor above. If a large section of that restricting wall could be opened up without major structural changes, then we would really have something to work with.”

We consulted with the General Contractors on the project, Pacific Craft Builders of Davis, CA, and had them do some investigation to see if our predictions were correct. They were and the wall could be opened up to expand the feel of the space significantly.

We also removed a 20-inch wide door used to access the back hall from one end of the kitchen. That change allowed us to install a counter-depth SubZero refrigerator flush with the adjoining cabinetry. Now, a tight, nearly inaccessible corner beside the old 32-inch deep refrigerator was opened up for better accessibility with the new layout.

To further lighten and brighten the space, we selected light gray wood-grain cabinetry and glass-embedded white quartz countertops which extend across the new peninsula in the freshly opened wall section. The embossed tin backsplash acknowledges the historic bones of the home, while glass disc pendant lights add sparkle and elegance

Penny’s clients are simply thrilled with the results of their kitchen remodel. They have much more light, an open and airy feeling, and three times more usable storage space than they had before. The addition of big drawers at one end of the kitchen, new peninsula cabinets below the new dining counter, two corner cabinets with pull-out storage trays, and full-height upper cabinets extending to the ceiling, make the kitchen infinitely more functional.

The couple also enjoys the visibility they now have to the adjoining family room where they can keep an eye on their young daughter while cooking, prepping food, cleaning up or loading the dishwasher. The three bar stools at the peninsula are a perfect place for the family to have casual meals together.

All in all, the homeowners could not be more pleased with the results of their kitchen design. They know that if they ever decide to sell their home, the kitchen will not be a deterrent to the sale, but an asset that will help attract future buyers.


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