Ask Katie: Thoughts on a kitchen and doors

Q: We have a condo in a beautiful Beaux Arts-style building, but our kitchen is Beaux-Brady Bunch. It desperately needs remodeling though we have very limited space. There is an enclosed pantry that takes up almost one-third of the room's area, and my husband especially likes it because it's a sort of food-cave. But I think it takes up too much space in an already small kitchen.

Would we be better off just knocking out the pantry or remodeling the kitchen around it, with new cabinets and appliances?

Sue from Oakland, CA

A: Beaux-Brady Bunch can have a certain charm, but probably not in the context of your Beaux Arts-style building. If you’re ready for the challenge, I’d consider abandoning the Brady look and food-cave altogether.

True, walk-in pantries have been making a come-back in larger kitchen/family rooms where they conveniently store bulk storage out of sight while still keeping it accessible. However, in a small kitchen, like yours, a walk-in pantry can be an unwelcome space hog. As an alternative you might want a tall cabinet-style pantry that’s 18 or 24 inches deep and located near other tall items like the refrigerator or wall ovens. Placing these more cumbersome items along a single wall might open up the rest of the kitchen, making room for an island, work table, or small seating area.

Once the walk-in pantry is removed, try to avoid the temptation to fill your now larger kitchen area with solid-front base- and upper-cabinets, or it will start to feel like it’s closing in on you again. Incorporate some open shelves, more or larger windows (if possible), and/or glass-front cabinets in the mix to create a sense of spaciousness.

Shape an opening between the kitchen and the rest of your condo that helps transition between the original Beaux Arts-style and the updated kitchen. This will mean paying attention to trim details and the nature of the opening itself which might incorporate columns, a transom, or some other feature reinterpreted from the original Beaux Arts details. Naturally, you’ll want to choose kitchen finishes and cabinets that compliment the rest of the condo. That doesn’t mean slavishly trying to replicate ornate details, but merely trying to capture the spirit of the style.

Tell your husband that I don’t think he’ll miss the food-cave, and I’m sure neither of you will miss the Bradys.

Q: We have three doorways on our main living floor we are anxious to acquire doors for. We need your advice as to kinds of doors. Two of the doorways lead into the kitchen, one from our front hall, the other from the living-dining room. The third doorway leads to our finished lower level, and is immediately adjacent to and at right angles to the living room-kitchen doorway.

The doorway to the basement is 30.5 inches wide. The two doorways into the kitchen are approx 32 inches wide.

All three doorways are complicated by juxtaposition issues. Whatever doors we install have to avoid closets or other adjacent features.

Peter from Avon, CT

A: Nowadays as we tend toward more open floor plans, unobstructed door openings often replace actual doors. If, however, you’d like to shield kitchen clutter from view, contain kitchen aromas, or restrict circulation for matters of safety and/or privacy, a good door that operates appropriately can be the solution. First you’ll need to evaluate hinging/hardware options and then door aesthetics.

I recommend using a single-acting spring hinge at the kitchen door off the living/dining space. It may help with the adjacency issues that you mention. Such a door will return to the closed position when not in use, so as not to interfere with neighboring doors, circulation, or other features. Since this door will be frequently active, consider introducing a textured glass panel (sandblasted, etched, or other) which will allow users to sense on-coming traffic while still obscuring the view of kitchen detritus from the living spaces. The glass needn’t be full height, though it might look better if it is. Incorporate dividing muntins (often called “mullions”) if they’re appropriate to the context.

For the kitchen door off the entry hall, you’ll probably want to use a solid door. Introducing glass there may be a little too informal. Plus this door won’t be as active as the other kitchen door, so collisions are less likely. If the interior doors of your home are typically of a certain type (like four-panel or six-panel) and a certain material or finish, follow their lead to start. If you have room in the wall, create a pocket for the door, so it doesn’t interfere with adjacent spaces when open. If that’s not an option, a single-acting spring hinge may make sense here too. I would assume that this door is closed more often than it’s open.

If you’re interested in a door to the finished basement primarily to prevent anyone from inadvertently stumbling down the stairs, I recommend using a low gate instead of a full-height door. It needn’t be anything reminiscent of a child-safety gate. It could be made of 1 x 4 tongue and groove V-groove boards (or bead-board). Though I’m generally not a big fan of bi-fold doors, especially when used singly, a bi-fold gate might work here as a minimal solution that doesn’t intrude upon adjacent space. Remember that it shouldn’t swing open over the stair for safety reasons. It will need to swing the other way.

Be careful not to introduce too many doors which will impede flow and continuity. It’s always about achieving the right balance.

by Katie Hutchison for the House Enthusiast

Email architect Katie Hutchison ( your general-interest residential design question. Put "Ask Katie" in the subject line and summarize your question in a couple of paragraphs. Include your name, town, and state. Don't include any attachments. Check back with the Ask Katie category to look for Katie's responses to select questions.