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Dateline: At the corner of an annoying column and two-too-many doors

Which door?

My kitchen suffers from “too-many-doors syndrome.” There are two doors on the south wall, one of which goes to what I call the Fireplace Hall. The other one leads to a secret passage to the garage, no doubt used by maids of bygone eras to sneak into and out of the house unseen. Then at the northern end of the west wall, there’s a door to the dining room, a mere 4 meters north of another door which could do this job perfectly well. Next to the northern dining room door is another door to the patio. So the kitchen has, count ‘em, FIVE doors. Oscar Wilde once said, “Nothing succeeds like excess,” but this is ridiculous!

Kitchen as built. North is up.

Everyone knows that the entire point of a kitchen (besides cooking) is to have plenty of counter space so you can actually prepare a meal, get dishes ready, etc. Doors are counter space’s worst enemy.

I am here to declare that I wish to murder two of these doors in their sleep. Which ones? The northern door to the dining room, just west of the sink, and the back door to the patio.  “But how will you then get into the patio, Kim?” If I do this, I’ll replace the big back window of the dining room with a window that has a pair of outward-opening doors to get to the patio. I’ve already found an architect who said I could get this done for about $12,000 pesos, or about $600 USD. This seems ridiculously cheap, but even if the price is double, it’s quite doable.

Doors to kill in red. Back door to be replaced with window starting above counter height.

Now you might be wondering what does this have to do with columns? Well, you’re going to have to refer to the drawing. At the northern end of the kitchen, looking into the patio, there’s a sort of nook between a pilaster to the east, and a column to the west, where the sink and stove formerly lived. When using that sink, you were pretty close to the column, and there was a 45” inch high wall to your left, and then an opening above, which would allow you to look into the dining room through one of the excess doors.

My desire—budget and cost-effectiveness willing—is to remove that column. Because this is a load-bearing wall, (muro de carga in local parlance), just getting rid of it isn’t so easy. I’ll need what likely will be a very girthy steel beam. And I’ll need a civil engineer to figure out just how girthy. Plus he’ll have to figure out how we get the new beam in without having the back of the house fall down while we do it. I know. Details, details.

Fortunately I have found such a person, and we are now trading politely worded emails where I’m trying to get him to tell me how just how much that will cost. Frankly, I thought I had already done my part. I showed him and one of his chief henchmen the house a few weeks ago. And then I provided the architectural drawings (floorplans) with measurements he requested. But I got back a very vague reply saying that to give me a quote he’d have to come back to the property again. Maybe this is where he does the hard sell. Probably. OK, whatever.

Likely remodeled kitchen without column. Fridge still needs consideration

Even getting rid of the column isn’t a perfect solution. See the weird extra space where the back door used to be in the drawing above? It would create a remote stretch of counter top. I’m tall enough to reach it, but it’d be a little far for someone else. Especially because I’m thinking about making the counters 40″ high, 4″ higher than standard. I guess I could bring that wall back to the line of the kitchen wall. But it’d be a little weird in any case.

Meanwhile my interior designer friend Julio said he’d just leave it all alone. “You’re going to spend plenty of money on finishes, flooring, furniture, appliances, the rest of the house, etc. I’d just leave the column and tiles alone. Just furnish the kitchen and focus more on the rest of the house.” And he has a very good point. Whatever the quote is, it’s likely to be fairly expensive. Yes, it will buy me a much larger kitchen, as then I can make the north end of the kitchen one big U-shaped counter that will be very easy to work in. But I’ll also lose a bunch of tiles, and that may force me into choosing between “going down to the studs” as it were, or having a kitchen that’s been obviously modified and no longer in full, period style.

I really like the idea of a U-shaped kitchen, but Julio’s point is very good. There also may be compromises like getting rid of the low wall to the left of the sink and then extending the counter to the (now walled-off) dining room. One could work between the column and the sink, but there’s no room work on a counter on the other side of that column unless you get rid of it. So then I end up having some odd spaces.

If I keep the current design and do the remodel as shown, then I still end up with about 12 ½ feet of counter space. This should be enough, shouldn’t it? I’m not one of those who has a lot of stuff on his counters. I typically keep a toaster, a fruit/vegetable bowl, some storage crockery for rice, tea, etc., a crock for implements, and that’s about it. I’m not big on tchotchkes.

Using the kitchen as it is. The grey block to the left would be a countertop/cabinet

So I’m still kind of finding my way. There are advantages to each alternative. But I will say that I’m a little more conscious of cost than I was a few months ago. The other houses which I was tracking prior to buying this one are all pretty much still on the market. Global recession beckons, and I don’t want to over invest. Sure, I’ll live there for many years. But I’m also aware that things can change, and I don’t want to overspend on what the house could ultimately be worth.

Meanwhile, the electricians draw ever-closer to the first floor. So I’m going to have to make up my mind pretty soon. I’d damn well better know what I want before they start cutting holes in the walls.