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Friends Having Breakfast

The Corner Abyss | Behind the Before and After

We always knew that our home’s plumbing stack was located behind a column of faux brick that was smack in the middle of a prime corner of the kitchen. This bit of clumsy camouflage - which took up the corner between the sink and stove - seriously cut into the kitchen’s counter space, and had always limited the usefulness of the cabinets in that part of the room. What we didn’t know was exactly WHERE the stack was, back behind there. When it came time to design the kitchen, this corner became a huge obstacle.

And one we had to take seriously - a house’s plumbing stack is one of its most vital components. It is the main hub from which your home's entire plumbing system branches off and all wastewater and sewage flows into these pipes to be expelled into the sewer line below your house. Basically, proceed with extreme caution!

The Corner Abyss, exterior shot of faux brick treatment. Notice the lack of counter space!

Back in February we had one of the contractors come and do a small, exploratory demo so we could try and get a sense of the space in that corner. Without this knowledge our kitchen design was basically at a standstill. Unfortunately the best way to access this space was to cut a hole in the bathroom wall, which was on the other side of the faux brick. If they had demolished the brick treatment, there was no way to put it back. The bathroom being sheetrock, it was easier to repair.

Of course when we opened up the wall it wasn’t as great as we hoped. The plumbing stack is not close to the outside wall, or neatly tucked into the corner - it was about a foot and a half off the exterior wall. However we did find out that the “box” that was built out around the stack was way larger than it needed to be.

So we knew we could gain some space here, the question was how much. And why was this so important? This plays a major factor in our counter space and prep area. With the faux brick, it stuck out so far there was no room to move around. In addition, it affected our options for the lower cabinets.

Most people put a lazy susan in corner cabinets to try and make the most of their space. The lazy susan we have in our current lower corner cabinet is awful - it only ever turned halfway and the shelves had no lip on them, so pans were constantly falling off and getting lodged behind the turning mechanism. I was always on my hands and knees with a flashlight and a pair of tongs to try and get the stuck pan out of that corner! (Hence the name - the “corner abyss”) I was adamant that I did NOT want a lazy susan in any way, shape or form in that corner.

At some point our Fresh Start contractor, Walter, came over to do some prep work and I mentioned the saga of the plumbing stack. And he said these magical words, “it may not be that much to move it…” My eyes lit up. OH MY GOD, is this really a possibility? So for about a month I had hopes and dreams of moving the stack and then designing a lovely corner cabinet with lots of counter space on top.

Unfortunately, when the plumber took a good look at it post-demo he said no way could our stack be moved. (Well, it could, but we’d have to do major demo in both bathrooms and it would cost a bajillion dollars).

So, there it was. We had to work around it…again.

The good news is that even keeping the stack where it is, we are able to gain 10” of space. We had to get creative and move some copper water pipes, but this was easily done by changing the copper to flexible pipes. We also have a venting issue that needs to be addressed (I’ll talk more about that in a later chapter). But bottom line is, we tightened up the corner as best as we could to gain as much space as possible.

This allowed us to have larger upper cabinets on either side of the range. And for the lower cabinets - we all decided the best design solution was to keep the corner a void - there will be no corner cabinet or lazy susan in that corner. We’ll have 2 cabinets kitty-cornered on either side of the stack, but the rest of the space will be empty.

As long as there is no lazy susan - I am happy!

Above: The stack, BEFORE. Below: AFTER, improvements to tighten up "the Stack," flexible piping for copper.

Below: The hard-won 10" of usuable counter space we gained next to the stove!

Above: X marks the spot where there will be NO lazy susan, just sealed off dead space. No more Corner Abyss!

I'm writing these Behind the Before & After posts about our kitchen renovation because I want to share our process - including any bumps along the way - so that homebuyers and homeowners can get a look at what really happens when you take on a major renovation. Clients ask me all the time, "Should I renovate?" And my answer is - usually - this, "Renovate for you, now, and how you want to live" so I'm following my own advice and inviting you to follow along.

Read more about our kitchen renovation here! And feel free to comment or contact me with any questions you have!!

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