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Several months ago, the owners of a 1918 Craftsman-style residence here in the Oakland area asked me to remodel their kitchen. Small and dark, the room had last been renovated many decades earlier. A partition separated it from a butler's pantry, which held a corner sink and a tiny toilet room. The toilet hadn't worked for years, and the pantry was used for general storage. All told, the kitchen and pantry contained nine doorways, plus a set of stairs leading to the basement and the second floor.

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    To create a more efficient layout, the author eliminated a toilet room, removed the partition between the kitchen and the butler's pantry, and stole space from a redundant stairway.

Not surprisingly, all of the cabinets were in poor condition; probably the nicest thing you could say about them — assuming you liked history — was that they looked really old. As it happened, my clients did like history and wanted their new kitchen to feel as though it might have belonged to their grandmothers.

Same Area, Better Space

To stay within the budget, we decided to avoid structural changes and leave the plumbing where it was. However, we did tear out the water closet and the partition between the kitchen and the butler's pantry. What had been the toilet compartment became the location for a new 32-inch-wide refrigerator.

We couldn't rip out the wall to the right of the toilet because it contained plumbing for the upstairs bath. Instead, we reframed it, making it thick enough to accommodate a bookcase. Now it holds cookbooks and defines the entry area.

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The original water closet's plumbing wall contained pipes for the second-story bath, so it was retained and fattened into a bookcase.

Storage in the Stairway

The stairs in the corner of the butler's pantry consumed valuable floor space. Although we couldn't alter the ones going down to the basement, we could steal space from the ones going up because they weren't the only set to the second floor; they led to a landing where a door opened onto the main staircase — a design common in older homes.

Removing the back stairs was not an option (the flight to the basement runs directly underneath), so we decided to frame around them to create as much storage space as possible. The landing became a closet accessed through the existing door from the front stairs. Above the treads we framed three openings: one for a built-in wall cabinet, one for a large alcove, and one for a pair of drawers that open into the hallway.

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The back stairs were turned into storage space.

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The landing became a closet, accessed from the home's main staircase, while the space above the treads now houses a wall cabinet, a niche, and — around the corner — a pair of drawers.

Across the hall from the stairs was an existing closet that also served as a mechanical chase. To avoid having to rework the mechanicals, we left the closet there but gave it a new door that matches the ones on the kitchen cabinets.