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Kitchen Optimization

How might we utilize empty space neglected by house flippers?


I'm known among my network as a reliable handyperson and have tackled many home-improvement projects. One such project came my way because of a hole in a wall.

The homeowner had reached her wits' end after 11 years of making do in a  kitchen poorly designed by a house flipper. Some investigatory knocking led her to believe a large segment of wall in the kitchen had nothing behind it. A hammer and saw confirmed this was half-true. The discovery hole showed quite a bit of unused floor space, plus a chimney and an HVAC duct. 

After thorough scrutiny to ensure the wall was not load-bearing or concealing any hazards, I removed the unnecessary section of wall and refinished the additional space to accommodate a different layout which  better suits the users' needs.


Private Homeowner


April 2023


Improve flow of kitchen


This was a solo contract project which included:

  • Management (project planning, material purchasing, grunt work)

  • UX research (contextual inquiry & interviews)

  • Lo-fi prototyping

  • Design

  • Instruction (homeowner assisted in demo and simple tasks)

  • Finishing

Tools & Materials Used:

  • Tape measure

  • Miter saw

  • Repurposed 2x4s

  • Reciprocating saw

  • Drill

  • Screwdriver

  • Level

  • Plywood

  • Shims

  • Google Sheets

  • Sheetrock

  • Drywall saw

  • Drywall corner bead

  • Drywall knives

  • Drywall mud

  • Sanding blocks

  • Vinyl flooring

  • Transition strip

  • Liquid Nails

  • Beadboard panels

  • Circular saw

  • Decorative moulding

  • Nail gun

  • Repurposed trim

  • Caulk

  • Paint brush

  • Paint Roller



Users of this kitchen are:

  • An active family

    • Two working parents

    • Two elementary-age children

  • Committed to home-cooking nutritious, organic meals

  • Sick of not being able to fully open the freezer door

A contextual inquiry provided a look into the typical flow and frustrations encountered in the kitchen with its original layout. Interviews with members of the family further revealed their needs and pain points. 

I measured and recorded the layout of the original space.



This kitchen is not meeting the needs of its users, and there is potential to open the wall and utilize extra floor space and wall space for a better flow and more storage.

Research finding
Application to Solution

An 8" x 21" cavity is available between the chimney and the duct

A narrow shoe rack or shelving unit could slide into this space for storage.

Paneling around the duct can protect it and provide a finished look.

A 16" x 9" cavity is available between the duct and where the wall originally stood

A 44" x 21" cavity is in the corner of the room behind the wall

Having this area open for traffic could be a huge help during busy times of the day with multiple people passing or working.

The refrigerator could pivot 90° into this space to allow for greater door swing.

Ideate & Prototype

Considering my home improvement skill set, the homeowners' budget, and the top priorities for the project,  I developed "How might we..." questions and did my best to anticipate issues that might arise.

How might we reduce friction in the kitchen?

How might we utilize materials we already have?

How might we integrate the design into the rest of the kitchen?

How might we make this fit your personality?

Implement & Test

There was only so much paper planning we could do before rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty. Once I began to get a complete look at the situation behind the wall, I felt great about our decision. Lines on the wall indicated former placement of shelves, hinting that this space was utilized in the past.

Because I cleared out debris and patched holes in the wall, then reinforced the floor with level plywood, the homeowner felt secure about the extra space in the kitchen.