Kitchen Circulation Question

Saj K
7 July, 2019

Dear Houzzers,

We are planning to dig a basement in London SW11. We are planning a hanging staircase in our kitchen area (as there is a skylight running across that side as depicted in the image below).

We thought putting the hanging stairs there would take the light down and give us a double length ceiling for a portion of the wall. The downside is that it kills some space on our ground floor but the upside is that, given the amount of light that will pour through, the basement will feel less like a basement and the kitchen/sitting room on the ground floor will feel like a continuous space with the basement, which will be a play room for the kids.

Given the glass pane on the ground floor and the underpinning on the basement, our stairs going down will need to be about 110 cm wide (if we don't want the balustrade to go into the window pane, but happy for Houzzers to tell us that's nothing to worry about!). This means the distance between our island and the balustrade will be 90cm (if we assume island is 120cm wide) and there is 100cm distance between island and cabinets (which will be 60cm wide themselves). Ground floor plan (and basement plan, for completeness) included.

Would the above distances be enough for circulation around the kitchen or should we reconsider? Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

Any other comments/suggestions/insights on the design more generally also welcome!

Many thanks! :)

Basement will be a play room for the kids and a projector for movie night. The room in the hallway will be a utility room and storage. The room will primarily be a guest ensuite / spare bedroom.

Comments (12)

  • AMB

    I think it looks ok in the kitchen but the equivalent room in the basement looks too small to have a large sofa & chair set up like illustrated. I think the basement illustration for living area sofas is a poor use if space. I would consider moving the door from the basement living space into the rest of the basement are further to the left to give you circulation space and make it less of a corridor.

    Saj K thanked AMB
  • PRO
    Studio O+U Architects


    The dimensions either side of the kitchen island are what one would expect but should not really be less . The plan is a very sensible layout on both floor levels at light is being brought in at the right points and to the right areas.

    The only comment I have is more to do with the furniture arrangement at ground floor next to the bi-folding windows and one should allow more space around the end of the island

    But this is not the end of the world as one could simply only have 2 chairs instead of 3.

    The other option and more intrusive solution would be to shorten the island by 450mm to create the clearance to suit the furniture layout.

    Given that there is an extensive lounge in the new basement I would sensibly say that the first proposal noted above of updating the drawn furniture layout to create the necessary circulation around the end of the kitchen island should resolve the issue.

    It is a very well thought out and clear design and I think you will be extremely pleased with it when it's completed.

    Saj K thanked Studio O+U Architects
  • Saj K

    Thank you both. Furniture placement has been a placeholder to get a sense of scale. We agree with both comments. We will probably just have a 2-3 seater sofa on the ground floor and 2-3 pieces in the basement for the odd movie night and the rest will mostly be open space for the kids to run wild and make a mess in (out of our constant sight!)

  • PRO

    As you have bar seating at the island - I’d suggest reducing island to 900mm depth to increase the space between island and perimeter kitchen to 1200 and space behind island to 1010. Otherwise people seated on bar stools will totally block walkways . Also happy to hear you’ll have less soft seating than drawn.
    I assume this has all been discussed with a pro who has said fire regs peeps and planners would be happy with this set up too ?

    Saj K thanked OnePlan
  • PRO
    Studio O+U Architects

    Planning issues are dependent on where this is, and SW11 may be more relaxed than SW7 but can not be ignored.

    It also depends on which elements of the new build are effectively above ground, how the the roof garden is treated over the basement and the proximity to boundaries. One is correct in suggesting one should consult in these matters. Have you made a pre-application?

    The other thing one needs to be aware of with basement developments, of course, is the party wall issues. Love thy neighbour or not they would be key in a scheme like this.

    I would have thought the fire issues can be resolved with a concealed misting system ( or sprinkler system) to maintain a safe egress from both levels and reduce the fire risk. One may also need to consider a second means of escape from the basement bedroom and smoke venting.

    Saj K thanked Studio O+U Architects
  • PRO
    Studio O+U Architects

    The other aspect of the basement plan layout you may want to look at is to review the structural proposal to support the floors above . This could result in rationalising the plan to reduce the cost impact.

    I think these plans are conceptual and clear at this stage but will probably mature as these other factors come into play.

    At the end of the day structurally most things can be achieved within the realms of common sense, but some systems are more expensive than others.

    Saj K thanked Studio O+U Architects
  • Saj K

    Thank you both for the insights. We have already received planning permission. Except that in the drawings one which we received approval our stairs went down underneath our existing stairs (which currently leads to a narrow cellar, and are opposite the ground floor loo in the drawings above). Do we need to get back in touch with the council if we are making an internal change to the location of the stairs? We have approval for two light wells, in the front and back and had no issues with fire safety. We had an architect prepare our application but we hit a financial snag during our remortgage process and put the project on hold until we find another means of raising the required funds for the basement project.

  • PRO
    Studio O+U Architects

    From the description above, it's technically, a minor modification which the planners should not object to. As long as there is or are no material changes to the external facades or roofs from the approved proposal.

    Minor modifications basically substitute out the new drawing for the old and constitute a legal record and in this particular case should not be excessively expensive to do.

  • Jonathan

    For me I think this new staircase makes the kitchen too narrow for what you want and the room on the lower level is quiet narrow too.
    I would be investigating the feasibility of moving the main stairs

  • Jonathan

    I don’t know what you have on the floors above but I have taken a guess about what might be possible.

  • rinq

    If your island would be 90cm there'd still be little aisle space.. The 100cm between countertops is fine, without stools. Then 120 (instead of 90) would be great for passing, again not great with stools, but JUST enough (50 sitting+70passing).

    The seats you've packed into the area will most likely not work though..

  • minnie101

    I do prefer Jonathan's plan if I'm honest. You could make the bathroom and utility a tad smaller to get a square room on the right and use that "bedroom" as tv/play.

    Obvously these are just personal thoughts and it's what works for you as a family but I think the house needs a formal living room, you've got 8 for dining but nowhere to seat people and I'm not sure how the 2 armchairs space would work in reality? If you were to use the basement area for living/entertaining then I'd think about somewhere for hot and cold drinks as it's a pain walking upstairs all the time. You might also want storage in that room for toys. In terms of the island I would also reduce it to 90 with stools on one side only and swap the hob and sink position.

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