There’s just something empowering about having a kitchen island, isn’t there? No matter what you use it for (hopefully not as a deposit for all the junk you are too lazy to find a proper place for…). In fact, there’s almost an intangible value to kitchen islands that goes beyond pure functionality. They just make a kitchen feel more complete and more fun to live and work in. So it’s no real wonder that they are the #1 feature on all kitchen design lists.
But how do you design the perfect kitchen island? Well, it depends on what “perfect” means to you and the relationship the island will have with the rest of the kitchen. Here are some ideas for inspiration.
Designing for multiple uses
If you want to make the most of your kitchen island, design it so that it can serve multiple functions. At the very least, your kitchen island can include one of the main functional areas (for cooking or food preparation) and an informal breakfast/snack counter. If you use the island for full cooking, besides the cooktop and suspended hood, consider adding a microwave or even an oven (maybe the second oven?)
If you use your island for food preparation, including a sink can be very practical for clean-up. However, any time you place a sink or cooktop on the kitchen island, you have to make sure that plumbing and electrical wiring will allow you to do that without major structural work (unless you’re up for that sort of pain).
The breakfast/snack counter gives you a chance to play with some aesthetic choices because you can use a different material and shape for it and even place it at a different height (typically higher) compared to the rest of the island.
Turning part of the island into the kitchen’s main dining area is also a popular and functional option that is replacing the dining table altogether, either by choice or by need (because of space limitations).
However, nobody says you can’t have a dining area both as part of the island and separate, with a table, to use as your mood dictates.
Just as it happens with the breakfast counter, play with the aesthetics of your multi-purpose kitchen island and distinguish different functional areas visually through the use of different materials and counter heights.
Designing for versatile storage
A great advantage of having a kitchen island is that it gives you additional storage space customized to your needs. So, think of designs that can help you maximize the use of your island with a system of cabinets, full pull-out baskets and drawers, and incorporated counter shelf for things like spices and other condiments.
If you use the kitchen island as main cooking area, you might like to complement the hood with an overhead rack to hang often-used pots and utensils. This can be done elegantly, though it is perhaps more common in traditional and rustic kitchens than in modern designs. It might not be ideal for open-layout kitchens that co-exist with the living area because, in this case, you would want to aim for a kitchen that feels more like furniture than cooking lab.
If you want to mix things up as bit, consider other storage options like a wine rack or elegant open shelving, which can also add variety to the look of your island.
For a final touch, you can mix solid cabinets with frosted glass doors.
Designing for visual impact
Once you have decided its multiple uses, you can turn your kitchen island into a statement piece that immediately attracts the eye…
…or have it introduce a different shape that breaks with the rest of the space...
...or really go super bold!
And if you want to introduce a living element into your kitchen, how about an island that houses a small indoor garden with decorative plants or aromatic herbs?
Any size can work wonders, if there is a good reason for it
If you are already fighting with limited space, you might have to put aside your dreams of having a kitchen island and consider a peninsula as a better fit. However, don’t think it’s only “a big island or nothing”. A small island can be a solution too. If anything, it will give you an extra working surface and storage space.
On the other end, if you really have the space for it, why not splurge on two parallel islands?
Don’t let excitement get ahead of reason, though. The bigger and larger you get with your kitchen and island layout, the greater the chances the final space will not be very functional to work in. Spread yourself too thin and getting things done in your kitchen will be enough of a workout that you won’t need to hit the gym anymore. So, even if you can afford it, get two kitchen islands only if you really need them; for example, if you:
- do a lot of heavy-duty entertaining, where multiple cooks and waiters are working at once, or you like to set up one island as a cocktail bar;
- are into buffet-style dinners;
- need the extra island as a working station for frequent non-cooking activities.
Kitchen islands seem to have a “built-in” wow factor that we can’t resist, no matter their size or shape, but when it comes to designing them, “form should follow function”…as it happens with all good designs.