Grab a stool and a cutting board, or a plate, or a pencil, or a toothpick, or a tablet, or…?! Welcome to the kitchen island. Food prep, snack counter, breakfast bar, coffee cafe, homework hub, central party point, family communication center—its uses are nearly limitless.
If a kitchen is ‘the heart of the home’, then the island is arguably a home’s centerpiece; imperative at meal times, after school, and during gatherings with friends and family. “I truly enjoy the engagement with and connection most people feel towards this area. I have the most fun working with our clients on their islands. These structures are the ‘sweet spot’. Looking back on 21 years of this work with New Energy Works, I think islands are often the best part of any job,” said Rob, General Manager and lead designer for NEWwoodworks.
As we approach kitchen design, islands are carefully considered, discussed at length, loosely outlined, discussed more, and finalized in detail. “When we have the opportunity to design this area our goal is to bring a thoughtful and logical approach to creating a comfortable, functional, and engaging space incorporating the family’s varied wants and needs,” continued Rob.
How the island will be used is a vital question for homeowners. The square footage of the kitchen and interaction with the rest of the home will influence island location and size. Materials come in to play as an island can offer a change in color and texture or carry an aesthetic through. Large or compact the versatility of the additional space, visual break, and social anchor offered by an island is unmatched.
Islands are frequently a literal barrier, dividing the functional space of the kitchen and giving cooks their own main space, but still allowing room for another chef. In very modest footprints they can offer important additional work surface, house extra cabinetry and storage, and take place of a dining table.
The wish list is often broad and varied for how an island will function. Generally, they provide a division of space, particularly in open floor plans. “Working closely with NEWwoodworks we’ve designed islands that are ‘prep only’, ‘service’ oriented, and ‘bar’ islands to name a few generalities. I agree with Rob; in my mind one of the biggest factors is functionality,” explained Andrew of our Design Group. ‘Prep only’ islands typically include a prep sink, butcher block top, and trash/compost bin.
Others are ‘service’ oriented offering a second oven, cook top, grill, and more. ‘Bar islands’ have been an occasional theme, designed to be an entertainment hub with a bar sink, beverage coolers, and dishwasher drawers.
We’ve found the service style works well for open kitchens when we can provide the cook with a specific view while they interact with guests, yet maintain a clearly separate workstation.
Split level islands further differentiate the cooking space from ‘guest’ space. This style allows a bit of camouflaging for dishes, pots/pans, the microwave, dishwasher, and more. It also offers protection for homework, electronics, or any other non-kitchen happenings at the island. We’re believers in “wood where the elbows are” and the split level is often created with this in mind.
Rob explained, “The island serves many functions and is used quite differently by folks. I think it is the best part of any kitchen and a wonderful opportunity to get creative.“
Are you looking for ideas on how to improve or add island living into your kitchen? Let us know.