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.
Rob was enjoying a few moments at the island before the Open House of a project we built on Keuka Lake.
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.
A “waterfall” of walnut flows over the bright Ash of the Olsen’s kitchen island.
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.
The social and food hub – and when necessary an elevated spot for a great photo op or a light bit of tap dancing!
Carrying the oak paneling proportions throughout the kitchen and island was key for this NYC home.
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.
A modest Reclaimed Jarrah wood island with a soap stone top and steel sink provides a bit of additional prep space.
Live edges, butterfly joinery, slate tops, an additional rolling butcher block, and ample counter surfaces afford a growing family space for everyone to participate in kitchen activities.
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.
A lake home’s reclaimed beech kitchen affords panoramic views of the water and abundant space for entertaining. Photo by Matt Wittmeyer.
Broad, open views of the living and dining spaces are enjoyed from the cook’s vantage over the island of this lake home kitchen. Reclaimed oak was “toasted” to a darker patina adding a bit of rich color to an otherwise light palette.
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.
Young Jake demonstrates our belief that there should be “wood where the elbows are” for any kitchen surface where entertaining and eating take place.
A split level island puts wood where the elbows are using live-edge walnut atop reclaimed “toasted” oak.
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.“
A painted island with a poured top and industrial stools/brackets adds color and functionality to a modest kitchen.
Are you looking for ideas on how to improve or add island living into your kitchen? Let us know.