I’m sure we can all agree that we are ready for this long winter to be over! Many of you may be thinking about Spring break or getting away to warmer weather, maybe taking a cruise through the islands! Well, as we prepare to ring in the warm weather, here is an article written by Mark T. White, CKD, CBD all about islands! 

Many times, in the years I have been designing kitchens, I have seen the magical transformations that an island can bring to a design. Whether it is a small kitchen that needs some more landing space, or a large kitchen that needs effective traffic control, islands can often be the key to making a plan work.

It is often thought that many small kitchens are too small for an island. This may be so, but consider a mobile island, or altering cabinet dimensions, or even removing a wall as practical solutions to creating this design element. Perhaps a thick butcher block on wheels or a cart type of an island with a shelf below the counter that can be moved out of the way when not in use. A moveable piece can often sit adjacent to a countertop by the stove or sink, creating a small ‘L-shape’ of expanded surface area. You may have room to keep it in the center of the kitchen for a convenient landing space. Be sure to consider non-standard cabinet dimensions. If the space between standard depth cabinets across from one another is a little too narrow to allow for an island, try 12″ deep cabinets on one wall and position appliances and fixtures that require full depth cabinets on the other wall; this may create enough space for a narrow island.

In many of today’s designs, the kitchen is being opened up to the family room or ‘great room’. In these cases, islands are almost essential in the design. Where in small kitchens, the island replaces valuable cabinet and counter space. In open plans, the island is also an important element in defining the spaces. The style and finish can unify an open plan or create a feeling of separation and identity for various areas. In many large kitchens, the best design may include more than one island. If an island is too large, it tends to become an obstacle. It can block traffic patterns and create an inefficient work environment.

Depending on the function designed into the island(s), you may be creating different work areas or a ‘zoned’ kitchen. One side of the island may include all of the elements to create an efficient ‘clean up’ zone. The other side might be the prep zone, or include an eating area.

The top surface of an island is also a key element in defining its purpose. In some areas, you may use a wood chopping block. Next to a cooktop you might use a heat resistant surface, such as granite, tile, concrete, or a man-made ‘stone’. Where there is a sink, a solid surface top with an integrated bowl may be the most practical choice. If the area will be used for eating and on the border of the kitchen and the next room, a wood furniture grade top might be the most appropriate. A variety of surfaces and heights can add a lot of interest to the design and improve the ergonomics of the space.

Other functions for islands are determined by the appliances and fixtures they include. Some are created to be a cooking island, while others are made to be a clean-up area. Sometimes the island is a great place to include a warming drawer, an under counter refrigerator, a grill unit, a second or third sink and another dishwasher. An island can also serve a function for the next room. It is often creating a border and may change the appearance on the ‘back side’. It may be finished to match the walls in the next room to create a ‘complete’ look.

The shape and details of an island can often make it the focal point of the kitchen. Angles often add interest and improve traffic patterns. Curves and free forms can create a more social setting for seating and provide a smooth flow around the island. Some islands will look like furniture and some furniture can make a great island. Cabinet manufacturers offer many elements designers use to create a furniture look. Using a different color on the island can emphasize its individual character.

Whether you are designing an island to separate work areas, the family room, or the breakfast room or if you just want to create a quick, convenient space for serving the kids a snack or lunch, open your mind to the many possibilities of how an island can bring a touch of magic to your plan and help transform the space.

Look through our portfolio to see some of the different islands we’ve created in our projects, or give us a call to discuss what kind of island we can fashion for your home!

Grande After 1 Mackenzie- Kitchen- Transitional- Overview Miller, TJ&P Mostyn- two islands, breakfast bar Samorajczyk- green Samorajczyk- wood Johnson, N&E Magnolia- Kitchen- Traditional- Breakfast Bar- Copper Hood Flynn08 Manganaro 5 crop - Copy