An island with good seating is at the top of many a homeowner’s wish list. Whether it’s an all-singing, all-dancing workstation packed with appliances or just a place to sit to eat breakfast, an island that’s thoughtfully conceived can be an invaluable centrepiece in a new kitchen.
Early planning is key to a functional and beautiful design. Consider how you would like to use the island and what functions you need it to perform most. If you have plenty of room, perhaps that means attaching a table to include different levels for relaxed dining or doing homework.
Bar stools that allow people to sit at an island will always increase its versatility. Getting the seating right isn’t just about finding the right stools to coordinate with a scheme either, it’s also worth considering the size, shape and configuration of the island itself so everything works together.
ISLAND SEATING IDEAS
1. LEVEL UP
Create levels on an island to accommodate slightly more formal dining that can also double as a home office or homework station.
'When planning kitchen island seating, it’s important to have an idea of how many people it should accommodate and for how long,' advises Melissa Klink, Head of Design at Harvey Jones.
'If the island provides the only eating area in the room, make sure to leave as much space as possible and invest in seating designed for comfort.'
2. CREATE A CURVE
The curved profile of this island worktop allows for plenty of seating in the shape of several bar stools.
The soft sweep of the stone overhang provides plenty of space for guests’ legs and allows slightly more engagement between people than a simple straight line might.
The traditional style of this bespoke Martin Moore family kitchen design is echoed in the elegant upholstered stools with their patterned backs.
Enquire online: A similar design from Martin Moore costs from £35,000
3. NARROW VIEW
This long slim prep island by Mowlem, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings, features two areas for bar stool seating.
Rather than including an overhang on one side, a niche under the deep worksurface has been created to give plenty of room for knees to sit comfortably, while at the end, where there’s more room, the worktop continues into a deep overhang to accommodate the stools.
'Always remember when choosing kitchen bar stools to keep the size and scale proportionate with the island – if the chairs are too big, with arms, it throws that visual balance out,' says Jane Stewart, design director at Mowlem.
Enquire online: Mowlem kitchens start from £30,000
4. NEW ANGLE
When faced with a bank of cabinets along one wall, many designers will choose to run an island parallel to it and place any seating at the back, facing into the cooking area.
The designer who created this Naked Kitchens scheme employed a slightly different logic and has sited the island so that any seating faces the view through the window instead.
Enquire online: Designs from Naked Kitchens start at £25,000
5. IN THE FRAME
A sleek modern design calls for a slick island seating solution. Strictly a peninsula rather than an island, the seating area here has been formed using a table with an open-frame attached to the far end away from the wall.
'There are two key ways to incorporate seating. Either discreetly with an overhang, or more dramatically by creating a visually distinctive table area,' explains Richard Atkins, Design Director, DesignSpace London. This can be connected physically but possibly introducing contrasting materials and/or a different level.'
6. A CHAIR AT THE TABLE
This classic yet elegant scheme incorporates banquette seating on one side of an island.
'Integrating bench seating with a kitchen island can be a space-saving solution in the kitchen as this type of seating takes up far less space than having separate chairs around the table,' says Simon Taylor, managing director, Simon Taylor Furniture.
'If it is configured in an L-shape, you can enjoy informal family gatherings, or use the space to work from home. As a further way to optimise space, we add lift-up hinged tops on to handmade bench seats so that they double up as storage boxes so that clutter can be kept to a minimum.'
7. PULL UP A SEAT
Large islands in bold block colours can be broken up with the addition of bar stools.
In this kitchen design by Day True, the emerald green island features plenty of storage and space for guests to perch in the shape of on-trend wicker style seating. The pub bar-style rail around the base of the island helps to give additional foot support.
Enquire online: A bespoke kitchen from Day True starts at £25,000
8. VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
If there’s space, a large island can be the solution to a lot of problems. However, if there’s lots of seating, you can end up with a view that’s all chair backs and not much else.
Add interest by mixing it up a little with substantial stools with supportive backs to one side and traditional round bar-style stools at the front where they won’t block the view through to the kitchen.
'If you plan your island with a worktop overhang, you’ll find it’s helpful for tucking bar stools underneath,' says Roundhouse designer Oli Moss.
9. FOLLOW THE CURVE
The designers at Searle & Taylor have used a variety of levels, shapes and materials to create a bespoke feel to this hardworking kitchen island.
'The shape and style of the island is subject to personal preference, and while a linear rectangular version is always popular, we also like to design islands with curves, or with curved additions to soften the look,” says Darren Taylor, managing director at Searle & Taylor.
The cantilevered circular walnut breakfast bar creates the perfect place to sit and chat, away from the prep areas on the rest of the island.
Enquire online: Searle & Taylor Signature bespoke kitchens start at £30,000
10. ADD NATURAL WARMTH
This two-level modern island in You Snow Matt finish from Rotpunkt features pale oak additions. This gives its linear form a softer, more Scandi appeal.
The City Nature oak bench table creates another level of seating. Elegant round-backed dining chairs sit neatly at the table when not in use.Clever open shelving with timber inlay means everything is to hand for laying the table.
IS A KITCHEN ISLAND A GOOD IDEA?
All islands are not necessarily made equally and while there is no standard size for an island, it should always provide the right look and functionality for your space. This should include any seating, and take account of the push-back space for bar stools or dining chairs.
'Workflow within a kitchen area is very important,' says Darren Taylor, managing director at Searle & Taylor.'We always design kitchen islands with a minimum of 1000mm of ‘walkway’ space on all sides. This ensure that all kitchen cupboards, drawers and appliances are easily accessible.
'This is particularly relevant when installing a dishwasher, and we suggest an allowance of 1200mm between the island and any units behind to ensure there is still room to move around when the dishwasher door is opened.'
WHAT ISLAND SEATING IS ON TREND FOR 2020/2021?
Timber is still very much an option, but in slender styles of very dark walnut or even black, as well as white oak. Bentwood, bistro styles are back in fashion, and so are wicker styles supported by contrasting dark legs of wood or metal. Suede and leather remain popular upholstery options.
WHAT COLOUR ISLANDS ARE ON TREND FOR 2020/2021?
Islands are a clever way of creating a bespoke look to a kitchen scheme. Including a splash of colour will provide interest without the potential of overwhelming a space. For painted kitchens, dark blues and greys still feature, helping to add depth to an otherwise plain design. While more modern schemes include burnished metal trims and handles alongside clean white and grey cabinets.
Moving into 2021, look out for an embracing of earthy reds and rich grassy greens. These are paired with burnished brass and soft gold finishes for handles and trim. Texture is in abundance, too. Fluted cabinetry echoes the fluted glass we’re seeing in designs from companies such as Ledbury Studio – the new company led by kitchen supremo Charlie Smallbone.
Faux marble worktops with waterfall edges encasing an island are also proving increasingly popular, pairing pattern with an easy-to-clean durable surface.