With the move towards larger kitchens, in open plan spaces, the kitchen island has become an essential kitchen feature. It’s an easily adaptable piece which might be long and slim, running parallel to the work area, neat and round in a compact space or broad and spacious housing a sink, appliances, a seating area and oodles of storage – there as many kitchen island options as there are kitchens.
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From a functional perspective, an island provides extra prep space, cutting down the footwork between key areas of sink, cooker and fridge in an open plan space, and it also provides a boundary between the work zone of the kitchen and the neighbouring living/dining zone, keeping children and guests from getting under your feet. A shaped kitchen island can also help direct the flow of traffic away from hotspots or towards garden doors and a great view for instance.
Almost all kitchen islands incorporate some form of seating. Even the smallest space can usually accommodate an overhang of worktop and a pair or bar stools although more of us are opting for long islands with integrated low level, table-style seating at one end as a comfortable set up for family meals and entertaining.
Functions aside, the change of pace offered by an island often encourages a change of material, introducing another dimension to your kitchen design. You might afford to be braver here with a bolder finish or colourway, or perhaps a more expensive material that would be prohibitive across an entire kitchen. ‘An island tends to define the kitchen, forming a neat and transparent division to the dining and living space beyond,’ says Laurence Pidgeon, Director at Laurence Pidgeon.
‘For this reason, at least the facing part of the island should be in warm and welcoming materials to make a transition from efficient kitchen surfaces. For a show-stopping centrepiece, look to luxury materials, from deeply veined marble and mottled granites to exotic timber veneers and gleaming mirror or burnished metal. ‘There’s a trend for an increasing use of textured materials – think raw or rough-sawn wood, honed or flamed stone tops – as well as a contrast of colour or finish between island and rest of kitchen,’ reveals Laurence Pidgeon. The latest trends for islands include long, generous work benches with integrated sinks and often a selection of worktop materials.
Topping the kitchen A-list, an island unit is widely reported to be the most frequently requested feature in a new kitchen. 'Their popularity has been rising since the 1980s, alongside the move towards creating more relaxed, sociable cooking spaces,' says Steven de Munnich, design director, Smallbone of Devizes.
A well-planned design can be home to as much or as little as you wish, with appliances, storage, sinks, a breakfast bar and even an integrated dining table included.
If space allows, two kitchen islands is always better than one. A pair of island units has become the last word in luxury, an expansive addition for when space is no object.
The bespoke Macassar kitchen starts from £80,000, Smallbone of Devizes, smallbone.co.uk.
It’s the time of strongly veined marble. ‘Deep veins are a key trend in island surfaces, and marbling comes in lots of colours. Don’t be tempted to stick to white, but seek out greener tones, which are calming and sophisticated,’ says Sarah Spiteri, Editorial Director, Living Etc and Homes & Gardens.
Bespoke kitchen featuring Arabescato and Bardiglio marbles, designed by David Collins Studio, davidcollins.studio, for Sky Residence at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Bangkok. For similar, try Eggersmann Design, kitchens from £80,000, eggersmanndesign.com.
A kitchen island is the perfect place to experiment with colour. We are seeing a definite trend towards bolder, braver colour choices for statement kitchen with more personality. To prevent strong colour from overpowering, use it in small portions – perhaps to highlight a key focal point – or keep it below your direct sight line as you enter the kitchen.
Bespoke kitchen, from £35,000, Martin Moore, martinmoore.com. Similar paint, Spanish Olive and Fiesta Orange aura eggshell, £86.50 for 3.79L, both Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore paint.co.uk.
A few years ago, wine cabinets were considered a luxury appliance, available only to those with big budgets and big kitchens to match. These days however, as prices and sizes have reduced, there’s something to suit every scheme and size.
Wine coolers built into a kitchen island are a great investment, as they will free-up space in the fridge as well as the worktop while keeping your wine in optimum condition. If you enjoy entertaining, friends and family can help themselves to a glass while you get on with the cooking. As our kitchens become more like theatres, with island cooking becoming more popular, it makes sense to have a wine cabinet to complete the performance.
Varying levels introduce interest to the design. Try using different thickness of surface, unusual materials, such as crackled glass, adding a raised breakfast bar or stepping your worktop down to create a dining table as an extension of your unit.
In a very large room, an island will act as a bridge between perimeter furniture, improving the work triangle and allowing multiple cooks to work comfortably side-by-side.
The overhang means seats can be stowed and the legs add an airy feel.
A stunning slab of stone can be showcased in several ways around an island. Bookmatching, where slices of stone reflect their neighbours, or slip-matching, which uses stone slices to produce a continuous effect are effective techniques but, where possible, a seamless piece of stone mounted across the front of a unit is especially awe-inspiring.
The success of this sleek, uncluttered space is largely down to the island unit. The layout ‘front of house’ focuses on a 4.2m-wide island unit, topped by two book-matched marble-look composite slabs. ‘The island is a soft division between the cooking and living areas. The 2.4m-wide drawers are used to stash crockery and utensils and help keep everything tidy.