These days it seems as though every kitchen you see has an island. But these built-in features aren’t for everyone, or every kitchen. In this article, we weigh the benefits and drawbacks of kitchen islands. We also consider whether creating a kitchen without an island might be better for your space and lifestyle.
What is a kitchen island?
For the uninitiated, a kitchen island is a freestanding combination of cabinet and countertop, placed in the centre of a kitchen to add more counter space and storage. There are many ways in which islands can be used – as a cooking area, as a washing area, or even as an entertainment area.
The benefits and drawbacks of kitchen islands
Extra work surface
The main benefit of a kitchen island is the additional countertop space that can be used for prepping and staging meals. Working on an island can sometimes be more pleasant than working on a perimeter countertop where you’re facing a wall. An island work area allows you to face guests or family members while you prep, or feel connected to people in adjacent rooms if you have an open floor plan. The extra surface also can be used for eating or doing homework, depending on the clearances.
An island creates an opportunity for hardworking storage depending on how large of a base you can create. Deep drawers, cabinets and even a spot for the microwave free up the need for perimeter cabinets, allowing you to instead have open shelves or a window.
Another location for a sink
An island can offer a location for a main sink or prep sink if perimeter space isn’t available or ideal. For the same reason, an island can be good for a cooktop.
By introducing a base colour that’s different from the perimeter cabinets, or a countertop material different from the perimeter, you can use an island to create a dramatic focal point. Carefully designed kitchen layouts with an island can add much-needed colour to your kitchen.
An island can sometimes visually weigh a kitchen down or make it appear too cluttered. However, colour choices and having some openness, such as for seating or a selected display of cookbooks or serving pieces, can alleviate visual weight and the appearance of clutter.
If you need another reason to like kitchen islands, consider their popularity. If you add an island, you can feel confident that, should you sell your home, other homeowners will see your kitchen as a selling point.
Islands, for all of the function and structure they bring to a kitchen, are immovable and provide limited flexibility. They must have electric and, potentially, plumbing added if there’s a sink. Islands add a layer of cost to a project, which, depending on the clients’ needs, isn’t always necessary.
Taking up floor space
Many clients feel they need an island. However, a smaller kitchen often makes this wish a non-starter. It’s better to have a kitchen that functions well with a table or peninsula, or neither. All function perfectly well if designed carefully and thoughtfully with the clients’ needs in mind.
Not suitable for wiring and venting
The centre of your kitchen may not always be suited to wire or vent. Check with your designer to see whether it is safe to install a stovetop or plugin appliances, so you can have a secure cooking experience.
Disrupts the work triangle
Ideal kitchen layouts with an island should have easy access to the stove, refrigerator, and wash area (the work triangle). Make sure that an island does not become a hindrance to your kitchen routine.