Kitchen & Bath - Buying Guides

Buying guide: Kitchen islands

A kitchen island can add value, space and style to your kitchen. Learn how to find the perfect one.

A kitchen island is a great way to add value and style to your kitchen, while increasing storage capacity and workspace. By definition, a kitchen island is an additional freestanding workspace, typically located in the heart of your kitchen work triangle. At its most minimalist, an island is simply extra counter space – picture a big freestanding butcher block or narrow, counter-height table. At its maximalist best, consider a bespoke unit complete with built-in sink, appliances, expansive countertop big enough to cover work and social space (a breakfast bar, for instance), and undercounter storage galore.

If you ever find yourself thinking: “I need more kitchen space!,” an island may be the perfect design solution. Here’s what to consider when planning that kitchen island.

Although most kitchens benefit from the added task space an island provides, not all do. If you have a small or narrow kitchen, an island isn’t a good idea. Fitting a teensy island into a small space creates a trip-or-bump hazard. Increase your useable storage and clear off your countertops instead. This will provide an instant increase in useable workspace.

Islands can be humble or ambitious. Think about your needs.

Do you want to …

… add more food-prep space?

If counter space is all you want, go as minimalist as a counter-height stainless steel or wood table, or opt for a big ol’ country-style wood chopping block. (Look for a heavyweight hardwood model that won’t tip over if you knock against it). Or, you could choose the added storage of a standard cabinetry-and-countertop unit. (And do you also want a second sink? Built-in range or under-counter microwave? Dishwasher?)

… increase kitchen storage, too?
Opt for a cabinetry unit. Mix open and closed storage for versatility, and upgrade as desired with apps and plumbing.

… create a social space where people can hang out?
Go big, with under-counter storage, as well as a bi-level countertop to designate the food-prep side of the island, and the breakfast bar/social side of the island.

This is a great way to spend time with your kids – they can do homework while you cook – or entertain guests while you prepare dinner.

Does your island have to match your wall-mount cabinetry? Definitely not! (It can, but it’s not mandatory.) The easiest approach to a designer look is to match the cabinetry style, but choose a darker finish. Or eschew solid doors in favour of glass-front doors from your wall-mount cabinetry series. If you have an adventurous design sense, it’s fine to have an eclectic pairing of old-meets-new or East-meets-West design aesthetics, but be aware it may limit the mass appeal of your kitchen if you put your property up for sale.
This article is featured on Buying guide: Kitchen essentials

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