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.

1 SPACE AND SUITABILITY
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.

2 FUNCTION
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.

3 STYLE
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.
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