When I first met with the clients whose kitchen is featured in “Build a Kitchen Island
” from FHB
#232 (December 2012/January 2013), I found a cramped galley kitchen that needed a transformation. Among the clients’ requests was a new island where they could cook while keeping an eye on their small children.
Planning an island involves many decisions, but three basic design considerations should be addressed at the start: the necessary clearances, the countertop (single tier or double tier), and the size and type of appliances the island needs to accommodate.
Once my clients and I get beyond these basics, we start working on how the island will look. This conversation often begins with deciding whether the island cabinets should match the other kitchen cabinets. Island cabinets that match the rest of the cabinetry create a unified look, so the island blends into the kitchen. Alternatively, the island’s freestanding nature paired with contrasting design elements can make it a focal point for the kitchen. Both approaches can work nicely, but their effects are different.
One of the best ways to shake up an otherwise humdrum kitchen is to pick an island countertop that’s different from the surrounding surfaces. The top then can be the star of the show, wowing houseguests and inspiring conversation. Concrete, stone, solid surface, metal, and wood all can be used to great effect on kitchen islands. I insist only that my clients get samples of any likely choices and do their own durability tests with spills and hot pans.
An island’s back and sides present another opportunity to introduce a design element. Flush, beaded, or raised panels are all common choices. We also regularly install wine racks, bookshelves, and bulk-storage bins on the sides of kitchen islands. Keep in mind that the base treatment can change the look of an island. A recessed or higher toe space can make an island look free-floating or lend it a furniture-like look, while a baseboard can help to anchor the island in the space.