Do you want a sink or stove­top? One level or two? Choose your op­tions — and size — care­fully

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - LIFE - MELISSA RAYWORTH

In­te­rior de­signer Abbe Fen­i­more knew that adding a kitchen is­land was one of the most im­por­tant de­ci­sions she’d make in re­mod­elling her 1940s-era home.

A well-de­signed kitchen is­land can of­fer stor­age space, a work sur­face, com­fort­able seat­ing — even a cook­top or spare sink.

But like so many as­pects of kitchen de­sign, it needs to be planned with ex­tra care. An item this large and cen­tral isn’t some­thing you’ll want to re­place within a few years.

So Fen­i­more and her hus­band cre­ated a card­board is­land in their kitchen with pre­cise di­men­sions to live with it be­fore com­mit­ting.

They tin­kered with the de­tails on its size and lo­ca­tion. They de­bated which fea­tures were nec­es­sary and which were too much of a splurge or took up too much space.

In the end, that is­land “has be­come the lit­eral hub in our home for so­cial­iz­ing,” Fen­i­more says.

We’ve asked Fen­i­more, founder of the de­sign firm Stu­dio Ten 25, and two other in­te­rior de­sign­ers — Betsy Burn­ham and Jenny Kirschner — for their thoughts on great kitchen-is­land de­signs and trends.


Be­cause care­ful plan­ning is so im­por­tant, Burn­ham sug­gests work­ing with a de­signer on kitchen-is­land de­sign or find­ing re­sources on­line for draw­ing up a floor plan.

“You’re go­ing to need about three feet of space around it — at least three,” she says. Home­own­ers some­times end up with too crowded a kitchen if they choose an is­land that’s too large.

“It shouldn’t lit­er­ally be an is­land off by it­self,” Burn­ham says, “but it shouldn’t be too close to perime­ter coun­ter­tops ei­ther.”

Other im­por­tant ques­tions: How many peo­ple do you want to seat? Leave plenty of depth for peo­ple’s legs when they sit on bar stools or seats at your is­land.

And do you want one level or two? Burn­ham loves the clean lines of one level sur­face.

But Kirschner some­times de­signs an is­land with two lev­els — one at counter height for cook­ing prep and a lower level at ta­ble height, so you can sit in chairs rather than bar stools.

Fam­i­lies with young kids who worry about lit­tle ones fall­ing off bar stools of­ten love this op­tion, Kirschner says.


Some of Fen­i­more’s favourite el­e­ments are deep, pull­out draw­ers for pots and pans, and draw­ers with mech­a­nisms that lift a mixer or other small ap­pli­ance up and out for easy use. Also: draw­ers de­signed to hold con­tain­ers of spices, and deep draw­ers hold­ing metal con­tain­ers for serv­ing uten­sils, as you might see in a restau­rant kitchen.

“A lot of peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate stor­age needs,” Fen­i­more says, so re­ally think about how you cook and what you use.

Kirschner also sug­gests con­sid­er­ing what you might want to store that isn’t tech­ni­cally a kitchen item. Her is­land in­cludes draw­ers for her chil­dren’s art sup­plies be­cause the is­land is where they do arts and crafts projects.

Is­lands of­ten have closed stor­age, but some peo­ple pre­fer some open shelv­ing.

Fen­i­more has a trash can built into her is­land, with a stain­less steel open­ing in the is­land’s sur­face where unwanted items can eas­ily be swept dur­ing cook­ing. It’s a de­tail that didn’t add much to the cost but makes life ex­po­nen­tially eas­ier.


It sounds lovely — hav­ing your stove­top in the is­land so you can chat with some­one seated there while you’re cook­ing. But things splat­ter, Kirschner points out.

And tear­ing up the floor to add power and gas lines can be ex­pen­sive if your kitchen doesn’t al­ready have these util­i­ties in the mid­dle of the floor.

The same goes for adding a sink to your is­land: These de­sign­ers say an is­land sink is a great fea­ture and pop­u­lar with clients, but you have to con­sider the ex­pense if you’ll need plumb­ing work done in the floor.

Lastly, your cook­top needs ven­ti­la­tion. Do you want a range hood mounted in the ceil­ing and loom­ing over your kitchen is­land?

“There are down­draft vents,” Kirschner says, “but they tend to not work nearly as well” at ven­ti­lat­ing your cook­ing space as over­head ranges do.


Some peo­ple love an is­land that seam­lessly matches the rest of the kitchen, with coun­ter­tops and cab­i­netry iden­ti­cal to what runs along the room’s perime­ter.

But our three de­sign­ers say you can also think of your is­land like a piece of gor­geous fur­ni­ture that is co-or­di­nated with the rest of the room but a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. If you want the is­land to be the kitchen’s fo­cal point, Kirschner says, get cre­ative.

She loves nat­u­ral stone sur­faces for kitchen is­lands, es­pe­cially quartzite, which she says has beau­ti­ful veins of colour but is more durable than mar­ble.

Burn­ham agrees that a kitchen is­land can be a dra­matic state­ment, and there are many style op­tions. Do you want a Euro­pean farmtable look, or mod­ern and sleek mar­ble?

“We’ve seen a lot of the dark blues and greys and greens, in re­ac­tion to all the white kitchens we were see­ing for a while,” Burn­ham says.

“Maybe mix things up. Keep all the coun­ter­tops the same, but maybe the perime­ter cab­i­netry is one colour and the is­land cab­i­netry is a dif­fer­ent colour.”

On­line: stu­ www.burn­hamde­ www.jd­kin­te­ri­ The As­so­ci­ated Press

This ur­ban farm­house style kitchen, de­signed by Betsy Burn­ham, has an is­land that of­fers am­ple stor­age and an ex­tra prep sink. JENNA PEFFLEY/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS


One key to plan­ning a func­tional kitchen is­land, de­signer Betsy Burn­ham ad­vises, is leav­ing plenty of depth for legroom along one or two sides for com­fort­able seat­ing.

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