It’s the must-have feature of the modern kitchen, but how do you design an island which really works for your home? Jessica Jonzen speaks to the experts to find out
A CLASSIC ENGLISH KITCHEN BY deVOL IN A VICTORIAN BROWNSTONE IN JERSEY CITY, WITH INTERIOR DESIGN BY AND STUDIO. THE ISLAND IS TOPPED WITH ARABASCATO CORCHIA MARBLE, WITH deVOL’S HANDMADE FILLY PORCELAIN PENDANT LIGHTS TEMPERING THE GRANDEUR. IMAGE: NICOLE FRANZEN
Consistently sitting at the top of most people’s wish lists, the island is regarded as an essential element of a modern kitchen. Not only does it provide a valuable extra countertop and storage space (as well as somewhere to perch with a glass of wine), an island also functions as the social hub of the home.
“Kitchens are the heart of a 21st century home where life plays out and the kitchen island often takes centre stage,” says Bruce Hodgson, CEO and Creative Director at Artichoke. “Kitchen islands are multi-purpose, providing a place to unwind, prepare food, entertain and enjoy the company of others.”
Helen Parker, Creative Director at deVOL agrees: “If you have the room then a big island or prep table – or even just a kitchen table – is an absolute must. It creates the right feel by giving the room a central space in which to work, prepare food and socialise.”
THE ISLAND IN THIS deVOL CLASSIC ENGLISH KITCHEN FEATURES A FLUTED BUTLER’S SINK AND INCLUDES ESSENTIAL SEATING, WITH STOOLS BY deVOL, AS WELL AS OFFERING PLENTY OF STORAGE. INTERIOR DESIGN BY AND STUDIO. IMAGES: NICOLE FRANZEN
And while islands of old tended to be bulky monoliths which dominated the kitchen and ended up becoming a glorified dumping ground, the island has evolved into one of the hardest working features of the modern kitchen. “The kitchen island has advanced tremendously, incorporating more modern features, including wine coolers, induction hobs, boiling taps, integrated dishwashers and plug-in power and lighting,” says Artichoke’s Bruce Hodgson.
But with so many designs and features available, how do you begin to narrow down your choices? Start by deciding on your aesthetic – clean and minimal or traditional and layered – advises Sophie Pringle, Creative Director of interior architecture and design studio Pringle & Pringle. “This might sound counterintuitive, but when it comes to kitchen design the form often dictates the function.”
You also need to be honest about the sort of person you are and how you’ll be using your kitchen. “If you love the look of marble but know that stains would really bother you, step away from the Carrara and consider a Corian or quartz worktop instead,” says Pringle. “In our Hammersmith project, the kitchen worktop is Corian as the client’s wanted to be able to put hot pots and pans directly on to it and not worry about stains.”
IN THIS FAMILY HOME IN HAMMERSMITH, PRINGLE & PRINGLE DESIGNED A KITCHEN ISLAND MADE FROM WALNUT, WITH DRAWER FRONTS STAINED NAVY TO AVOID THE IRRITATION OF CHIPPED PAINT. THE LOW CEILING MEANT THEY OPTED FOR A CEILING FLUSH EXTRACTOR FAN AND KEPT THE PENDANT LIGHTS OVER THE DINING TABLE. BUILT-IN SHELVING PROVIDES STORAGE FOR COOK BOOKS AND APPLIANCES, AND PLUG POINTS MEAN THERE ARE NO TRIP HAZARDS. IMAGES: COURTESY OF PRINGLE & PRINGLE
Lighting is another important consideration; there’s nothing that spoils an island like having to duck under enormous pendant lights so you can see the person you’re chatting to. Pendant lights need high ceilings, so if your ceilings are low opt for a flush ceiling light. We love this star-shaped brass light by Studio HÁM. If your ceilings are high enough the world is your oyster, but you can’t go wrong with deVOL’s porcelain pendant lights.
A well designed island needs to have both form and function to really work in a kitchen. “We always recommend designing the kitchen island with both a practical side and a more aesthetic side,” says Adrian Bergman, Design Manager at British Standard by Plain English.
“One side should host the ‘working’ elements such as storage, white goods, bins and drawers. The other, facing out towards the rest of the kitchen, should incorporate elements such as open shelving to display decorative items and beautiful serveware,” says Bergman. “If space allows, we always try to incorporate a stool niche as this provides the perfect place for a morning coffee or an evening drink with friends.”
THESE ISLANDS DESIGNED BY BRITISH STANDARD BY PLAIN ENGLISH INCORPORATE PLENTY OF PRACTICAL STORAGE AND INCLUDE A NICHE FOR STOOLS SO GUESTS HAVE SOMEWHERE TO PERCH, AND YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO ENJOY A M,ORNING CUP OF COFFEE OR EVENING GLASS OF WINE. IMAGES: BRITISH STANDARD BY PLAIN ENGLISH (BELOW) THE HOME OF SUSANNAH HAWKINS OF @SHNORDIC
If you live in a period property and you wish to stay true to the era of the house, your island can be designed to suit the style and era of your home. A classic design gaining popularity is the ‘cook’s table’, once a mainstay of the ‘below stairs’ working kitchen, and now appearing in sensitively updated period homes.
“Once the preserve of Victorian period homes, the idea of a multi purpose, central table is gaining popularity in a wide range of settings,” says Artichoke’s Bruce Hodgson. “It’s potentially more flexible and less intrusive than a built in kitchen island providing an extremely attractive focal point for a kitchen in a historic home.”
A COOK’S TABLE DESIGNED BY ARTICHOKE AND INSPIRED BY THE LARGE KITCHEN TABLE AT LANHYDROCK IN CORNWALL. THE FRAME IS MADE FROM SCOTTISH WHITE ELM, WITH SYCAMORE PLANKS TO CREATE THE TOP ALONG WITH A SECTION OF CARRARA MARBLE FOR PASTRY MAKING. ONE LEG CONCEALS AN ELECTRICITY CABLE FOR A FOOD PROCESSOR. IMAGE: ARTICHOKE
(LEFT) THIS ISLAND DESIGNED BY ARTICHOKE FOR A GEORGIAN TOWNHOUSE IN BRISTOL WAS MADE FROM FRENCH OAK AND REFERENCES A CLASSIC BRISTOL LANDMARK – THE BRUNEL SUSPENSION BRIDGE – WITH ITS BESPOKE BRASS LEGS, RIVETS AND DECORATIVE TIE BARS. THE SYCAMORE WORKTOP EXTENDS TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL WORK SPACE. (RIGHT) THIS COOK’S TABLE, ALSO DESIGNED BY ARTICHOKE, WAS HAND FINISHED TO LOOK AS IF ITS LAYERS OF TERRACOTTA-COLOURED PAINT HAD ACCUMULATED OVER TIME, AND FINISHED WITH AN AGED SYCAMORE WORKTOP. IMAGES: ARTICHOKE
Remember that an island doesn’t have to be a dedicated in-built piece of furniture at all. “We’ve been known to mix all kinds of antiques into our kitchen schemes, and this helps to offset the uniformity of built in joinery, and antiques naturally come with character that’s hard to recreate,” says Tom Cox, co-founder of HÁM Interiors.
“In our Barnes pied-à-terre project we repurposed a former draper’s table as the island. A new brass panel was added to the top, creating a sleek and practical worktop. We don’t design kitchens as purely functional spaces – they also need to include elegant pieces of furniture to add depth and interest.”
deVOL’s Helen Parker agrees that when it comes to islands, variety is the spice of life. “The piece can be vintage or part of a kitchen range and painted in a different colour with a different worktop. This way it becomes an individual statement piece that brings the room together in an eclectic way,” she says. “A good thick rustic oak worktop is warm and practical for a table, but a big slab of marble is also elegant, practical and very authentic. It must be a natural material to complete a true English kitchen look.”
THESE KITCHEN ISLANDS, ALL DESIGNED BY HÁM INTERIORS, FEATURE MIXED MATERIALS AND SERVE AS HANDSOME PIECES OF FURNITURE RATHER THAN BEING SOLELY FUNCTIONAL. IMAGES: ALEXANDER JAMES
Islands provide a great opportunity to experiment with different materials from the rest of your kitchen scheme. “In the kitchen of our Views project in Oxfordshire, we wanted a freestanding island as the centrepiece, taking inspiration from Georgian prep tables, adding further interest with mixed materials, using sycamore, marble and copper,” says Cox.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this piece of furniture which will be the beating heart of your home for years to come – more so even than the sofa. It will be the place that guests naturally gravitate towards, the scene of morning cups of coffee, evening glasses of wine and endless meal preparation (and eating). The most important thing is to make sure you love it.
Know someone who’d enjoy this article? You can share it using the buttons at the top of the page. Discover more inspiring interiors features on The Home Page here…