The key to a sociable, easy-use kitchen is an island, which seems to be practically mandatory in a new kitchen today. It’s not a particularly new idea – large traditional kitchens in grand houses always had a vast kitchen table in the middle of the room, which basically served the same purpose as an island. Butcher’s blocks and island trolleys have recently been popular too, but the vast majority of kitchens we’ve created over the years have included an island.
An island is a fitted piece of furniture, fixed into position, and is generally used as a cooking/prep surface or, if it includes a sink, then it’s the washing-up/prep space. One of the elements that direct these design decisions is the choice of cooking appliances. If the cooker of choice is a range model, then that will generally be installed along a wall. The island is usually positioned opposite, and will often be the best place for the sink – so that the chef can take pans off the hob, turn around and use the sink for draining vegetables or pasta without walking around or across the kitchen. Conversely, if the hob is going to be a separate entity, we often position it on the island, with the sink along the wall behind. It’s all to do with the ergonomics of movement around the kitchen, plus of course the important safety issues regarding carrying hot pans and trays for minimal distances. An induction hob looks particularly sleek and impressive when positioned on an island, especially if paired with a downdraft extractor.
All the important appliance, electrical and plumbing decisions need to be made whilst the design of the island is being finalised. Services that in older kitchens run around the perimeter of the room will need to be brought into the centre of the room, which can involve more building/construction works.
Our islands usually have a breakfast bar area, with a worktop overhang so bar stools or chairs can be tucked beneath. Many of our clients have young families and they always say that the children head to the island’s breakfast bar straight after school for a snack and it’s usually where the day’s debriefing begins!