As the trend to bring down walls and open up space continues the kitchen is as much a social hub as it is a place to prepare food and eat. As the old idea of defined rooms and areas blurs (and with kitchens rated as adding the most financial value in today’s houses) getting the design and detail right is of paramount importance.
From lazy Sunday brunches to celebrations and gatherings, from a place to do homework and play, from a workspace to entertaining, the kitchen is now so much more than just an area for cooking and dining. And with open plan layouts, all too often it is the kitchen island that is at the heart of that space and design.
With over 90% of our customers asking if they can fit an island in their kitchen, how do you know if you have the space to fit one? And if you do, what do you go for? Even with limited space it may be possible so it is always worth asking your designer the question and with Island designs incorporating everything from hobs to teppanyaki grills, breakfast bars and seating areas to secret storage and seamless sinks and even pet recesses, how you design your island, the overall size, scale and how you want to use it are key considerations.
Add to that mixing materials and shapes and the choice of worksurface and island design can have a big impact on your kitchen!
What’s the smallest kitchen island I can have?
From the smallest of kitchen layouts, with clever design it may just be possible to squeeze in that precious island you want so much. For the Theanne’s and their young family an island was the key to making their space more interactive and bringing the family together at key times, whilst also doubling up as additional storage.
“We had a couple of things we really wanted to achieve in our brief. We wanted an island but didn’t think we had enough space. The Smarthaus team listened and rather than copy our current design, re-looked at our space and came up with a design that ensured we made best use of it.”
Sacrificing a bank of cupboard space to make room for an island can work even if you really need that storage space, because incorporating cupboards or drawers into the Island itself is a great solution and a clever use of design.
But how small can an island really go? Well, you probably wouldn’t want to go much smaller than a 1m x 1m size. That creates a compact island with reasonable surface space. If you want a seating area incorporated, and this is the case with many islands, then depending on the thickness of material the overhang or seating area shouldn’t generally exceed 300mm. Typically worksurfaces are 20mm thick but if you are going super slim, for example a 12mm quartz then the overhang shouldn’t exceed 240mm. It’s always wise to check with your kitchen designer and get advice.
Realistically though to make the most of an island, the minimum recommended length would be around 1.6m and the depth 800mm. This gives you a really nice Island size to incorporate some features into the surface. And if you don’t have space to go wider, then you could always create a design in a T-Shape to create a more useable surface area.
Simone Parker had wanted to do just that and create an area where the family could gather around the Island and dine together ‘face to face, rather than seated in a line’. Choosing to have the breakfast bar as a T shape off the Island was the perfect solution and gave the opportunity to opt for contrasting colours and materials as well as creating lots of extra surface space for cooking and dining.
And, if you are lucky enough to have room for the largest of Islands, then how big can you go? The size of the sheets of the material you choose will determine this to a degree especially if you don’t want any joins – and most customers don’t. So material dependent you are probably looking at something around 3.2m x 1.5m.
Granite allows for the largest size flexibility in size just because of the size of slabs, but with the advent of engineered stones and the rise of sintered ceramics island design is forever developing.
If you want luxury without the huge price tag then opt for Quartz. Using a built-up edge detail with Quartz can create a truly luxurious island and if possible, adding a drop-down table as a seating area can work really well either in the same or a contrasting material.
With quartz being quite a practical material compared with Marble for example, when it comes to resistance to stains and scratches (it is still recommended that you use trivets and chopping boards) and fairly cost effective it is the ideal surface for worksurfaces and Islands. With ranges taking inspiration from stone, concretes and marbles, the wealth of colours is huge for example Caesarstone Primordia or Caesarstone Excava both featured below are simply beautiful designs ideal for worktops and islands.
Caesarstone Excava both featured below are simply beautiful designs ideal for worktops and islands.
Add to that the new kid on the block, sintered ceramics such as Neolith, Dekton and Lapitec and you not only have a material that is UV stable, heat resistant, scratch resistant and more (in this case use chopping boards to protect utensils) you can create an incredibly contemporary take on the kitchen Island. Note that not all kitchen design companies will offer sintered ceramics. They are difficult to fabricate so if you really want a sintered ceramic worksurface, also known as ultra compacts, choose your kitchen company wisely. Having said all that, these materials are simply stunning and are on the rise, partly due to performance and partly due to design, take Dekton Orix featured here. If you are looking for the height of design and function, then this material is it and with availability in 12mm and 20mm, amongst other thicknesses, it perfectly meets the requirement for super slim worksurfaces.
You can incorporate so many different appliances and items into an island that may otherwise have been installed in your kitchen worktops. From hobs to sinks, Teppanyaki grills, hidden waste bin compartments, wine coolers and even pet recesses; they can all be included.
From a design perspective it’s important of course, to understand how many people live in the house and how the space might be used along with, of course, the size of the space. It’s imperative to leave the correct area around the island, so erring on the side of caution and leaving a little more room than the minimum is suggested and your designer should be checking that doors, drawers, dishwashers etc can all be opened safely and be worked around. Also think about having enough space so if one of you is working or cooking, the other can still maneuver around.
Typically, base units situated on a wall are 600mm in depth so already you can start to see if it can work. Really leaving less than 0.9m between island and units is about as minimal as you would want to go.
In addition, it’s critical to think about the workflow of the kitchen. Chefs generally prefer a galley kitchen as it allows them to work at the island and turn and easily reach the space behind them so a well-planned kitchen will have worksurfaces, appliances and cupboards all within easy reach.
Adding finishing touches such as backless stools is also a great way of keeping the space feeling really open and lighting over the island is a really important consideration. The Tilley’s stunning open plan kitchen allowed for an island that incorporated storage, hob and double wine coolers as well as a beautifully symmetrical design of the kitchen space.
If space is still a bit tight, you could always consider a peninsula. This is a great way of incorporating an island without having to create all the space around it. It’s an “almost island” and is a really practical solution where space is at a premium. Fixed on one side, it brings the same benefits with little compromise and can double up beautifully as a breakfast bar, particularly because it is generally at the end of the kitchen so when you are seated at it you can see the whole of the kitchen which is a bonus.
And if room is really, really, really tight, then there are smaller scale options such as butchers blocks, trolleys and even moving islands – all potentials and all offering that additional worksurface space and storage without taking up too much room and of course, they are a lot more cost effective.
And if all that doesn’t work and you really can’t go for it, or you just don’t want your kitchen to be too crowded, then your designer can still create something wonderful! Better sometimes to have a comfortable working space and keep your kitchen light and airy.
Why not get in touch with Smarthaus if you are looking for a new kitchen. We are independently owned, with over 12 years’ experience and offer a free, no commitment design service. We specialize in contemporary German Kitchens and creating affordable, stunning design. Visit www.smarthaus.co.uk and find inspiration, blogs, past projects and more to help get your project started! Or come and visit us at Grand Designs in Birmingham from the 9-13 October 2019.