If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the kitchen island is the soul – this is generally where families get together in the mornings and evenings to enjoy a meal and catch up with each other. It is without a doubt one of the most used and most versatile spaces in the kitchen – in many cases it has even replaced the dining table.
“The trends that we have been seeing in kitchen island design lately have been born from real insight into how people interact with a space as they cook and entertain,” says Klyne Maharaj, the business development manager at The Kitchen Studio. “For instance, when most people think of an island, they imagine a freestanding work surface that acts as additional space to other work surfaces, and not the main feature. However we believe that the island can actually be the heart of the kitchen,” he says.
John Dammermann, the marketing director at Easylife Kitchens, highlights the following trends when it comes to kitchen islands: “For a practical and functional kitchen island, you have the option of installing a built-in stove, tops, grills and even sinks. Add some chairs and you now have a dining table. Waterfall countertops on kitchen islands are becoming very trendy and they create a nice flow. The island in a different colour or finish to the rest of the kitchen is growing in popularity as well.”
And with all things 21st century, technology is also influencing the way kitchen islands are created, as Stefan Marais, the CEO of Optima Kitchens, explains: “We are seeing an integration of technology which includes things like charging pads for mobile phones, concealed plugs and of course USB ports. Storage is another crucial factor so that these islands don’t just take up space but they also house the necessary condiments or pots and pans that will be utilised.”
Layout and space orientation
“Ergonomics are key,” says Marais when it comes to the layout and space orientation of a kitchen island. “The space around the island will either make life easier or more complicated. This can be a science, so dealing with a kitchen specialist is crucial. If necessary, tape out the area before the island is installed and make sure the countertops, which overhang, have been taken into consideration. Adjacencies are also important, so keep things like a vegetable prep area or the refuse bin, which need to be in close proximity, in mind.”
Maharaj adds that once you know exactly what type of kitchen you want, then you should consider your available space for the island. “Will the kitchen that you are planning accommodate a single, double or an L-shaped island? Ask yourself which configuration meets both your needs and complements the space the most.”
If you feel like you need a large kitchen for an island, Dammermann explains that islands are no longer reserved for large kitchens. “Smaller kitchens are now also being designed to fit in a compact island, ultimately creating extra working space or a prep area.”
Top three tips
“It is essential that the lighting is designed with the functionality of the island in mind. If this is not planned correctly it may be challenging for cooking or prepping. You need to bear in mind that there may well be an extractor fan as well,” says Marais.
“An island can double up as a dining table and workstation. When you are designing this space, think about how you can add extra storage space – maybe shelves or pull-out drawers, or even a cookbook shelf,” advises Dammermann.
When it comes to choosing the right countertops, Maharaj explains: “In a lightly used kitchen you can get away with marble, although it’s porous, and soft qualities are not well-suited to a heavy-use kitchen. Sintered porcelains like Dekton and Franke Lapitec are the strongest known work surfaces and also offer the thinnest (that is the most modern) thicknesses, followed by quartz and granite. We believe that quartz (for example Brutestone, Caesarstone and so forth) offers the best combination of durability, versatility in finish and price, and makes for a great worktop.”