Do you remember the desert island game? It goes like this. If you’re stranded on a desert island and can only have one record, or type of food, or book (the game can involve any type of survivalist luxury), what would it be? Now, take the rules of the desert island game and apply it to the kitchen island. What feature or function can’t you live without? What qualities of the kitchen island are necessary to make the kitchen feel cohesive, warm, and inviting, the kind of place where you can let your foodie skills shine and that guests will want to stay long into the night?
One of the favorite culinary conversations of forward-thinking restaurants is how to successfully create the “third space.” In restaurant speak, the third space (home is first space, the workplace is second space) is a fluid, shared environment that inspires congregation and socialization and encourages customers to linger. To put it another way, dining is no longer theater, as the iconic American cookbook author James Beard suggested; it’s community. The third space is accessible, comforting, and welcoming. It features communal areas, quiet workspaces, kids’ zones, and media areas, all of which create a cultural hub, a place where everyone has a place. The kitchen island is the home’s equivalent of the third space. It’s an informal gathering place, a homework space, a central workspace and a place to serve the Chinese-style ribs you’ve finally mastered.
Form Follows Function
Yes, size matters. The shape of the kitchen island should relate to its intended function and purpose. According to Martha Stewart, in order to accommodate foot traffic, the island should have 36 to 48 inches of space around all sides. In addition, if you’re going to use the island as an informal dining space, it’s recommended that you plan for 24 inches of width per person. Adequate legroom needs to be considered as well. The last thing you want is to become marooned on your kitchen island like Tom Hanks in Castaway because you failed to factor in the clearance between your knees and the bottom of the counter.
Storage is a key component of the perfect kitchen island, and it can be created in a variety of different ways. The ends of the island can easily be outfitted with open, shallow shelves, which are perfect for kitchen knick-knacks and all those dog-eared cookbooks. At the same time, you can craft a storage nook for unwieldy pans by hollowing out a cavity in the lower section of the island where they can be hung. From deep-set drawers to hold cooking accessories to cupboards to store baking supplies, the island’s storage units should be specific and multi-purposed.
In order for the kitchen island to be the home’s “third space,” it needs to be versatile and improve the kitchen’s functionality. The island should provide extra counter space for meal prep, and the counter space should be made of durable surface material. Popular choices include granite, man-made quartz, quartzite, Corian, marble, and butcher block. Meanwhile, the kitchen island must be an all-inclusive destination; in the morning it should function as a coffee and breakfast nook, and in the evening, after it’s served its role as a casual dining space, it should moonlight as a bar and cocktail area – a place where friends meet, talk, and enjoy.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
Lately, people want their kitchen island to be as versatile as a Michelin star chef. In other words, the island may have an additional sink, a second countertop range, a pet feeding station, a hidden, IKEA-like storage area for extra pots, pans, glasses, and silverware. It can even showcase your expensive china, wine collection, or beloved collection of antique coffee grinders. Having a one or two of these features is definitely becoming more common in kitchens, however it isn’t necessary. It can be customized to have what you need and what you think you will use. There is no need to incorporate all of these because too many amenities and specifications will make the island busy and congested.
If the kitchen is the heart of the house, then the kitchen island is that warm and special place in the heart. A perfect kitchen island should never be deserted of family, friends, and laughter.