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Not so many years ago kitchens were isolated places where food was prepared unnoticed by the family and guests. Swinging doors were popular and some galley kitchens had portals to pass the food into the dining area. But most of the food preparation area was covered up. This was in contrast to the first half of the 20th Century when the area was the nerve center of the home.
Since the late 1970’s the kitchen has taken steps back to the days when the stove was one of the main heating sources and therefore a place where family and guests gathered. With the modern demands made on food preparation the area has increased in space and pushed into the main living area of the home. To add more storage and counter area kitchen designers moved a section from against the wall and made an isolated space that added both food preparation area and storage. Thus was born the island.
In addition to the convenience and utility factor kitchen islands are also a decorative statement and brings to the theme of the entire kitchen to the forefront. Whether it is a simple cabinet with a butcher-block top or an elaborate, custom-made cabinet with electrical, plumbing, a cook top and a sink the island is a staple of the modern kitchen.
The most common kitchen island is the cabinet with a single surface to encompass a table-like counter with either a laminate top or expensive options like marble or acrylic. This type can also be an impromptu eating area complete with high stools. Other options include the multi-level and irregular-shaped ones that can include sinks, shelves for cook books, wine-racks, cook tops and other amenities. These different variations mean that the island can be multiple workstations where two or more persons can operate.
When kitchen remodeling designers look at an existing home to position the amenities they have to take into consideration the floor space. If this is an existing, galley-type kitchen space becomes crucial so renovating means deciding what the homeowner:
- wants to keep
- wants to add
- wishes to sacrifice to have the first two
This is the point where they begin to look at walls to move or an area to shave off the next room.
In a typical bungalow, by taking out a wall between the galley kitchen and the dining room the cabinet space given up from removing the wall can be restored and added upon with an island. There also might be room to add more features.
Sample of Island Types
- Simple Stand: This type can be stationary or on wheels. It can include storage area below and can be easily moved around to add food preparation where needed
- Radius Island: One end of the island is widened and rounded like a keyhole to bring in the living area. Stools are placed around the end for the family to sit.
- Two Islands: One is the radius island and the second, more traditional island is close by with enough space to allow movement.
- Sliding Top Island: To allow more surface area there is a hidden top which can slide out. Depending on the size of the island two or more leaves can be included in the design.
- Fan-Shape: This is a great for food preparation while talking to guests or your family. They sit on the large “fan” side while you are at the narrow end. The counter can contain a cooktop or large food preparation sink, or sink.
Kitchen Island Inclusions
Utilities: Besides being important for the food preparation and ambiance of the area the kitchen island can also be the de facto control center. This includes plumbing, electrical outlets and room controls, as well as the storage of kitchen vitals like small appliances, cookbooks and specialized service such as corkscrews and apéritif utensils.
Range Hood: If the cooktop is included in the island this means that you can have wide choice of impressive range hoods. These are mean to exhaust kitchen fumes, smoke and smells so that you can grill or fry without filling up the home with cooking odors. In addition they are a decorative room divider and, if placed properly can be the defining feature of the entire kitchen. There is an impressive array of designs and colors including the enamel-coated steel, the classic and cool glow of brushed stainless steel and the rich patina of copper and antique brass.
Countertops: Granite, marble, laminate and acrylic are the popular choices however butcher block, walnut and even concrete are making inroads with kitchen designers.
Cabinets: The new trend for island cabinets is not to make them a uniform extension of the main kitchen cabinets. Designers are adding a style and time-period to the cabinetry that makes up kitchen islands.
Lighting: As with countertops, focused lighting on the island helps with food preparation and entertainment.
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