Creating the perfect kitchen island

More from author

Editorial: Covid-19’s remedy is with us

WE have entered the sixth month of community quarantine, imposed at various levels across the archipelago, and...

Roque: Areas with zero Covid transmissions to be placed under ‘new normal’ in October

Some areas in the country may finally lose their community quarantine classifications next month. 

Duterte allows HCWs with contracts as of Aug. 31 to work abroad but retains total deployment ban

AN additional 1,500 health-care workers (HCW) have been allowed to be deployed abroad. This...

INTERIOR designer Abbe Fenimore knew that adding a kitchen island was one of the most important decisions she’d make in remodeling her 1940s-era home in Dallas. A well-designed kitchen island can offer storage space, a work surface, comfortable seating—even a cooktop or spare sink.

The kitchen of a Pasadena, California, home designed by Betsy Burnham. One key to planning a great kitchen island, Burnham says, is leaving plenty of legroom for barstool seating along one side.

But like so many aspects of kitchen design, it needs to be planned with extra care. An item this large and central isn’t something you’ll want to replace within just a few years.

So Fenimore and her husband created a cardboard island in their kitchen with precise dimensions to live with it before committing. They tinkered with the details on its size and location. They debated which features were necessary, and which were too much of a splurge or took up too much space.

In the end, that island “has become the literal hub in our home for socializing,” Fenimore says.

We’ve asked Fenimore, founder of the design firm Studio Ten25, and two other interior designers—Los Angeles-based Betsy Burnham and New York-based Jenny Kirschner—for their thoughts on great kitchen-island design and trends.


BECAUSE careful planning is so important, Burnham suggests working with a designer on kitchen-island design or finding resources online for drawing up a floorplan.

“You’re going to need about 3 feet of space around it—at least 3,” she says. Homeowners sometimes end up with too crowded a kitchen if they choose an island that’s too large.

“It shouldn’t literally be an island off by itself,” Burnham says, “but it shouldn’t be too close to perimeter countertops either.”

Other important questions: How many people do you want to seat? Leave plenty of depth for people’s legs when they sit on bar stools or seats at your island.

A kitchen in a Santa Monica, California, home likewise designed by Burnham. Although tiny pendant lights were once popular, designers now tend to choose more substantial overhead lighting above kitchen islands and select fixtures that can express the homeowners’ personal style.

And do you want one level or two? Burnham loves the clean lines of one level surface. But Kirschner sometimes designs an island with two levels—one at counter height for cooking prep and a lower level at table height, so you can sit in chairs rather than bar stools. Families with young kids who worry about little ones falling off bar stools often love this option, Kirschner says.


SOME of Fenimore’s favorite elements are deep, pull-out drawers for pots and pans, and drawers with mechanisms that lift a mixer or other small appliance up and out for easy use. Also: drawers designed to hold containers of spices, and deep drawers holding metal containers for serving utensils, as you might see in a restaurant kitchen.

“A lot of people underestimate storage needs,” Fenimore says, so really think about how you cook and what you use.

Kirschner also suggests considering what you might want to store that isn’t technically a “kitchen” item. Her island includes drawers for her children’s art supplies, because the island is where they do arts and crafts projects.

Islands often have closed storage, but some people prefer some open shelving.

Fenimore has a trash can built into her island, with a stainless steel opening in the island’s surface where unwanted items can easily be swept during cooking. It’s a detail that didn’t add much to the cost but makes life exponentially easier.


IT sounds lovely—having your stovetop in the island, so you can chat with someone seated there while you’re cooking.

But things splatter, Kirschner points out. And tearing up the floor to add power and gas lines can be expensive if your kitchen doesn’t already have these utilities in the middle of the floor. The same goes for adding a sink to your island: These designers say an island sink is a great feature and popular with clients, but you have to consider the expense if you’ll need plumbing work done in the floor.

Last, your cooktop needs ventilation. Do you want a range hood mounted in the ceiling and looming over your kitchen island?

“There are downdraft vents,” Kirschner says, “but they tend to not work nearly, as well” at ventilating your cooking space as overhead ranges do.


SOME people love an island that seamlessly matches the rest of the kitchen, with countertops and cabinetry identical to what runs along the room’s perimeter.

But our three designers say you can also think of your island like a piece of gorgeous furniture that is coordinated with the rest of the room but a little different. If you want the island to be the kitchen’s focal point, Kirschner says, get creative.

Kirschner loves natural stone surfaces for kitchen islands, especially quartzite, which she says has beautiful veins of color but is more durable than marble. Burnham agrees that a kitchen island can be a dramatic statement, and there is a wide variety of styles. Do you want a European farm-table look, or modern and sleek marble?

“We’ve seen a lot of the dark blues and grays and greens, in reaction to all the white kitchens we were seeing for a while,” Burnham says. “Maybe mix things up. Keep all the countertops the same, but maybe the perimeter cabinetry is one color and the island cabinetry is a different color.”

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More updates

‘Schitt’s Creek’ sweeps comedy categories at Emmy Awards

LOS ANGELES—Schitt’s Creek, the little Canadian show about a fish-out-of-water family, made history at Sunday’s Emmy Awards...
- Advertisement -

Catch Hallypop wave on Philippine TV

BRACE yourselves for a more exciting viewing experience as GMA officially brings Hallypop, the newest and first-ever digital channel that’s a one-stop shop for K-pop, lifestyle, and entertainment in the Philippines which made its debut last September 20.   This groundbreaking partnership between GMA and Jungo TV gives Filipino viewers 24/7 access to the...

Philippine Pastel Artists organizes first online art auction and raffle

DURING a time when art has taken a back seat to community and health concerns, the Philippine Pastel Artists group continues their mission to unite all Filipino pastel artists through meaningful creative engagements in art and the pastel medium. The PPA’s Board of Trustees and Officers assembled 39 of their best works...

Rodel Tapaya, Marina Cruz partner in first show together in years

PHILIPPINE art power couple Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz join hands in their first exhibition together in more than 10 years, taking on the sweeping changes in people’s daily lives brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The distinguished and humble pair welcomed the new...

Soaring higher with their songs

CREATIVE juices continue to flow naturally for many Filipino artists despite the countless limitations brought about by this worldwide pandemic. Singers, songwriters and music collaborators take inspiration from everything around them to work on new offerings that will hopefully allow music to serve any purpose it may...
- Advertisement -

In case you missed it