The kitchen is quickly becoming the most popular room in the house. People gravitate toward the smells of cooking food. During entertaining, guests want to be close to the party host, who is often busy in the kitchen.
And many new homes feature eat-in kitchens, which were popular in the mid-20th century.
More traffic in the kitchen, however, means less space to work. Enter the kitchen island. Once a simple square block to mix pie dough on, this center-room staple is taking on more responsibilities while serving as additional counter space.
“We have some islands that are 10 to 12 feet long,” says Brad Carlson, kitchen specialist at the Expo Design Center in Phoenix, who adds that the possibilities for an island are “endless.”
But even with such oversized islands, such as those that appear in Ashton Woods Homes’ models in Gilbert, the kitchen feels open instead of crowded. With all the features added on, Robert Muñes, vice president of sales and marketing, says the islands serve as an extension of the food preparation and seating areas.
“Kitchen islands are a great accessory for both family meals and entertaining,” he says. “They also provide a work area for the host or hostess to face their family members or guests while preparing the meal.”
Besides additional space and storage — either with cabinets, shelves or spaces for wicker baskets — new island features include secondary sinks, dishwashers, stove tops, chopping blocks and spaces for dining.
“The island is becoming the central point in the kitchen,” says Carlson, which is why he emphasizes traffic flow when it comes to picking the right island. The designer tells his clients to mark a space on their kitchen floor with masking tape or make an island out of cardboard. Then, make sure there’s enough room to maneuver through the kitchen with ease and open cabinet and refrigerator doors.
Carlson says most islands can be custom made. Popular requests include a two-tier design with a higher surface for eating at one end, decorative moldings and surfaces such as glass and copper. Another trend is to contrast the island with the rest of the kitchen. So while the kitchen may be done in a traditional look with wood cabinets and white-tile countertops, an island might have a bit of a Spanish flair utilizing multicolored cabinet doors and red tile.
Islands don’t have to be limited to the kitchen, says Carlson. They can also be used in home offices and craft rooms. Look for ones on wheels to move around the room as needed.