Introduction – A kitchen island table in the making
Although hardly glamorous, a number of us can attest to once having or seeing a rocky, makeshift table in the kitchen that serves as a combined food preparation area, a cooking countertop, or a storage area. The unassuming substitute is actually a predecessor of the modern kitchen island table, tweaked for maximised functionality.
As the name implies, a kitchen island table goes in your kitchen, as an additional workspace that is sometimes also a less formal dining table, or as a divider in place of walls between the kitchen, living room and other areas. The kitchen island table has become an essential staple in current home and kitchen designs. There are numerous, creative styles to choose from and, most importantly, you can personalise your island table design in any way you like.
What is a kitchen island table exactly?
A kitchen island table is a functional counter that is separate from your actual kitchen. Its design depends on the overall kitchen layout, for example, it could run parallel to the affixed cabinets or be smack dab in the centre of the kitchen, and it could be either incorporated into or separated from the kitchen decor.
Another similar design is the kitchen peninsula, which is an extension of your kitchen counter and is open on three of its four sides.
Kitchen island table designs normally incorporate a smooth countertop, such as granite, quartz, or marble, or a simple butcher’s block counter as a workable space for food preparation and/or cooking. When large enough, designs can include a stovetop and hob, a sink, power outlets, a towel rack, and trash dispensers, for additional utility.
Both kitchen island tables and kitchen peninsulas are usually fitted with shelves or alcoves for storage, a towel rack or hanging space for kitchen utensils, and can be of a portable or fixed design.
It is also becoming increasingly common to add kitchen island tables as an informal sitting and eating spot, away from the main cooking area. Here, you can easily enjoy a quiet drink after work, or chit-chat with guests before a dinner party.
Planning for a kitchen island table
The kitchen island table that is best suited to your home will depend on several factors, most notably those concerning space availability and the potential functionality of the island table.
Is it merely for aesthetics or do you really need an island table?
These design outlines can help you plan your next steps if you’re thinking about getting a kitchen island table:
First note the primary function of an island table in your kitchen – is it to provide extra seating or will it provide storage and display space for your kitchenware or food, in addition to kitchen shelf storage? The type of island table, its design, height, and size, as well as furnishings and finish, will depend on this main function.
Unlike a regular kitchen table, a kitchen island designated for cooking is different from a kitchen island for eating and entertainment. An island table meant for cooking, for example, has a food-safe countertop for food preparation, a tiered storage cabinet and/or shallow shelves for storage of kitchen utensils.
Meanwhile, an eating or entertainment island, such as a double-tier kitchen island, might have open leg space for diners. Such island tables are geared towards larger family kitchens and for those who prefer in-kitchen dining.
An island table will take up more space than you expect in your kitchen. You will need to ensure there is at least one metre of uncluttered space all around the island table for safe and smooth movement.
It is recommended that your kitchen island table is at most only 10% of the total square footage of your entire kitchen area. A larger kitchen island will simultaneously dominate the kitchen and make it difficult for you to move around.
In small kitchen areas, there might not be enough room for a kitchen island table. If you need the extra addition regardless, consider a kitchen trolley or rolling cart in your kitchen as a portable option – its shelves can hold a number of essentials while the flat top can be used for food preparation. You can just roll the cart to a corner when you need floor space.
TIP: A regular kitchen island table is around 36 inches (91cm) tall for cooking, including the island base frame and countertop; and around 42 inches (107cm) tall for eating or sitting purposes.
Consider the illumination above or around the kitchen island table such that it doesn’t interrupt your cooking or entertaining workspace. Visible light cables or clunky light fixtures can make an island table look awkward and easily overwhelm your kitchen.
As you apply the general lighting requirements for your kitchen to your island table, bear in mind your kitchen layout and add sufficient and controllable light fixtures accordingly.
Pendant lights are a great choice for a kitchen island table as it provides practical task lighting over the workspace. Pendant lights must be installed at the right distance away from the island table and the kitchen ceiling to avoid casting shadows and unintended head bumps when using the island table.
Electrical outlets are essential these days as they power up the devices we use to make life easier. This applies to the use of gadgets in the kitchen from basic to smart and trendy cooking appliances. While electrical outlets can be fitted into your kitchen island table, they must be done with caution. Exposed wirings are a potential hazard if fitted inappropriately into your island table.
Other fittings such as a built-in sink will need sufficient plumbing work done beforehand, as it may require breaking into the floor. Fixed kitchen island tables are still considered a part of a dry kitchen design even though a sink may be installed – neither fixed kitchen island tables nor rolling utility carts are safe to be left drenched with water.
TIP: Install your kitchen island sink or stovetop within easy working distance from each other, and the fridge, to create a “working triangle” and maximise functional space.
A good kitchen island table design
A kitchen island table that speaks of a good design will blend seamlessly with the rest of your kitchen whilst still remaining prominent. A good island table design is a feature that adds to many different kitchen layouts such as U- or L-shaped kitchens.
Design is accompanied by functionality, such as the clean, flawless surface finish of a kitchen island table, which conceals its many capabilities. An island table can provide added storage or cooking space, or serve as an impromptu breakfast or snack counter.
If your modern kitchen adopts an open floor plan, a kitchen counter can also be considered as a subtle divider in place of walls or columns, to maintain an elegant and trendy demarcation between the kitchen, living room, and dining area.
Island table design ideas and DIYs
Kitchen island types
Among the wide range of types of kitchen island tables available, ranging from small and dainty to sleek and expansive units, here are some ideas that you can take inspiration from as you plan your very own island table.
Fully-functional kitchen islands
Large and tiered kitchen island tables can come fully equipped as per their size. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal of large island table designs, which includes a distinctive island countertop, it promises great utility, either as a playground to enthusiast cooks or to seat members of a large family. Some larger examples include beautiful stone-and-metal kitchen island tables with ample seating and storage cabinet(s).
Standard kitchen islands
A wide variety of kitchens feature a kitchen island table made from the base cabinet(s) topped with a sturdy slab of material such as Formica or even stained wood, have wide or narrow shelves for storage and are installed with racks and hooks, such as a towel rack.
The basic yet functional designs are most often replicated in creative kitchen DIY projects as their sizes can be customised.
Small kitchen islands
Portable (rolling kitchen island types) and non-portable island tables find a home in small kitchens such as those in apartments and condominiums. The designs have a simple work, storage, and/or display space that is a faint echo of traditional kitchen island tables.
A rolling utility cart or a rolling storage cart with shelves and lockable wheels are easily converted into a kitchen trolley, but you can also affix these designs to the floor to prevent them from rolling off during meal preparation.
Kitchen island DIYs
City dwellings have small and compact kitchen spaces as part of their design. In this case, a modest kitchen island table that is both a stylish and practical option is your perfect choice and, frankly, nothing is stopping you from making one yourself.
DIY kitchen island tables are an ongoing fad-making tip and trick aplenty. You may choose to buy a plain, pre-modelled island table if you have no woodworking skills to build one on your own. This can then be assembled to your liking and is much more budget-friendly than building up an island table from scratch.
Another beginner option would be to simply repurpose a small shelf as a kitchen storage island, or as a spice rack or a wine rack display shelf. Wood bookshelves are sturdy enough to hold small kitchen items or appliances. Spruce it up with some sandpaper to blunt hard edges and paint, and lo, your kitchen DIY is finished and ready for use in no time!
If you only have space for a rolling kitchen cart with storage, consider turning it into a coffee cart to hold a quick energising boost throughout the day.
Important kitchen island considerations
It’s easy to overlook small details in the midst of giddy excitement for a new, quality addition to your kitchen. As great as it initially seems, even the most beautiful kitchen island tables do have some hidden downsides.
While a kitchen island table can be good for additional seating, away from the dining room, it can also be a socially stiff space – especially if the seating arrangement is planned poorly. You can avoid this in a kitchen island with a modern bar table and bar counter, for example, by designing the island table seating or bar seating such that the chairs or bar stools face each other, instead of in a single row.
It is sometimes inevitable for a kitchen island table to accumulate clutter. The island table is positioned to be easily visible, so piling unopened mail, just-washed dishes or empty containers, and snack packets on the island table can make your whole kitchen look like a big mess. The same applies to a kitchen island with seating, more so if you tend to pile things on the chairs.
Be sure to regularly de-clutter your island table and maintain a polished look for your kitchen counter decor.
Summary – The island table of your choice
Kitchen island tables are a growing trend that is purported to add to your home kitchen concept.
Remember that while you may have a strong desire for an island table in your kitchen as well as the necessary budget to get one, the right choice depends more on the available space and functionality of the island table. For instance, if your kitchen countertop space is overflowing with appliances and items when you need to cook, or if you need a mess-free area to serve your meals – you just might benefit from a kitchen island table as a kitchen counter or for added storage space.
However, you don’t want the addition to be in the way or clash with existing kitchen decor – say, when going to and from the fridge or sink. In this case, it would be of great benefit to choose only a small and portable kitchen island table or a kitchen peninsula.