Kitchen islands are popular for good reasons, but a humble table can work just as hard (and look beautiful, too)
Houzz Contributor. I’m a London-based journalist with years of experience writing… More
If your kitchen is above a certain size, an island unit might seem like a no-brainer. It offers extra storage and workspace, somewhere to perch with a cup of coffee, and an easy way to break up a room. But what if you don’t have the space, it’s simply not your style or you don’t want extra storage, worktop space or a breakfast bar?
Luckily, there’s an alternative – and it’s a classic: a strategically placed dining table. Here are 10 occasions when kitchen tables give islands some serious competition.
In this modern rustic space, a slim, wooden refectory table adds character and allows a ‘longer’ view through to the cooker and back wall. However, it still works as a place to slice, chop and knead.
Tip If you’re planning to use your table frequently as a work surface, source a higher-than-average one, so you’re not constantly bending over. Industrial-style stools that are height-adjustable are a flexible seating solution.
Work your walls
Not installing an island unit allows a greater feeling of space in this airy, extended country kitchen. It also leaves ample room for a classic farmhouse table.
Worried about the diminished opportunity for extra worktop space? Solutions such as wall-mounting your microwave can help free up your existing work surface.
Top your table
By their nature, islands tend to be blocky and monolithic. Consequently, an interesting worktop risks getting ‘lost’. By contrast, this zinc-topped table makes an appealing addition to all the white and wood in this charming kitchen – and very much adds to the room’s cottagey appeal.
An island tends to be a big commitment – a permanent fitted fixture you can’t easily undo, especially if it features a hob or sink. However, you can feel freer to experiment style-wise with a table – it’s easy to swap if you eventually change your mind.
In this kitchen, a table painted in a bold pinky-mauve brings the whole room to life.
Check out the best dining tables for relaxed get-togethers
Take the weight off
We’re so used to kitchens looking and functioning in a certain way, we can forget we don’t have to follow convention. Despite what TV chefs might have you believe, there’s no carved-in-stone rule that you have to stand up while you’re beating eggs or peeling potatoes. If you have a table close by, you’re more likely to utilise it in this way. You can also sit down and leaf through recipe books, or just have a cup of tea, of course.
Style it out
The great thing about tables is they come in a huge variety of styles and materials, so, if you wish, you can choose something quirky, dramatic or special for a more interesting kitchen look.
An island could easily have made this kitchen feel cramped. Instead, the rich wood table and bench combination helps it seem cosy for a dining room feel.
No room for a kitchen island? Think again
Maximise a slim space
This kitchen is probably too skinny for an island. However, with some clever design touches, it has accommodated a table – and a large one at that. Choosing low, compact stools that slot underneath it and handleless cupboard doors to keep the units streamlined means there’s enough room to walk through the space.
How big does your kitchen really need to be to have an island?
Big up your dining zone
Islands can be a good way to demarcate ‘cooking’ and ‘dining’ zones. However, a kitchen may not always lend itself to being divided in this way – and not everyone has the luxury of a separate dining room.
Using the whole room, instead, as one blended cooking-dining space can actually make it seem bigger – and even allow for a bigger table, a boon if you love to throw a dinner party.
If your room is relatively narrow, or features multiple doorways, an island could easily be a hazard – somewhere to bang toes or block access. This tall, wooden table is a winning alternative. It provides an inviting breakfast bar area, the legroom underneath means stools can be tucked safely out of the way, and tonally it adds warmth to the tiles and units.
Celebrate stylish chairs
Islands often have to work hard, and so err on the side of a functional aesthetic rather than simply being stylish for the sake of it. However, a chic table like this one adds a designer edge that manages to be inviting and homely.
A table also offers the opportunity to use classic chairs, like these iconic Tulips.
Do you have an island, a kitchen table or both? How does that work for you? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments below.