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Is it Over For Kitchen Islands?

If you’re planning a cookspace redesign, could it be time to swerve the popular island and consider these alternatives?

Houzz UK Editorial Staff. I’m a freelance journalist with more than 13 years’ experience… More

Islands have long been a standard feature in kitchens, providing extra storage, another work surface and a place to perch – and they can look pretty stunning, too. However, for some, this bulky piece of furniture is merely a hindrance that blocks access and limits space. Could it be time to consider alternatives to the island, or are you a long-standing fan of this kitchen favourite?

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Could one of these furniture items be a worthy alternative to the coveted kitchen island?

The alternative:
A large table
Why it’s a contender: It’s comfortable and inviting

For a cosy, welcoming feel in your cookspace, nothing beats a roomy table that’s comfy to sit round. When you have a large surface like this close to your kitchen area, there’s probably no need to cram in an island as well.

In this room, the cook can use the wooden table top to spread out a little, and at the same time there’s plenty of space for guests to relax without having to teeter on uncomfortable bar stools.

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The alternative: A neat breakfast nook
Why it’s a contender: It takes up a lot less room

If your island is used primarily for a quick breakfast or coffee break, you could consider a less bulky alternative. Here, the run of cupboards incorporates a breakfast bar with enough room for two stools. The curved design helps it to blend in with the space and prevents the owners from bumping into any sharp corners.

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The alternative: A large butcher’s block on wheels
Why it’s a contender: It’s a portable compromise

Can’t decide whether you want an island or not? Give yourself the flexibility to change your mind with a handy butcher’s block on wheels. This one is large enough to provide a useful work surface and some extra storage, but when the owners need more floor space, it can be moved to the side of the room.

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The alternative: A window seat
Why it’s a contender: It’s sociable and relaxing

One of the great things about an island is how it can make kitchens more sociable – the cook can prepare food while easily chatting to guests. But there are other, much more luxurious ways to include friends and family in your culinary activities.

In this airy room, the window seat is surely the main attraction for visitors. Imagine chilling out on those cushions while chatting with the cook and enjoying the view of the garden.

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The alternative: Nothing but space
Why it’s a contender: You can move around freely

Sometimes there’s just no need for an extra surface. Think about how you use your kitchen and whether you really want those extra seats or another worktop. If you’re someone who likes a feeling of flow in your home, perhaps you’d be better off without an island.

This U-shaped cookspace is light and uncluttered, with plenty of room for food preparation and storage. The lack of an island allows people to walk freely around the space without bumping into anything.

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So, should we really ditch the kitchen island?

It’s true there’s often no need for an extra piece of bulky furniture in the centre of the kitchen, but there are also quite a few reasons to consider an island in your cookspace design…

1. It’s great for storage
It’s amazing what storage you can fit into a simple rectangular unit in the centre of the room. Here, the owners have made up for the lack of wall units by building some handy features into their kitchen island.

There’s a luxurious wine fridge and a couple of shelves for recipe books and glassware at the rear, while the front probably has some cupboards or drawers. The beauty of a design like this is that you can ensure things are stored close to where they’re needed – the glasses and wine are easily accessible from the dining table, while on the other side the owners can store items needed for cooking.

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2. It will help you look out to the room
Imagine this kitchen with no island. Yes, it would be spacious, but the chef would constantly have their back to the rest of the room. By adding an island unit to the centre of an L- or U-shaped scheme, your space will instantly become more sociable. Here, the owner can wash up or prepare food on the large white worktop while easily chatting to anyone sitting at the dining table.

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3. It’ll provide a perch
If you like to sit and enjoy a cuppa in your kitchen, or have a natter while you cook, there’s no easier way to do it than by fitting in an island. A simple square or rectangular unit with enough space for a couple of stools can be just enough to up the social credentials of your cookspace.

Here, the two bar stools are placed at the narrower end of the island, ensuring there’s plenty of room for the chef to move around.

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4. You’ll get an extra work surface
Even a small island can make a difference to your kitchen’s prep space. In this bright room, a square unit has provided one more surface to make life easier for the owners when it comes to preparing food. A separate area like this is particularly useful when more than one of you are using the cookspace at the same time.

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5. It can add character
If you want to get creative with your kitchen design, an island can provide the perfect opportunity. Keep the rest of the space uniform and go to town on the central unit. This could be as simple as choosing a different colour for the island, or as daring as using tiles to create a statement piece, as seen here.

What do you think of kitchen islands? Are they a must-have that will never go out of style, or an unnecessary extra that gets in the way? Share your opinions in the Comments section.
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