Get into island life

Island units have become an important element of modern kitchens and while it’s undoubtedly a practical addition, it’s one that has the wow factor too.

Not only will it increase your kitchen’s storage space and offer an extra area for cooking, prepping and dining, it also provides a stunning centrepiece.

The island unit is the most popular part of kitchen design, says Paul O’Brien of Edinburgh-based kitchen specialists, Kitchens International. “Most of our clients want some sort of island and see it as a feature of the room, whether it is a simple division between kitchen and living area or an island that houses many of the kitchen functions,” says Paul. He adds “The island has become the sociable link between kitchen and living and is often the main everyday dining area too.” 

It is worthwhile to think carefully about what you need from an island unit. Perhaps you simply require a basic design that will give you additional storage with drawers, cupboards and shelving? Maybe you’d like it to be a statement cooking zone, home to the hob, oven and sink? Will it be a traditional rectangle unit or something more elaborate?

This year curves take over the kitchen so soft edges or circular designs are prominent. In an open-plan kitchen, an island will demarcate the room, making a clear distinction between work and relaxation areas.

And it’s also an ideal, informal dining space. Just add seating so your guests can chat to you while you cook. “If you have an overhang on the side away from the cooking zone of your island you can add bar stools, and a D-ended peninsular is much more comfortable than a square ended one,” says interior designer Mary Leslie.

Naturally, with such a large piece of furniture, space is important. “You need to make sure you have enough room to install an island and be able to move around it easily, open cupboard doors freely and open ovens safely,” says Martin Thomas, the national chair of KBSA and Scotland’s regional chair.

“Ideally, you should allow a distance of at least one metre between the island and any adjacent walls or furniture.” And he says consider what functions the island needs to perform. “If you’re planning on including a hob then thought needs to go into how power or gas will be supplied to the island. If you want a sink then you will need to think about how water will reach it.”

Incorporating split-level surfaces within an island provides the ergonomic answer for accommodating a range of activities. “If you plan to cook on the island a raised bar will separate your guests from any cooking splashes and also hide the preparation clutter, says Martin. Mary agrees: “Consider a dual height unit with a higher bar at the living room end so that the rest of the room does not have to look at the mess when you are cooking!”