April 19, 2023

Are Kitchen Islands a Thing of the Past? The Experts Weigh In

House Beautiful

Headshot of Jessica ChernerBY JESSICA CHERNER

We’ve all heard the age-old saying “the kitchen is the heart of the home,” but are islands—the standalone workstation that often doubles as a place to sit—causing the vital organ to become a bit congested these days? Though kitchen islands provide much-appreciated extra space for food preparation and a less formal alternative to a traditional dining table, they may be a bigger nuisance than we care to admit. So we chatted with three design experts to get their opinion on the matter.

First, let’s point out the obvious benefits of kitchen islands: “Islands with bar stools allow for additional casual seating options in the kitchen,” explains Mimi Meacham, principal designer and founder of Houston-based Marian Louise Designs. “Whether it’s breakfast for the kids or girlfriends chatting while you’re cooking, kitchen islands create a defined space in an open concept space. They add plentiful counter space for prepping meals, packing lunches, and decorating cookies.”

Of course, the practical benefits of a kitchen island date back to the early 19th century when wealthy European families (think Downton Abbey‘s Crawleys) installed a worktable in front of the hearth or stove for the servants to prepare meals. Back then, the families rarely visited the kitchen, making the island a practicality reserved only for the staff. These days, of course, they’re a hallmark in plenty of spacious kitchens where plenty of families actually spend most of their time. Is that a good thing, though?

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