The Kitchen Island

The Kitchen Island

What is the most requested Kitchen renovation option? I want an “ISLAND” in my kitchen…

Well let’s discuss some Kitchen Island ideas. Today we are adding islands to our designs more than ever and the larger the better! I think the big trend towards islands is people tend to congregate in the kitchen and to do this around a central table seems to just work, hence the island. In, the island you can place a stovetop for cooking, a sink and dish washer for cleaning, a secondary sink for food preparation… It can be a seated island one level or two… it can be permanent or movable… and they can be done in many shapes, lets discuss.

The Cooking Island: A few ways to use the island for cooking is with a cook top and oven, a range or just a microwave in a base cabinet. Major cooking in your island tends to be more complicated. You will need to add ventilation whether a hood overhead or a down draft system. You will also now have a harder time controlling splatter and grease during cooking especially if the island is seated and can be dangerous with having unexpected hot surfaces. This being said, it still can be good for the right circumstances. Today most of my cooking islands tend to only include a microwave. When installing a microwave island you can use microwave drawer which is designed for this application, a standard microwave with a side swinging door and now some manufacturers are building combo microwave / convection that open like a conventional oven.

The Sink Island: This type of island tends to be the most popular and very useful. We will usually include dishwasher and garbage for functionality. The best part of this type of island is it allows preparation and clean up while still maintaining good social interaction because nobody has his or her back to anybody. This type of island tends to work very well with seating especially with children so serving and clean up of quick meals goes effortlessly. You can also place a secondary sink on an island which works in multiple cooks / prep kitchens. This allows 2 people to work more comfortably in a kitchen preparing meals and not getting in each other’s way.

The Clean Island: The clean island has nothing in the way and has a nice large unobstructed surface. This type of island tends to be for the household that does projects and/or entertains frequently. When doing projects whether school with the kids, sewing project or just organizing pictures for photo albums having a nice large layout space is great and is actually requested often for these types of reasons. Also, this type of island is perfect for laying out food for buffet style entertaining or even food staging during large gatherings.

The Seated Island: Again most of our islands end up being seated when the space allows. I almost always recommend single level islands when having seats. Even thought it might seem to be more interesting or that it might block the messiness, a two level island tends to be very inefficient and uncomfortable. There are also harder to keep clean than a single surface. The other type requested seated option is 2 and 3 sided seating which makes the island look a little more like a table / cabinet hybrid. These islands are great when removing the eat-in kitchen table and still maintaining a dining room table. The main reason for this request is that it is hard to socialize in a single row so having 2 and 3 sided really helps a family communicate with each other.

The Long Island: This is really the oversized island. Today we are doing larger and larger islands and most customers are looking to do this with single slab construction so they don’t encounter any seams. Usually this type of island needs to have countertop choice not only made but the actual slabs secured prior to ordering the cabinets. Once you commit to cabinet layout and order them it becomes very difficult and expensive if you need to change them later if you can’t get a top that fits. Even with man made quartz materials in jumbo sizes available you might find yourself waiting for backordered material and no replacements. Also don’t forget and make sure you can get the top it into the space when installing, very heavy and they don’t bend around corners.

Island Spacing and Function Tips:

1. Try to keep you minimum walkways to 42”, If need can go as close as 36”

2. On seated sides minimum 48” for walkways.

3. Allow 24” in width per seat, your shoulders are wider than the actual stool.

4. There are three types of stools, Table Height for 30” tables, Counter Height for 36” typical kitchen cabinet height and Bar Height for 42” raised counter height.

5. Typical stool overhang is approximately 12”

6. Don’t hang lights lower than occupants standing eye height

7. Don’t forget good outlet locations and USB outlets are great too.

The interesting thing about the “Kitchen Island” is no matter what style you choose or even combining styles that fit your family’s needs, I have never had a customer who regretted having an island that was designed right. So whether it is long, short or even “L” shaped it will never be deserted. So plan well, think about your needs and build that island!

Decisions, decisions – Picking the Right Countertop

Decisions, decisions – Picking the Right Countertop

One of the toughest and most important decisions you will have to make for your kitchen renovation is the countertop material. This is the most used and abused piece of the job, but also the most satisfying. It will help you keep clean and actually protect your cabinetry. So, let’s talk about some of the more popular choices in our region:

Granite: One of the best materials to date being used. Cost has come down but this material is still a premium compared to laminate. It gives a very natural look and is extremely durable and scratch resistant. There are some concerns with staining, but I have not experienced this at all over the years. I would always recommend sealing the surface periodically and always remember -the darker the material the denser and more impervious it is.

Quartz: Like granite, not only one of the best materials but has also become one of the most popular materials due to its ability to look like granites, marbles and other natural materials while maintaining excellent durability. This material is man-made using a resin and quartz content virtually impervious and stain proof. It has excellent fabrication abilities, too. If you find a style you like you can’t go wrong here. Indoor use only.

Marble: This natural stone has become very popular again even though it is one of the most fragile and easily damaged countertops. It will stain and scratch very easily depending on the choice. Also certain types, like Calcutta Gold, have become extremely expensive.

Quartzite: Some of the most beautiful countertops that I have seen have been fabricated from this material. While it is not as durable as granite, it is still very durable and often has a lot of character and depth to the stones. If you find one you love, don’t be afraid to use it.

Wood: Adding a wood island or other accent to your kitchen can be exciting with its beautiful texture and ability to stain in any color. Wood is not cold to the touch like a stone top and will not handle hot pots or extreme humidity changes. While it is not the most durable, there are some great looks using wood. If you’re not afraid of being careful you can do your whole kitchen with wood. Walnut and Maple seem to be the most popular types.

Ultra Compact/Porcelain: While this material is most likely where the future seems to be headed, these countertops have definite fabrication restrictions. Some come as thin as 1/4 inch thick which does pose some complications with the design, too. Because of its extreme durability and impervious nature, this is the best material to use for outdoor projects.

Other types – Laminate, Concrete, Recycled Materials, Stainless Steel, Soapstone, Solid Surface: These materials are still being used for projects but are not the top choices today in our territory for residential countertops.

So, when planning your new kitchen countertops, I would first make your choice of what style you love and then factor in its durability in your household. I would always shy away from recommending marble or wood in a house with small children, but I have done it and have seen it stay in really good shape. Quartz and granite seem to be the most selected types due to their ease of care, durability and cost. It all depends on how you take care of your countertops. This is an important decision as it will most likely remain in your home for the entire time you live there; make it something you can live with for a long time. Enjoy!

The Highs and Lows of Island Seating

The Highs and Lows of Island Seating

I think most of the kitchen design that I do and teach is that most good design comes from the people it is being designed for. You and your husband both probably have good reasons for wanting either choice so I’ll just give you some general rules I use to help guide my customers.

1. What is the height of the users?

2. Are we going to have cooking (hot surfaces) on the island?

3. Will the space be used for food preparation?

4. Will you layout buffet style food on special occasions?

5. Does anyone that might use them have any ailments that could limit them?

6. Do you have a dog that can steal food from your counters?

These are just a few questions to ask yourselves that might help guide you to your best layout. As for my 2 cents, most times a single level island is a more user friendly set up in general. It offers larger uninterrupted space, easier for kids and seems to allow everyone to use all 4 sides better. You need to work with a good designer that listens to the needs of their customer and helps guide them.

Choosing An Outdoor Countertop

Choosing An Outdoor Countertop

First if in direct sun this top can become very hot so if that is the case than look for a lighter color and under trees will have a tendency to always have dirt and leaves that can stain on them. As far as conventional outdoor stones are concerned (e.g. Bluestone, Crab Orchard, Limestone, etc) they are great looking, but very porous and will stain especially with grease from grilling. Marble can be used especially if you want a special patina feel because they will dull out quickly and if honed they will need sealing often. Granite probably the best natural stone choice, but some of the lighter choices will be more porous and need to be sealed often. Granite will also loose some of its shine over time. Quartz countertop materials (e.g. Silestone, Cambria, Ceaserstone, etc) unless UV protected cannot be used outdoors and currently I don’t know of any that can. There is a newer man made product which is my favorite choice today for an outdoor kitchen. This is Denton; it is a completely impervious material, super hard, will not stain and is very durable. Currently it only comes in 2cm thick and about a dozen colors. All in all try to pick a material that suits your style and surroundings and has a pattern or swirl that might show less dirt because even the morning dew will add dirt marks.