No modern kitchen seems to be complete without stone kitchen island and countertops. Kitchen islands offer an array of benefits. Islands can provide specialized storage for things like wine and cookbooks plus they often provide a second eating area and serve as a natural transition between the kitchen and the dining and living areas in an open plan living space or great room.
Natural stone as well as manufactured quartz countertops are rugged, long lasting work surfaces that look beautiful for many years. Adding a stone countertop island to your kitchen can enhance both its beauty and functionality. Here are some of the considerations you will need to make when planning your island of stone.
Considering Your Existing Space For Your Kitchen Islands And Countertops
The size and shape of your existing kitchen or the available space of the kitchen that you are designing from scratch will play an important role in the size, shape and location of your island. Adding an island to a small kitchen may be impractical because of clearance issues with your refrigerator or cabinet doors. Long and narrow galley kitchens may not easily lend themselves to adding an island either.
You will need at least 42 inches between your island and existing cabinets and appliances. Consider increasing this space if the area is used by more than one person at a time. If your island includes seating allow at least 42 to 48 inches behind a seated diner, consider an L-shaped island to further separate areas used for food preparation, cooking and cleaning.
If you have an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen, an island offers a great deal of flexibility and more interaction between the cook and family or guests. Even a small apartment sized wall kitchen can benefit from a small kitchen island. The proportion of the island to the entire kitchen will determine how comfortable the space is and how efficient the flow of people in the space will be.
5 Possible Uses For Your Counterops or Island Stones
#1 Two or More Cooks
Perhaps not surprisingly, the number of cooks that will routinely be in the kitchen at the same time will have a bearing on the design and functions you will want to include in your island. While the one-cook kitchen is typically designed around the essential work triangle of the range, sink and refrigerator, a two or more cook kitchen should be designed around separate stations, with each area dedicated to a particular activity.
When planning a two-cook kitchen it is important to provide two sinks and it is also helpful to locate the wall ovens and cooktop in separate areas. An island with its own sink and cooktop provides the perfect solution for traffic congestion in a two-cook kitchen.
#2 Specialized Storage
Wine refrigerators, plate racks, bookshelves and drawer freezers are some of the specialized storage options that are popular in kitchen islands. Carefully consider access and clearance requirements of any pullout storage when planning your island.
#3 Accessible Work Surfaces
A kitchen island with a natural stone or manufactured quartz countertop adds convenient additional food preparation surfaces to your kitchen. You can create accessible areas for young helpers and older or handicapped cooks as well.
Wheelchair accessible food preparation areas, sinks and cooktops as well as built-in retractable toe kick steps to make counters accessible to children are great features to consider. Many accessibility features of universal design can be included in your kitchen island.
#4 Eat In Kitchen
An elevated eating bar can accommodate bar chair type seating and separate the cooktop, sink and food preparation areas from the eating area. The typical bar stool height is 28-30 inches so allow 12 inches clearance with a 40-42 inch high counter. This will leave a 4-6 inch rise between your island countertop and the bar.
#5 Open Plan Living
Increasingly popular open plan living that includes the kitchen, dining and living areas in one large space is well suited to the inclusion of a kitchen island. In an open plan living area like a loft or great room, the island provides a functional and aesthetic transition from the kitchen to the dining and living area. Prepared food can be set out and dirty dishes collected at the island without constant traffic in and out of the kitchen while at the same time allowing the cook or cooks to continue interacting with family and guests.
Utilities To Consider & What
Utilities for your island will be one of the major considerations and depending on the current location of various utilities in your home will also be one of the major expenses involved in adding a fully functional kitchen island to your home. Electrical wiring for outlets, refrigerators and electric ranges will need to be run under the floor to the island.
Plumbing for the sink will also need to be run under the floor. If your kitchen island is on a floor supported by joists above a basement or crawl space this is a relatively easy venture but if you are adding an island and have an existing concrete slab then jack hammering a trench will be a messy and expensive necessity.
Gas lines will likely need to be extended or even installed if you want to include a gas range in your island. A gas range will also require venting to prevent the buildup of dangerous fumes and remove moisture and oil laden vapors. Many gas ranges designed for islands include downdraft ventilators which should be run directly to the nearest exterior wall. An existing slab floor will again pose its own special challenges. A ceiling vent with a hood over the island is another attractive although potentially expensive option.
In the ceiling you will also need to consider lighting requirements for your island. Good kitchen lighting is a safety must and will normally include a variety of light sources such as under counter lights under both sides of the raised eating bar and pendant lights overhead.
3 Of The Best Types Of Materials For Countertops
Natural stone and manufactured quartz countertops, like kitchen islands, have become synonymous with modern kitchen design. They offer a combination of durability and beauty that is hard to match with other countertop materials. As the centerpiece of many modern kitchens, an island is a great place to showcase the natural look of stone.
In recent years polished granite has become the de rigueur countertop for high-end gourmet kitchens. It’s hard to argue with a beautiful and durable surface that works equally well for rolling out dough or laying out a cocktail party buffet. Granite countertops have an excellent reputation for adding value to your kitchen and the variations of color and patterns that come from being a natural material are normally seen as adding to its appeal.
Although granite takes a little more maintenance than some other common countertop surfaces it’s normally considered worth it. As long as you wipe up potential stains like wine and oil and follow the recommended sealing schedule your countertop will still be looking beautiful in 20 years or more.
Honed granite has a silky or matte look rather than the shine of polished stone. It doesn’t show scratches as easily as polished granite but it is just as durable and resistant to cracking, chipping and heat.
The timeless style and elegance of marble is something many people can’t resist. There are detractors that warn against marble because of its tendency to stain and wear faster than granite. If you want the look of marble but want something that can withstand the onslaught of a busy family kitchen here are a few tips.
A gray veined Carrara or Calacatta marble may not seem as pleasing as pure blazing white but it also helps camouflage small stains while still giving you that high-end timeless look. Marble is much softer and more porous than granite so regularly seal your marble against spills and take particular care to keep anything acidic like lemon juice and tomatoes off of it.
A manufactured quartz countertop (check out this link for more info about the benefits of having a quartz countertops) is a great low maintenance alternative to a natural stone surface. In most areas the cost of quartz and polished granite are comparable. Quartz is manufactured using a mixture of approximately 90% ground quartz crystals and 10% resin and colorants. Manufactured quartz countertops are resistant to heat, stains, chipping and scratches and are available in a wide array of colors. They also don’t need to be sealed like granite and marble.
Adding a kitchen island can be an expensive proposition depending on the existing layout of your kitchen, location of your utilities and the type of foundation you are working with. As a center for family life it can also be one of the best home improvement projects you ever take on. Carefully considering the features you want and using the most beautiful and durable materials available will insure it’s a decision you won’t regret.