Heart of the Kitchen

20 February 2018

At the top of many of our kitchen client’s wish-list is a beautiful island with seating. It’s no surprise. They do look fabulous and they provide valuable storage, countertop space and a great place at which to gather. If a kitchen is the ‘heart of the home’, an island is the ‘heart of the kitchen’!

An island, as opposed to its geographical counterpart ‘the peninsular’ offers better flow and two-way access in and out of the main kitchen area. They define and screen the kitchen area, whilst blurring the boundary to the living space, with the potential of mixing seating and undercounter shelving and such.

As kitchen designers, we are charged with the duty of making these dreams come true (no pressure there)! And sometimes, if there’s not enough space, we have to be the ones to break the bad news…

Planning an island begins with a good understanding of the space available and the other functional requirements of the kitchen. In other words, it is designed simultaneously with the rest of the kitchen. Once space parameters have been established, it is time to decide if either a sink or a hob will go on the island, or should both be on a wall run, leaving the island clear for prep and bar use only.

The sink and hob can both be potentially messy places and some people prefer to keep that a bit more, ahem, behind the scenes! Others want the hob centre stage and want to look out and chat with others whilst cooking. The hob on the island brings questions about extraction or filtering. Slimline ceiling mounted fans are, in my opinion, the best option. They don’t over-dominate the room or take out valuable storage space (which is the issue I personally have with the downdraft type of hood). Ducting within the ceiling is relatively simple, as long as the joist are going the right way!  If finding a way out for the ducting becomes an issue, don’t despair! Modern hoods like the Aura by Falmec with its state of the art zeolithic filter system do an excellent job. In some cases, a large open space with a complicated duct run isn’t necessarily the best approach. On new work, some form of mechanical extraction may be required by building control. If the hood is on a filter (and not ducted) a slim-line ceiling fan may need to be deployed elsewhere in the space. Always check (at the outset) if there are any steel beams coming below the ceiling line above the island hob position where the hood would go… this will almost certainly influence the position of the hob.

So, if the hob is on the island and the sink is on the run, think about what’s above the sink how it feels facing the wall. Perhaps some open shelving here may not be a bad idea. Depending on the layout the sink may of course still be under a window. If the sink ends up on the island and the hob is on the run, there may be advantages in terms of ducting and concealing the hood in the wall cabinets. Another tick in the box for the ‘sink on the island’ is that it frees up options for feature pendant lighting above – also a great look, if the list fittings are good enough to hold centre stage for years to come. This may not be achievable if the hob/hood are in that space.

Seating arrangements need to be carefully positioned… definitely not in the way of the cook and not blocking any thoroughfares. This is more important than being able to look out to the garden or see the TV. It’s a tricky one I know, but whatever you do don’t get in the way (believe me). Another consideration is proximity to the hob or sink. Try to divide the space between kitchen business and bar area. A raised bar (like Tomas Box Bar) can work in some circumstances, but there is a clear advantage of having everything at countertop height – namely the dual-purpose use of the countertop.

Getting mechanical services (elecs and plumbing) to the island is vital and requires forward planning, particularly with building projects. Sockets on the island are a must and can be positioned on end panels, inside cabinets or can pop up through the work surface. This information is marked out on the working kitchen drawings which are passed to the relevant contractors.

An island is surely the ‘Heart of The Kitchen’ a great way to go when planning your space. But remember it’s not as simple as it seems to get it ‘just right’ and it’s not always the best way for every space.

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