Choosing the Right Kitchen Island

The kitchen has always been the hub of the home, playing host to family and friends, inviting work and play in equal measure. And at the centre of every great kitchen is the island. Think of it as the heart of the home. Much more than just a surface for prepping, cooking, eating and entertaining, the kitchen island can also make a style statement. Needless to say, a kitchen island is an investment when it comes to the fashion and function of your space, and choosing the right one goes beyond just colour and countertop. Here are some factors to take into account.

Let’s first look at the logistics of the modern kitchen. Whether it’s a brand-new build or a renovation, kitchens today are oftentimes part of a larger, open-concept space that’s open to the living and dining area, and sometimes the front entrance. That means the kitchen no longer exists as solely a utilitarian space, with pots, pans and chaos hidden from view. The kitchen has become a showpiece, and the island is that key transitional element, leading from the living and entertaining areas into a beautiful yet practical work space.

Let’s break these down.

Function is critical to every great interior, and especially so in the kitchen. This room happily takes the brunt of your daily tasks, from cooking and dining, to homework, R&R and storage. Your interior designer will factor your needs into the island configuration and the overall kitchen design. The size of the kitchen will dictate the dimensions of the island. An island that’s too big will interrupt the traffic flow. Ensure you leave at least four feet around it to manoeuvre comfortably, with easy access to the sink, fridge and stove – your “work triangle.”

The island itself should measure at least three feet wide by five feet long. Anything smaller will not be sufficient to accommodate seating, integrated appliances or storage space. If an island of this size doesn’t fit into your kitchen with a four feet buffer, question whether the space might be better suited to a table or a cart, or perhaps left empty.

When it come to your island’s style, let your home’s overall aesthetic guide you. This is key, particularly when working in an open-concept interior. Make your island “pop” by using a contrasting colour or countertop. For example, a kitchen with white cabinetry can look stunning with a dark, dramatic island. Lighting also serves as a practical but beautiful element, drawing the eye and illuminating this focal point within the greater space.

As a designer, I believe the kitchen is the most significant room in any home, and it’s also the most expensive to renovate. Ensure you do it right the first time by working with a professional designer. An experienced designer will have hundreds of kitchens under their belt, and hopefully your vision for the space – and the finished result – will be one that meets your practical needs and aesthetic goals for many years to come. 

Jennifer Backstein is the Creative Director and Principal Designer for Jennifer Backstein Interiors. The Toronto design firm has excelled for over a decade creating thoughtfully curated stylish bespoke designs. The firm offers a diverse range of full-scale design services throughout Toronto, and GTA and Canada.