There is no doubt that an island or breakfast bar can be a huge asset to a kitchen. It is after all a multi-functional piece of furniture that can be used for storage, worktop space and as a dining and seating area. However, including an island simply for the sake of it, without a little forward planning, could outweigh its advantages and lead to the kitchen feeling cramped.
One of the first things to think about when it comes to an island unit is proportions – both of the kitchen overall and of the island itself. This way you can avoid it being squeezed into too tight a space with not enough room to move around it or to open cupboards. On the flipside it’s important to avoid the island being too small for a large room.
Another important consideration is the island’s purpose; how will you use it once it’s built? Islands are a great way of adding extra storage space, with worktops above for food preparation but also for informal dining or even overseeing the kids’ homework and catching up on your emails when you’re working from home. An island also presents the opportunity to incorporate appliances, such as a hob, or a sink area. This effectively brings the chef of the family centre-stage, which is particularly important if you’re a household that loves to socialise and the kitchen is part of a larger open-plan living space. Without a sense of purpose an island runs the risk of being under-used, so it is important to think hard about how it can be best put to use for your needs.
A breakfast bar or an island can also be used to informally zone the space, acting as a natural divide between cooking and relaxing areas. Islands can take on any shape, they don’t have to be rectangular or square boxes, but rather by including curves in their appearance natural flow is achieved, and the island becomes much more of a focal point.
As with shape, colour, materials and finishes can go against the grain on an island or breakfast bar to make it a stand-out feature. They offer a great way to introduce the latest trend for colour blocking in the kitchen, with the inclusion of a strong accent colour. Likewise, your choice of surface is important here. Combining materials and finishes is an on trend look in the kitchen, with the surface chosen for the island or breakfast bar being key to this look. A surface that sits in contrast to kitchen furniture, for example, adds instant visual interest.
It is important though to consider the suitability of the surface for the task at hand. The material chosen needs to be hard-wearing and durable, particularly as it is so much on show. If the island incorporates a sink then the surface should be water, scratch and stain resistant, such as quartz or ceramic and it also needs to be easy to keep clean to ensure it’s always good to go, whatever the task. Materials such as ceramic and quartz adding a sense of luxury and offering the ideal way of tapping into the trend for nature-inspired materials such as marble, with none of the maintenance headache.