I know I said I would post about floors, but I decided to hold the article because there has been some recent chatter about Michelle Slatalla’s April 3rd article for the Wall Street Journal, “Why Kitchen Islands Are Ruining America’s Kitchens.” I read it. Nothing earth-shattering. To anyone who is a lover of old homes and not afraid of an UNopen floorplan — like myself — her points were, well, a bit of “been there, done that.”
During her recent renovation, Slatalla wanted an central kitchen table, one that reminded her of her grandmother’s house, and no island at all. But, “little did [she] know that dark forces would try to persuade [her] to incorporate a hulking Brutalist monolith designed to house a second sink and a spare dishwasher no one needs.”
This exchange was funny:
“Where’s the island?” my husband asked, poring over the blueprints at a meeting with the architect. “Where will we put the Cuisinart, the KitchenAid—my immersion blender, for God’s sake?”
He turned accusingly to the architect, Mark Fischbach.
“All my clients are asking for islands,” Mr. Fischbach said, tossing the live grenade back to me….
“What about undercounter wine storage?” my husband asked. “A separate freezer drawer? A trash compactor?”
“A trash compactor?” I replied. “Where do you come up with these things?”
The Great Island Debate
Americans like things bigger, better, and more! The rest of the world has had our number on that count for years, so no news there, either.
So, I’m not quite sure why the recent buzz. However, buzz there is. People have been getting quite heated in their defenses of the kitchen island and the open floor plan and others in their desire to bring back smaller scale and more intimate kitchens.
Treehugger , who went so far as to post a picture of Julia Child’s own kitchen in support of his argument, received quite a few very passionate responses to his take on Slattala’s article that not all kitchens have islands.
Even the millennial DIY duo Young House Love got into the fray with their latest podcast (minutes 9-15, if you don’t care a fig about the rest of what they’re discussing).
Kitchen islands grew in popularity during the 1980s as use of formal rooms decreased. People started knocking down walls into the living, family, and dining rooms, often doing away with the formal spaces entirely. Without the wall space for cabinetry, more storage room needed to be created, along with some sort of delineation between the functions of the wide open space.
Some arguments FOR an island (and a bit, by extension, an open floor plan):
- Cook/dishwasher can socialize with others while doing kitchen tasks — no feeling of being “shut away”
- Parent can keep an eye on kids while they play
- A kitchen table doesn’t make sense if you have one 12 feet away in the dining room
- Longer sight-lines for a more open, airy feel
Some arguments AGAINST an island (and a little bit for a separate kitchen):
- People end up eating while seated single file, which doesn’t encourage eye contact and conversation
- You see the mess and the dirty dishes easily from the living space
- Some people really like privacy and quiet while cooking/cleaning up (I do!!!)
- More storage = more unused kitchen clutter
- What’s so bad about a pretty dining room that doesn’t need a table cleared of crumbs, crafts, and homework before sitting down to an occasional holiday, more formal, or grown-up-time meal?
Love Islands or Hate ‘Em, Just Don’t Do This
It seems like many people feel compelled to incorporate islands these days, but islands can go really wrong. I loved Carla Aston’s post on her pet peeve — oddly-shaped islands. (I know Emily Henderson has a oddly-shaped one, and she’s a millionaire blogger/decorator and I’m little ol’ me, but her kitchen island has always bugged me.)
Others put islands in kitchens that just don’t have the space.
Some really cute kitchens. The mint green one above — ahh! — I love it! But why the super, duper narrow island???? Not to mention, there is hardly room to open the stove. Chuck it, and this kitchen is perfect, IMO. Not all kitchens have islands! Luckily, the island looks moveable.
In all of the above kitchen scenarios, I would bang my hips on those narrow little islands and tip them over, along with all their contents. Furthermore — maybe I’m the only one — but I need at least 30″ of depth to feel comfortable chopping carrots. Yes, perimeter counters are only 24″ deep, but there’s a wall at the end of them to keep my carrot tops from flying all over the place.
Here’s my thought — if you don’t have room for a 30″ island with 48″ of walking space around it (42″ minimum), you don’t really have room for an island at all. Just enjoy your walking space.
And if your kitchen was created with a peninsula, embrace it! Love the space you’re in. Gorgeous kitchens with peninsulas could be a whole other post!
The Center Kitchen Table — Traditional to Modern
What do I think? (If you’re still reading, I’ll take that as a sign that you care about my opinion!) Will I sound too much like a politician if I defer and say, “It all depends…?”
I think that if I lived in a house with an open floor plan, I’d need an island. If not, then I’d have to find the best layout for my space — island, peninsula, galley, center table. You have to love the space you’re in.
Given my ‘druthers, I like a separate kitchen with a center table. I like cozy. I’m a neo-trad at heart (however much I may get really excited about lots of different architectural and decorating styles) and I think a center table is a timeless classic.
And while a center table may seem very traditional to us Americans, the Europeans — those paragons of minimalism, small-space living, and general detachment from consumerism and accumulation — can show us just how very modern a center kitchen table can be.
Here comes a whole bunch more eye candy, ranging from antique, to neo-trad, to modern. Enjoy!
Some additional posts you may like:
And a little graphic to remember me by:
Do you have any feelings about the Great Island Debate? Are you in a particular camp, or, like me, are you situationally influenced? Would you ever consider just having a center table in your kitchen? Do you agree not all kitchens have islands?
I promise I’ll try to have that flooring post next week. Summer is killing my blogging time. Hope you understand! Trying to live in the moment with the kiddos as much as possible while they’re still small while still taking care of clients and connecting with all of you. Happy summer Saturday!