This ’90s Kitchen Feature Is Getting a Major Makeover

published 3 days ago
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Interior design of a kitchen in a modern house with an open terrace
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For years, I dreamed of a kitchen with an island, and last year, I finally got one when we bought our first home. But even though I smile every time I use it, kitchen islands may not be for everyone — there are a few kitchen island trends on their way out, and a recent unpopular opinion Reddit thread has a very lively debate over the merits of an island. 

Luckily, for those in the island camp and maybe those on the fence, Rachael Grochowski, the founder and principal architect of RHG A+D, argues that the naysayers have it all wrong. In fact, the short answer for her is just “no.”

“The kitchen island is not dead; it’s transformed,” she says. Jason Gelios, a Michigan Realtor and host of the AskJasonGelios Show, also says the anti-island hype is overblown, and in fact thinks that “the appeal of kitchen islands has grown amongst homebuyers” instead. 

Though the kitchen island has existed in many homes for over a hundred years, the functional design element didn’t quite become super popular until the mid-20th century. Those changes happened as the function of the kitchen changed, too, and as they moved from the back of the house to the center of living and entertaining. Some credit Frank Lloyd Wright and Julia Childs as forces behind this change. The feature only became more ubiquitous in the ’80s and ’90s. 

What people want in kitchen islands has changed. While pendant lights and oversized islands may be on the way out, Grochowski says the focus now is based on function and how the island fits in with the overall kitchen design

“While an island was once about [you] sitting on one side and the chef on the other,” today’s kitchen islands are integrated into the kitchen design in a way that best fits the homeowner’s needs. This is equally true in small kitchens as it is in big, open kitchens.

Gelios is seeing “new home builders advancing the design of kitchen islands.” Instead of the standard kitchen island design, they’re “adding barstools on one side or offering a rinse sink in the island.”

To increase the island’s functionality, Grochowski says she incorporates storage on both sides and then includes a small ledge for eating or sipping coffee. 

Another element that Grochowski sees becoming more common is a breakfast table “when one end of the island acts as a table (at the same height) during breakfast, but the backless stools tuck under, allowing the area to be used for food prep when it’s not mealtime.” 

One of the best things about an island is that you can customize it to your needs. Kitchen islands can be large or small. They can be bar height or countertop height or include multiple heights. They can include seating or extra storage or a cooktop or all three. In a small space, an island can add needed countertop space and extra seating. Gelios says, “builders are making sure the kitchen island is an attractive focal point in the kitchen.” So though the debate rages on, it’s safe to say that kitchen islands aren’t going anywhere.