Maximizing Space
An island presents an ideal opportunity to develop an often-neglected dimension of kitchen design: the space directly over it. In schemes where it won't obstruct the sight line, this can add both interest and function to the room. Examples include a hanging pot rack, shelves and an eye-catching pendant light fixture. You'll also find a wide range of stylish, sculptural range hoods for islands with nondowndraft cooktops.

The growing trend toward linking the kitchen and family room has also made more and more islands perform dual functions. Cabinets or shelves on the side of the island facing away from the kitchen are likely to hold a TV/VCR setup. If this will be the case in your home, take equipment dimensions into account when planning your kitchen island. Another current fashion in the kitchen is to dress up cabinetry as furniture. Adorned with moldings, trims, brackets and footed bases, islands are often presented as eclectic, one-of-a-kind pieces rather than a match for the cabinets.

So if you're longing for an island lifestyle, look for inspiration as well as solid information in the rooms featured here.

6 Custom Islands

Dual Islands This novel approach is for kitchens where a single central island would block access to a point on the work triangle. It's also another example of the growing cabinetry-as-furniture trend. In this kitchen, designer Anita Trullinger, of Pennington, New Jersey, employed a pair of slender, parallel table-islands to maximize counter space while creating an open corridor between work centers that keeps cross-traffic at bay.

On the Level Minneapolis-based designer Connie Gustafson created this two-level, seven-sided island as the hub of three distinct spaces: the kitchen, a breakfast room and what Gustafson calls a social gathering area that adjoins the dining room. The island, split more or less lengthwise into heights of 36 and 42 in., can accommodate multiple purposes simultaneously, thanks to the stepped kasota-stone surfaces. On the kitchen side, the standard-height, extra-deep counter is a dedicated workstation—small appliances plug into a pair of four-plex outlets on the backsplash, which also shields clutter from view. The taller tier runs along the outer edge of the island. Knee space is carved out under half of it so it becomes a comfortable eating bar, while the other half conceals a recycling center.

Cooktop An island with a cooktop can be a handy arrangement for inward-looking kitchens (and outgoing chefs). The copper ventilation hood—expensive but beautiful—draws attention to the coffered ceiling, a look developed to hide an existing structural beam in this renovated Victorian. Designer Lou Ann Bauer achieved an updated period feeling with these details and warm, earthy colors that set off the white cabinets. A single slab of granite not only creates a heat-resistant resting place for hot pots and pans but it also meets the recommended minimum counter dimensions of 9 in. on one side of the cooktop and 15 in. on the other without seams.

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