How To Choose Kitchen Islands And Carts

Kitchen islands and carts may be a mainstay of the home today, but it wasn't always that way. Long ago when Victorian kitchens were dark, dingy rooms relegated to the basement, finding an island in the center of the room was rare.

Walk into any kitchen today, on the other hand, and you be surprised not to see an island. This trend started in the 1950s when homes began to increasingly feature open floor plans. Now, whether it's used simply as an additional countertop, an eating area with stools or chairs, or more space for storage, a kitchen island is a must-have.

Here's how to choose kitchen islands and carts for your home

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What Are the Top Considerations When Choosing Kitchen Islands and Carts?

Size and Shape

Because kitchens are busy, fast-paced environments, the most important thing to keep in mind here is foot traffic. Generally speaking, you'll want between three and four feet of walking space between your island and all other furniture and walls.

If you plan to use the island for seating, factor in the added space a seated person would take up. Concerning adequate countertop space for each seat, you'll want to allow about two feet of width-space per person.

Shapes of kitchen islands and carts vary though you'll find most are rectangular or square. The main decision in shape will concern height. Generally speaking, the height should match that of the rest of your countertops. On the other hand, you might like one side of the island higher or lower than countertop height to accommodate seating on the other side of a workspace.

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Portability

Kitchen carts don't have to be connected to the floor and may even have wheels, but that doesn't mean they're all portable. If you'd like to be able to roll your cart into the dining area or elsewhere, however, this can be a useful feature for smaller kitchen carts. Rolling butcher blocks and teacarts, for example, are often used in this capacity.

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Functional Features

Keep your needs in mind. What are your top activities in the kitchen besides cooking? Do you need a large area to roll out dough and decorate cakes and cookies? Would your kids be doing their homework there? Will the space be used for eating meals or party buffets?

Certainly, any additional work space is always going to be a plus, but you should also decide whether you'd like to use your island for anything besides countertop space. For example, it's common for an island to house a sink, chopping block, or a range and/or oven.

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Storage

One of the main advantages of a kitchen island or cart is the added storage it provides.

  • Open shelving or shelving behind glass doors can make the perfect place to store decorative items. Whether these items are also functional in your kitchen is optional.
  • If you plan to store functional but unattractive items within your island (think toasters, blenders, and other appliances), consider opting for storage with drawers and/or cupboard doors so that you can close away these items and have a cleaner look.
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Worktop Material

  • If your budget permits, maintain decor consistency by choosing the same worktop material as the rest of your countertops.

  • Alternatively, some homeowners opt to cover their entire island with butcher's block wood (usually teak, walnut, birch, or hard maple).

  • If you're using a separate island cart or furniture piece, you can either leave the top as-is or have a piece of marble or granite installed on top.

  • No matter what you choose, it's a good idea to seal whatever material you have on your island as it will inevitably be dirtied during food prep.

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Cost

Lastly, consider how much you're willing to spend. Keep in mind that built-in kitchen islands will be more expensive than separate pieces, such as tables or carts. The smaller your kitchen island, the less you'll have to spend as well.

If your budget is really tight, think about purchasing a piece of furniture such a sideboard, desk, or dresser and repurposing it as your island. You can even select something second-hand. Just be sure that the back of the piece is as presentable as the front. If the back is unfinished, you might add paint, tiles, or paneling.

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FAQs About Kitchen Islands and Carts

1. Is a kitchen island a good idea?

  • Kitchen islands are a good idea for any kitchen and especially those that otherwise have limited counter space. They're also useful as a place for added seating and storage. Socially, they often end up as a common place for friends and family to gather while dinner is being prepped or as a place for having your morning coffee or an evening drink.

2. Should I put a sink in my kitchen island?

  • Putting a sink in your kitchen island can be beneficial for several reasons. First, it can make the sink more accessible if there are many people in the kitchen. Next, if you're doing dishes or consistently using the sink in some other capacity, it's easier to socialize or keep an eye on the kids in the next room at the same time when the sink is in the island. Just remember that plumbing will need to be installed there, which will increase your price point significantly.

3. Are kitchen islands still popular?

  • Yes! In fact, the majority of new kitchen builds and remodels feature islands. Kitchen islands and carts are considerably more popular than their most common counterpart: the kitchen peninsula.
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Best Tips for Choosing Kitchen Islands and Carts

  • Choose an island size that allows for at least two to three feet of foot traffic space between all nearby furniture and walls.
  • If your budget is tight, opt for a table, sideboard, teacart, or rolling butcher block that can double as an island.
  • Keep your needs in mind concerning functionality. Kitchen islands can be used for food prep, seating, added counter space, more storage, and many other things.
  • In terms of storage, choose open shelves for displaying items, or hide appliances behind doors.
  • Match your kitchen island worktop to the rest of your countertops, or choose another food-prep-friendly work surface such as butcher block wood.
  • When your budget permits, have your island built in with optional plumbing for a sink. Otherwise, buy a kitchen cart or separate furniture island to save money.

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