Shaws does... Island Living

An island unit is at the top of people’s ‘most-wanted’ list when planning a new kitchen. But, it wasn’t always this way.

Nothing transforms the atmosphere and functionality of a kitchen more than a well thought out kitchen island. Not only are they an essential design feature in any luxury kitchen, an island unit can completely change the way you work and play within the space. An island acts as a link between the kitchen and living or dining areas. So it’s not surprising that an island unit is at the top of people’s ‘most-wanted’ list when planning a new kitchen. But, it wasn’t always this way.

The evolution of the modern kitchen.

Over the last 100 years, the concept of the kitchen has been constantly evolving to become what we would describe as the modern kitchen of today. In the 1800s the kitchen was a busy working space filled with the clattering of pans and a mix of potent food odours. It was a private space hidden from guests who were often restricted to socialising in the dining room or parlour. 

The modern kitchen space, as we know it today, began to take shape in the 1930s. The pioneering architect Frank Lloyd Wright became one of the early advocates for ‘open plan’ design in domestic homes. Wright's designs were based on a centralised kitchen, which opened to other public spaces of the home. The ‘housewife’ would be more like a hostess; welcoming guests into her home, instead of being a slave to the kitchen hidden away behind closed doors. This design approach created a kitchen that would flow into the other surrounding rooms, creating a more communal family-orientated space. But it was TV that popularised the kitchen island. The first cookery shows in the 1960s demonstrated the natural benefits of an island, with early celebrity chefs presenting behind freestanding counters. In America, and then beyond, the island became a must-have addition to any kitchen large enough to accomodate one.

One of the most appealing things about a kitchen island is its dual benefits. A well planned island should have an outwardly facing ‘work side’ and an inwardly facing ‘play side’.

The new Shaker 600 by Shaws — Image Credit: Shaws
Image Credit – DeVol
Image Credit – Light Locations
Image Credit – Light Locations
Image Credit – Light Locations
Image Credit – DeVol
Image Credit – DeVol

Hard Working

The first benefit is it makes any kitchen more practical and efficient. This sounds obvious but an island unit really adds functionality to any kitchen. It not only creates more real estate to add storage units like cupboards and drawers, but also more work surface area for preparing and cooking meals. All key things people look for when trying to improve the workflow and usability of their kitchen space. 

The average kitchen has had to increase considerably in size to accommodate the increasingly long list of new domestic appliances made available for our convenience. Everything from dishwashers to juicers and microwaves to pasta makers can be found in most kitchens - all fighting for worktop space.

In a smaller kitchen, try replacing the wall that divides the kitchen and dining space with an island. This opens up the space creating one single, larger, and more practical space, with a softer visual divide between the two.

Practical play.

The second benefit is less obvious. Like the first it’s practical, but also of huge emotional benefit. Interaction. Not only how you interact with your kitchen space but how it encourages you to interact with other people within it. If you are using your kitchen island as a link between your kitchen and dining or living space, it allows you to work and play at the same time. A range cooker or even a simple hob within the island enables you to socialise with friends and family whilst preparing dinner.

Similarly, installing a sink in your kitchen island means you don’t have to turn your back on your guests when you do the dishes. Many use their island to house a second, smaller inset or under-mounted sink for easy access whilst preparing vegetables, or just as a home for their main sink. Our newly launched Shaker 600 would work well here.

Adding seating to the ‘play’ side of the island creates a social hub that people naturally gravitate towards. It’s amazing how adding a few stools transforms an island into a place to ‘pow-wow’ when hosting parties or a casual dining space at breakfast. This dual functionality means that the kitchen is no longer a purely functional ‘working space’ that’s isolated from the ‘living spaces’. Islands transform any kitchen into the heart of the home and create a practical hub for family activities.

You will find that a well-designed island will not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen, it will transform the way you and your family use the space, every single day.