Antique Kitchen Islands
Adding substance and character to the kitchen can be as simple as transforming an antique table, dresser or work table into a bona fide kitchen island.
Sleek, ultramodern and seemingly floating on its metal cylindrical legs, this island is a work of art for the contemporary industrial design set. It looks like it was conjured up in an iPod designer's lab for a chic, 21st-century kitchen — functional elegance. Not only does it beckon you to touch its clean, smooth surface, but it handily incorporates appliances, a bar sink and storage drawers. Photo Credit: Fisher & Paykel
Bar With a View
Designer Gail Drury defines the movement and flow of this open kitchen with a set of two islands. A horseshoe-shaped island with a sweeping counter atop a stone base provides bar seating and a bird's-eye view of the prep area. A second island houses an oven and large work counter, allowing the cook to interact with guests while preparing the meal. Photo Credit: Drury Designs/ Designer Gail Drury
This eclectic and creative conversation piece is the work of Seattle architecture firm Graham Baba. The island, assembled from found objects and topped with a slab of wood, was designed as an accoutrement for a rustic-modern kitchen, providing flashes of color and a Mondrian-like arrangement that never fails to elicit comments. Photo Credit: Ben Benschneider/Graham Baba Architects
The shape of an island kitchen can determine a room's traffic flow. In this case, an organic oval slab resting on a traditional wood cabinet gently and gracefully guides the kitchen traffic in a circular motion. The island, nevertheless, is the imposing hub of this kitchen. Combining modern sensibilities with older style cabinetry, it is a large, clean surface suitable for a quick bite or a complicated dinner preparation. Photo Credit: Whirlpool
Chip Off the Ol' Block
The unique feature of this sturdy and versatile island is its thick wooden top. That's no ordinary butcher block. JAS Design Build, a Seattle-based firm known for its innovative style, built that countertop out of a reclaimed bowling alley lane. The island is as muscular as a workbench while stylistically matching the clean, straight lines of the wall shelves and cabinets. It is painted green to provide a visual connection with the dining room. The choice of lighting fixtures also establishes a room-to-room continuity. Photo Credit: JAS Design Build
For wine aficionados, a kitchen island is a convenient spot to store bottles and spare yourself the hassle of finding room in the refrigerator. Wine refrigerators come in a variety of sizes and finishes and can be hidden behind cabinetry, though this one is an architecturally interesting addition to the kitchen. Photo Credit: Northland-Marvel
They pulled out all the stops for this gracious French-country kitchen. The modern accoutrements are the embedded stove and appliances, but the rest is Old World, ranging from the fanciful woodwork to the glass cabinet windows that match the panes of the kitchen windows. A perfect work triangle is created and cooking utensils are all within arm's reach. The giant window over the sink pours an abundance of natural light over the shoulder of the chef toiling away at the island's stovetop. Photo Credit: Brookstone Cabinets
Pull Up a Chair
These days cooking is a spectator sport, and this island provides a perfect stage. Long, elegant and designed with bar seating and a built-in cooktop, the island is an inviting centerpiece for guests to gather around. A blazing hearth backdrop only adds to the congeniality of the setting. It takes a big kitchen with an abundance of natural light to pull off such a big island. But the weightiness of this gracious piece of furniture is offset by the light-colored cabinetry above and clever peripheral lighting. Photo Credit: George Lambros
An L-shaped island delineating the dining area from the prep area offers an innovative idea for seating. One side of the island provides built-in bench seating that works nicely with a dining table. The other side offers ample bar seating and counter space easily accessed from the stove and sink. Photo Credit: Armstrong Cabinets
Perfect for an active, all-American family, the kitchen island doubles as breakfast table and workspace. The simple butcher-block surface is made for casual living and is supported by sturdy legs that mirror the home's updated Craftsman design. Though this is an island that's built to be brawny, the light color understates its heft. Photo Credit: JAS Design Build
Whether it's a piece that's been sitting in the garage for years or a recent antiques-market find, retrofitting an antique piece into a hard-working kitchen island can actually be a cost-efficient way to increase countertop, storage and display space.
One of the easiest—and most attractive—ways to bring an antique kitchen island firmly into the 21st century is to top the piece with a sleek surface, such as a marble, granite or stainless steel countertop. Because of their age, antique pieces may not exactly measure up to standard counter height (and for many, that's part of its charm). An easy fix, though, is to add casters or feet to the bottom, or consider increasing the thickness of the countertop.
A well-worn look is part of the antique kitchen island's charm, so embrace its imperfections. Drawers difficult to open? Install accessories like towel bars on the side to increase its functionality, or add a weathered-looking shelf to the bottom of a table for additional storage space.
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