Kitchen Island Bars
Installing a kitchen island bar will add countertop and storage space, but it can also provide a designated area for in-room dining, particularly in cozier spaces where seating was not previously an option.
This Kitchen Does More Than Cook
Like plenty of families with full throttle lives, Sarah and Steve Hyser needed the kitchen in their 1980 Federal-style home in Atlanta to handle more than just meals—a lot more. With two busy daughters—Molly, 12, and Meg, 8, who are constantly racing off to gymnastics, soccer, or ukulele lessons—and Sarah’s position as PTA president, the room needed to be a multitasking dynamo.
Reimagining the Space
A to-the-studs gut renovation in 2012 overseen by local design firm TerraCotta Properties delivered exactly that, transforming the once cramped area into a hardworking combination of cook space, mudroom, laundry center, reading nook, dining spot, and office. Now twice its former size (knocking down the wall to the adjoining dining room enlarged it to 260 square feet), the space is clean-lined and storage-smart—and sees action nearly round the clock. “If we’re at home and not sleeping, we’re in the kitchen,” says Sarah. “It’s been a total life changer. I still walk in every day and love it.”
The built-in three-drawer desk is topped with an IKEA butcher block—it was treated with tung oil to bring out the grain and make the wood water-repellent—and is Sarah’s go-to spot for doing paperwork. With no curtains or blinds on the windows, “there’s great natural light,” she says. The linen-covered corkboard keeps VIP papers front and center.
Cook and Prep Area
Everything from after-school snacks to feed-a-crowd buffets is dished up at the 7-foot-by-3 1/2-foot island, which houses a sink, a dishwasher, and trash and recycling bins. The dark gray paint color on the island’s base (Deep River by Benjamin Moore) echoes the darker speckles in the 1 1/2-inch-thick granite countertop. Sarah found the linen-covered backless barstools with nailhead trim at Pottery Barn.
Two compact wingback chairs, lucky antiques shop finds, are the perfect size for the bay window’s nook. Sarah had the pair reupholstered in a graphic dotted fabric (Strands by Waverly), teamed them with a Ballard Designs table, and created her favorite spot in the house. “This is my happy place,” she says. “I have coffee and use my iPad here.”
Even on super-rushed mornings, the family’s routine is less stressful thanks to efficient storage by the back door. Inside the locker-inspired cabinets, which are fronted with air-circulating metal mesh to thwart odors, are hooks for the girls’ coats and backpacks, and catchall bins for sports equipment. Shoes can be grabbed fast from the deep drawers, which also stow toys and leashes for Australian shepherd Huck, who has his own customized drawer with drop-in kibble and water bowls. The wool rug is from IKEA.
However, whether choosing from a selection of pre-designed, portable kitchen island bars or building an island to fit your kitchen's specifications, the most important considerations are space and placement.
Above all, kitchen islands require a good deal of space. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends a minimum surface area of about 3 feet by 4 feet. You'll also need to keep traffic patterns in mind—walkways should measure at least 42 inches wide for unobstructed passage, according to NKBA.
Other considerations, beyond comfortable island seating (think counter- or bar-height stools, depending on height, with arms or swivels) include at least 24 inches of countertop space for elbow room, and anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of space between the knee and counter (depending on the counter height) for clear knee space.
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