Modern Kitchen Islands

The contemporary kitchen requires a kitchen island that will best suit its modern flair.
Open kitchen and island

Open kitchen and island

Open Kitchen

Photo by: Harry Hu

Harry Hu

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik

The contemporary kitchen design often exudes a sleek and streamlined feel, but the typical style is anything but simple. Modern kitchens often include stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, exposed brick walls and furniture with angular edges.

Modern Gray Kitchen Makeover

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Before: Basic Design

Like most new-construction homes built in 2001, the kitchen of this two-story house was designed using contractor-grade materials — including blonde oak veneer cabinets, engineered composite countertops and a ready-made island too small to function properly.

After: High-End Upgrade

Conscientious of the client's return on investment (ROI), this kitchen got an upgrade with cost-saving and custom options. While new cabinets would have cost an estimated $12,000, the existing contractor-grade cabinets were refreshed with high-gloss latex paint for only $1,200. The composite countertops were replaced with a Carrera marble remnant found in a slab yard. The biggest splurge was the storage-packed kitchen island, which is made of welded steel and silvered alder wood, topped with a concrete work surface.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Cozy Breakfast Nook

Just off the kitchen sits a modest breakfast nook. A drab existing chandelier was swapped for a designer-quality, rope-covered orb pendant. To pull the black and white tones found in the floor-to-ceiling basket-weave wall tile into the breakfast nook, draperies custom-made from black-and-white check fabric were used to dress the bay windows.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Custom-Built Hutch

When space is at a premium in a kitchen, it's important to assign a purpose to every square inch. Prior to the remodel, the angled wall separating the kitchen from the adjacent formal dining room was dead space. To put it to good use, a custom serving buffet was designed to provide extra storage, then finished with the same paint used on the existing kitchen cabinets for a cohesive look.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Island Living

The furniture-like look of the island stems mostly from its steel frame. For graphic impact, it was welded from tubular steel into an "X" shape, then powder-coated in a charcoal finish. Once cured, base cabinets made of alder wood with a silvered gray finish were added to the frame. The look is architectural and transitional in style, a combination that works well with the homeowner's modern aesthetic.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Concrete Countertop

To avoid visual repetition, many kitchen designers choose to vary the materials used for perimeter cabinet and kitchen island countertops. Here, perimeter countertops feature honed Carrera marble, while the island is topped with dark gray concrete, which coordinates with the marble's veining. Concrete is an excellent alternative to solid stone, since it can be manufactured in a variety of colors and thicknesses. Additionally, its durable surface is ideal for handling hot plates and pans.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Open Shelving

While the front and rear facades of this island are meant to be architectural and decorative, its sides were designed to keep glassware, cookware and cookbooks neatly stored. Since the sides aren’t visible from the adjacent breakfast nook or from the front, the kitchen maintains an uncluttered look, even though many essentials are out in the open.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Kitchen Lighting

This stylish light fixture was custom-made to coordinate with the kitchen's brass accents. Fabricated by Grey Furniture for approximately the same price as an off-the-shelf design, the new pendant's spherical shape helps to break up the room's rigid lines. When installing a fixture over an island, allow roughly 28-34 inches of clearance from the bottom of the fixture to the top of the work surface.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Easy Cabinet Update

The simple addition of charcoal gray semigloss latex paint gave these contractor-grade cabinets a facelift. Charcoal gray is referred to as a “new neutral,” and serves as an alternative to beige, cream or taupe. This versatile color coordinates with just about every shade in the spectrum.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brass Hardware

Stainless steel and polished nickel have become standard for new-construction homes, but brass is equally as classic and comes in finishes that coordinate with traditional, transitional or contemporary styles. To add a designer touch to the cabinet fronts and drawers, transitional pulls in a satin brass finish were purchased online for $12 each.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Farmhouse Sink

Apron sinks have become go-to features in kitchens of traditional, industrial or modern persuasions. These sinks come in both under-mount and flush-mount options. Always let your contractor know which type of apron sink you’ve chosen, so that they may cut surrounding surface materials to the appropriate size.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Faucet Flair

To complement the farmhouse style of the apron sink, a polished brass faucet was chosen for its classic lines and sharp contrast against the white porcelain and white Carrera marble countertops. Faucets affect the fabrication of solid-surface countertops. When sourcing a faucet, find out if the chosen fixture is a single-, double- or triple-hole. Then relay this information to the fabricator, who will center the holes on your chosen apron sink.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Appliances: Save on Space and Cost

The two-in-one design of a microwave range makes an excellent space-saving solution for tiny kitchens and remodels on tight budgets. When switching out a standard hood for a microwave-range version, determine the depth from the bottom of the upper cabinets to the surface of the range itself. Ideally, the microwave range hood should sit flush or slightly higher than the surrounding upper cabinets. This will ensure a safe distance for cooking while contributing symmetry.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Stainless Steel Refrigerator

A stainless steel double-door refrigerator with an integrated water and ice dispenser was chosen for its compact design. Relegating the freezer drawer to the bottom of the unit is a practical solution, since a refrigerator is accessed significantly more often than a freezer on a day-to-day basis. Owners of stainless steel appliances should invest in a good stainless steel cleaner, wiping often to clean fingerprints and smudges.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Dishwasher Instillation

When remodeling a kitchen to include a central island, allow enough width between the island and fully opened dishwasher doors. Since most dishwasher doors stand 30 inches tall, leave an opening at least 36 inches wide to account for the opened door and extra space to maneuver around.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Carrera Marble Countertops

Marble countertops are classic and timeless, but are not ideal for homes with children prone to spilling, since they stain easily. If considering marble, keep in mind that this material is more delicate than options such as granite or quartz. If you do choose marble countertops, a finished edge can easily give them modern or traditional flair. Homeowners interested in traditional styling should consider a beveled or ogee edge, while a relaxed edge is ideal for modernists.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Cohesive Backsplash

The average height for a kitchen backsplash is between 15 and 24 inches; however, a backsplash that terminates only 2 feet above a countertop can make walls appear choppy, resulting in a busy look. An excellent alternative is counter-to-ceiling installation. The result is striking, high-end and creates a much more cohesive design.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Simple Stools

Since the custom kitchen island was designed to be the main focal point, it was important to choose barstools that wouldn't compete with its graphic, architectural style. Keeping that in mind, a pair of black wooden barstools with a woven lattice detail was selected to pick up the black accents in the backsplash and window treatments.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

When choosing a modern kitchen island, it is important to consider the overall feel of the kitchen. If your kitchen has dark wood cabinets and marble countertops, then you may want to choose a kitchen island that is made from stainless steel and neutral-toned cabinets. If you are pairing the kitchen island with bar stools, then seating made with mesh metal backs or simple spill-resistant material would complete the look.

Other modern kitchen islands include designs made with bright, bold colors, such as metal cabinetry that is painted fire-engine red or a sunny yellow and topped with a simple white countertop. Repurposed items also work well in contemporary kitchens. Consider using an old desk or set of filing cabinets to add a unique spin to your modern kitchen island. Simply secure a solid surface to the top of a repurposed item, and turn drawers or cabinets into storage spots for kitchen items.

The modern kitchen island often includes features that suit this particular style of kitchen, like a flat cooktop or a designated food preparation area.

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