Kitchen Table vs Island

By: Janice Clements

Clare of Aurora writes, “Many of my friends are getting rid of their kitchen tables in exchange for an island.  I still like our table but also like the thought of the convenience of an island.  Is it possible I have room for both?  My kitchen is about 12x18 feet.”

There was a time when you wouldn’t enter a home without finding a kitchen table.  Always synonymous with family meals and sitting around kibitzing about the days’ events, I wonder if kitchen tables are becoming an item of a bygone era.

While islands are quite functional and dare I say, glamorous to look at they are in and of themselves a far stretch from the comfort of a kitchen table.   That said, times change and with the speedy pace of life, an island is often a useful solution for many homeowners and families.

It’s difficult to know for sure if your kitchen is large enough for both a table and an island, but given the basic dimensions you’ve provided me, I’m guessing not. 

Certainly within a 12’ width you would not have enough space for a good size island.  If you’re really set on a centre workspace, consider an impermanent transitional piece of furniture such as a long, narrow antique table that could act as an island.  Look for one 36” high, the standard height of a counter to ensure it is a useful surface.

If it’s any consolation, many kitchens don’t have room for both an island and a table.  To determine if your kitchen is island-bound, try this handy tip:

With newspaper or painter’s tape, create a layout on your kitchen floor of the desired island size and location.  Next, measure from each of the edges of your proposed island out 36” and mark this spot with tape.  This 36” mark is the MINIMUM (note I don’t say “optimal”) perimeter you want to maintain around your island. 

If the 36” mark does not interfere with a door swing (entrance, fridge, stove, dishwasher or otherwise), doesn’t bump into a wall or another counter in the kitchen and doesn’t block a hallway/traffic area in your home, then you’re probably safe to put an island in the defined template area. 

Ideally, establishing a 42-48” perimeter around an island is preferable, but in certain spaces you may be able to get away with the 36” minimum.  Once your template is laid out, open your dishwasher, stove and fridge doors to see if a person can pass comfortably between the open appliance door and the island.  Be sure the space is able to handle busy kitchen traffic and does not force you into a difficult physical position in the kitchen when the doors are open.

Give thought to how much repetition of function is happening in proximity to the kitchen.  Do you have a dining room close by that is not often used? 

If so, decide if the total number of chairs you have between your dining room and kitchen out-numbers the average number of people who regularly dine in your home.  You may find that you simply have more chairs and tables than you ordinarily require. 

If you do not do much formal dining or entertaining but are hungry for more storage and surface area in your kitchen, eliminating one of the dining sets could be a good opportunity to get the island you’re considering.  It will also help reduce the clutter between the two areas while ensuring you’re getting to use your dining room on a regular basis. 

Know that your decision to eliminate your kitchen table and chairs may be affected by the age of your children and the size of your family.  It has been my experience that many families with young children do not feel comfortable with only an island for eating family meals.

If your children are still at the throwing-food age, you may want to keep them contained in an area that’s easily cleaned to keep down on the wear and tear of your dining room.

If you are empty nesters, consider whether or not the large kitchen table is still a requirement for you.  Don’t feel compelled to keep the huge kitchen table you had for years if it is eating up valuable real estate in your kitchen.   Perhaps you can get by with a bistro-table-for-two and free up space for an island.

Regardless of what you decide and despite what your friends are doing, ensure your choice reflects your personal values and tastes.



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