Create Your Own Island Paradise

The twinkling lights are down, the heating bill is up and the frosty air has lost its yuletide appeal.

It’s a classic case of the post-holiday winter blahs. A sure-fire cure is a warm island getaway. Unfortunately, we can’t send all five of our loyal readers to a tropical island paradise, but we can offer plenty of suggestions for bringing the island to you.

We’re talking about kitchen islands – we are remodeling guys, after all. Kitchens have long been the central gathering place in our homes. Parties always end up in the kitchen, as well as craft projects, homework, bill paying … you name it. All this togetherness can be overwhelming if space is cramped, but it also can be wonderful if you incorporate a thoughtfully designed, fully functional island as the central hub of activity.

If you’re thinking of adding an island to your kitchen, here are some suggestions to increase its functionality:

» Meet your needs: It’s important that the design of the island meets your lifestyle needs. If you cook and entertain a lot, then consider adding a seating area, a second sink with disposal and a mini-beverage refrigerator and built-in icemaker for mixing drinks. If you bake, work on craft projects or your kids do their homework in the kitchen, then allow ample counter space to spread out. Also consider unique under-counter storage solutions, pull-out recycling drawers and extra electrical outlets for smaller appliances or laptop computers.

» The right size: Make sure your island is big enough to serve your needs, but not so large that it’s difficult to move around. Allow a 36- to 60-inch clearance space to pull out stools and 42- to 48-inch work aisles to avoid traffic jams. When it comes to counter height, there are one- and two-level options. A two-level counter top can hide messes, create a seating area at true bar height.

On the other hand, a single-level counter provides a much larger work surface, which also makes the entire kitchen space feel larger and more open. We’ve seen a surge in the popularity of single-height islands, and we’ve replaced several small islands that offered ridiculously little counter space.

» Have fun with finishes and lighting: Counters and cabinets don’t have to match the rest of the kitchen. In fact, contrasting finishes create visual interest in the room and emphasize the island as the central gathering point. Overhead lights, such as colorful pendants, also showcase the island. In addition, they offer practical task lighting and add personality to the space.

So the next time a party guest asks, “What can I do to help?,” give them a job without worrying about too many cooks in the kitchen.

Who needs a tropical paradise when you have a kitchen island, right? OK, that might be a stretch, but it does make winter a little more bearable when you gather with family and friends around your new island. And if that’s not enough, we bet that helpful party guest will make you a little drink with an umbrella in it.

Click here to see our Building Solutions  column in The Coloradoan.