An island with seating can create a welcoming social hub in a kitchen. And there are many ways to design an island that encourages interaction among family members and guests. Here, five design and remodeling professionals share details about how they created islands that promote interaction with seating.

Olga Dean Interior Design
1. Dynamic Dining

Designer: Olga Dean Interior Design
Architect and engineer: Mark Schroeder of FWC Structural Engineers
Location: Trabuco Canyon, California
Size: 416 square feet (39 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. “The ultimate goal was to have the home feel new and fresh while retaining vintage charm,” says designer Olga Dean, whose clients saw her work on Houzz, including on an episode of Houzz TV, and reached out to her. “With regard to the island, their desire was to make it the warm and inviting hub of the home for dining and for gathering, not just out of desire but necessity, as it’s the only interior dining space.”

Dean uses Houzz Pro for setting up project files, keeping time and expense records, sourcing items and managing projects in general.

Island seating. “The kitchen island serves as our clients’ only dining table, so it had to be large and seat as many people as comfortably as possible,” Dean says. “The layout, in this case a rectangle, had to provide the opportunity for people to see everyone and to converse as they would at a dining table. While kitchen islands don’t typically have an overhang on three sides, this one does in order to provide as much seating as possible. There are currently eight counter stools in use, but at least four more can be comfortably added to the 5-by-10-foot island.”

Other special features. Patterned black-and-white terra-cotta backsplash tile. Taj Mahal leathered-quartzite countertops. Dark stained beams over a white tongue-and-groove ceiling. Vintage oak hardwood flooring with original markings. Reclaimed-oak island base and range hood. Dark, rich green cabinets (Black Forest by Dunn-Edwards Paints). Bare-bulb ceiling lights.

Designer tip. “When working on a major remodel, don’t always fight the existing remaining elements, but try and weave them into the new space if possible,” Dean says. “In this case, when we first saw the low, dark ceiling, we thought, ‘Ugh.’ However, it was ultimately painted in a way that maximized the positives of the beams, and the low height was neutralized with the white paint on the tongue-and-groove portions.”

Steve's Custom Homes, Inc.
2. Saloon-Style Setup

Design-build team: Stephen Adamczyk of Steve’s Custom Homes and homeowners Juergen and Joan Renger
Location: Freeport, Maine
Size: 300 square feet (28 square meters); 15 by 20 feet

Homeowners’ request. “The kitchen is a central point of the family’s lifestyle, and needed to be both extremely functional from a cooking and storage perspective, and open to the home’s main living area,” builder Stephen Adamczyk says. “It also needed to be capable of seating family and guests without adversely impacting its efficiency.”

Island seating. “The roughly 3-by-10-foot island was designed to seat a minimum of six people — it has comfortably seated seven — such that cooks and guests can interact while meals are being prepared. Seating comfort was enhanced by using hidden support brackets to maximize knee clearance and adding a bar-style foot rail for foot support. The island’s extensive storage — 16 full-extension drawers — faces toward the work area to eliminate any seating or storage-space conflicts.”

Other special features. Solid cherry cabinetry milled, built and installed by the homeowners. Porcelain tile flooring and wall tile. Honed-granite countertops.

Pruett & Co.
3. Beckoning Butcher Block

Designer: Jenni Pruett of Pruett & Co.
Location: Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
Size: 350 square feet (33 square meters); 14 by 25 feet

Homeowners’ request. “This house was a full gut renovation,” says designer Jenni Pruett, whose clients discovered her on Houzz. “It was basically a time capsule from 1968, so modernization was key. We started from scratch and opened everything up so their family of five could all be in the kitchen area, since that’s where everyone wants to be.”

Island seating. 
“The space between the island and the patio door [not pictured] was narrow, so we moved the seating to the end of the island and treated it with butcher block to give it an intentional feel,” Pruett says.

Other special features. “The teal blue cabinets are the standout in this kitchen, so we kept the other elements quiet — warm wood tones, white ceramic backsplash and the splurge item, Calacatta Brazil quartzite countertops — are all textural and neutral,” Pruett says. “The homeowners wanted it to feel welcoming and classic with some pops of fresh color, which is seen in sea glass and mustard accents scattered throughout the main living space.”

Designer tip. “Making sure that all of your wood tones are cohesive is important,” Pruett says. “I generally say that when dealing with wood floors and cabinets, they have to be a dead-on match or a shade or two different in tone, so that they don’t look like we tried to match them and missed.”

Cabinets: Angela Otten - Inspire Kitchen Design Studio
MO Design
4. Stylish Square

Designer: Margot Oven of MO Design
Location: Mill Valley, California
Size: 240 square feet (22 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. “A clean, fresh, modern, family-friendly kitchen — timeless but not boring,” designer Margot Oven says. “The island was to serve as an eat-in kitchen, since the dining room was not adjacent but at the entrance to the house and only used for formal dining.”

Island seating. “The fact that the island is square enabled it to serve as a counter-height dining table, not just an island,” Oven says. “The family members are able to sit across from each other versus in a long row, which made it function well for informal dining.”

Other special features.
 Concrete island countertop. Stainless steel perimeter countertops. The backsplash is handmade white ceramic subway tile in a stacked pattern.

“Uh-oh” moment. “Given the square shape of the island and the slanted ceiling, I couldn’t quite figure out how to hang pendant lighting,” Oven says. “I ended up doing multiple pendants on a single canopy from Niche Modern, who customize groupings. There are three solitaire pendants hanging from a linear canopy, all hanging at different heights but falling at the same height above the island.”

LORI HANDBERG / Studio M Interiors, Plymouth, MN.
5. Hardworking Hub

Designer: Lori Handberg of Studio M Interiors
Location: Deephaven, Minnesota
Size: 260 square feet (24 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. “From the onset of the project, our client wanted color,” designer Lori Handberg says. “She wanted to incorporate as much color as possible throughout the entire home.”

Island seating. The large island provides roomy seating on three sides. “With a very busy household, this island is multipurpose, to say the least,” Handberg says. “Meal preparation, a pop-up workstation, impromptu conversations and quick meals on the go — this had to be an attractive workhorse. We utilized a bit more of the floor space and elongated the island slightly to increase the overall size, allowing traffic to move freely. The island has special storage spaces for a built-in wastebasket and recycling center, a built-in microwave drawer and a storage pullout for bottled oils and vinegars.”

Other special features. “Our client wanted a bright white kitchen yet was not willing to forgo the warmth natural wood tones provide,” Handberg says. “We created a soft white kitchen by using Benjamin Moore’s White Dove on the cabinetry, and warmed it up by using a heritage brown finish on the red birch floors. Her dream color for the island was blue — not too dark and not too bright. We landed on Sherwin-Williams’ In the Navy to strike the perfect balance.

“Cambria Brittannica Gold quartz countertops with subtle mineral tones of gold, greige and gray pull the design together. Satin-brass finishes enhance and brighten the painted and stained finishes throughout.”

“Uh-oh” moment. “With existing red birch floors throughout, we wanted to be sure the stain was perfect,” Handberg says. “Refinishing red birch creates challenges because of the character and color variations. We worked through multiple samples to find the perfect finish. At one point [the homeowners] were questioning whether they should just replace the floors. Our persistence paid off when we found the perfect stain combination to enhance both the wood and the natural color variation.”

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