The Kitchen Island Solution

As a residential architect and working mom, I make it my mission to find ways to increase our homes' user-friendliness.  With a household of two working parents, our kitchens are both the center of the universe and the center of chaos. We come home tired, hungry, occasionally cranky, and need to deliver the evening meal fast before dad starts eating our young! We need kitchens that can handle the multiple cooks simultaneously without stepping on each other or our kids who are coming to grab a quick snack before dinner’s ready. Forget talk about a “perfect work triangle” in the kitchen. That worked when June from Leave it Beaver was the only cook in the household. We all know that the modern kitchen is so much more than a single-person work factory! 

The multi-zone kitchen should have two access points so no one gets trapped in or blocked out of the kitchen. A large kitchen island is a fantastic solution for this, with space to flow through the room without awkward dead ends. The size of the kitchen should be taken into consideration when incorporating an island. Figure 48” to 54” between the counter top and island so you can open the refrigerator without knocking out a kid or the dishwasher without tripping your husband. (I’ve never done that... Oops!) 

With so many activities revolving around the sink, I like it in the island. You can access it from the right, left, or even over the top. The view from the sink is also very critical. An older kitchen threw the sink on an outside wall so June Clever had a view to the outside world while washing the dishes - by hand. A modern kitchen features the sink where we can overlook the action going on in the family room or casual dining area, where the kids are (hopefully) doing their homework or we can catch our TV show.

I like a single level island at 36”. This gives you the greatest flexibility and the largest working surface. Forget about a two level island in an attempt to hide the kitchen sink. Since everyone is in the kitchen anyway, there’s no need to hide it. That's what the Messy Kitchen is for! Instead, let’s make the kitchen island feel like Starbucks by dropping a couple pendant fixtures and adding seating so we can interact with the family while cooking. 

 Kitchen, Camelia Model Home, 229 Bumble Way.  Summers Corner, Summerville, SC.

Placement of the dishwasher is so critical and often misunderstood. The traditional belief is that it needs to be to the right of the kitchen sink for right-handers. Never mind that! Loading a dishwasher is not a fine motor skill like writing – trust me, my kids have been loading the dishwasher since before they had fine motor skills. Instead, think about both loading and unloading the dishes. Loading dishes from the sink works from either side but when it comes time to unload the dishes, you want to be closest to the drawers and cabinets where the dishes go with the fewest steps. Lastly, make sure the dishwasher and sink are in line; not 90 or 45 degrees from each. Think about the floor space the dishwasher door occupies when it’s open. Do you have room to stand and access the adjacent cabinets? 

So who ever said you can’t have two cooks in the kitchen hasn’t lived my life or the lives of working families everywhere. Let’s make our kitchen function for as many cooks and little helpers as needed!