Island or table?

lavender_lassOctober 31, 2010

I'm sure this has been asked before, but I want to know what you think if the table is used as an island much of the time, but can be a dining table, when needed.

I've been looking at cottage style/unfitted kitchens and the one thing I've noticed is that many do not have an island. I wanted a big table for my island, anyway, but another table for eating seems to be duplicating functions. I could have two or three chairs on the two side of the table that are not across from the work areas (L shaped kitchen planned).

Another chair could be at a desk area, which would open up the end of the room (by the woodstove in one corner and corner windows in the other) for a comfy seating area. Maybe two chairs and an ottoman. These chairs would not be so large, that they couldn't be used at the table, for extra seating.

So, is it ever appropriate to use a table for the island...and then move it down a bit, when it's going to be a dining table? I love the idea of a keeping room/kitchen, but an island and separate table will take up all my space.

Also, if this works, I can keep the porch as a utility/pantry area...and add a screen/sun porch across the back. Best view and great breezes in the summer :)

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i prefer a table myself, but that's partly because we like to sit around the table socialising while prepping, so that works for us. if you prefer to stand, that could make the difference to you.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 9:38PM
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I am really anti-island. In fact, I think an old fashioned eat in kitchen with a big table than can be a work table or eating table is very cool! I've even seen a few in magazines lately.

If my kitchen were wider and more square (it's 14x31) I would have a table and no islands.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 9:39PM
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Thank you both for the responses :)

I really do like a work table and I really like to sit down in the kitchen. LOL

My space is about 13' x 22' with a door from the entry at the lower right side and another door to the laundry/pantry on the upper left side. I'd like to do an L shaped kitchen, with just a regular layout...from left to right....fridge on one end, sink under the window, corner, then stove, and oven/microwave on the other end.

Across from the stove/oven area, I'd like to add some shelves or storage, but nothing too deep, so there's plenty of room around the table. Opposite the fridge/sink is the end with the corner window and space for a woodstove, near the door to the entry...but not too close.

Sorry, I don't have any computer software, but maybe I can draw it up and scan it. The window over the sink would look out onto the back sun porch, with screens on the windows, so they can be open in the summer. I love old fashioned porches, but we only have three months a year that it could be used, with screens only. We live in a hot summer/cold winter area (eastern Washington, about five miles from Idaho...and up to three feet of snow in the winter).

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 9:59PM
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I struggled with this question for a long time. What I decided was that with an island I was limited to the number of seats and no more. I chose a 36" high table that is 54"x36" and has a hidden leaf that expands the table to a 54" square with eight chairs. I keep it at 36" wide now but when my remodel is done, I will be able to seat 8 whenever necessay. You would need a huge island to do that.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 10:55PM
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A table is more versatile but an island offers much more storage space and the option to put in a prep sink for ease of prepping (especially useful if you will have multiple people prepping and/or cooking at one time).

One general caution about a table that you plan to also eat at...i.e., an eat-in kitchen w/chairs on all four sides. Be sure you still maintain proper aisle widths b/w the table and counters that you would for an island with seats and a counter behind the seats...i.e., at least 54", preferably 60" b/w them. Don't assume that b/c it's a movable table that you don't need adequate aisle widths. Learn from my experience growing up.........

I grew up w/a table in the middle of the kitchen w/one aisle b/w the table & counter around 42"...and it was, to put it mildly, not pleasant to work in when there was more than one person in the kitchen...and we had a big family (six children all very close in age). Even when only one of us was working in the kitchen, the chairs were always in the way...not just infringing on aisle space, but also generally in the way when we used the table for prepping...which we did quite a bit since we didn't have all that much useful counterspace. When we were seated at the table for meals, it was almost impossible to get around the people sitting at the table...there just wasn't enough room! My very negative experience is probably why I'm not a fan of kitchen tables that are meant to be used for everyday meals, etc. in the middle of the kitchen & work area.

Lavender_lass, if you keep the chairs away from the working side(s) of the table as you plan and also have at least a 48" aisle (wider if you plan to use the working side for seating with any kind of regularity), then I think you'll be OK.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2010 at 11:35PM
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I tried to make it work in my kitchen but there were too many needs I'd have had to give up and not quite enough room. If you don't need the island work surface at standing height, the cabinetry, or anything else it might give you, and if you have room, by all means get the table.

Around here we tend to affectionately call it the Waltons table.

Remember, you need 2.5 feet from the table edge to the walkway to fit a chair, and 3 feet between a table and a wall.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 3:22AM
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I've never had an island, but I didn't like my Mom's. I'm doing a section of wider counter that looks like a tall table. It's really great to see so many different storage/eating geometries. We are not limited to a table, and lower/upper cabinets anymore. Storage and seating can be a range of heights.

How about this - instead of an island, put in a booth where the back of one booth bench has shallow cabinets in it? Not sure if that fits you at all, but it felt clever so I wrote it down.

If you put the booth on a platform, you could get it so that the edge is standing height from the normal floor but you could also sit. Not sure about the tripping hazard though. OK, back to decaf.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:21AM
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I've had both. In my current kitchen I have an island with a dropped down bar for a seating area. It's small. Too small. I liked my table arrangement much more.

I had a large farm table (30 x 72) running parallel to my sink wall with the stove positioned to one side of it. I only kept chairs on the ends and one side of it so that I could use the other side for a work table. Worked out great. No problems at all. Had a big table when I needed it and a large workspace when I needed it.

Of course, that was a huge kitchen that also had a fireplace... Everyone loved that room.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:57AM
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I have an old work bench that serves as an island in my kitchen. We added locking wheels so we could move it wherever we like, though 99.9% of the time it stays in the same place. Because we wanted somewhere to sit, we built a small bistro table (also on wheels) that can be attached to the work bench or separate (most of the time it is attached). We can fit 3 stools around the bistro table and an extra stool at the opposite end of the work bench. As we are a family of 5, it is not enough space for us all to sit together in the kitchen, but it is certainly fine for prep work, snacks, kids' breakfasts, a cup of coffee with a friend, etc.

There are some pictures in this blog post (this is the table in the before kitchen--I need to take new photos!):

Here is a link that might be useful: my island/table

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:20AM
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I am actually considering replacing my kitchen table with a large eat-in island. It will be bi-level, with the cooktop at one end and then bar height with storage underneath and seating for 6. You may not have a the space for something that large, but maybe the bi-level idea can help you. I'll try to post a picture of it for you. Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 9:08AM
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Our kitchen island is one of my favorite things in the house. I love the movement in the granite, the huge amount of storage space below, and the overhang where we often have breakfast and lunch or guests can sit and kibitz while I cook. A table just couldn't give me all this.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 9:23AM
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I struggled with this. I am a kitchen table girl at heart, but we decided on an island for more storage. I am surprised that I love the results, probably better than a table, but it was because of how we laid it out. Our kitchen is about 14' wide by 18'. We have an L layout Our long wall has a pantry cabinets, and sink with window, the short wall has stove and fridge. Room is mostly open to the dining room along the other short wall, which has an extension table that can open for 10 or even 12 if you get cozy.

Our island is 39" x 84" (I think) with four table legs and can seat 5 people along three sides. I really love the compromise. I can pull up a chair or just stand and cook and have friends or my kids at the island with me. I actually like that the kids are higher than they would be at a table - really on the same plane with me and it feels like they are more part of what I am doing. I find myself often bringing my cooking to the island to be with who is there, versus doing all my prep around the perimeter and putting my back to people (which i would normally do if there was a table.) I found that I only sat at the table (in the previous configuration) to work if I was doing a long job (snapping beans or pealing shrimp) versus other jobs that involve moving around.

At a table you really have to sit, the island is more flexible so I an stand or sit to work.

But I sacrificed the look of a nice warm wood table. I think I could have designed the island to be even more table like - even had it build as a farm table that basically sat over a couple of cabinet boxes - I think that could work.

Not trying to sell the island, but wanted to share my surprise in how well it works for us.

This is not the best photo and the kitchen is still in progress, but you get the idea. On the far side you can also sit in front of the stove.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 10:50AM
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I like the look of a farmhouse table.

However, I don't like sitting down to prep - not the right angle/leverage on the knife, too much getting up and sitting back down, bumping into the chair, not having prep stuff immediately at hand. The exception is something like making shao mai / dumplings, where I'm doing one thing for an hour at a time. If I frequently did similar tasks - could include decorating cakes, assembling pastry things, shelling 5 lbs of peas - then I'd want a spot for seated prep. In that case, a high stool at a counter-height surface would also work, a bit less comfy perhaps, while also allowing standing prep.

My kitchen isn't so large that I can devote much space to something that isn't ideal for the kitchen's main task, which in my house is cooking. If I had a large kitchen, I would probably like a table, placed well away from the work zone(s). It would be great for kids' homework, for breakfast and snacking, and as a fly trap for guests, baited with wine and hors d'oeuvres. ''Large'' would mean 2X the room's current size.

On the other hand, I'm not a fan of islands, in my particular space. The reason is that the thing I'm most lacking - besides presence of mind, self-discipline, and a trust fund - is horizontal surfaces - counter and shelves. Space for work bowls, in-progress sheet trays, hot pots, all the stuff that accumulates as you cook. An island provides one surface. A worktable with 2 lower shelves provides 3X as much surface. Kind of like Spock's three-dimensional chess set. I'd ideally like a worktable with 2 shelves below the counter and 1 or 2 shelves above - sort of like the slide in a restaurant kitchen, or racking in a warehouse. However, SWMBO's lips thin and whiten whenever I mention this, so I get the idea that it isn't happening.

Sparklekitty's island/table looks like an excellent and attractive compromise.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 11:34AM
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It really depends on what's the primary function? If it's mostly for prep/storage and used for seating only occasionally then I think an island is more practical. If it's mostly for seating and occasional work surface then I would do a farmhouse table.

I love the look, but we went for an island for the practical reasons: like to prep standing up, needed the storage more than the seating. I think a nice compromise might be a woodtop, furniture style island with open shelves. Have you looked a t allison0407's island?

Here are a few pics from my inspiration file:

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 12:03PM
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lavender lass, I've decided to come out of lurking so that I can vote for a table over an island for your kitchen (provided you have adequate countertop prep space, and/or know you're comfortable prepping at table height, either sitting or standing. I'm 5'1" and know that it works for me, just, while standing.)

All of your comments that I've read in the past few months have indicated a strong desire for a kitchen steeped in old-fashioned sociability, one that is welcoming and where people feel grounded. The act of perching up on a high chair, versus settling into a low one (even when the difference is only six inches) could leave many people feeling physically or emotionally uncomfortable, regardless of how much hot tea, warm-from-the-oven bread and warm-from-your-heart laughter fill the kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 12:17PM
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An island also requires receptacles.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 12:24PM
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I LOVE your island. How high is it?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 12:29PM
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Melaska - The island is counter height at 36". I don't think it would be strange to do it a little lower if you wanted something more like a table as long as it is comfortable as a work surface.

Brickeyee - My island doesn't have outlets and it really is fine 90% of the time (I just do that work on the perimeter) but plan on putting them because it will be more flexible. Are there legal requirements for an outlet?

I have also seen islands where one side is counter height and the other table, sometimes with two different surfaces. I also saw in a magazine an island that had a retractable table on wheels than could come out for a table and put back in the island to be out of the way. Another idea is a small work island with no chairs or maybe a one or two and keep a table.

I think that Pps7 had it right - what is your primarily function (or what could it be) and work around that. Unless the aesthetics are more important to you, then you work around that.

Trying to merge the kitchen that you see in your head with the one you are going to use and function can be challenging depending on what you want.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 1:27PM
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A while back I did a Mediterranean styled kitchen for a woman who loves to cook. Her budget wasn't as big as her love for cooking so she ordered a beautiful table from Italy to complement her cabinets and to use as an island. This was still less expensive than the cabinetry and counter tops she would have needed to create and island.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchens for Living

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 1:39PM
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I wanted a table, but my kitchen is not large enough for a big farmhouse table in it. On the other side, it's too big with nothing in the middle. I also figured out that I don't like to prep sitting down.

My compromise is to have a small island with lots of extra storage and no seating, strictly an extra work area and to control the traffic flow, and to open the kitchen to the family room and put the table there, just outside of the kitchen. No pics yet, right now only the drywall is up.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 2:30PM
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buehl your island fixed or portable? Code in every municipality I know of requires outlets in fixed islands and peninsulas as well as perimeter areas.

Has your kitchen passed inspection yet? Electrical, in particular?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 2:45PM
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Thank you for all the great ideas and suggestions :)

There are so many beautiful kitchens on this forum, but I think Sparklekitty really described the style I'm looking for in a kitchen.

The one thing all country kitchens seem to have in common, whether they're American, French, English or Italian, is a big work table in the middle of the room. While islands are probably far better choices, for storage and height, I don't want to pass up the work table. I also need the space for dining in the kitchen.

I don't have a separate dining room, but if the sunporch works out as planned, there would be space to set up a big table in there. It would be perfect for holidays...with the snow falling, outside of those big windows. That would be nice.

Mnerg- Thanks for the vote...and come out of hiding more often. You have good input! You also reminded me that many people, especially the old and young, can have problems perching on a high stool. Thank you :)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 4:06PM
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You're welcome. It's the voting season, after all.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 4:47PM
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I have no space for a proper dining room so in my last kitchen I had a large island that we used as the dining table. This time I am putting in a large table that seats 12 instead of an island. I will loose some storage but I really missed having a real dining table for eating before and we fell in love with this mango wood table and had to have it! I think I will have a bench on the work side and chairs on the other side. I imagine I will do more prepping sitting at the table since I can face the rest of the living room that way.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 4:49PM
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I can see why you would want a table -- it's a beautiful look. I also love your concept of having a hearth type room just off the kitchen, so cozy.

I would offer one suggestion, however, and that is that while your kitchen walls and floors are open you run the wiring for island pendants from the ceiling, and electrical from below in case you change your mind down the road (be sure to take photos while they're open with tape measures laid out so you can find them again)

. I lived with a table for a while before putting in the island just to be sure that it was what I really wanted. We also gave up having a kitchen table in the renovation, I was really nervous about living without one, but we spend more time at the island chit chatting after dinner than we ever did at the table -- even as I try to analyze it, I can't quite figure it, but love the unexpected perk (especially with three teenage boys at home).

Good luck with your decision.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 5:28PM
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I wanted to agree with Brickeye and Buehl. I have never worked in an area that doesn't have very specific electrical requirements for any "fixed" islands. In fact, a mobile island or kitchen table can be one of the options to avoid some of that.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:17PM
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I am sure you are all correct about island outlets being a requirement for code, I am sorry I gave people a misleading idea. It has been in the plans since day one, so maybe that is why there was no stink at inspection.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:09PM
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I made a table island :)
I wanted us all four to be able to sit and eat comfortably and for kids to have homework room without getting in the food work area (why put desks in their rooms?!)

Its a 3 foot radius 1/2 circle stuck to a 2x8 island.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:13PM
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This was another eat at island I liked a lot, but the shape didn't work for my space.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:22PM
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Hi lavendar :)

Here's some pics I love:

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:27PM
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I hope I am not too late in posting this...I would definitely vote for an island without cabinets, on legs, that can double as a table at least on 3 sides. Sure, it reduces the amount of storage you can get on the island but it looks awesome due to the openness and it serves as a casual dining area from at least 3 sides -- depending on how much space you have.

This is especially because in this case lavender says that she has an extra pantry area already earmarked.

I think one important aspect of such table is to have a solid countertop on it. That would make it possible to use it as a prep/serving surface and also unifies it as a part of the overall kitchen.

Regarding moving it to make it accessible from all 4 sides: I am not sure if this is feasible or easy. Even though you did not fasten the table, chances are that you would not want to go through the pains of moving the table back and forth.

Sparklekitty's table ROCKS. Just the perfect blend of a table and an extra island work surface!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:29PM
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Marcy- Great table/island. Very clever :)

Beagle- I love the table in your second picture. Very french! I'd probably use chairs, but the benches are nice. Beautiful lights in the third picture, especially the single pendant.

Homey- My mom uses a table for her island and she slides it around all the time. She put those little sticky felt squares, under the bottom of the legs, and it works great.

A wooden table with a stone top would be pretty and functional...and it would be great for baking :)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:43PM
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Now, this is a beautiful kitchen table! I think table wins :)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 10:41PM
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What a great table pic. Lavender. It's got those french blues and yellows. It looks so cozy!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 11:40PM
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Thanks, I just love it. Now, I just have to find the kitchen to go with it! LOL

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 11:57PM
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I have also seen islands where one side is counter height and the other table, sometimes with two different surfaces.

That is exactly what I'm hoping to build - we're waiting until we've set all the perimeter cabinets in place to see if there really is enough room to do the massive piece I want.

On the side away from the great room, it'd be counter height containing the main sink w/the dishwasher immediately to its right. Then I'll be able to have quite a bit of storage to the left of sink (should have about 11'-12' of length to work with.)

Then on the side nearest the great room, I want dining table height the length of the island. Therefore there will be at least two surfaces (like the pic that marcydc posted) - there will be some kind of ponywall cutting off the sight line for dining table side to kitchen/dirty dishes side.

Our plan has a dining room open to the kitchen, but I really want to make that a morning room/sitting area. My parents have this set-up, and I absolutely love it. They have an island w/a lower height eating area, but it's like the rounded head of a comma on the end of the island. I'm partial to a much more clean-lined, rectangular look.

I figure if it comes down to it, I'll have room for a great big island either way, and I can give in and put a dining table near the windows where it's drawn if I have to. But if I can make it happen, I want the all-in-one.

In fact, I even want to build a really thick butcher block on top of the dishwasher (being on a corner of the island, to the right of the sink). It will be a great landing spot for items from the fridge across the aisle from it, and if I build it up thick enough, it will serve as another break in the sight line ... the aisle between the island and the wall w/fridge is actually the beginning of the hallway that leads to my boys' rooms, so there will be plenty of traffic past that end of the island. The better I can keep a dirty sink hidden from passersby, the happier I'll be.

If anyone else has pics like the one marcydc posted, I'd love to see them!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 2:21AM
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Can you please tell me a little about your beautiful countertop and island surfaces? lavendar_lass, thank you for this great post!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 3:01AM
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Below is a link to a guest house kitchen. It has a fabulous table with bench seating. Very welcoming look.

You could always do the table. If you end up hating it (which I do not think you will), you can always add an island later.

Here is a link that might be useful: tailored white kitchen

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 8:11AM
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lavander-lass, I'm having the same issue and decided to do precisely what kris-ma said: wiring for the island (it is a code issue ) but not putting it in right away until we live with the new perimeter for a while and look for a counter height table that would work as an alternative.

Here's the thread where my layout was discussed (it sounds like a situation similar to yours): There was great advice on proper spacing for the table and island.

and here is the link to my before pics and layout plans (one with small island and table, one with large island similar to the last picture in beaglesdoit better's post). Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: plans-scroll down and view gallery

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 10:15PM
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My picture disappeared! Here it is, again. I just love this picture! :)

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 11:17PM
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