Three or four decades ago the kitchen table almost became extinct, as fully fitted kitchens pushed them out and our ideas for kitchen furniture didn’t allow for anything other than sleek base units, worktops and wall cupboards.
Then about ten to twenty years ago the kitchen island began to appear, bringing back some of the kitchen table functionality. But they are distinctly different pieces of furniture and they bring different elements to kitchen design.
Changes in Kitchen Furniture Needs Over the Years
Kitchen tables probably never fell out of favour in big farmhouse kitchens where they look completely at home, particularly when matched with other similar pieces of kitchen furniture like dressers and sideboards.
But in urban settings, as families began to eat more in front of the television, or in a large lounge/diner, often constructed by knocking two rooms together, the need for a table in the kitchen diminished.
And in newer homes there was hardly the room for a kitchen table set with four or six chairs, or any other kitchen furniture in the room in addition to all the appliances and gadgets that we were beginning to embrace. Now modern homes are being built with a better appreciation of how modern families live and larger kitchens or kitchen diners are more likely to have the space for a table or an island.
Breakfast Bars Provide a Potential Solution
A halfway house solution that could suit your family’s needs might be a breakfast bar, basically a worktop or table top that projects out into the room so that people can sit on either side of it.
Bar stools work well as seats for a setting like this as a breakfast bar is usually at the same height as the worktop and ordinary dining chairs are too low. Being slightly higher, bar stools are better and there are some very chic and elegant designs for domestic bar stools these days.
Kitchen Islands Make an Appearance
The kitchen island is a development of the professional catering idea, where kitchens would have groups of worktops and hobs in the centre of the room as well as cooking and storage space arranged around the walls. This was simply the application of common sense, making the most of the available space.
Kitchen islands in domestic settings essentially come in two flavours, those that are connected to services and those that aren’t. Obviously the ones that are connected are more expensive to buy and to install than stand-alone kitchen islands.
A stand-alone kitchen island will be at worktop height and sit in the middle of the kitchen. The island will usually be the same height as the worktops around the walls and have drawers or cupboards, or both, in the base units below the worktop. This delivers valuable extra storage space as well as a second food preparation surface which can really help when there are two people working together in a kitchen.
Kitchen Islands with all the Bells and Whistles
A fully plumbed-in kitchen island can have hot and cold running water and waste pipes for a sink and is likely to have electricity as well for sockets for food processors and other kitchen gadgets. This means quite a lot of work installing a kitchen island of this kind as the plumbing and electrical work required can be a nightmare, needing to channel the supplies below the floor.
When is an Island not an Island?
Of course, a kitchen island doesn’t actually have to be an island. If you’re limited for space you can still get most of the benefits of a kitchen island if it’s attached to the wall at some point.
This in fact makes it easier to plumb in a fully serviced island as the services can be run above the ground, beneath the base units, to the joining wall where they can be joined to the existing plumbing pipes and electrical conduits. This is far easier than having to bury all those pipes and conduits below floor level.