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Is this the end of the kitchen island? Good riddance to a ghastly waste of space

So the kitchen island has finally been knocked out of the chair as a domestic status symbol. I’m absolutely thrilled – I’ve always loathed them. Why? Because they are the epitome of style over substance, routinely ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Oversized oases stranded in the middle of a kitchen, often surrounded by a pair of bottom-crunching, back-hugging bar stools – also grown-up high chairs – with the obligatory integrated bookcase or wine rack and housing a sink or hob.

They are a kind of overly high kitchen table that you cannot stretch your legs under. Often costing tens of thousands of pounds, they were considered the pinnacle of kitchen sophistication somewhere in the early noughties.

Their popularity came in tandem with the dissolution of the dining room. As open-plan living became the dream, walls came down throughout the home, and anyone who could afford it converted the Victorian side back into oversized kitchen-cum-dining-cum-family rooms, often leaving the front rooms completely abandoned in the House. treat.

Devices used to run around the edges of these bright new super-spaces, and the ubiquitous showpiece island was neglected in the middle.

It was all part of the ‘new’ relaxed way of life. No more barriers between rooms! No cook willfully consigned to servitude or hidden from sight!

The kitchen island has finally been dethroned as a domestic status symbol (File photo)
The kitchen island has finally been dethroned as a domestic status symbol (File photo)

The kitchen island has finally been dethroned as a domestic status symbol (File photo)

It was all about ‘facing’ the room while chopping because kitchens were becoming trendy. Gimmicks and gadgets such as steam ovens, baking machines and spiralizers were proudly displayed.

And a huge kitchen island to house it all – or even two for those really into one-upmanship – was therefore the ultimate finishing touch.

Until now. Recent trend reports suggest that looser country-style kitchens, filled with ornamentation and comfortable corners, are taking over, leaving covered units with matching kitchen islands in their wake.

It is well. Because if my career in creative interiors has taught me anything, it’s that the most efficient way to cook is with a fridge, prep area, stove and sink in one line, so you can move seamlessly and safely from one zone to the other.

With an island, you constantly lift hot or heavy pans, boiling water or wet vegetables over a corridor. Dangerous if you have small children or pets who have an uncanny ability to appear when and where least expected.

And the increasingly spacious nature of our kitchens means that unless you’re extremely disciplined, such islands become magnets for admin, toys, dirty things and more that have no place in a hygienic cooking area.

Worst of all, they have become very much about conspicuous display. Look at my marble facade, my book-matched stone, my immaculate (not too long) stainless steel surfaces.

I’ve even seen a fully mirrored kitchen island – worse than stainless steel to keep clean! And another shaped like some kind of futuristic sci-fi sculpture.

The size and extravagance of the island has little to do with how often the owner actually cooks. Because while we all love Bake Off, the truth is that most recipes are untested and many of us watch in rapture as Stanley Tucci tours the gastronomic hotspots of Italy while we eat microwave dinners balanced on our laps . It’s all so desperately unnecessary. Not to forget, expensive.

And yet there are entire magazines dedicated to the pursuit of the latest kitchen trends, as if their readers update theirs every season.

Home cooking is an intense pursuit that is worthwhile – never more so than when prices escalate – but much of this translated into the purchase of unnecessary gadgets along with the elevation of the kitchen to a domestic trophy.

And so we stand at a crossroads. And yet the purpose of the kitchen itself is, and always has been, really very simple.

A kitchen must contain the means to store, prepare and prepare food and to clear everything away afterwards. It can also hold laundry, but everything else is superfluous and pure whimsy. It is time we returned to a more pragmatic focus on function.

Certainly, our kitchens should feel fully integrated into our home as a whole. I would appreciate some shelving or display space to hold knick-knacks or artwork.

Yes to colour, wallpaper, patterned tiles, cushions and comfort. Yes to twice the storage space and twice the power outlets you ever think you’ll need. Yes to built-in herb containers, hobs and hoods.

But no, just no, to the island.

If you’re planning a kitchen from scratch, it helps to start by telling the truth.

A kitchen must contain the means to store, prepare and prepare food and to clear everything away afterwards.  It might also hold laundry, but anything else is redundant and only whimsical (File photo)
A kitchen must contain the means to store, prepare and prepare food and to clear everything away afterwards.  It might also hold laundry, but anything else is redundant and only whimsical (File photo)

A kitchen must contain the means to store, prepare and prepare food and to clear everything away afterwards. It might also hold laundry, but anything else is redundant and only whimsical (File photo)

How much do you actually cook? Do you regularly cook meals from scratch or do you tend to order take-out or eat out? Do you work with a wide range of ingredients or stick to a few favourites? Do you love hosting dinner parties or is it just a dream?

Before I had children, I regularly spent all day preparing meals for a dinner party for ten, but these days I’m more likely to make routine dinners for the kids or share a pot of tea and cake with a friend.

There is no judgment on any of the above – just the acceptance of reality so that you get a kitchen that actually fits your life now.

If you want a large, multi-functional work surface to gather around in your kitchen, may I suggest a table?
If you want a large, multi-functional work surface to gather around in your kitchen, may I suggest a table?

If you want a large, multi-functional work surface to gather around in your kitchen, may I suggest a table?

An L-shaped or galley layout will always be the most efficient, which is what I have at home. And with the galley you have storage on one side and a sink, preparation space and hob on the other.

There are a ton of great countertop surfaces available these days, from easy-to-clean and lightweight ceramic that looks like solid stone, to wood and even copper, which is naturally anti-microbial.

Everything applies to the cabinet fronts (except mirror or stainless, if you value your sanity).

Don’t be afraid of colors either – my heart dreams of a glossy light yellow kitchen, so I may be on my way there soon.

Updating your cabinet doors is one of the easiest ways to give any kitchen a quick new look. Swap in new handles and your update may be complete. No island required.

And if you want a large, multi-functional work surface to gather around in your kitchen, may I suggest a table?

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