Sometimes we aren’t in a place to have everything nailed down and locked in place. That’s not how we roll at all of life’s turns.
There are times when it makes sense to keep some adaptability. Keep that in mind when it comes to devising a workspace for the void in the middle of your kitchen.
If you’ve got at least 9 square feet idling, this much-fussed-over province is a prime for adding a counter top with storage underneath – drawers, shelves and other configurations.
While the practicality of kitchen carts on wheels and moveable islands is appealing for those in wee spaces, these are also a formula for kitchen charisma.
“I think it’s a great idea, especially if someone is renting,” said Charlotte kitchen designer Keri Henley, owner of Artisan Cabinetry. “This is a great way to add a little more storage and create another serving counter.”
Adding storage and counter tops doesn’t have to be a custom job or a big investment. You can find carts and freestanding islands in just about any design: large or small, with open shelves or cabinet doors, and in wood, metal or painted finishes.
You need at least 3 feet of space on all sides of a cart or island. That leaves an area for you to move around the room. Take your room measurements, and figure out how much space is left once you’ve subtracted for traffic areas. The space that’s left is the maximum size for any furniture within that space. You might want to choose a slightly smaller piece if several people share kitchen time.
A cart or butcher-block table is a good choice when the space for furniture is 3 feet or smaller, Henley said. “If you do it as an island that’s permanently mounted., it looks a little small and out of place.”
Don’t worry about making everything match. Choose a finish that wakes up the room or a darker color to anchor it, Henley said.
“Anything goes,” Henley said. “It’s whatever you like. There are no hard rules for selecting a color for an island.”
Do you want a piece of furniture that stays in the middle of the room or would you rather have a cart that can be moved to a wall when not in use? If you want to move it, consider a design with wheels.
Be specific about what you need or want extra storage space for. Lots of clutter is best behind closed cabinets. Choose open shelves to show off pretty collections. Some units give you a combination.
And while anything goes when it comes to expressing your personality in the design, professionals do keep a few guidelines in play for a harmonious look. Henley offers these tips:
Darker colors, such as stained espresso finishes, are popular now. Those tones pair well with painted cabinets, which are also in demand for kitchens. Glazed glazed cabinetry is losing ground with consumers, Henley said.
A white island or cart will work best if you have a contrasting color around it. White island is difficult to match with white cabinets. Put two different shades of white together, and it looks like you made a mistake, Henley said.
A butcher-block topper is a durable surface on an island or cart. You can cut directly on the wood, and it’s less likely to stain compared to Carrara marble. A contrasting color on the base or natural wood works well.
For serious cooks there is more to appraise, if you consider the advice of New York chef John DeLucie as he inspected the items on display at the Williams-Sonoma store in Manhattan.
“Did I tell you about my parents’ kitchen island?” John DeLucie asked. “They combined three rooms on the main floor of our house and created a huge kitchen with an island so big we can all work on it at one time.”
As the chef and proprietor of the Lion and Crown restaurants, DeLucie, 52, knows his way around a kitchen. He also has ideas about what makes for a good kitchen island or cart.
“It should be solid,” he said. “Efficient in size and space, with shelving and other ways to store things. And if it has wheels, they should be gnarly wheels, not small, wimpy wheels.
“And locks on the wheels are key.”
Butcher-block cutting boards made by Boos are popular with chefs, and a cart made by the company caught DeLucie’s eye because of its “good-looking and sturdy” butcher-block top with “nice, thick wood,” he said. “Just remember to treat it right and oil it once a month.”
He also liked a double kitchen island with a stone top from Williams-Sonoma, because it had so much storage. “It’s cool that those boxes pull out and you have drawers,” he said. (He has a lot of stuff, “so hiding clutter is key.”)
For a “simple, sturdy and utilitarian” option, he chose Restoration Hardware’s salvaged-wood kitchen island. Whereas the Conrad kitchen island from Pottery Barn, he said, “is higher up, so you can sit around it,” if that’s what you’re looking for.
But Joe Colombo’s Mini Kitchen, designed in 1963, was his favorite – despite the price.
“If I had 26 grand to spend on an island, this is the one I’d get,” he said. “It’s beautiful, it’s functional. It’s not cheap, but if you can swing it, it’s 26 grand of mod and groovy.”
Rima Suqi contributed to this story for The New York Times
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