Your Own Private Island

Mar 14, 2022 | Tips & Tricks

As people go on spring break adventures over the next couple of weeks, I thought it would be fun to share private islands of a different sort: ones in the kitchen!  I enjoy renovating kitchens because I like problem-solving and some of the most common pre-renovation problems are storage, workspace, and seating.  All of which can be solved with an island, regardless of size.

While large islands that seat four are the standard in many new construction condos and single-family homes, that wasn’t the case for homes built more than fifteen years ago.  Here are a few examples of kitchens that CMD has renovated that included adding an island:

California kitchen - before


California Kitchen - After


First up, Ranch House in Northern California

Although we were not able to enlarge this kitchen in Napa County, we completely reconfigured it, which included removing part of a load-bearing wall and installing a header, doubling the size of the sliding patio doors to capture the light and view into the garden, and adding an island.

The island is a little like a swiss-army knife – so many purposes. With a view of the garden, the sink, dishwasher and double pullout trash are on one side, and a microwave, drawers, and tray dividers on the other. On the end closest to the range, a handy pullout for pots and pans, and on the other, cozy seating for the dynamic homeowners. We borrowed a bit of space from the hall to add a pantry, and a sliding barn door keeps the walkway open. Because the client wanted a pair of counter stools at the island, we created a modified waterfall detail with the quartz top. Using whites and pale grays, the palette keeps everything light and airy, and the subway backsplash is glass, which bounces the light and makes this kitchen live quite large. 

Hyde Park Kitchen Before


Hyde Park Kitchen After


Next, a Townhouse in Hyde Park, Chicago

This kitchen was an L-shaped kitchen with a lot of wasted space and a serious lack of counter prep space and storage. We removed the soffit that lined the kitchen and replaced the 30” upper cabinets with 42” upper cabinets. This added a shelf in every wall cabinet, but I knew they could still use more storage.

To convince the client that we really could fit in an island, we mapped it out on the floor with blue painter’s tape. This is an old trick that has never failed me. Once the client realized she could have her own sliver of an island, she wondered if we could add seating. To create a distinction between the kitchen prep space and a place to have coffee or breakfast, we changed materials. The quartz waterfall edge cascades down into a reclaimed wood tabletop, with a space saving support allowing for a pair of chairs.

River North Loft Kitchen Before


River North Loft Kitchen After


Finally, a Loft in River North, Chicago

When faced with a stackable washer/dryer unit next to a refrigerator in a tiny kitchen in an otherwise large loft space, I was giddy with possibility. Since this was a gut renovation of the entire loft, we were able to expand the kitchen enough to include the requested double ovens and tall storage unit, even with a lot of structural elements we could not change. This island is the teeniest island I’ve ever designed. However, it still serves the most important function: it’s a place to gather around, glass of wine in hand, and relax!

Enjoy your Spring Break!