The History and Rise of the Kitchen Island
The Popularity of Kitchen Islands
The kitchen island has become a ubiquitous element of kitchen design, and you’re unlikely to see new construction without an island in the kitchen. If you think back to the kitchens of your youth, though, do you remember many kitchen islands? It’s unlikely that your grandmother had one, but you probably need a kitchen island in your kitchen. When did kitchen islands become so popular? To understand when this happened, and why, it is helpful to have an understanding of the history of the American kitchen.
Early Kitchen Configurations in the U.S.
In the 1800s, the kitchen was not the heart of the home. Rather, it was a space in the back of the house, away from the parlor and dining room, where the work of preparing food was accomplished. If there was an island, kitchen work was done there, and it was a big, sturdy table, rather than a cozy bar where guests and family members might congregate. In those days, kitchens were dark, messy, and noisy, with firewood stoves that kept the room warm as well as cooking the food. What’s more, because most people throwing parties were wealthy, the kitchen was the domain of servants, and not somewhere the guests would wander.
When Things Began to Change
In the 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright began designing houses specifically for the middle class. He wanted to shake things up and create houses that functioned well without live-in help, and he came up with the first open floor plans, allowing the living and dining areas to merge. When that happened, it changed the vibe of the kitchen and made the homemaker better able to take part in whatever was happening, even while making dinner. The island became a place that was more inviting than a simple workstation.
Kitchen Island Takeover
After World War II, American kitchens really had a moment. Suddenly there was a new focus on making housework easier, and the kitchen a more welcoming space. No longer synonymous with back-aching chores, the kitchen became a gathering spot, and the island became a place to socialize while doing the daily tasks of modern life. In the 1960s, Julia Childs came into the kitchen, and when her show The French Chef premiered in 1963, people were suddenly watching someone prepare delicious food at an island. The idea of having fun experimenting with new recipes became appealing, and sharing this experience seemed especially enjoyable. From then on, and particularly in the ‘80s and ‘90s, as cooking became more of a pastime and less of a duty assigned to housewives, the island became a spot where people really enjoyed gathering.
A Trend Without a Foreseeable End
In the modern kitchen, the island is not a well-worn workspace, but rather a hub where people gather, kids do homework, couples touch base, and, of course, prep work happens. It’s also a focal point and a style statement, aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. And while other kitchen trends will come and go, kitchen islands have some staying power, because of all their many benefits.
- You gain counter space with a kitchen island. This makes a kitchen much more functional and convenient, especially when you are preparing a meal or meal-prepping for the whole week.
- Islands improve the work flow. Because the kitchen island is typically no more than two steps from any spot in the kitchen, making it easier for you to move around while you’re working.
- Having an island gives you extra, customizable storage space. Not only does it contain additional countertop real estate, but an island can also hold cabinets, drawers, electrical outlets, or even a mini-fridge or wine fridge.
- Updated kitchen island ideas bring them up to date. Designers are getting creative with islands, upcycling furniture pieces to create them or designing them with waterfall countertops or high-contrast finishes. Double islands are becoming popular, and islands often feature wraparound seating or serve as the back of a banquette seating arrangement. The options are only limited by your imagination and vision for your kitchen.
Custom Kitchen Renovation from Capitol Design Build
Whether or not you want an island, when it’s time to renovate your kitchen, Capitol Design Build can help. We’ve been performing custom remodeling since 1989 and building custom, high-end homes in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area since 1998. We serve businesses and individuals in Virginia, Washington D.C, and Maryland, meeting every need from kitchen renovation and bathroom remodeling to custom home design and building. With experience spanning many disciplines, including engineering, design, remodeling, construction, and customer service, we look forward to working with you. Feel free to shop our website, call us at (703) 436-6919, or contact us online for a free, no-obligation estimate.