17 December 2008


'Tis the season of decking halls, lighting menorahs and Auld Lang Syne. Why not add styling a kitchen island to the traditions list? If you're putting one 'under your tree' this season, make sure it does your home proud!

I'm often asked, "Does my island need to be the same as my other cabinets?" It doesn't. But it needs to look like it belongs in the same space. Here are a few cabinetry dos and don'ts on achieving this effect:


* Match the island's door style to the other "peripheral" cabinets. If you've always loved bead board style doors, an island is a great spot to add them, (as a little bead board goes a long, long way!), but match the rails and stiles, (the door's "frame") to the peripheral cabinets in terms of size and shape.

* Use the same door style if it's available in a different wood - e.g., stained cherry peripherals and painted maple island; white peripherals and stained maple island.

* Consider using the same style and wood species, but in a colorful stain. For example, your peripheral cabinets are a golden oak; choose a moss stain for the island.

* Match the knobs or pulls on the island with those on the surrounding cabinets. If the same finish works on both, go that direction. Otherwise, find the same style in a finish that looks better on the island's coloration.


* Use an island to change your kitchen's style. It will just look out of place.

* Add elements to an island that look out of place with the rest of the kitchen - e.g., fluted columns, steel legs or grape corbels that don't tie into anything else in the room.

* Try to pair new cabinets of an almost - but not exact - finish. It will probably look a bit "off kilter," especially if one is real wood and the other laminate.

Here are some countertop dos and don'ts to consider, as well:


* Feel free to use a different countertop material or color on your island, especially if you're upgrading. This is your kitchen's focal point, and a great place to add a style statement and material improvement to your kitchen.

* Coordinate the color of the island top to another element in the room. For instance, cherry tops on a painted black or white island will look great with cherry peripheral cabinets topped with granite.

* Factor in the pattern of the peripheral tops when choosing your island's counter. If the peripherals are topped by a granite with flowing movement, choose a quieter, more solid-colored material for the island - perhaps a quartz or concrete.

* Consider your lifestyle when choosing a hard-working top for a busy island. If you're a busy, low-maintenance gal, choose a low-maintenance top. If you're a gourmet guy with sleek style, know that absolute black polished granite is going to compete for attention with your Beemer.


* Go overboard on countertop drama. Too many focal points equal no focal points, just eyestrain. If you've got one strong style point on the peripheral tops, go quieter on the island.

* Overlook the island's function when choosing your tops, or the material's essential properties when considering that function. For example, let's say you opted for an entertaining center island and equipped it with a wine captain. Understand that at some point in its life, a glass of red wine or a Bloody Mary will either spill or leave a ring on that counter. If you were inspired by your honeymoon in France and opted for creamy marble tops, please remember how darkened and mellowed those café tops were and don't cry over spilled guilt.

* Blow your budget on island cabinetry and be forced to settle for tops you wouldn't otherwise choose. Save up for a time when you can afford what you want in both, along with qualified, professional installation.

* Don't choose your countertop fabricator from a flyer left on your windshield, or because someone is offering the lowest price in town. Ask for recommendations from friends or a designer, builder or contractor you respect.

Don't miss Island Fever I - Sizing up your options or Island Fever II - Equipping the dream if you're new to this blog.


In order of section, top to bottom:

CABINETRY DO (Green islands) - This kitchen works because the beadboard style on the peripheral cabinets ties into the reeded legs on the island and the cream and green coordinate beautifully. Matching stone tops unify the look. Bertch Cabinets.

CABINETRY DO (Blue island) - The island's blue relates beautifully wtih the blue tiles in the backsplash, and shares a door style with the white maple surrounding the room. The wood top provides a rich accent. Craft-Art Wood Countertops.

CABINETRY DON'T (Black island) - This kitchen avoids being a "don't" by matching the island's heavy legs with the pair flanking the range. The door style on the black island also matches the surrounding cabinets. Crystal Cabinets.

COUNTERTOP DO (Glass-topped island) - The island is clearly the focal point in this kitchen, with its curved lines and glass top. The island's curve mirrors the pantry and soffit curves and the glass top becomes the stand-out star. Bertch Cabinets.

COUNTERTOP DON'T (Maple island) - This island's white top whispers, rather than shouts, and its whiteness coordinates with the backsplash tile. The effect is clean, modern and pulled-together. Kraftmaid Cabinetry.

COUNTERTOP DON'T (Black island) - This homeowner -- a client of mine -- wanted practical but stylish-looking tops. She opted for quartz by Cambria and got both. Cambria and Jamie Goldberg Kitchen and Bath Design, LLC.

09 December 2008


Aruba. Bermuda. Barbados. Microwaves and wine chillers. Wait, what??? Yes, it's island season, that time of year when your thoughts turn to holiday entertaining and holiday escapes.

Maybe you're looking for an escape from an over-crowded kitchen, too. Will adding an island provide an idyll for this hardest-working room in your house? Let's consider the possibility.

Last week, you read ISLAND FEVER I: SIZING UP YOUR OPTIONS, and determined that you can make an island work and that you're going to make the investment. You also determined how you want that space to function. After proper sizing, function planning is the most important aspect to making an island pay off for you.


In Island Fever I, I mentioned the following reasons for adding an island to your kitchen:

* Increase your kitchen storage
* Add an additional work zone
* Add a specialty function - e.g., baking center
* Facilitate a Kosher lifestyle
* Add an entertaining center

Read no further before you decide what role your island will play in your kitchen improvement. Any one of them is fine - you can even come up with something else on your own - you just need to define its job before you proceed.


If increasing your storage capacity is your primary goal, determine what will "live" in that space and how best to access it. For example:

* Your existing drawers are overflowing: A trio of four-drawer banks, each with built-in organizers, tame the clutter.

* You just got married and need room for your beloved's cast iron skillet collection, your Calphalon set and your wedding registry's All-Clad: You opt for base cabinets with roll-out trays in each, and a ceiling-mounted pot rack for the ones you use most often.

* You got a juicer to get healthy and need space to store it, along with all the fruits and vegetables you're going to blend: One base cabinet with a built-in knife holder drawer and roll-out trays for the juicer's accessories, one with a lift for the heavy juicer itself and a dual drawer under-counter refrigerator for the fruits and vegetables you'll be juicing.


What tasks does that work zone need to perform. Will it cook? Clean up? Prepare meals? Re-heat? A well-equipped work zone will encompass strategic appliances, appropriate counter top material and well-appointed storage, (as shown in the juice-making example, above). Here are two examples:

* Your island clean up station has a deep sink, garbage disposal and pull-out faucet, a dishwasher and pull out dual trash bins for garbage and recycling. The cabinet holding the sink has a rack for your cleaning supplies. A narrow, open cabinet next to that features a pull-out rack for your dish towels. If space allows, you also have a divided, deep drawer bank for your Tupperware collection, so that left-overs can be conveniently gathered and sealed.

* Your island cooking station is equipped with an induction cooktop, countertop-mounted pot filler, convection-steam oven, (my December '08 Gold Nugget Award winner), ceiling-mounted ventilation hood and warming drawer - everything you need to get dinner on the table, at whatever time everyone eats. It also includes a base cabinet with top drawer organizer and roll-out trays to keep your cooking essentials at hand.

Both of these work stations feature quartz countertops for durability and easy maintenance. Despite their well-respected heat resistance, you keep a trivet nearby for hot pots and pans if all of your induction burners are occupied.


These are always fun to plan, because they cater to the homeowner's passions and bring together the client's inspirations and designer's knowledge in a true partnership. Here are two examples:

* The island baking center has a convection-steam oven, base mixer stand cabinet, tray base for cookie sheets and three-drawer base with top drawer organizers to separate measuring spoons from whisks and whisks from spatulas and dividers below to hold your measuring cups, mixing bowls and other baking favorites. You also opted for a non-porous, engineered stone countertop for rolling your dough and easy clean-up afterward.

* The entertaining center features U-Line's ice maker/fridge/freezer, which I featured in my Multi-Taskers posting last summer, and a dual-zone wine captain. It also includes a bar sink and a three-drawer bank for accessories like wine charms, corkscrews and bottle openers (above) and deep divided drawers for non-refrigerated bottles below. If desired, shallow storage on the back allows for a raised standing bar and spot for serveware. If seating is preferred, factor in serveware storage in a more accessible spot. A decorative glass top, like those from ThinkGlass, offers a splashy focal point for an entertainment center island. It also offers easy clean-up. Handsome focal point alternatives could be wood or concrete. Unlike glass slab, both require some maintenance to preserve their integrity and beauty.


An island gives you a great opportunity to upgrade your kitchen and even add some much-needed style to a dated space. However, since the island and the rest of your appliances and cabinetry share the same visual space, you're best served by coordinating looks, not clashing.

Here are a few tips for the most common builder kitchens I've encountered:

* Let's say your kitchen has golden oak cabinets, dark green laminate countertops, dark tan floor tiles and black appliances. Your island can feature dark green or black painted cabinets and paneled appliances in a similar door style. The dark green cabinets would look great with black tops, and vice versa. Select hardware for your island and add it to the cabinets on the periphery. If the island features a prep sink, choose a bar faucet and a companion main faucet to replace your existing one.

* Let's say your kitchen has white laminate cabinets, white appliances and a light, flecked laminate countertop. Your floors are a beige tile. Choose one of the accent colors in the laminate flecked top, (e.g., light blue or light green) and opt for painted cabinets in that color. Choose a light, solid-color top and paneled appliances.

* Let's say your kitchen has faux walnut cabinets, almond appliances, beige tile tops and floors. If your budget doesn't allow for tearing it all out, replace all your appliances with stainless ones to add some brightness; choose painted black island cabinets to tie into the darker tones in the walnut-grained ones surrounding it, (and coordinate with future replacements), and opt for a solid-toned cream-colored slab countertop. Update all the hardware and faucets with stainless, as well, for more shine. A nifty - extremely durable - sink to consider is one of Blanco's Silgranit models in its handsome Café Brown. It'll tie in with your existing brown cabinets and remind you of how far you've come when you finally replace them!


Adding an installed island to your kitchen is likely to invoke local code issues. Be sure to engage a local professional to ensure that your island is properly wired, plumbed, equipped, sized and planned. This will provide you and future homeowners with a safe, enjoyable addition to your home.


AGAIN, ASK YOURSELF WHY: This island really cooks. It features a hood, oven, cooktop and Brookhaven semi-custom cabinetry from Wood-Mode, featured on the company's web site.

ISLAND CLEAN-UP STATION: This large island that I co-designed for a local family features a dishwasher, trash center, sink and convenient storage for baggies, tin foil, Tupperware, etc.

ISLAND COOKING STATION: This island features a Miele DA424 hood that elevates when not in use, preserving views and conversation sight lines for the cook.

THE ENTERTAINING CENTER: This island features a bar sink, a full suite of entertaining-friendly appliances and a strikingly-beautiful ThinkGlass countertop, shown on the company's web site.

STYLE NOTES: Your island doesn't have to match the rest of your kitchen, but it should coordinate. Here's a beautiful example featuring Dynasty by Omega semi-custom cabinets from the manufacturer's web site.

02 December 2008


This is high season in Hawaii, the Caribbean… and your kitchen. All three experience heavy traffic and potential burn-out during the holidays.

If you’ve got island fever, let me break out a few planning tips before you raid your piggy bank.


Some clients want an island (or two!) because everyone else and every kitchen magazine has one – or more.

Even these clients need to figure out what they want to do with these structures, and how they want to equip them. There are wonderful reasons to add an island:

* Increase your kitchen storage
* Add an additional work zone
* Add a specialty function – e.g., baking center
* Facilitate a Kosher lifestyle
* Add an entertainment center

Decide what you want your island to help you achieve before you purchase or install one. Knowing your goals in advance will get you the best outcome.


Not all homes were designed for islands, and trying to cram one (or more) into an inadequate space will make working in your kitchen worse, not better. You can, potentially, pull down a wall to make an island work, as some clients do.

If you’re not up for that scale of project, grab a measuring tape, use the National Kitchen & Bath Association planning guidelines noted below, and see if an island will fit into your existing kitchen.

Then, check out Jamie’s Proven Island Test.

6. Work Aisle

The width of a work aisle should be at least 42” for one cook and at least 48” for multiple cooks. Measure between the counter frontage, tall cabinets and/or appliances.

3. Distance Between Work Centers

No work triangle leg intersects an island/peninsula or other obstacle by more than 12”.

7. Walkway

The width of a walkway [behind an island] should be at least 36”.

8. Traffic Clearance at Seating

In a seating area where no traffic passes behind a seated diner, allow 32” of clearance from the counter/table edge to any wall or other obstruction behind the seating area.

a. If traffic passes behind the seated diner, allow at least 36” to edge past.
b. If traffic passes behind the seated diner, allow at least 44” to walk past.

NOTE: These are NKBA Planning Guidelines. State or local codes may apply, as well.


If you’re adding an island opposite a 36” single-door refrigerator and/or freezer, you’ll constrict your traffic flow dramatically in that area, even using the guideline.

Many folks like the idea of an island with seating. My emphatic recommendation is not to seat anyone between your island and work zone – particularly near a range or cooktop – even if that means giving up seating altogether.

If you can fit seating on the non-working side of your island, here are the planning guidelines that make sense and comfortable arrangements.

9. Seating Clearance

Kitchen seating areas should incorporate at least the following clearances:

a. 30” high tables/counters: Allow a 24” wide x 18” deep knee space for each seated diner and at least 18” of clear knee space.

b. 36” high counters: Allow a 24” wide x 15” deep knee space for each seated diner and at least 15” of clear knee space.

c. 42” high counters: Allow a 24” wide x 12” deep knee space for each seated diner and 12” of clear knee space.

In one of the showrooms where I used to work, my design clients used to regularly bang their knees on the back of my desk. It was 30” high and had barely a 12” overhang. I never had to justify following the guidelines to this clientele!

Here's another one to think carefully about:

2. Door Interference

No entry door should interfere with the safe operation of appliances, nor should appliance doors interfere with one another.

This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook such details in the fervor to fit everything in. I’ve seen it done.


When clients come to me wanting to add an island to their existing kitchen, I assign them this exercise:

Tape off the area on the floor where the proposed island will be installed. (Many lesser tests stop at this point – don’t!) Next, using weighted boxes, “build” a full-height, full-width, full-depth model of it in the planned space. Live with this structure for a week and see how it affects your work flow. If you’re planning island seating, add chairs at the desired spots. If it’s a comfortable fit, great – we’ll add an island to your kitchen. If not, we’ll look at other size, seating and storage options to achieve your goals.

Check back next for Island Fever II - Equipping your Dream

PHOTO NOTES (Top to Bottom by SECTION):


(1) The architect/home builder said, "one island is obsolete" about this $2 million beach home whose kitchen I designed.

(2) The island shown here from U-Line's website features the firm's fridge/freezer/ice maker combo that makes for a great entertainment center.


This kitchen on the CWP Cabinetry web site features two large islands with ample work and walk space between them.


There's clearly no traffic crunch behind the counter stools at this sleek Kraftmaid island from the firm's web site.


This kitchen I designed for an active family featured side-by-side refrigerator/freezer that called for an extra wide walkway/work aisle between it and the island opposite.


The hard-working island I designed for this remodeled kitchen was made possible because of the client's desire to remove a wall where it now stands.

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