Article Line Long1
Design

The Case Of The Kitchen Island – Can We Use A Salvaged Piece Without Regret?

It’s my current and firm belief that the kitchen island is the most popular place to hang in the home – both as a parent and as a guest (at least in ours). And if you use the “popularity = importance” teenage formula, that means that it might be the most important design and functional decision you are going to make. And after two months of debate, we are in a total island conundrum and feel stumped, lost, and dare I say stranded.

In a deliberate attempt to A. use as much vintage/used as possible in this home and B. add age and soul to what might feel like an almost too-new renovation, I want to bring in salvaged pieces where we can in architectural moments (not just furniture/decor). At the same time, I don’t want to make a practical mistake and end up replacing it anyway if it doesn’t really work. An awesome looking island that isn’t functional isn’t exactly the solution to wanting to be sustainable. Need to know what I’m talking about? Here you go:

The right piece could totally make the space and then the rest of the cabinetry can be simpler, but it has to be RIGHT. Almost immediately after we got the first round of floorplans (where the island was in the middle of the now-debunked new great room) I found this salvaged apothecary store piece. Here she is:

So Anne threw the piece into the renderings and scale-wise it fit – it was actually the length that would work for that layout. We would’ve faced the drawers out towards the living room so you could see them. We liked it in the renderings but there were some issues:

1. We would need an overhang for stools so we worried that we wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful drawers enough (or maybe it would be more subtle and pretty?)

2. If we still wanted functional cabinetry on the back half of it (cabinetry, drawers, and pull-out trash), it would need to be very deep – 4 1/2 feet at least. A 10′ by 4′ 1/2″ is VERY BIG (please tell me if I’m wrong and if it’s actually a great size).

3. If we did back it with cabinetry, how we were going to design that transition from the side? Anne and I were quickly confident that we could make it look intentionally designed, but after weeks of thinking about it I was concerned it would look weird and even worse – “try-hard”.

4. The piece was located in Texas and around $8,200 before shipping, so around $10k. That is a lot of dough if it doesn’t work – aesthetically OR functionally. I was very slow to pull the trigger. I really wanted to find something in Portland and was working with Aurora Mills to see if they had anything (thank you Britney for your patience). I don’t want to ship something (ideally) and I want to support Oregon small businesses, but every time I kept coming back to that piece.

5. I had a secret worry that it was TOO aged, and I was so scared that at one point it had been fauxed and shabby chic’d, despite knowing that it was a real antique (the antique dealer assured me that they didn’t faux it). But what if we get it shipped here and it looks like someone fauxed it?????? Not seeing in person is kinda terrifying. But then…

Change Of Kitchen Location = New Island Anyway… ??

Welp. Then we moved to the kitchen altogether (thanks to you all) so everything had to be rethought. Could that same piece fit back here? Did it even make sense anymore having it so big if it wasn’t in the great room? Moving the kitchen forced us to revisit a lot of engineering and move an existing load-bearing post that would have made a large island impossible (which is why we didn’t do it in the first place). But once the engineer signed off on “no post needed”, technically we COULD fit this huge island (we have to put in more headers and footings to hold up the second floor FYI). But again a 10′ x 4 1/2′ island seems VERY big to us and we don’t want a big ostentatious McMansion – we want a big island with a clean but charming farm vibe. Ours here at the mountain house is 7′ 1/2″ x 44″ and while it could be another foot longer and 4″ deeper to accommodate 4 big comfy stools and more prep space, adding 2 1/2 feet felt REALLY BIG, greedy even. Nine feet felt big enough (especially without a sink or cooktop) for Brian and I to both be prepping and 4 people hanging.

So Brian and I went on a long eBay, 1st Dibs, Craigslist, Chairish, and Etsy dive on Saturday morning to find ANY salvaged piece that could work that was a little bit smaller. We realized we had few options:

1. Find a piece deep enough that you don’t need a cabinet bank on the back half of it – just add a slab on top and give it a 16″ overhang. This would mean that we would face the “front” of the salvaged piece towards the kitchen door/window and it would be seen when you walk through the backdoor but not from the living room. This sounded much prettier to me. HOWEVER, it means that whatever piece it is likely won’t have some of the functional needs that we want (we keep coming back to pull out trash as we would be doing most of our chopping there). But would it be worth it? To have something really beautiful and special, but lose some practical storage and function?

some other options to give you the look we want

The pros of this are finding a 30″ piece with a 14 – 16″ stone overhang was easier (so total depth would be 44 – 46″ which is nice, but possibly too narrow for the space?). No need to try to overdesign the side. And yes we have thought about waterfalling the stone to cover the transition, but that is a pretty contemporary move. However, with the right natural stone, it could work but then you’d only see the front, and does it feel even worth it at that point? The cons are that we’d have to use whatever function the salvage piece had to offer or try to retrofit it which may or may not look good. For example, we love this piece:

But the back of it is cubbies that are slanted. Now we COULD add straight shelves on the top row making it more functional and then just put pots/pans or other things that could work on the bottom shelf. The top of that piece is AMAZING and to cover it with stone would be a shame, so then we thought about doing wood + stone (mixed material island) and maybe do soapstone so it wasn’t such a harsh contrast, but ugh that is starting to feel really “too hard basket” (a colloquial term my friends and I use when there are too many “hard” elements of doing a task – we just put them all in the “too hard basket” and leave it – i.e. taking 9 kids to a dinner across town with terrible parking and likely the young ones would meltdown as we hit their bedtime – sometimes it’s just too much effort, too many hard things to overcome to have it make sense anymore – “too hard basket”).

Then we found THIS piece, which is getting even closer:

So this one would face the kitchen (and remember we have 5′ between the island and the sink cabinet bank, so it would actually get GREAT visibility. It’s deep enough that we could just put a slab on top, posts to hold up the overhang (maybe deepen the overhang to 18″ if it doesn’t look weird), and add a couple of posts. This piece provides decent drawer storage for mixing bowls, uh tea towels, some pots and pans, but are these drawers as functional as newly constructed kitchen drawers would be? NO. We would miss the trash drawer and the ability to really design each inch of the kitchen to house what we need to. Now we DO have a lot of storage on the other side and the range side (even though we have no uppers). So maybe we’ll be fine?? I also love that piece but I’m not FREAKING out about it. It’s really good, but is the oak wrong? I want to mix woods in this house, more than we did here (to add more vintage feel) but is an oak filing cabinet the salvaged island of my dreams? Not really. The first one was…

2. Choose a piece narrow enough to add a bank of cabinets to the back (like originally planned) but face it towards the living room and figure out a transition. Pros of this would be we could keep all the function in the kitchen, cons are we have to deal with the transition and perhaps it would look backwards (for whatever reason I think when it was in the middle of the living room it didn’t feel wrong that it was faced towards the living room but now it does???

UGH. This is definitely a form versus function thing. I want the look/feel/soul of a reclaimed piece, but I want super intentional function. I don’t want it too big, but big enough that it really grounds the kitchen and makes it an even better hangout spot than ours is here. In LA it’s where EVERYONE hung out and we loved it. Same with here when we had friends up. We cook, guests hang, our kids draw, everyone has drinks and it just feels like the warm home that I want.

I know that Brian has been predominantly reading all the floorplan post comments (and he has read every single comment – he just doesn’t respond to them) but this is seriously more of an advice question where I could use some guidance. My two questions are:

  1. How big is too big of an island? My gut answer is it’s a personal preference based on lifestyle. But we’ve never had older kids, we don’t know how much action can take place on an island? And no we don’t plan on eating dinner at the island (I hate all facing one direction).
  2. Has anyone had a vintage or salvaged island piece and either A. enjoyed the look over the function or B. wished they had the function of custom cabinetry instead of a quirky piece?

Thank you in advance and hopefully this will help us FINALLY decide one way or the other. xx

Opening Image Credits (from top left clockwise): Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Emily’s LA Kitchen | Emily’s Mountain House Kitchen | Portland Project Kitchen

0 0 vote
Article Rating

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

305 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dora
1 month ago

Such an interesting conundrum! Can you somehow customize a vintage/reclaimed piece? You would still have the functionality AND the looks plus I think it is a pretty cool opportunity to save something from the landfill but update it to your current needs. Not sure what the options are around Portland, but Woodward Throwbacks in Detroit is doing really cool custom pieces from reclaimed wood/furniture!

A
1 month ago
Reply to  Dora

Yes! I thought of Woodward Throwbacks! Agree a customized antique is ideal. We have a big, open-concept, new-construction house. Our island is ten feet long, and about 3 feet deep….I think 4ft plus island-depth is too much and would feel unbalanced/weird even in a big, open space.
Or just build new to look old.. this can be done in a really great way.

DeniseGK
1 month ago
Reply to  Dora

This was my thought as well. Many years ago I learned of Rev-a-shelf, the product that lets you turn panels on the front of a vanity into tip out shelves. I thought they were neat, too bad they were so small and specific. Then I learned that some of the custom woodworkers in my area can very carefully take apart some of an antique or salvaged piece, modernize the interior, then put the face of the piece back together so it still looks like lots of little drawers but they are actually normal drawers or even doors. No way is this a rare thing, you’d just have to be willing to pay for the extra time and the expertise of the person doing it, because you will certainly want a careful expert on the job.

Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  DeniseGK

Isn’t this what Chip and Joanna mostly do? It might be a bit cliched/overdone by now? I think Emily described wanting something more bespoke.

Kate
1 month ago
Reply to  Dora

That’s exactly what I was thinking! Have something built from reclaimed wood and such. Get some of the warmth without losing function.

HerselfInDublin
1 month ago

Would it be an option to have something custom-made from vintage wood – old floorboards or panelling, say, to avoid butchering an existing piece. Then you could get the proportions exactly as you want them, and you could make drawers/cabinets exactly the right size to fit pull-out bins etc. You could use modern fittings which would be invisible from the outside to make sure things open and close easily, and vintage knobs and handles. It wouldn’t be “authentic authentic” but it would have a “lineage” and a decent story about where the wood came from.

Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

That’s fantastic that they select so carefully and replant!
Please tell us more about this process?!

GJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

This is the most Portland thing ever, and I love it.

Karen
1 month ago

Call Leanne Ford about the island conundrum.
My advice: perfect is boring. Let’s get weird.

Karen
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

I understand that. Which is maybe your answer — the island isn’t where you want to play with vintage. Function over flare.

Annie K
1 month ago
Reply to  Karen

I think this too! Also it’s a very busy look, actually, than the other islands you’ve designed for your home. The pieces themselves are beautiful, but I think they might create more noise in the room, on top of having the functionality issue. Busy + impractical = not just weird, but irksome daily

Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Reading the post, your love of practicality does seem to be stronger than reusing a vintage piece. I also think you’d get frustrated if you put the old cabinet front under the island — those drawers will be a hassle to access (pull stools aside, bend down under overhang, and would the top drawers even be usable with the overhang?) At that point it just looks like fake repurposing, because you have the piece but you’re not really using it except for its look. Retrofitting makes more sense to me. I liked what Victoria Elizabeth Barnes did with an antique piano: https://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/repurposed-antique-piano-kitchen-island-part7/ Obviously Victorian is not the style you’re going for but a similar repurposing approach could be cool and marry form and function.

Jessica Burke
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Truth. I SO appreciate your emphasis on “can we actually LIVE in this space?” I love Leanne’s look, but it makes me crazy that so many of her designs do not function at all in real life. Also, FWIW, this debate about a salvaged island is one I have had internally in several different projects, so I really appreciate this post.

Ellen
1 month ago
Reply to  Karen

I was thinking about Leanne too. She is a master in using old/vintage/antique pieces and makes it look cool. I think all those drawers on itself are very practical. You can do something with the inside to make it more fit for your specific wishes.

S
1 month ago

I love the vintage options! The kitchen island is so central to the kitchen though that I think everything about it (size, function, style) should be perfect for you. Are you considering using vintage pieces for anything else in the kitchen? I personally like kitchens or dining rooms with built in hutches. You might be able to find a vintage hutch that you love and build it into the new kitchen. Good luck on your search!

Vera
1 month ago
Reply to  S

This sounds like a perfect solution to me! Shelves are shelves. So even if old, they offer the same functionality. Whereas drawers are VERY different depending on how they were made and what condition they’re in. A hutch would be beautiful AND functional! It could be placed in a focal point position, maybe behind the island. If the range is the focal point, then use a downdraft range again or incorporate a vent in the hutch. (By “hutch” I mean the top half of free-standing unit, so you’d have your regular cabinetry/range and counter on the bottom half.)
One of my biggest design regrets is giving away our IKEA Hemnes dresser in the nursery and replacing it with a beautiful antique dresser full of soul. The drawers aren’t deep enough and don’t slide well. It makes getting the baby changed and dressed into a super painful task. After this experience I will always choose function for drawer pieces!

Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Vera

Waxing the slides on old pieces can make thd world of difference. We did this in our antique shop. You can rub a standard old candle on both parts that touch. Try it and see?

Vera
28 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

Ahh thank you Rusty! I definitely have old candles haha! I will have to try this. 😃

Emily
1 month ago
Reply to  S

This is my vote as well. Go for a custom made island and find somewhere else in the kitchen to bring in a vintage piece. I love the idea of a vintage hutch. I feel like you’re missing out on form AND function with these vintage islands. The function part is obvious but I think once you add the countertop, especially with the overhang, throw some barstools in front, etc… you end up missing out on a lot of the beauty of the piece too.

E
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Yes! I like the hutch idea too! That way, it is a beautiful focal point from the living room like you want without awkwardly placed drawers (vintage island with drawers facing living room, behind counter stools) and more function in all lower cabinets.

Fait
1 month ago
Reply to  S

I totally agree with you. Function over form in the workhorses, if you have to choose. I think your hutch solution is more fitting for an old farmhouse. I would think about incorporating the last piece somewhere else though. It’s so cool!

Jill Byrnes
1 month ago
Reply to  S

Agree with using a hutch as the vintage element. Storing beautiful China that isn’t used daily would be so much easier than your workhorse pots and pans, or a trash drawer. I wouldn’t give up maximum functionality on my island.

ColleenK
1 month ago
Reply to  S

I agree with this thread! The lower cabinet in the “bar” area (to the right of the fridge) could be a perfect spot for your vintage piece without sacrificing function where you need it most.

Julie
1 month ago

Beautiful options and that last one, wow. I can’t cook so take this with deep amateur vibes but is it possible you don’t need a full length trash can drawer solution but just a great / smart compost bin option? A half drawer might be plenty to absorb cuttings (clippings) that quickly go to some outside composter thing. Love following along.

Stephanie
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie

I cook 99% of the meals my kids and I eat and I had the same thought. The drawers on the last piece look plenty big to hold at least a compost bin, and maybe even small trash and recycling bins in another drawer? I make a lot of effort to buy package-free items, so small bins work for me. But even if your family produces a lot of waste, you would just need to take it out a little more often (I kind of prefer this, as having piles of refuse under my sink is not appealing to me).

Julie
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Exactly, the three separate bins. We have trash and recycling in under sink drawer (full height). Then we have a small counter top thing for compost – not ideal and gets filled up pretty quick (we’re just a family of three, though – may be pushing it volume-wise for four). Still the routine of bringing the bag to the outside the compost bin daily means no smells or anything. I think (via insta) that Eva Chen is obsessed with her compost set-up at their out-of-the-city house. She has some sort of high-tech compost thing going on (inside and outside) that definitely seemed to be sparking joy!!

Julie
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie

ooh shoot just re-reading, i do think Brian is right, somewhere you need a full height trash and recyling option… just wondered if it could be non-island, with island for compost. Also love everyone’s thoughts about hutch and other heritage options and keeping your kitchen easy and functional for the whole fam.

Rachel
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie

Could you just false front a trash cabinet by combining a couple of the drawer fronts? It actually looks pretty doable with that last option…which is also by far my fav. (But I gotta say…if you’re not completely sold on any of them then maybe don’t pull the trigger yet? Like a salvaged antique item that’s going to be a massive focal point and permanent fixture is definitely the kind of thing you need to allow whatever time it takes to find the right thing for…and I still think your first option leans too shabby chic. I’m sorry)

Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Y.e.s.

Kathryn
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

I live in a place with trash, compost, and then separate glass/can and paper recycling. If you are going to compost you don’t want to have to open a drawer or door to put the compost in, because your hands are usually mid cooking when composting. We have a bin next to the sink, but I have also seen (and want) a little cutout in the counter that allows you to sweep compost directly into a stored bin. We generally take out our compost everyday because we don’t want fruit flies. As far as the amount of trash we produce as a family of four (kids similar ages) with all of the recycling/composting that is available, is one kitchen bag a week, plus one bathroom trash bag, and a tiny trash can in the kids room, so it is not that much. In the kitchen we use the SimpleHuman pullout 2 compartment trash bin, and it is usually enough for 1 week worth of trash, and we take out the container recycling 1-2 times a week.

Michelle
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

We compost (live in CO) and keep a bowl on the counter while we cook and take it outside after meal prep. I have a bag in the freezer that my family tosses apple cores and other compostable waste in during the day that we empty once a week. Fruit flies have been a major battle for us and even the compost bins with the carbon filters don’t keep them out so this is best practice for us. Sharing because you may find you may or may not want a dedicated spot for compost inside. 

mallory
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie

We do 3 separate bins for recycle, compost and landfill. I keep our compost bin in the freezer to avoid fruit flies and it truly avoids so much general compost grossness! Save your biggest bin for recycling. We are a family of 4 and we are diligent about separating our waste, and we empty our small-ish landfill bin probably once every other week. (We live in SF where so much can be recycled or composted.)

Shelley
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie

I live in Portland and had the same comment about food scraps. You’ll need access to the compost bin to dispose of those, not the trash. (Your trash only gets collected biweekly so keep as much out of it as you can!) I’ve seen some islands with a removable insert to provide access to a hidden compost bin so you can just scrape into it from the island. We just keep a pretty stainless steel bin on our counter so we can move it to wherever we’re prepping/cleaning. IMO you’ll want two spots in a pull-out bin, for trash and mixed recycling, as well as another place for glass.

Emily
1 month ago

I think whatever you do will work! But personally I don’t love the look of reclaimed non-kitchen pieces as cabinetry. I’d rather see it as a furniture storage piece either in the kitchen if there’s room or somewhere else. I think otherwise it looks to forced for me, even in the inspiration pics.

Professor
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Agree. Function over form for the kitchen for me. Get cool art and vintage pieces for shelves and walls. But not for places that get used all of the time – that is my preference. I am just always too busy and rushed to take the extra step, so my house is designed to make life easy and peaceful for us so that we can cherish the free time. The art is on the walls and the pieces in the formal living room. Kitchen is all functionality. Beautiful but functional – that is how we did it. But I am not a designer 🙂

Veronica Everly
1 month ago
Reply to  Professor

Agree here! A kitchen that looks cool but has poor function will be annoying to cook in and not the relaxed, warm vibe you want in your hangout space. You will want the pull out trash can where you chop. You’ll want functioning drawers that do what you need. If not, you’ll eventually want to redo it because it won’t flow well and will be a hassle to use. Using reclaimed wood and building what you want, then using other cool vintage pieces for decor or shelving would be my choice. You can get some really cool vintage posts to hold up the overhang as well. As for how big is too big, I have friends with an island as big as your mentioning and it’s great for hosting, but otherwise it’s just really big and requires you to walk around a lot during cooking to help kids with homework, etc. If you don’t mind the extra steps, it could work.

Emily
1 month ago

Also – what about your gorgeous existing kitchen cabinets? Can you use those as an island?

Emily J
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

why are there so many Emilys in this thread??

I feel THE SAME WAY about that existing kitchen. when I first saw it I gasped; it’s LITERALLY everything I ever wanted in a kitchen. I think those are soapstone countertops??? dream. I would never do anything to those if I had them.

I hope this house stays an Oregon house and doesn’t become too…..california.

Andrea
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

As a Portlander I’m team light wood and natural light all the way! For a cabin a darker kitchen can be cute and woodsy. But for everyday use in Portland it’s nice to have the place you spend the most time have some light to it. I prefer the last piece to the one from TX – that one reads as trying a little hard and I think it may look too shabby chic in person. Looks like you have a ton of storage in the kitchen so maybe the island doesn’t have to be perfect? Only you know how the storage is going to be used. As for the compost/garbage/recycling – yes. Our garbage can is tall and skinny but we could definitely go with a smaller can, especially if it’s a kid chore to take it out regularly. Compost is on the counter when cooking but otherwise can be tucked in a cupboard. Or Simple Human makes a compost bin that attaches to the side of a trash can. You can unhook when using the compost bin, then put it back on the trash can (away somewhere? out of sight?) when not in use. You can mingle all… Read more »

Sara
29 days ago
Reply to  Andrea

Andrea, thanks for adding that bit about Ridwell. I live in Philadelphia so have never heard of them. I have a compost service and a Terracycle kitchen box which drastically reduces trash, but this Ridwell service would be fantastic too and is so affordable (unlike the pricey Terracycle box).

Emily J
28 days ago
Reply to  Emily

I wish I could snap them up….

I think I meant more in terms of scale. that’s just my personal preference; I’m not a big great room person, I like to close the doors on my kitchen, especially the sink. I’m too much of a slob to live in an open concept house 😀

E
1 month ago

I’m really enjoying these type of posts and would like to contribute! As far as the island size, I don’t think an island seating 4 to 6 is too big. It seems to be the place everyone gathers around at a party, even if there are really good seating options nearby. But one question/potential limiting factor is the counter top slab size. Stone slabs are only so big, so a bigger island might need a seam in the counter. I see big islands all the time online, so I wonder how people feel about it or deal with a seam. My other random thought, if you go vintage without additional cabinets on one side, I personally prefer the drawers facing the kitchen. It’s not super convenient to move a counter stool and duck under the counter overhang to access a drawer. Also, that side will be obstructed by counter stools and won’t be appreciated as much, maybe? But I haven’t searched for examples and maybe a delicate stool would work well if you don’t mind the difficulty accessing the drawers. Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts. I can’t wait to see what you decide!

Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

You can do a nice mix of stone and wood top?

Kristin
1 month ago
Reply to  E

If you find the right natural stone in a bookmatch with a great fabricator, a seam isn’t actually a big deal. We have one and I actually love the mirroring of the veining. That said, you should be able to get a 10 x 4.5 out of a single slab, if you have the right slab and the right fabricator. Highly recommend both Intrepid and EleMar for slabs in Pdx, by the way, and both have a good stock of large natural stone options.

Christina
1 month ago

Although I like the look, for a kitchen I’m all about function. And when I say function what I really mean is easy to clean! I like the idea a previous poster had to instead to a vintage hutch or something as a pantry instead. I think a vintage piece works better in a dining room sideboard setting that is used less for infrequently used items like servers, China, gravy boats etc that also are prettier to display than your every day items and small appliances.

Emily
1 month ago
Reply to  Christina

Didn’t even think about cleaning. 100 bazillion percent agree!

Emily J
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

but…..you already have an amazing vintage piece in there that’s original to the house to boot: the existing cabinetry. I really liked the original idea of having that be a pantry.

are you maybe looking for too big of a footprint for the kitchen?

Suzanne
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily J

Emily J, I, too, love the existing kitchen, but it’s not original, just a really good remodel from the 90s, I think.

Bringing in a vintage hutch might be easier and keeping the island more functional.

Emily J
28 days ago
Reply to  Suzanne

ah, I see. makes sense.

Remington
1 month ago
Reply to  Christina

Agree! For a kitchen piece, choose function every time. As far as size, I’m all in for a large island. If you can make a table that size, you can make an island that size. Just leave plenty of space on either side to move around it.

Lori S H
1 month ago

I too love the idea of reclaimed island. It seems to add so much interest in the overall feel of the kitchen. I would definitely question the functionality though…Old drawers usually don’t open and close well. Would that bother you? I have an antique bedroom dresser and it drives me nuts! Also, would the odd drawer sizing work for pots, pans, etc. ? I would be tempted to design something more functional for the island, and find a different area to add architectural interest. What about making an apothecary cabinet the base of your dining table?

Renee
1 month ago

Just a quick comment on your last part about how you might use the island with teenagers-we have a senior and a sophomore in high school. We use our dining table to eat dinner as a family as often as possible (maybe four times a week). The island gets a ton of casual use though, like when we are prepping food or cleaning the kitchen and either one or both kids are home or their friend stops by and sits at the island and has a quick check in before the kids head off. We use it quite a bit for a quick casual afternoon snack, lunch or breakfast. A lot of discussions about college plans, high school jobs, relationships, etc have happened at our kitchen island. It is a less intimidating, more casual setting to have those conversations. Those moments are so special and not planned. You’ll want the island to be available for that type of use, So I say go whatever style will allow for that. As for the lineal feeling of everyone sitting at the island, our island is 4’ x 6.5’ and we wrapped seating around one side, so two can sit on the end… Read more »

Vera
28 days ago
Reply to  Renee

Renee I really appreciate your insight here. It sounds like you are so connected with your kids and their friends! We are planning a big reno and thinking about how the house could serve our family well for the next 20ish years (we have three boys, oldest just turned 7). This week I’ve been thinking about your comment and other similar ones here. We are now leaning towards prioritizing a big island, along with a comfortable dining room (sacrificing a sitting room that would have faced the backyard, realizing my dream of drinking coffee on the couch while staring at trees). But I’d rather be in a kitchen where the kids are encouraged to approach and accidentally fall into conversation! 😊 When they grow up I will downsize to a house with that sitting room!
Thanks so much! I’m so grateful to you and everyone else who helped me identify what I really value. ❤️

christine f
1 month ago

I think you answer your own q’s in this paragraph: “I want the look/feel/soul of a reclaimed piece, but I want super intentional function (my addition: includes trash). I don’t want it too big, but big enough that it really grounds the kitchen and makes it an even better hangout spot…” 
In other words, (1) you just know, instinctively, how big is too big. And (2) wait for the form AND function piece. One or the other won’t do. Can you use a table as a holding piece until the right piece announces itself?

Carmil M
1 month ago

When I think of the kitchen that I loved, or friends kitchens that I love– I think of the things that were beautiful, but ultimately–it was about the FUNCTIONALITY of it all. Everything had a place, the drawers worked smoothly, the closed door spaces made sense and everything flowed from the function. Oh, and I love the island seating. Do I love the design shows? Absolutely, yes. Do all of the things that they do make functional sense–NO. So ultimately would I love the “designer” kitchen, probably not. I like the idea of a beautiful wood piece used as a sideboard, or upright cabinet so much more than trying to retrofit an antique piece for your island. I do like the idea of building something custom from reclaimed wood (i.e. Ben Napier), but it would have to meet my functional criteria. I raised 3 teenagers to young adults in my dream kitchen, and I hate our current condo kitchen. There is not any space to have fun with the grands–I am now pushing to move in the next year. It was a bad downsizing choice. Combine the things you love in the mountain house kitchen with your plans for this… Read more »

Christy
1 month ago

I don’t think a 10-11′ island is too long. Do be careful about making it too deep – anything more than 4.5-5′ deep will make it hard to each across to clean. We lived on a farm in Alabama and my island was too deep like that. But I did have cubby holes made on the side of the island that faces the range – I LOVED them. So very handy when cooking. All my pots, pans, & colanders were stored there. We have a large family and I cooked a lot, so efficiency was important. The only thing I would hesitate about using a vintage piece with drawers would be what kind of condition the drawers are in. Vintage/antique drawers that get used heavily every day would need some serious waxing to keep them from sticking. I know my antique dresser drawers sometimes get cattywampus in the drawer box and it takes a couple of times to get them back straight. That is what would make me crazy – working with drawers like that every day in the kitchen. Blum hardware and soft close drawers are a luxury that I now can’t live without. 🙂 Love the idea of… Read more »

priscilla
1 month ago
Reply to  Christy

cattywampus! exactly!!

Libby
1 month ago

Something that struck me: all of the reclaimed islands in your inspiration photos do not have a counter overhang or counter stools (except for one, but in that photo the one visible stool is on a short side of the island and not drawer side). Which might be why you’re hesitating, unconsciously; because it doesn’t feel right.

I think a previous commenter’s idea to use reclaimed wood could give you the soul you want with the functionality you need.

I hope this helps. I’m sure whatever you do will be beautiful- I can’t wait to see it!

Ariane
1 month ago
Reply to  Libby

I totally agree with this. And if the overhang is on the drawer side, actually getting into the top drawers will be nearly impossible! (Can’t wait to see what you end up with. You’re my favorite!)

Ashlea
1 month ago
Reply to  Ariane

Good eye about the top drawers being useless if they are covered by the overhang! The devil is in the details. 

Karen
1 month ago

Regarding island size – ours is 10×4 and it is heaven! Ample room for eating and hanging, cooking and spreading out. The heart of the house when we entertain (cannot wait to get back to that!). I definitely love this size. Also, 48″ open space between the island and wall cabinets is key too. https://www.instagram.com/p/Btt5d9UFxUE/

The overhang for stools is obviously crucial, and I don’t think you want anything underneath the overhang – just a solid surface. I think it looks odd (and probably functions oddly) when I see that someone needs to move the chairs out of the way and bend down beneath the countertop to get into those drawers. So any sort of cabinets/drawers should be on the other side, I think.

I also agree with some other readers that the vintage piece would look best brought in as wall cabinetry/storage, not into the island. However, if the entire island can be the antique/vintage piece (aside from the countertop material), that would look good, if it’s the right size/scale/function.

Molly White
1 month ago

I agree that the island is the center of the home. I prefer an island with no sink or stove for that reason because we all congregate around it. It functions as a prep station, a buffet, a dinner table, and a gathering card playing space for us. For that reason, our current 7’x3’ seems small and I’m dreaming up a showstopper of an island that would be rounded on one end, have the trash/ prep area at the other and look like a beautiful piece of furniture a la Amber Interiors custom kitchen island. The size is 60”x102” and would have potential for 7 maybe 8 stools. I also love the idea of a vintage piece in this space but realistically for as much as I cook, have to place function over vintage. I think a custom designed piece could bring a vintage feel but still provide function. With that said, I think you have other opportunities in your kitchen for a show stopping vintage piece like transforming an a big old wood armoire into the pantry where you currently have regular cabinets placed (at least I think that’s what I see in the rendering though it could be… Read more »

Kirby Powell
1 month ago

Would it be possible to, like, retrofit a trash drawer into the original piece or the oak piece? I know it’s risky to have work done to an antique piece & perhaps that’s out of budget, but with maybe a trusted & specialized tradesperson they’d be able to salvage the drawer fronts & attach them to one large trash can drawer to maintain the look but update the functionality. Also, don’t be worried about going too big for the island. I always think that if two people can walk by each other around the island, then it isn’t too big. Especially because you have such a great sized space! As far as transitions between antique pieces & new cabinets go, have you thought about wrapping the sides of the antique piece with the cabinetry? Maybe it feels wrong to cover up some of the antique piece, but maybe it would work to just have the front/face of the piece showing? Either way I can’t wait to see how it turns out!!

Christina
1 month ago

My mom and my aunt both have 4.5′ x 10′ islands. They are amazing! Big enough that folks can hang out and three people can be working at it. Will you be frustrated trying to get antique drawers open for everyday items? If so, drawers need to go to the bar side OR the “bar side” is on one end, 3-4 stools wrapping around an end and the rest of the island cabinets are accessable from both sides.

Phoebe
1 month ago

I vote for function for the kitchen island, because after the design phase, it truly becomes a functional space in your house and you want it to perform at its best. You can deal with sticky drawers/wrongly sized drawers in areas that you don’t use every day, but not in the kitchen! I would look to incorporate a salvaged piece into another spot in the kitchen — maybe a shelf area or another storage area that doesn’t need to be highly functional. As for size, unless you have a super big family or need space to roll out 5 pie crusts at the same time, size it so that 4 can fit comfortably (likely not everyone will be sitting at the same time) and you have space on the other side to prep meals, set up a buffet, etc. (on those occasions when you have more people, the extras will be standing and can squeeze in here and there).

Emily J
1 month ago

hey, so I recently renovated my kitchen. I cook a lot, and one of my dreams was to have a compost cabinet under the prep area with a hold cut in the counter top so I could just swoosh scraps down there. my kitchen is not big enough for that right now, but that would be a great solution for an antique cabinet refit, and a great way to justify a gigantic island, which I think you should do. it’s a farmhouse! have a gigantic island! it wouldn’t be like McMansion, it would be like the Downton abbey kitchens. you can get all mrs. patmore in there.

under-counter compost: https://www.organized-home.com/posts/aha-design-compost-bin-built-in-kitchen-counter/

Lisa
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily J

This is such a great idea. In Portland we compost all food scraps and paper into a bin separate from the trash, so the compost bin in our kitchen is used more heavily than the trash can. Compost is picked up weekly, and trash bi-weekly. So this makes a ton of sense! Now I wish I had a compost hole in my kitchen counter.

Vera
1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

Same here in Canada! The ideal for me would be a pull out trash can that actually holds a big compost bag, which can sit open while I’m cooking without being in the way. That way I could sweep off the food scraps without needing a hole in my counter! 🙂
Of course, if the Hendersons will have chickens, then instead they might want a “chicken bucket” on the counter for scraps. My MIL has this, it’s silver and pretty and works great!

Cathy
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily J

I also live in Portland, and love that my kitchen scraps (and yard debris) get picked up weekly. But when the fruit flies show up, I really want to have a closeable container on the counter. Not sure how the under counter ones would function through late summer if you couldn’t close them off.

Ashlea
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily J

I love this idea and was going to suggest it – but you got here first : ) I am  all about that sexy lid to keep the pests out! I grew up with a long island in our kitchen and our trash bin was behind us when we prepped food – next to the sink on the back wall (it was a pull out bin – such a lovely feature), and it really wasn’t difficult if you just kept it pulled out to just turn and toss garbage in there. Also it was nice to be right next to the sink. But the built in compost bin in the island? Next level brilliance. And if the drawer that holds the compost easily pulls out, can be disinfected quickly and easily? Bonus points. I feel like it shows I’m a big fan of function. However, I do think a big vintage piece with lots of drawers like the apothecary styles above would be awesome in the kids play area. All the drawers would be amazing for organizing the kids crafts. 

Pinny
1 month ago

In addition to the size of the island base, factor in the size of the overhang. I think you would enjoy having an overhang on two sides that creates a right angle/corner for seating that allows 1 or 2 stools on adjacent sides of the rectangle. Make sure the drawers function well or you don’t need to frequently access the items if you go vintage. No need to design yourself a frustrating space! Vintage can be nice in a kitchen, but it’s not necessary to an inviting kitchen. I’d start with size, then look for what meets your needs.

Faith
1 month ago

Go for function. In a new island, you can really make it work for you and hold everything you need and add to the functionality of your kitchen and life.
You are great at what you do and can add vintage/soul in a thousand other places.
Don’t put yourself in the position where you are cursing yourself on a daily basis because the drawers never open well and you have to walk too far to the garbage can.

1 month ago

Very nice and functional, thanks for sharing this idea. Making drawers and cabinets maximize space.

Kate
1 month ago

Just to weigh in on the trash drawer concern – here in Portland we compost our food scraps in our yard waste bin. So if it’s really a concern about having a bin near your chopping area you could easily put a small container for compost I a vintage unit drawer.

Erica
1 month ago

Hi Emily! So excited to see this kitchen come to life. This wouldn’t solve your shop local issue but I follow Woodward throwbacks (in Detroit) on Instagram and they often post pieces that seem exactly like what you’re looking for. Hope you find the perfect piece I think it will look amazing!! As far as the size of the island I think if it is appropriately to scale with the size of the kitchen it will be ok. Having a small island just to not be ostentatious but then having it be small for the space doesn’t seem like the right choice? Good luck!!

https://www.woodwardthrowbacks.com/

Eleanor
1 month ago

Let me throw this out there. I’ve always loved farmhouse kitchens with a farmhouse table in the middle instead of an island. May not be practical though.

Hadilly
1 month ago
Reply to  Eleanor

Yes, i would pull from English kitchens for inspiration.

D
25 days ago
Reply to  Hadilly

totally agree, I will not have an island again, they have become monstrous and overdone. They are alright for prep, but for eating, its like eating at the bar in a restaurant , who likes that? English kitchens are the best !

Jessica
1 month ago

I realize you need to create special moments in your homes due to your unique career. But this seems like a NO to me. My (jank) kitchen island is 87” by 40” with a long and a short side having the overhang for stools. It seems really big to me. 10 feet for an island seems HUGE! My vote is do a custom island, with the storage needs you need. My guess is it is the <> of kitchen islands which makes them congregation places!

Jessica
1 month ago
Reply to  Jessica

Oops my missing word is FUNCTIONALITY!!! Kitchen islands are multifunctional pieces.

Snowydrops
1 month ago

I love the look but I think it falls in the “too hard” basket for a kitchen island. I think the function of the trash drawer is key. The “vintage” drawers facing the kitchen is a cute surprise, but I kind of feel like it needs to be a view to be enjoyed across the room, all the time.

What about having it as side board? Or is that too predictable? 😅

Melissa Lamons
1 month ago

Maybe it’s not the island you need to make vintage…what about the area by the built-in fridge…the hutch area? Is there an opportunity there to add a smaller vintage piece then limiting “less functional” storage to a small less used area but still could make a huge impact and visible from most angles? Envisioning something hutch-like with charming drawers and upper antique glass doors.
Good luck!

nathalie
1 month ago

For me, using an antique piece of furniture in a kitchen on a daily basis goes straight in the “too hard basket”! The kitchen is the one place where I would never sacrifice style over fonctionnality.

Karla
1 month ago

I’d have a vintage piece rebuilt to be functional but maintain the character/look of the original piece. Sorta like ordering custom fronts for an ikea cabinet but in reverse? (if that makes any sense) 🙂

Keegan Flaherty
1 month ago

such a cool project! A couple of thoughts: 1) have you thought about contacting Woodward Throwbacks to help find a piece? This is their specialty and bonus they are woman/BIPOC owned, and 2) what if you did a shallow pantry depth cabinet on the back? Things would be way to find and it would make it less deep.

Jessvii
1 month ago

This sounds like it’s a big decision to you, but it’s not actually a high stakes big decision. A vintage piece for the island will look great. A new-build will also look great. And if you have to walk three steps to the trash can, it will be okay. No matter what, it’s going to be fine. If you truly can’t decide, just do whatever you’d do if no one was watching and no one else was ever going to see it.

Shannon
1 month ago
Reply to  Jessvii

Great advice! It’s so easy to get stressed about these decisions, you are a refreshing voice rod reason

Shannon
1 month ago
Reply to  Shannon

Oops, voice OF reason!

Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Jessvii

I like your comment….this is how we should ‘feel’ about our homes.😊

Allana
1 month ago

Cobi Ladner’s kitchen has an antique island and it’s gorgeous, but she really wanted stools and her designers talked her into it. They had a carpenter come in and modify it later to make it more functional for their family.
It was a big lesson for me. If the editor of House and Home had to modify later I would for sure have gotten it wrong!
I would rather use some old wood panelling that is salvaged to get the look you want on the living room side and get the functionality of new cabinet drawers.
Imagine a gorgeous long piece of panelling from a century home fitted by a carpenter! Stunning!

KP
1 month ago
Reply to  Allana

+1 on the salvaged wood paneling – great ideal. Like what Natasha Haberman did in her carriage house!

AP
1 month ago

Can you combine two of the drawers (top+bottom) in the last option to create a trash drawer (work it to keep the facade but have it secretly be one drawer)

mack
1 month ago

I’m late to the party, so I went back and looked at Brian’s post about the changes made to the plan based on reader’s comments. I’m sad to see the old kitchen/mudroom gone and think you will regret this in the long run with the climate you’re in. What about turning the new kitchen 90 degrees and running it parallel to the old kitchen/ mudroom and then it can become a pass through between the family room and the living room. There won’t be so much focus on the island though, since you would see more of a side view from the living room, but it might free you up some in the design. Since it’s such an old house, I think you’re losing lots of character by opening it up too much. It needs a little more “compartmentalization”. Just my two cents. I know whatever y’all decide will look beautiful and be functional for your family and I can’t wait to see it!!!

Lane
1 month ago

I love this blog post because I’m about to have a custom 10’ x 5’ island built for my kitchen. Rustic, worn “furniture-like” base with soapstone top, open shelves in back for half of it for ease of getting pots and pans. I don’t like everyone facing the same way either, I like conversation, so I’m having the 4 seats at the end 1+2+1. I thought of a vintage piece, but I want function over form and since this is such a massive piece, I want it to be perfect. Recycling/repurposing is fantastic (I’m using an existing Indonesian armoire in my bathroom), but, for me, not wasting money is more important and the island is such a functional gathering place, that I want it right. Also, as far as 10’ 5’ being too big…I’ve been married for 28 years and I don’t ever recall thinking, “Hmm…I wish I didn’t have this much space to prep or set my food out.” 😉 If the space can handle it, it can handle it. Good luck! Thanks for sharing your journey.

alexa
1 month ago

This quest for perfect is hard to relate to. Vintage is never going to be perfect. That is almost part of the point. Where is the “make it work” Emily spirit?

Sarah
1 month ago

I don’t know about island size, my kitchen is not that big. But an a vintage piece is worth the hard. I like the open bin piece, repurpose the top (to make flat bins) and do a single, new hard surface. I have a similar piece and love it. Maybe some of the top could be used for a new end that could accommodate pull out trash?

Billie Moloney
1 month ago

I love the last furniture pic. As to the trash can woe, I would take the last “big drawer over smaller drawer” out. Lose the shelf that separates them and use fronts of those 2 drawers as a front to a new pull out drawer to house the can(s). I’m a big fan of old mixed with new and I think if you love it now you will love it always.
Good luck!

Sandberg
1 month ago

Absolutely do not put chairs in front of the vintage piece which entirely defeats the purpose of being able to see it or easily use it. Kitchens need to be functional above all else. Perhaps get a beautiful vintage piece for the dining room area instead to use as a sideboard or hutch.

Catherine
1 month ago

I think if the island is wider than a normal dining table, it’s going to feel too wide. And that dampens anyone’s enthusiasm for hanging out there because it feels too impersonal for good conversation. At least, that’s how it would strike me.

KP
1 month ago

My kitchen has a 10ft island and I find it obnoxiously large. To each their own. Would it be overwhelming in the space? Can you move around comfortably? If you were making a custom island what size would you pick ideally?

On the vintage vs new debate, I would go function over form. (The kitchen is the only place I would apply that rule to, by the way). Smooth-sliding soft-close drawers that are easily wiped down vs. a wooden drawer that sticks and is janky and spilled pasta sauce absorbs into the grain… that’s a no for me!

Molly
1 month ago

Still SO glad you decided to move the kitchen!! With a vintage piece, which would look very cool, I would definitely fact it out. Adding depth for the “in” facing island cabinets/drawers, could you wrap the new portion in copper or some other metal element? Too “hard?”

Erin
1 month ago

My island is 11×4 and although we just started using it (kitchen was just finished last week), I think it’s big but not overwhelming

Jordan G
1 month ago

This is a tough one. The first thing that came to mind for me when thinking of an older piece to incorporate into your kitchen is a hoosier cabinet. I see very charming ones for sale near me (Texas) quite a bit and that style of cabinet just seems so at home in your farm house. It could be add character to that area where you have the glass front cabinets, although those also look gorgeous in the rendering. Just a random thought I wanted to throw out there. 🙂

Kate M
1 month ago

I LOVE the look of a reclaimed piece for the island, but I would not do it if it’s not 100% functional. I have lived with this before, where the island ends up feeling like an obstacle. Current kitchen is super functional (designed by the previous owner) and I cannot believe how easy it makes everything. I am cooking more than ever before because both cooking and cleanup are easy. Easy access to everything in drawers is a huge part of that.

MollyS
1 month ago

Hi! We just moved into a house with an 11 foot (!!!) island — we bought the place for location, not size. 🙂We have three kids and it’s one of the very best features of the house. Their cousins come by and it’s such an easy place to hang — even if one end is cluttered with a laptop etc. Go big!

Kate
1 month ago

I totally get the desire, but echo many of the other comments that function for such a critical piece wins out…I get nervous too about designing around a piece that I haven’t physically interacted with (I ‘think’ your search for these pieces is online?) With online vintage, it’s soo hard to understand how a piece functions from just pictures…is it sturdy, how do the drawers open, how does it ‘feel’ to be around? The dresser I got for my kiddo’s bedroom is vintage and despite loving how it looks, I have to use two hands to open each drawer which is a monumental pain when you have a toddler on your hip! I love the idea from some of the other comments of building something custom with reclaimed wood? Can you find the Portland version of Clint Harp a la Fixer Upper or Ben Napier a la Home Town to make you something?

Go To Top