Island living is the new norm in an age of open floor plans and casual lifestyles.

Design Details: Kitchen Islands

Island living is the new norm in an age of open floor plans and casual lifestyles.

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    Peter Krupenye

    Wrapped in rainforest brown granite, this beautifully textured island in a remodeled home in Irvington, N.Y., was the starting point from which all other design decisions flowed, explains kitchen designer Jason Landau. Dark-stained cabinets, earthy backsplash tiles, and warm pendant lights were selected to complement its active surface.

    Kitchen designer: Amazing Spaces, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. www.amazingspacesllc.com

  • Loft Conversation Washington, DC

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    Brandon Webster Photography

    This lanky island bridges the divide between two Washington, D.C., loft apartments that were combined into one. Bisected by a structural column that once separated the two units, the dark-stained, riff-cut oak casework delineates a working kitchen galley that visually connects to the adjacent living area. Its outer face holds a fireplace and media cabinet at one end and casual bar seating on the other.

    Architect: Wnuk Spurlock Architecture, Washington, D.C.
    Builder: CMG, Washington

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    James F. Wilson

    Builder’s 2011 Concept Home didn’t skimp on prep or storage space. Measuring 7 feet 6 inches by 4 feet 6 inches and topped with a Dupont Zodiaq quartz countertop, its generous kitchen island provides a versatile work surface (including a sink large enough to wash a Thanksgiving turkey) and plenty of cubbies for cookbooks and recipe storage. The base cabinetry, by Merillat, is crafted of Tolani maple with a chiffon finish.

    Builder: KB Home, Orlando www.kbhome.com
    Designer: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, New York

  • Sargent Architectural Photography

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    Kim Sargent

    Zebrawood veneer panels by Irpina Kitchens lend a feeling of drama and sophistication to this kosher kitchen in a 5,262-square-foot condo in Bal Harbor, Fla. The island is one of several workstations created to maintain easy separation of meat, dairy, and pareve food prep. It’s topped with a Zodiaq countertop for easy cleaning.

    Builder/Designer: K2 Design Group, Bonita Springs, Fla. www.k2design.net

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    Peter Krupenye

    Traditional in style yet contemporary in layout, this casual kitchen in Rye, N.Y., is anchored by a 5-inch-thick maple butcher block island wrapped with a metal strap. The island base matches the space’s running note of maple beaded cabinetry with a paint and glaze finish.

    Kitchen designer: Amazing Spaces, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. www.amazingspacesllc.com

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    ThinkGlass

    Now here’s an alternative to granite. Embedded with LED lights, this 4-inch-thick, luminescent glass slab countertop by ThinkGlass glows from within. The manufacturer offers a variety of molded glass textures, light colors, and even the ability to create a light show via remote control with special effects such as flash and fade sequences. The surface is 100% recyclable, durable, and maintenance-free, containing no VOCs.

    Manufacturer: ThinkGlass www.thinkglass.com

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    Peter Rymwid

    The owners carved out extra elbow room for this open culinary zone by gutting the original kitchen along with several adjoining spaces in their New Jersey home. Contrasting white and lacquered wood cabinets are now complemented by frosted glass pocket doors, a strip of windows, stainless steel countertops, and warm teak flooring.

    Architect: IS&L Architecture Studio, Fair Lawn, N.J. www.isl-arch.com

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    Coles Hairston

    Outfitted with two full-size wine refrigerators and a six-foot by seven-foot island, this Austin, Texas, kitchen is built to entertain. The space, which opens up to the living room for open conversation, includes a sophisticated island decked in soapstone countertops and casual bar seating. A 48" Viking range in Racing Red adds a pop of color.
     
    Builder: Shoberg Homes, Austin, Texas www.shoberghomes.com

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    Michael Seidl

    Talk about being one with nature. Maple trees harvested from the site of this woodsy home in Issaquah, Wash., were milled and repurposed to create kitchen cabinets, door and window trim, benches, and this custom island by Urban Hardwoods. Both the shell and countertop are solid wood.

    Architect: Gelotte Hommas Architecture, Bellevue, Wash. www.gelottehommas.com
    Builder: Roberts Wygal, Bothell, Wash. www.robertswygal.com
    Interior designer: Hillary Young Design Associates, Bellevue, Wash.

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    Jonathan Benoit

    This kitchen by architect Robert Miller was part of a larger renovation of a house built in 1903. Topped in French limestone, its broad island offers views of the yard through twin, 6-foot-wide double-hung windows. The window wall is centered with a freestanding cooktop and range hood, and book-ended by stainless, recessed appliances (a refrigerator and freezer, respectively) on either side.

    Architect/Kitchen designer: Miller & Wright Architects, New York www.millerwrightarchitects.com
    Builder: C&P Black, South Orange, N.J.

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    Derek Olson

    A stainless steel island provides a sturdy centerpiece for the open kitchen of this contemporary home in Asheville, N.C.—and its countertop is no less sturdy. Fabricated out of Purepanel [http://purepanel.net], an engineered material made of 100% recycled paper and skinned in magnesium oxide, the waterproof surface has a crush-strength of 20,000 pounds per square foot. It can be direct-printed, laminated, or coated to meet a variety of design specifications.

    Builder/Designer: Push Design, Asheville, N.C. www.pushahead.com

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    Roger Wade

    Not a bad view for an outdoor kitchen. Builder Greg Bain went with heavy timbers, rustic wood cabinetry, and Mountain Mocha granite countertops with a rough-hewn (rather than bullnose) edge for this covered patio overlooking Montana’s Flathead Lake.

    Builder: Greg Bain and Co., Kalispell, Mont. www.gregbain.com
    Cabinets: Haynes Custom Woodworking

Today's homeowners are spending more time eating in, entertaining at home, experimenting with new recipes, and multitasking. That might mean watching TV or reading the paper while stirring a pot of chili. Or supervising math homework and checking out Facebook while rotating batches of cookies through the oven for the next PTA meeting.  In this new normal, the kitchen island has taken on an expanded role as the hub and heart of the home. It’s a preferred spot for cooking, homework, entertaining, storage, mobile computing, organizing, cleaning up, and hanging out. Everyday life tends to revolve around this anchor element, which can come in myriad shapes, sizes, materials, and configurations. Savor the possibilities.