Shopping Guide: Kitchen Islands – The New York Times


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Nate Berkus, the interior designer, examines a Cuisinier worktable at a Waterworks kitchen showroom in Manhattan.

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Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Nate Berkus isn’t much of a cook, yet the kitchen has always been one of his favorite rooms. “I can’t cook at all,” he said. “I can set the table and design the kitchen, but I can barely make myself an egg.”

Even so, when Mr. Berkus, 44, the interior designer, is at home in Los Angeles with his husband, Jeremiah Brent, 31 (another interior designer), and their 1-year-old daughter, Poppy, “we spend 80 percent of our time in the kitchen,” he said.

The contemporary kitchen is a multipurpose living, dining and entertaining space, said Mr. Berkus, who serves as the artistic adviser to LG Studio, a line of kitchen appliances. And one piece of furniture in it can make a big difference: the island.

“An island is a great place to congregate,” he said. “And to entertain from. We’ll set up our island for casual brunches. We’ll serve off the island. We’ll set up a bar and make drinks.”

If you don’t have a built-in island in your kitchen, don’t despair — you can buy a free-standing one or a worktable that serves the same function. A few things to consider:

• How much space do you have? “The rule of thumb is to have three feet on all sides of the island,” Mr. Berkus said. “But I’ve squeezed that down to 30 inches in certain locations.”

• How tall should it be? Islands are typically 36 inches high, standard countertop height. But depending on your personal preference, “anywhere from 30 to 38 inches is fair game,” said Mr. Berkus, who sometimes raises antique tables by adding casters.

• Do you want it to match or contrast with the rest of the kitchen? “If you’ve got painted cabinetry but have always wanted wood,” Mr. Berkus said, “this is your moment to bring in something different.”

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Crate & Barrel

The Quick Fix

French Kitchen Island | $1,299 at Crate & Barrel; (800) 967-6696 or crateandbarrel.com

At about four and a half feet long, this island “doesn’t take up a tremendous amount of space,” Mr. Berkus said, adding that “it’s been thoughtfully designed” with a classic Carrara marble top, a blackened metal base and a place to hang a towel. “I’d probably pile the bottom with handwoven baskets for additional storage.”

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Waterworks

The Future Heirloom

Cuisinier Worktable | $4,000 at Waterworks; (800) 899-6757 or waterworks.com

“I love the industrial style and thickness of the marble top,” Mr. Berkus said, noting that it would work equally well in a traditional or contemporary kitchen, and looks built to last for generations: “It’s super-sturdy and beautifully crafted.”

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Restoration Hardware

The Object of the Moment

20th C. Salvaged Wood and Marble Kitchen Console | $5,995 to $8,995 at Restoration Hardware; (800) 762-1005 or restorationhardware.com

This island “feels a little bit French provincial,” Mr. Berkus said, but it also has an “old candy store vibe, with the glass-front drawers.” And beyond being on trend, he added, “it’s practical because it offers a tremendous amount of storage.”

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Old Plank Road

The Classic

Designer Stainless Steel and Bronze Kitchen Island | $9,800 at Old Plank Road; (312) 714-3000 or oldplank.com

This is what Mr. Berkus chose for himself when he lived in Greenwich Village. “When it was in my own home, it was so fantastic,” he said, because it offered mobility on casters, along with shelves for platters, trays and bowls. He also loved the stainless steel-and-bronze construction: “It’s exquisitely made — really, like jewelry.”

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Obsolete

The Curveball

Oak Preparation Table | $6,800 at Obsolete; (310) 399-0024 or obsoleteinc.com

This beaten-up French oak table dates from about 1840, and would add interest to almost any kitchen. “A great, classic, worn farm table with tremendous patina – you’ll always find space for it,” Mr. Berkus said. “The more ruined the better for me, as long as it’s not splinters or a health issue.”

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