1. The One People Can't Resist Gathering Around
A warm, wooden countertop, vase of flowers—or whatever's in the garden—and high-backed stools create a casual hangout that makes the kitchen feel more, well, homey.
2. The One That Makes You So Much More Productive
An oven built right into the island looks impressive, but it achieves a lot more than that: It creates the coveted "triangle layout" between the stovetop, refrigerator and sink, so you can chop, sizzle and clean faster than most people can peel potatoes.
3. The One That Fits Any Size Kitchen
In this Miami home, designer Nate Berkus uses a stainless-steel table and Lucite stools—all on wheels so they can be easily moved—to boost the counter space without taking over the kitchen.
4. The One That Adds a Little "French-Bistro" Cool
That postcard of your college study-abroad trip has been displayed on your fridge for years; why not make it come to life? Get the rustic look the authentic way by scouring flea markets, Craigslist and old-fashioned classified ads for armoires and other pieces that could be repurposed into an island.
5. The One That Gives a Tiny Apartment Room for Company
When your kitchen flows right into the living room, an island or bar can be the perfect way to separate the spaces without making people feel disconnected from the real action (that's you, cooking, of course). Plus, the Harry Bertoia stools make it feel more like an eating area, so having a dining table becomes completely optional.
6. The One That Finally Gives You a Place to Perch
This island is meant for anyone who's eaten more meals than they'd care to admit leaning against the kitchen counter. The extended tabletop and standard chairs give you no excuse not to sit and savor your meal—even if you only have a few minutes to do so.
7. The One That Feels Like a Sleek Oasis
Islands are often thick and sturdy, but in this modern kitchen, a thin table means the space doesn't feel like a blocky outtake from Super Mario Bros. Carrara-marble countertops serve double duty: They can handle wear and tear from cooking, and they reflect light from the French double doors and transom—the window above the doors—brightening up the wood-paneled room.
8. Set the Mood
Cindy Pawlcyn has a dream kitchen by any definition: soaring ceilings, that space and that island. But what really stands out is her ability to make use of it all—the pot rack hanging overhead, the storage shelves built into the island itself. Fortunately, these are two features anyone can copy (though the rack may have to hang much, much closer to the ceiling).
Next: 5 (not impossible) ways to amp up your living room