The kitchen island is the heart of the home. It’s where we prepare food, share meals, work and socialise. It’s also where every dinner party ends, with guests polishing off bottles of pinot and picking at leftover cheese plates they swore they’d resist. An island bench is the focal point of a kitchen and therefore the place you’re most likely to splash out on special stone - cost-per-use on a stunning piece of marble for a kitchen island is going to come right down (in case you’re in need of justification). It’s a centrepiece that commands a great deal of attention, particularly in modern open-plan architecture, which is why so much thought is put into its appearance and design.
However, there is one incredibly common mistake architect Georgina Wilson sees in island benches. Sinks. “People think putting a basin on the kitchen island is just ‘what you do’, but it doesn’t have to be,” she says. “If you have a really beautiful slab of stone, the last thing you want to do is cut a hole out of it for something as menial as a sink.”
Wilson’s advice is to avoid basins in the middle of your island whenever possible, as not only are you chopping an unnecessary hole in an expensive piece of stone, you’re also tempting mess. Sinks breed clutter - think drying racks, dirty dishes and washing-up brushes. They bring down the tone of an island bench, making the statement piece of your kitchen feel more pedestrian than premium.
“My preference is always to put sinks on the back wall and retain the island bench for everything else,” says Wilson. “A clear kitchen island, with no taps or basins interrupting the flow, creates a lovely trajectory for the eye to follow through the home.” If you keep it clear it also has a lot more versatility, for example you can load it up with a display of delicious food for a party, while also reducing the chance of homework and laptops getting splashed with water while family members are working. A sink-free island also frees up more bench space for preparing food and eating, facilitating more communal cooking and dining.
Of course, Wilson acknowledges it’s not always possible to put the sink on the back wall. “There might be budgetary or engineering constraints that make it impossible,” she says. “But if the option is there, I’ll always encourage my clients to take it. A kitchen island can do so many things, it’s better not to limit it.”
In a high-traffic, utilitarian space like the kitchen where family and friends spend so much time, beauty and functionality need to be maximised. If you’ve previously assumed that an island bench has to have a sink on it, now could be the time to reconsider. Simply moving a basin could take the heart of your home to the next level of design and practicality.
This article originally appeared on Vogue Living Australia.