​What to choose: a kitchen table or island?

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Design classic Kitchen Architecture Kitchen units
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Planning a kitchen makeover? Just feel like updating with a small touch here and there? Doesn’t matter, an extra prepping surface can go a long way in enhancing your cooking space’s functionality. But that brings us to one of the ultimate questions in modern-day kitchens: should I opt for a kitchen island / breakfast bar a kitchen table? 

Of course we all know that the kitchens of the 21st century are not only for cooking; they have become multi-functional spaces. Also known as “the heart of the home”, the kitchen has also transformed into the place where we work and socialise. And seeing as the formal dining room is slowly becoming a thing of the past, modern kitchens are fast stepping in as a dining-spot replacement. These facts, too, make the question of choosing between a kitchen island or table more pressing, but they don’t provide a clear answer to said question!   

Don’t worry – we’ve done the homework and are more than happy to share the results of comparing a kitchen table with an island (and your average breakfast bar). But like always, we are not explicitly telling you what to, but merely providing you with the facts so you can make an informed decision on your own.

After all, no two lifestyles (or kitchens) are the same!

1. The all-purpose kitchen island

An effortlessly, stylish design PTC Kitchens Modern kitchen
PTC Kitchens

An effortlessly, stylish design

PTC Kitchens

Let’s be honest and declare that one of the very first elements we see upon walking into a kitchen is the kitchen island/table – if there is one, of course. Even more so if someone is already seated at the island or, better, if a spread of delicious food is laid out on the surface. 

Another great advantage of the kitchen island is that, thanks to it being higher than your average kitchen table, you can either sit or stand at it – completely up to you! This is especially comfortable when socialising in the kitchen over a plate of appetisers and some tea (or wine) before moving on to the more formal dining room. That said, the kitchen island can serve as a casual stepping stone between meeting-and-greeting the guests at the front door and kicking off the main event, like a dinner party in the dining room or birthday celebration out on the patio.  

More benefits of the kitchen island: 

• Plenty of storage – an island allows for at least two more cabinets, two drawers, and maybe even some display shelving for a few cookbooks and other collectibles.  

• Its size can vary according to the available space. 

• A kitchen island doubles up perfectly as a breakfast bar (becoming a breakfast bar island, if you will), ensuring a comfy dining space once the worktop overhangs the units and provides space for some stools.   

• An island is great for displaying and storing a few kitchen accessories. 

• Kitchen islands can be used for a multitude of different activities, from food prepping and baking to a comfy homework zone for the kiddies.  

• A lot of homeowners are moving the stove top to the island and treating themselves to a second cooking station, enabling them to prepare meals together and, thus, enjoy more quality time with family and friends. 

The only disadvantage of the kitchen island is that it doesn’t always fit into a galley (long) kitchen; however, it’s perfect for your more typical L-shape and U-shape spaces.

2. Your typical breakfast bar

Mr & Mrs H, Kitchen, Byfleet Village, Surrey Raycross Interiors Modern kitchen Grey
Raycross Interiors

Mr & Mrs H, Kitchen, Byfleet Village, Surrey

Raycross Interiors

So, what are some of the advantages of breakfast bars? 

• They provide additional work surface in the form of a practical island table. 

• It’s always the ideal space for informal dining and grabbing a quick bite, and can usually serve up to three or four people at a time.  

• Both a kitchen island and breakfast bar can serve as the perfect room divider between the working zone and the dining area of the kitchen.  

• Depending on your available space and the depth of the unit, a breakfast bar can also provide cupboards for storage under the breakfast bar at the kitchen side.

Which of our professional Kitchen Planners and/or Interior Designers/Decorators will you contact for your dream kitchen island/table design?  

3. The kitchen table

We all grew up with a kitchen table that served as the space where we occasionally did our homework, had a chat with mom or a friend, or just sat down to have a meal with the family. Having said that, a kitchen table provides what no modern breakfast bar or kitchen island can: a sentimental feeling and loads of memories! 

Advantages of a kitchen table: 

• Having a table in the kitchen cancels out the need to have a separate dining room. 

• Due to its spacious underside, a kitchen table creates the illusion of a more expansive floor plan, allowing natural light to shine through underneath it.  

• When additional space is not an option, the kitchen table is a more conducive option for smaller kitchens. Your typical island requires a minimum legroom of 90cm all the way around for walking and opening appliance doors, which may not always be feasible for smaller homes.  

• A kitchen table’s surface doubles up perfectly for food prepping and baking.  

• Sitting around a table helps the flow of conversation, especially when no TV is present. 

• Modern kitchen tables can be extended with an extra leaf for visitors.

4. What about an island and a table?

Of course it’s not uncommon to discover a kitchen that flaunts both an island for food prepping and cooking and a table for dining. What’s become even more fashionable is having two kitchen islands, where one serves as a cooking- and prepping zone, and the other for socialising or doing homework.

5. In the end, which is best?

Open Plan Kitchen and Dining Room homify Classic style kitchen White

Open Plan Kitchen and Dining Room


Interestingly, a study by the Cornell University discovered that families who dine together at a table in the kitchen or dining room usually have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indexes). In addition, dining at a kitchen table creates quiet time with the family, ensures a more relaxing atmosphere, and fosters family interaction. 

The verdict? Even though kitchen islands, tables and breakfast bars all have their own advantages (some of which overlap with one another), they all ensure the most important benefit: enabling family and friends to sit and eat together as a group. And anything that supports social interactions in a home is usually associated with better health and enables stronger family bonds.

So, you choose which is right for your household: a kitchen table or island! 

Bonus design tips for your next kitchen island: Focus on the proportions

KITCHENS: The Bovingdon Cue & Co of London Modern kitchen
Cue & Co of London

KITCHENS: The Bovingdon

Cue & Co of London

• For practicality and convenience, your island’s height should be between 920 and 940 mm. 

• The ideal island width is no less than 900 mm, while the perfect length would be about 1,200 mm. 

• Whether you choose a breakfast bar or an island, that benchtop should be between 20 and 80 mm thick (depending on your budget and design style). 

• Should you want to add bar stools to your island (and who wouldn’t?), an additional 300 mm of under-bench space is needed. 

Bonus design tips for your next kitchen island: Mix some materials

Open Plan Kitchen Collective Works Modern kitchen
Collective Works

Open Plan Kitchen

Collective Works

You don’t want your kitchen island to be nothing more than a big lump in the room. Luckily, blending different materials can help break down the scale of your island, plus gift it with some visual detail/character (like combining stainless steel with wood). 

Just make sure you keep a nice balance (too many materials and details will just look too busy) and that your chosen materials and colours complement the ones already present in your kitchen (and the adjoining rooms). 

Have you heard?? These 8 are the best kitchen colours to paint

We’d love to know which one you’ll pick for your home: a kitchen table or an island!

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