Fantasy Island

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How to pick the perfect kitchen island slab

Equal parts prep space, dinner table, storage solution and even the occasional work-from-home desk (where coffee and snacks are always within reach), a kitchen island is a supremely practical addition to the busiest room in the house. During a time when we need our homes to work harder than ever, adding a kitchen island is a worthy investment. And, while details like cabinets, paint choice and accessories all matter, really, it’s all about the slab.

“First, consider the scale of the overall space,” says Anne Pappas, owner of Anne Pappas Interiors. The ideal slab gives a 3.5- to 4-foot clearance from any other countertop spaces, allowing for optimal flow. “You’ll want to make sure you have enough room to open an oven or a dish- washer door, but not so much room that a space feels overwhelming.”

Kitchen islands, Savannah GA
Make sure that the veining and pattern of the kitchen island slab relates to the scale of the space, says Liezel Fourie of MultiStone Custom Stone Countertops. “A bold vein may not look right on a smaller surface.”

Photograph by Jeremiah Hull

For a large island that requires multiple slabs, lay them out consecutively, so that the veining matches up at the seams, she says. Your home’s occupants will likely influence your dream island, too, says Liezel Fourie, sales manager at MultiStone Custom Stone Countertops.

For young families, a costly, high-maintenance stone like Carrara marble — though exceptionally beautiful and luxurious — is probably out.

Kitchen islands, Savannah GA
Even a smaller island, like this two-seater, provides remarkable utility when it
comes to storage and prep space.

Photograph by Richard Leo Johnson

“Engineered quartz is perfect for households with active little ones,” Fourie says, noting that it’s non-porous (and thus ultra-hygienic), easy to clean and resistant to heat and scratches. “No need to worry about drink spills or messy eaters,” she says. “It’s a no-brainer.”

There’s still room for natural stone, however, even if young kids are in the picture, says Pappas, who suggests selecting a hardier option like granite or quartzite. “I think it’s OK for countertops to have natural wear over time,” she adds. “There’s a real beauty to that.”

Kitchen islands, Savannah GA
When accessorizing a finished island, look for seating that coordinates with the larger kitchen’s flooring, cabinets and design aesthetic.

Photograph by Beau Kester

No kids? Go for broke with Calacatta Gold marble, quarried in the Apuan Mountains near Carrara, Italy. “It has a creamy white background with beautiful gold veins,” Pappas says. “The undertones are both gray and warm, so it’s easy to build a palette around.”

Regardless of which stone you choose, you’ll want to select a slab with a smooth, even surface. Pits and fissures may be visible, particularly with natural stone, but a slab with a rough feel can indicate a lower-quality material, Pappas says.

Finally, consider how a particular slab harmonizes with other elements in the kitchen, like cabinets, countertops, backsplashes and wall color, says Fourie, who suggests building layers of color and texture by alternating tones within the same color scheme.