Why Are Oversized Islands a Thing?

As Americans' obsession with massive kitchens grows, so too do their islands. But how big is too big?

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Justin Coit

Last month, AD ran a story on Jessica Alba and Cash Warren's dreamy Beverly Hills home. Like many readers, we were enchanted. That marble fireplace! Those French doors! The home, overall, is a cozy-but-elegant family oasis. But there was one aspect of it that caused a ruckus in the CQ Slack room: the kitchen island.

It all started when one editor posted a shot of the family gathered in their kitchen, wondering "what's wrong with this picture?" At first glance, not much: There's a swoon-worthy La Cornue range, an elegant light fixture, and a blooming bunch of peonies placed in the center of...a massive kitchen island. Like, placed 4 feet from any edge.

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"HOW do you clean the center?" one HB staffer wondered. "You have to get your Swiffer up there," ventured another. Plus, someone pointed out, "you have to slide those flowers out of there like you're playing shuffleboard."

Indeed, the American obsession with a large kitchen island (a surefire fixture of the dreaded open plan kitchen) seems to have reached a comical extreme. What, exactly, is the point of a 9-foot by 9-foot, square kitchen island, other than to take up space in an obscenely large house? Standard appliances are only about 2-3 feet deep, so even if the entire marble-topped fortress is tricked out with dishwashers, you've got at least 3 feet to kill in the center. Ring the entire thing in barstools and your family still won't be able to reach a platter of food in the center—that is, if you can get it there in the first place.

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A perfectly good kitchen island (see more here).
Lisa Romerin

One anonymous CQ-featured celebrity homeowner admitted that she had a love-hate relationship with her massive island, and for good reason—she had to climb on top of it to water the plants in its center.

Our heated Slack discussion reached new levels when one editor pointed out a kitchen featured on Fixer Upper, in which the beloved Joanna Gaines used to create an island roughly the size of Antarctica.

Perhaps the scale in the center of this one is meant to suggest some sort of function, though short of tossing your dough like a frisbee onto it and sending your toddler to retrieve it (a suggestion to which one colleague offered this delightful commentary: "Dearest Mother, It has been 3 days since you sent me to the middle of the island to retrieve your dough…."), it's unclear how one would actually use the device.

I think my fellow editor, riffing on this one's railroad connection, summed it up perfectly: "Conductor, when can I get off this train?"

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