I've had some form of a kitchen work table in every kitchen I've had, and I've had a lot of kitchens!
Even the tiniest kitchen had a small square counter-height unit with a butcherblock top and a shelf below. My favourite reason for having a kitchen work table is so I can use the lower shelf to hold baskets of produce — like onions, garlic, potatoes — anything that doesn't require refrigeration. Then on the counter surface, I can have a basket of fruit, a cutting board and a loaf of bread propped like a stylist would.
I like the lightness of a table as opposed to the weight of a solid island. One great tip is to look for an antique pine harvest table with pencil drawers to hold flatware or napkins. Many of these tables also have a lower shelf.
If you want a new piece, check out my View column in the October 2013 issue of House & Home Magazine. You can also watch a video in our October tablet edition of H&H on your iPad or Android tablet where I show you the gorgeous islands in the Bulthaup showroom and talk about ideal dimensions.
Here are 10 more great work tables we found at retail or available online:
1. We used this Restoration Hardware table in the kitchen of the showhome we did for the Princess Margaret Hospital two years ago. You might remember, it was a mustard yellow kitchen.
I remember that we were about to build a custom table using reclaimed wood when we found this one, and it was perfect. I love the lower shelf. It comes in two sizes, and the reclaimed pine timbers are beautiful.
Salvaged Wood Kitchen Island, Large (pictured). 96"L x 40"W x 36"H. $2495. Small, 48"L x 30"W x 36"H; 66"L x 35"W x 36"H. $1695 - $1995. At Restoration Hardware.
2. With the same feeling, but finer and with drawers is the Antique Italian Bakers' Work Table or Island from Old Plank Road.
This is outrageous in price at $10,980 U.S., but it's inspirational. The antique Italian industrial steel frame is a wonderful colour and this table includes two drawers and a nice wide lower shelf.
Antique Italian Bakers' Work Table or Island. 48"L x 30"W x 36"H; 66"L x 35"W x 36"H. $10,980. At Old Plank Road.
3. Also from Old Plank Road is the custom-made Steel and Bronze Table with Oak Top. If you thought the last table was expensive, this one is $17,500, but again, it's great inspiration and it's a great size. This is table height, not counter height, and would look great in the same room as the last work table.
Steel and Bronze Table with Oak Top. 156"L x 42"W x 30"H. $17,500. At Old Plank Road.
4. Back to reality — this one is called the Newland Kitchen Island with Wood Top from Hickory Chair. It feels like a Stickley design: handsome with four drawers and a lower shelf.
Newland Kitchen Island with Wood Top. 64.5"L x 33"W x 36"H. $4860. At Cocoon and Elizabeth Interiors.
5. From Williams-Sonoma comes this really practical work island. It's called the Bastille Kitchen Island and it includes a removable birch butcherblock tray with handles, perfect as a cheese tray, a black granite inlay tray, two drawers, a towel bar, storage for 12 bottles of wine and a neat closed cabinet with an inner shelf for things like glasses, or cans of mix, or an ice bucket. It's also on casters. This would be a great unit for entertaining.
Bastille Kitchen Island. 51"L (extends to 72"L) x 27 1/2"W x 36 1/2"H. $5710. At Williams-Sonoma.
Shown with slide-out work table (23"L x 20 1/2"W x 30"H).
6. Here's another similar island from the same company with more wine storage and larger drawers but it's rather busy. We used the exact same one in a smaller square size in a client's coach house recently and it looked great. The detailing of the grey painted frame with the warm tones of the Rubberwood butcherblock top and the brass trim looks really good. Much better than I expected it to when we ordered it.
French Chef's Kitchen island with Drawers, Double. 44 1/2"L x 18 1/2"W x 36 1/2"H. $1640. Single Island, 24 1/2"L x 18 1/2"D x 36 1/2"H. $795. At Williams-Sonoma.
7. Williams-Sonoma also does a similar style but in reclaimed pine with a white marble top. The marble is great for hot pots, and if you like to make pastry, marble is the best surface for rolling out your dough. It has deep drawers and a lower shelf.
Reclaimed Pine & Marble Island, Double. 45 1/2"L x 24"W x 36"H. $1900. Single Island. 24"L x 24”W x 36" H. $1267. At Williams-Sonoma.
8. Pottery Barn offers a rustic work table, also in reclaimed pine called the Hamilton Reclaimed Wood Marble-Top Kitchen Island. I like the double shelf — perfect for storing platters — the two deep drawers with dark iron hardware, the white marble top, and the casters. Slated shelves are a nice touch.
Hamilton Reclaimed Wood Marble-Top Kitchen Island. 52"L x 30"D x 36"H. $2514. At Pottery Barn.
9. From Crate & Barrel we found the Belmont Black Kitchen Island. The colour is a nice change, the butcherblock top looks great with the black painted base and the unit has lots of closed storage and two drawers, plus two towel racks. It has a leaf that drops down, but in the photo it's shown up, so it must run the length of the unit and just folds up and locks into place so it forms an overhang for you to sit at. Clever.
Belmont Black Kitchen Island. 44.25"L x 20.5"D x 36.5"H. $660. At Crate & Barrel.
10. Finally, also from Crate & Barrel, comes this classic French patisserie table in black iron with a white marble top called the French Kitchen Island. The top is polished Carrara marble and the lightness of the base and lower shelf make it perfect for a small kitchen.
French Kitchen Island. 54.5"L x 28"D x 36.5"H. $1322. At Crate & Barrel.
Now that this is such a big trend I'm sure there will be many more versions of kitchen work tables available this coming year so keep your eyes open for new ones on the market.
If you decide to have a custom work table built, one tip is to be sure to find a place to install an electrical outlet. I often use my food processor and mixer and blender on my work table and having the plug nearby is essential. It also gives you the option of placing a small lamp on the work table which creates nice mood lighting, especially when you're entertaining.