Goodbye, Island — Hello, Kitchen Table

Learn why an ‘eat-in’ table can sometimes be a better choice for a kitchen than an island

By Janell Beals  / Courtesy of

The now-ubiquitous island began making an appearance in kitchens as early as the 1950s. Over the years, islands have risen to the top of kitchen wish lists during house hunts and renovations. Recently, however, more people are entertaining the idea of substituting the island with a large table instead. Perhaps this trend has been inspired by the renewed love affair with the American farmhouse or the desire to bring back nostalgic ideals embodied by the old-style “eat-in” kitchen. 

The pros of having a kitchen island are numerous, and the feature isn’t going away in the foreseeable future. But for those in a position to decide between the two, here’s the case for the eat-in kitchen table.

There’s a revival going on in this kitchen, and I want a part of it! With a view, bright light, ample cabinetry and comfortable seating at a long farmhouse table, this is most certainly a well-used spot in the house. 

Tip: When considering a table in lieu of an island, ask yourself if there will be enough storage without the additional storage that islands provide.

A big table allows the kitchen to function as a dining area in a way most smaller eating nooks can’t. This is a definite plus if the home has no formal dining room. People who have a table in their kitchen say that the biggest upside is the comfort it brings. 

Tip: If you love to bake or cook things requiring a lot of peeling and prep, like jam, a table provides a work area with comfortable seating to get you off your feet.

When chairs surround the table, as opposed to the typical island where stools are along one side and occasionally an end, everyone can sit facing one another. This is an advantage for those wanting to use the kitchen for most meals.

Key in permitting a table to become a practical choice is adequate counter space for food preparation along the kitchen’s perimeter.

Some homeowners would argue that a sizable table lends itself to a warmer and more friendly atmosphere than a big boxy island. Bringing a large table into the center of the kitchen welcomes family and friends to gather and linger.

The lower height of a table and chairs, compared with a typical island and stools, provides comfortable seating to sit back and relax, not only for eating but also for the other activities of a busy family, such as crafts, homework and game night.

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In contrast, the stools selected for islands often aren’t as user-friendly as chairs, particularly when they’re backless. And if children are sitting on taller bar stools, their feet may not reach the floor.

The kitchen’s layout largely influences the choice between a table and an island. While tables do work in open floor plans, they make the most sense in kitchens that are separate from other areas of the home.

Tip: If there is available wall space, placing the table along a wall, as opposed to the middle of the kitchen, is a functional option.

In a closed-off kitchen like this, a table is often the most practical choice when there’s no room for both an island and a smaller nook table. This is in contrast to the layout prevalent in typical new-construction homes featuring an island paired with an adjacent nook meant for a smaller table, with the larger table set nearby in the dining room.

Here is another example of a kitchen where a table works best, especially since the floor plan of this London flat doesn’t include a nook or dining room.

Available space is also a determining factor. Will there be enough clearance between the table and surrounding cabinetry? While the rule of thumb is to allow 3 feet between an island and cabinetry, and 3½ feet for appliances, you’ll need a bit more space for the table to function at its best. 

In this ample kitchen, what’s more welcoming than a rustic picnic table for simply hanging out?

Homeowners who are on the table side of the discussion simply like the coziness a table provides. From farmhouses, country homes to city chic abodes, there are many kitchens where a table can be the smartest choice.