Could a Scandinavian Eat-In Kitchen be for You? Yay or Nay

During my  2 1/2 week visit to Finland with my Mom, we visited a lot of friends and relatives and saw a lot of kitchens during that time.

Not a single kitchen had an island.

Every single one had a friendly dining room right in the middle of the kitchen.

It was so welcoming and social, I loved it.

Since then, I have been in two clients homes who were renovating their kitchen. In both homes, I suggested eliminated the island.

One literally didn’t have room for a dining area anywhere else but the middle of the kitchen.

The other had a huge, fabulous window in the kitchen that I thought would be perfect for a dining area. But that would mean eliminating the island.

Neither client embraced that idea at all.  Didn’t even consider it for a single minute. Both immediately declared they needed more space for prep and storage, even though there was a pantry wall nearby that could have accommodated more cabinets.

And I get it. NO ONE and I mean NO ONE does that here in North America. The purpose of this post is to put the idea out there in case you hadn’t considered it.

But not a single house had an island in Finland.

This was the warm and cozy classic white kitchen of my aunt  (my late Dad’s sister) whom I mentioned here.

Note the fridge in this kitchen (below). One side was a fridge and the other, a freezer.

Here is a photo of my aunt whom I loved immediately upon meeting her. I love that she dressed for lunch!

Another home we visited while in the town my Mom grew up in:

No surprise I had to buy a bigger pair of jeans when I was there. My hot tip if you are on a long European vacation, don’t bring jeans that fit your current size if they don’t stretch, haha. Since then I’ve been intermittent fasting (nothing until lunchtime each day) and I easily dropped the weight. I think I’m onto something!

And you all saw this kitchen of my Mother’s cousin when I talked about how most homes in Finland were seriously missing lamps with shades:

Above photos by Maria Killam

I loved this article I found by a Wall Street Journal reporter called: Why Kitchen Islands are Ruining America’s Kitchens. It’s a must read if you are considering this style of kitchen.

Let’s see some other kitchen without islands shall we?

Kate St Hill

Frenchy Fancy

Okay this is hard. I can’t find any. The above two are obviously not from America.

And the bottom two are OLD. They might be the only ones that exist in our country, haha.

Update: A few readers have sent me some more beautiful kitchens so I’m adding them below:

Smith and Vansant

Lisa Mende Design

Jenny Rose-Innes

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Centsational Girl (she wrote a post about eat-in kitchens back in 2013)

I’m posting this photo (below) because I just love the feeling of this kitchen.  Is the subway tile mint green or is this just the evening light?

I think it’s white. It would be odd if the cabinets were a violet grey and the subway tile was a barely there mint green.

Angie Hranowsky

This table-attached-to-the-island look has been around for a while. I like this look but I’m not sure if it should be built-in.

Easy enough to just place a table this close to the island and this way it can move.

I do think this kitchen has been beautifully styled and photographed and I’m betting that those two stools were brought in just for this photo.

Who would want a hard stool like that to sit in every day? Not me. And look, they don’t even have four of them because they were brought in just for this picture!

Eric Piasecki

Over to you my lovelies. What do you think of this idea? Should we just go back to the Scandinavian style table that just encourages a social atmosphere?

I’m loving it myself. There are times when my guests end up eating dinner around our island and frankly it would be more comfortable if we were just sitting at a table in the middle of  our kitchen!

Related posts:

A Townhouse in Finland makes Tuscan Look Fresh (Before & After)

Ask Maria: Help! My White Kitchen Cabinets Seem to Change Colour

Ask Maria: How Soon Will my Farmhouse Look Dated?

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  1. When we renovated our kitchen, we removed a huge island and replaced it with a small one, and backed a freestanding table up to the island, right in the center of the kitchen. We LOVE it. We rarely use our dining room unless we have more than 5 people eating, which is rare. This post affirms to me why we love the table-in-the-middle-of-the-kitchen idea. Whenever we have guests, instead of standing around the island, they can just sit at the table while we prep food, and it’s so much more comfortable.

    • Yes that makes so much sense, everyone just ends up standing around the island!! Thanks for your comment, Maria

  2. I have my dining table in the kitchen. I am European and living in Canada. For me a kitchen has to have dining space – after all that’s where all the social action takes place.

  3. Mary Lynne Warren

    TOTALLY love the true eat-in kitchen! I have a table for four in my semi-roomy apartment kitchen… that’s where I eat my meals and feed my guests… and it gives me great extra prep & clean-up space (my counterspace is quite limited).
    Stayed in a self-catering cottage in the north of England a few years ago that had a semi-fitted kitchen with a big deep window/window seat, an AGA cooker, and an old-fashioned wood table for six with drawers at each end. THAT is my dream kitchen!!
    PS-Your aunt looks lovely!

  4. YAY! I love how homey and welcoming the kitchens with dining tables look. I particularly like the pared down aesthetic of the one by Kate St Hill.

  5. I don’t like it. I like a place to work, and an island is perfect. I do like to have one with an overhang on the other side so people can be with me while I work, though. I also don’t like to sweep around the (feels like) hundreds of chair legs in an eat in kitchen. I don’t know why that seems messier to me… my true fantasy kitchen would be some cafeteria-type affair with no chair legs touching the floor at all. But fancier. LOL.

  6. Check out the LA designer Windsor Smith. She does gorgeous kitchens with a table instead of an island. One of her really beautiful kitchens is featured in her book “Windsor Smith Homefront – Design for Modern Living”. I belive that was a 2011 Veranda Magazine showhouse. Gwyneth Paltrow (actress) bought that house. You can pull up photos online. She has other kitchens that come up online featuring kitchens with a table in lieu of an island. As a designer, I love that look. When done right it can be stunning and so practical and useful if you have enough perimeter space in the kitchen to house all the appliances.

  7. My grandmother in Louisiana had a U shaped kitchen with the dining table in the middle. She had another formal dining table in another room. It was a fabulous kitchen design, and she was a big cooker. Of course there was no such thing as s kitchen island when that house was built!

  8. I grew up in Western Kentucky and my parents had the kitchen table IN the kitchen, in both homes. I would have done the same after buying my parents’ last home, but my 54″ round antique oak pedestal table would not fit. It’s so convenient AND social! Families need to go back to that, absolutely! Finland earns a big thumbs-up!

  9. We had kitchens like this years ago. They will come back as does everything. But our life style has changed mostly both husband and wife work out of the home. They like the open concept so you can be cooking and conversing with your family.

  10. Interesting and something to think about .
    I think one day Islands might go away …
    But when that will be would only be a guess .
    I like kitchen Islands love that family can set around it while I’m fixing drinks / dinner r snacks .
    I think key is having comfortable stools .
    And a big enough area to fit enough people around it …
    Thanks

  11. Hi Maria,
    I’m commenting for the first time here, but I’ve been reading your blog for years. Thank you so much for all of the knowledge that you have freely shared.

    So, I wanted to let you know that I grew up with an eat in kitchen, in the eighties. My mother is an immigrant from Norway, and our house was a tiny 800 square ft. Bi level. You wouldn’t have been able to comfortably fit an island in our kitchen without cutting in to the adjoining living room. So we had a dining table in our kitchen. Our family is very close, and we always had family dinner together every night, and cleaned up together right after dinner. It was very cozy. At one point I didn’t think it was very cool, but I love the idea of it now!

  12. Hi Maria,
    Nice idea, but we did that in the 60’s and 70’s when everyone cooked every day and kids brought friends home who stayed for dinner. It was crowded and cozy and fun and messy because there was never enough counter space. But we all did it so it was ok. I still cook almost every day, but a lot of people with designer kitchens don’t. If I had the perfect kitchen it would include both the island for extra prep and separation (no sink or cooktop) and the big eat in table. Best of both worlds.

  13. What you call a eat-in kitchen is also called a country kitchen. A country kitchen was in a farm house where there was not a separate dining area.

    In Victorian times, in Europe and America, and perhaps elsewhere, kitchen help, in wealthy homes, used the dining table in the kitchen as a work table as well as the table where the staff ate. The property owners had food served to them in the separate dining area.

    The country kitchen table was in the center of the room which is where some people now have islands. In the English series, Doc. Martin, there is a dining table which is also the food preparation surface. I have seen such tables referred to as a scrub table.

    I think it works better. One is not facing a wall chopping away, but instead a butcher block is placed on the table with a cloth under it to protect the table. People can co-operatively prepare food on the table instead of each person at an individual station.

    If you want to encourage that lay out, you might look for old photos of preserved antique kitchens plus information about them online.

  14. No way would I give up my kitchen island! I’m fortunate, though, to have an eating nook next to the kitchen–all a large open space. I have plenty of room to work, and when it’s time to eat, we’re away from the mess.

    However, I did grow up with kitchen tables. As I recall, all my relatives and friends had a table in the kitchen. It is cozy, but we’re spoiled now!!

  15. Absofrigginlutely I’d deep six the island. The kitchen would feel lighter without it. (Ours has a cooking island and plenty of room for a table.) They [mostly] feel too heavy to me, like some big growth in the middle of the room.. A table has much more air under it.

  16. Ann J Chapdelaine

    Eliminating the island in the kitchen is the next trend. No it will not be a trend, it is timeless and classic. I am redesigning our 38 year old kitchen to meet the needs of my husband who has mobility issues and really needs a dance floor in the kitchen so he has no obstacles to navigate. There will be no island. I am moving a maple drafting table to the kitchen and will shorten the height to the standard 30 inches to make it into a dining table/ food preparation surface combo. No bar stools because anyone over 60 has difficulty getting up into a bar stool. The table can be moved to allow for more floor space as needed. It will be several months before our kitchen transformation happens as it is being done in four phases and we are awaiting on the architect to spec out the window sizes. As people age, they will be replacing islands with a kitchen table that we all knew was the place to solve the problems of the world when we were kids.

  17. I’m German American and Just the other day I said to my husband that I don’t like the eternal kitchen islands over here. Often they are just a catch-all for clutter. Mine sure is! And as for the eternal resin of needing prep space? No one needs that much! Many don’t even cook. My grandmother had 2 feet of counter space and the kitchen table, and she cooked easily for 10 people in that small space.
    But to be honest…life in the states is just not as cozy as life in Europe is. I don’t know why…but it’s a real cultural thing. Life in Europe is just cozier in every aspect, whether being invited to someone’s house or in a restaurant. That’s just the way it is.

  18. We removed our island and replaced it with a table and chairs. We also only have undercounter refrigerator and freezer drawers. I’m a life-long Californian but I love my European kitchen!

  19. I’d consider a kitchen table instead of an island in the right space. I’ve never been lucky enough to have that wide of an area though. For a kitchen table to be functional in the middle of the kitchen, you’d need 3 feet all around the table for the chairs, plus another 3 feet of walking space. Add in minimally 3 feet for the table width, plus 2 feet for cabinetry on each side, and you’re looking at a 17-19-foot wide kitchen. I’m not even close to making that work.

  20. I love this look, and when I checked back on my favorite kitchen on Houzz, I realized that it doesn’t have an island. In the San Francisco Victorian that I grew up in, we had no island. It wasn’t until later, living on my own, that it seemed necessary. I now have a small, u-shaped kitchen with no island. I will say that the counter keeps people out of the kitchen and out of my way but I do love the social feel of no separation.

  21. I grew up in an eat-in kitchen, with eight people around the table. When we remodeled our home 20 years ago, the dining area (on the other side of a peninsula from the kitchen) became my work-at-home space. We bumped out, and I now have an eat-in kitchen again. I like it. I can make the table larger or smaller, or rotate it 90 degrees. Admittedly, I’ve never had an island, but I see no need for one.

  22. We must be the only family in America then that has a dining table in our kitchen and everyone who has come to our house loves the atmosphere that it creates. Our kitchen needs to be remodeled since the last time it was touched was in the 1960’s and I often think I want to have an island, but after seeing the photos I think I would like to keep our dining table in the kitchen. It lends itself to a lot of cozy, intimate talks while cooking or baking that wouldn’t happen if the table were in another room.

  23. yay,yay,yay. Where else am I supposed to peel apples for holiday pies, prepare a ton of green beans for the canner, clean gooseberries for jam, or have a friendly afternoon cup of tea with a friend? Standing? Our grandmothers knew to sit down for long tasks. Everyone had a table in the middle of their kitchen, until the built-in kitchens came along. I absolutely wouldn’t be without a table in my kitchen!

  24. You seldom see kitchen tables anymore in the U.S., (although you would at my house!) but a generation or so ago everyone had a kitchen with a table in the middle. It works well with a U-or L-shaped kitchen. As you mentioned, it is wonderfully welcoming and cozy, and also affords the opportunity to do meal prep at a comfortable feet-on-the-floor sitting-down height. I think part of the reason they are welcoming is that the lower height is comfortable for almost everyone, child or adult. For some people–older, short, heavy–high stools can be off-putting.

  25. I grew up in a small country town where everyone had a kitchen table and very few had separate formal dining rooms. Islands had not yet been invented. The kitchen table was the center of life, where we ate, visited, studied, drank tea together, shelled the beans and peas from the garden, talked and laughed and cried. Couldn’t be cozier. One suggestion for those who would like a kitchen table and chairs but don’t like the “slum of legs” (quoting Eero Saarinan) — how about Saarinan’s tulip, or pedestal, chairs and table?

  26. Yes I love it! We downsized our home 18 years ago and went with a Scandinavian design without the island. We have never missed it and use the table for a prep area when entertaining. Love the table being the center of the kitchen. So glad to see these wonderful kitchens in Finland. I especially love the curtains in your aunt’s kitchen. A little pop of cheery color.

  27. Windsor Smith did at least one great kitchen with a table in the middle. Don’t have her book handy or I’d look it up but I think it was in her own house. Dark cabinets as I recall and really warm and lovely.

  28. The LA designer Windsor Smith does beautiful kitchens with a table in the middle of the kitchen. Her iconcic kitchen was a 2011 Veranda Showhouse that is featured in her book “Windsor Smith Homefront”. Gwyneth Paltrow bought that house. You can google “windsor smith kitchens” and view several of her kitchens using tables in lieu of islands.
    As a designer, I love the look as long as there is room for the sink and the appliances on the perimeter of the kitchen. It’s really practical – can be used for prep and for lots of people sitting around.

  29. I have never sat on a comfortable bar stool. Ever. So it’s either stand at a bench or design a kitchen with a beautiful yet non-precious wood table where scapes and dents become part of the story. Function should always rule over fashion in my opinion but that’s also part of the rules of great design.

  30. It’s THE trend here. Don’t question it! Ha ha! When my cousin moved from South Africa to Connecticut in the mid 70’s, her new home had an island, she replaced it with a kitchen table. Since then, she’s had a home with a high island and just accepted it. Her latest home has such a small kitchen with no island but with just enough space for a tiny little table, a vintage enamelled metal one, and it is lovely.

  31. Thank you for this. You’re inspiring me to rethink the role of an island in our first floor remodel/kitchen. And how I can best develop the comfy/cozy feel I’m hoping for.

  32. My tiny first house had a kitchen with the dining table in it. There was minimal counter space so the table was often used as work surface as well. What made the whole thing work was a small walk in pantry with efficient storage. There was an economy of movement that I have not had in a kitchen since. Family meals were eaten there every day. The only thing I didn’t like was having to serve the occasional guests in a space with the messy cookware from meal prep since the kitchen did not have a dishwasher. But yes, people loved to hang out there regardless of the less than ideal conditions (by todays standards).

  33. I truly loved that top kitchen. My family and friends love to hang in the kitchen. Everyone helps clean up and then its on to cards.

  34. We are currently downsizing from a house with a 400 sq ft kitchen (I know, I know…) and the biggest island I’ve ever seen, to a house with a total square footage of 800. I purchase a tulip table in simple matte white, with easy to clean white chairs to go around it for our family of 6. Can’t wait to move in and have the eat-in kitchen.
    Definitely agree with some of the other commenters: cookie cutter islands are on their way out as a trend.

  35. The tables are of good size. I like the look and think that maybe we can learn something from the country’s that have been around a lot longer. Thank you Maria for the new ideas.

  36. I like the idea of a dining table in the center of the kitchen. Brooke Shields and Bette Midler have beautiful kitchens which I believe display this.

  37. The house I grew up in only had a kitchen table. We didn’t have a dining room. The house we own now does not have an island, but my hubby built a free standing butcher block that sits in the middle of our U shaped kitchen. It is the most handy spot it in the kitchen and makes chopping etc so easy because it is just the right height. We have a dining room but only use it 3 or 4 times a year. It’s kind of a waste really. Pretty, but a waste of space.

  38. I debated about table vs island in my kitchen remodel. Read a lot of articles. I stayed with my kitchen table. You can do food prep on the table. You even get to sit down while doing it. We seem to be kitchen people and the table seems like a friendlier more comfortable solution. An island seems to indicate you are on a hurry, the table seems to say let’s stay and talk some more. Love Maria’s blog.

  39. My home has a large island, it defines the kitchen space in a huge multi-purpose living area. Next to it is a dining table which seats up to 12. (I do not have a separate dining room). As yet I have not placed stools at the island, though one of my friend’s commented recently I needed a couple, as she stood chatting to me whilst I prepared dinner. They would also be a boon for my granddaughter who is always drawing or ‘making’ as I cook. The island also allows flexibility when I am entertaining a bigger group, and for festive dinners. I place all the food in serving dishes along the island and guests serve themselves before bringing their food to the table. Whatever the meal, or for just having a cuppa with a friend, we always sit at the table, and I always use tablecloths too. (There’s a challenge in itself, being able to find large tablecloths these days – luckily I have my Mum’s.) I think I have the best of both worlds.

  40. Maria, you’ve mentioned the classic kitchen in “Something’s Gotta Give” –my other favorite movie kitchen is the one in The Big Chill, and of course there were all the fantastic scenes of sitting around the table eating, talking, and enjoying the company of old friends.

    Here’s another example of a warm, cozy farmhouse kitchen – love so many things about this, but especially that it looks like human beings actually live there! https://www.houzz.com/photos/kitchen-transformation-farmhouse-kitchen-burlington-phvw-vp~382924

  41. I would totally have a dining table in the middle of our kitchen if we had room for one. I grew up in an old farmhouse built in 1848. It didn’t have a dining room, just a big kitchen with a table in the middle where we ate all our meals. I’ve never liked islands and wished that people would just put a table in their kitchens instead

  42. I have thought about this issue a million times before.

    It WAS fairly common for Americans to have a kitchen table and chairs if their kitchens had a place for it. Islands did away with that, but I also think snack bars in the fifties and sixties were the precursor to islands.

    I have so many mixed emotions about it. I love the look of a table, but it would have to be a work surface too. Then there is the question of how large should a kitchen table be. Should it replace a dining room completely? Or should it be a small table in the kitchen with a separate dining room/area? I don’t know. If I were building a house tomorrow, I’m torn on this question.

    One thing I do know, is that I prefer counter height chairs at islands. I am never comfortable perching in bar height chairs – my legs are so short I can hardly get up into them! Whatever people choose, comfort should come first.

    I do follow a Swedish YouTuber who recently bought a country house that had once been in her family. The ancestors who owned it are long deceased. The house has the most charming white kitchen with no upper cabinets, no island, a cool wood-burning stove, and a huge window that they have placed a large table and chairs in front of. It helps that the big kitchen window looks at a lake. They don’t have a formal dining room, but their kitchen set up is dreamy. They have shown a dinner or two that they hosted and I wished I was there.

  43. I would go for it, lots of European kitchens have this and it’s a lovely and warm experience. Worst case scenario if you have space you get an island for resale purposes.

  44. I love your aunt’s kitchen–so inviting, with the dining table near a lovely window.

    Another thing I notice and love about it–white appliances, not stainless steel. Such a relief to my eye to see a classic white kitchen without the obligatory (at least in the U.S.) stainless steel chopping up the visual flow.

  45. For years I lusted for an island but my kitchen was just too tiny. Next month my kitchen reno begins and guess what? I’m NOT installing an island! After opening up and enlarging room I don’t want to stuff it up with the bulk of an island. Instead will go with either a freestanding prep table or a kitchen table w/chairs or maybe both – still deciding. Even better, can change one for the other relatively easily in case I tire of it. Kitchen tables are not only cozy but actually look fresh again!

  46. Maria, this post had me smiling! Down here in the Southern U.S., many of us remember our grandmothers’ kitchens, complete with table and chairs. I spent many hours sitting around those tables, watching my grandmothers cook and being the first one to sample the finished product. When my husband and I bought our bungalow, the first thing we did was tear out the peninsula, and fit a vintage porcelain top table with chairs in that spot. Since it’s only the two of us now, we have recently changed over to an island, and I’m not feeling the love as yet. Who knows? Maybe by Christmas the table and chairs will be back and the island will be a thing of the past.

  47. I love my kitchen Island because it is so practical. I store a lot of my cookware in the slide-out drawers, and my husband and I eat most of our meals there. I also do most of my prep-work on the island, so it’s multi-functional. We only eat at the formal dining table if we have company. Growing up in the 40’s & 50’s in the U.K., my family ate at the table in the large kitchen. For more formal occasions we would eat in the dining room.

  48. In India we didn’t have island kitchens for a long time. Right now it’s the craze. We went for ourselves and yes we insisted on it. But then I have oodles of space even after a moderate sized dining table and an island. In fact I need help to figure out what to do in the middle ?

  49. If you type “Cozy Kitchen” into a search engine or Pinterest, you get a lot of images of kitchens with kitchen tables.

    It’s funny that kitchen tables used to be so common, even ordinary. Now you see them in either older houses or creative high-end houses.

  50. Hi Maria – thank you so much for the colour wheels. They are SO useful!

    Over here in the UK kitchen islands rarely fit well in our smaller houses but people shoehorn them in. I think they have been heavily promoted by kitchen suppliers – more cabinetry and more worktop – all fixed.

    The trend starting here is now towards unfitted kitchens, incorporating a vintage dresser or table. We are so fed up with rows of identical cabinetry which cannot be changed. There’s definitely a move towards having more flexibility and the importance of recycling. A table and chairs is so much more comfortable – and sociable.

    I do like an island in a large kitchen where there is also space for a table and chairs – maybe this is the norm in North America and we have adopted the island without understanding the trade off.

  51. Hi Maria,

    I do love the look of the kitchen table, and if I were to start over, I would likely consider it. But we won’t be building again, so I have what I have. Actually, I have more of a country kitchen, with my only dining table just a few feet away. So I think it’s pretty cozy. When guests are over, we hang at the island or go into the great room for happy hour, then we eat right in the kitchen. Yes, they see the mess. But that’s me. I’d love to change so many things about what I have, but in reality, I know I’m lucky to have such a comfy home that we both really enjoy. BTW, I love the beautiful Scandinavian kitchens.

  52. I noticed that the stove is placed in a corner in all three of the kitchens in Finland. When I was house hunting recently here in the US last year, I can’t remember seeing even 1 house with a stove in the corner. Is this another common feature of the kitchens you saw?
    As for the table in the kitchen, that was the norm for me growing up on a farm. The kitchens were the largest room in the house and the table served as a prep surface and eating surface. Visits happened in the kitchen, in fact most of life happened in the kitchen.

  53. Well, I guess I can officially say I’m one in a million then! Lol My table is in my kitchen and I have it that way on purpose. When we bought our house a little over a year ago and did renovations, many people thought it was great the kitchen was large enough for a big island. I would politely decline the idea by saying I was too lazy to carry food and dishes from the dining room and I’d rather have a table in the middle of my kitchen, within a few steps of my sink. And while that’s definitely a perk, the biggest reason is that I just love the nostalgia and quaint charm of that look. (I also insisted on not having an open floor plan. I’ve had one before and didn’t like it.) So, I turned the dining room into a keeping room/library and the kitchen is where we eat. It is working out very well!

    I enjoyed the post, Maria! The pictures were definitely fun to look at. Thanks for another good one!

  54. Hi Maria,
    I’ve never had an island in any of my kitchens. I’ve had kitchen tables but they were off to the side, never in the center of the room. I guess I’ve never had a kitchen big enough to accommodate either one. Even my dream home would be small & cozy. With a kitchen table looking out onto a beautiful view. And of course it would have a lamp. ?
    No need for an island.

  55. Great post, Maria! I say “Yay!”
    We should all keep our minds open to all possibilities that our square footage permits! I like the idea of tables instead of islands, for some kitchens. I have room for neither, due to windows and doors in our mid-sized kitchen, unless we remove a wall to the dining room. Kitchen tables can double as extra work space. Table tops are lower than countertops, and make rolling out dough easier for those of us who are not tall, and tedious tasks such as shelling peas are nice to do while sitting at a kitchen table!
    I like all of the kitchens shown, except for the one with the model/homeowner. Looks like it could use a strong focal point. these kitchens all seem to look very functional and comfortable!
    Sandy

  56. Lorraine La France

    Dear Maria,
    Many thanks for the above story. We have a narrow kitchen and when we first moved here, had an eat-in kitchen spot by the window at the end of the kitchen. At some point I had a butcher block with cabinet on wheels built for extra prep & lost the eat-in spot. Guess what? Use the butcher block very seldom. For a few years now I have been wanting the eat in space back. I cook a lot but the counters I have are sufficient so no loss.
    Because of your article and the pics, I am now inspired to move forward with putting eat-in spot back!
    Have a great week. I love your articles and your wisdom with decorating and colour and hope one day to attend your course.
    All the very best, Lorraine

  57. Those of us who can’t afford or don’t have room for an island and don’t have a formal dining room still do this. We live in an older home set up just like this! There might be more of us than you realize. Glad to know that maybe the trend will go our way now! We’ll be “in” without even trying!

  58. You have hit on my least favorite kitchen feature — the hated island with bar stools. Frankly, if I come to your house, I don’t want to watch you cook or clean up. I like sitting at a kitchen table and enjoying a leisurely meal or afternoon cake and coffee. Maybe it’s the European side of me that prefers the kitchen table. It’s so much more useful and aesthetically pleasing than some block in the middle of the room. I also like a sofa in the kitchen.

  59. I live in Sweden but both mom and dad were born in Finland so I´’m used to the kitchentable instead of an island. I do love Kate St Hills kitchen as it also has that “finnish” bench instead of chairs at one side of the table. When we went back to Finland during summer holidays you could always spot a bench instead of chairs, in the kitchen sometimes on both sides of the table. But that was during the 1970’s.

    The “piirakka” I don’t miss ;).

  60. I loved this article!! We are building and our kitchen is U shaped. I’ve been seriously thinking of just doing the eat in kitchen instead of the island – which would be unheard of here in Trendy Utah – which makes me want to do it even more! Thank you for the enlightening article!!

  61. Wow, lots of comments!

    When designing my kitchen, I considered a French farm table but would have had to completely eliminate the wall between the kitchen and what was then the combined living/dining room in my small house. I dislike the open plan look and would have lost wall space for my piano and antique baker’s cabinet. So I designed a lower-height island with a furniture look and an open end around which up to four people can have a meal, sitting on regular height, comfortable chairs. I also wanted a wider marble surface on which to roll out pastry, since regular counters aren’t big enough. I can sit at the island and shell peas. I really do have the best of both worlds. We pushed out the back of the house to create a new living room and now have a proper dining table in the former combo room, along with a sofa and the piano, so it’s multi-use and allows for a lot of creativity in managing large groups of people.

    If I had a big kitchen, I would want a big farm table in the middle, a cooking fireplace or wood burning stove of some kind in addition to a gas stove, furniture style lower cabs and shelves above, and a marble topped table somewhere for pastry making. Big farm sink, original stone if possible, and big windows with a country view. And a couple of comfy chairs near the fireplace or wood stove for reading in the winter.

  62. MARIA YAS!! This is the design article I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!! Both my grandmothers had dining tables smack in the middle of their kitchens growing up and I have always loved it and loathed kitchen islands. Nobody seems to get it!! Like the storage is trivial and prep space?? Honey you better SIT DOWN and chop your onions at the kitchen table!! Lololol

  63. Builders, developers and designers, please consider the kitchen layout carefully. An island with stools is not a pleasant place to sit for many reasons.

    Not enjoyable to eat while staring at sink, prep counter, stove and cupboards.

    Stools are uncomfortable for many including children and those with bad backs or knees.

    Personally, I have seen very few attractive counter stools.

    The stools are is not conducive to conversation… how do those seated at each end make eye contact?

    Also not flexible for extra guests.

    Please design kitchens with room for a table and chairs, prerable round or oval, and next to a window or at least a wall with art and plants. This is much more conducive to family conversation at meal times and more aesthetically pleasing.

  64. Great article and visuals, thanks! And also great comments from your readers. I have often asked myself whatever happened to the kitchen table? I will be digesting this information for the someday when I update my kitchen.

  65. Maria, I grew up with a kitchen like you described, like your photos with the table and chairs literally in the kitchen area. It was also the style of my kitchen in the first home I lived in as a married woman. I loved it…I still do! I see the variation of this when kitchen went to including an island with seating around it…but still it is not quite the same! I can understand why clients do not want to abandon the islands…it’s all the style now and what is “in style” is the dictator of what we want. Like trends, albeit this “trend” has been around for quite a few years now. Maybe “this ‘old’ style” needs you to continue championing it and there will be more of them in North America and people will not see a home with this kind of kitchen as wierd and needing a tear out!

  66. I love this! Then again, I grew up with this. My grandmother’s farm kitchen had the table in the centre of the room. It was the heart of the home.

  67. Kitchens with a table and chairs have been around, universally, for a very long time. I’ve seen them from Canada to Australia and multiple countries in between. I grew up with one of those and I’m not young; we also had a dining room. Kitchens were quite large then because they were the hub of the house; that’s where almost everything happened. Other than meals, it was the place for doing homework, crafts, paying bills, sewing etc. and preparing drinks when we had guests.
    My favourite style of kitchen is what we have now: a relatively compact but efficient cooking area with a good triangle, ample space for 2 people to work side by side without bumping into each other, plus an island with oodles of storage space accessible from both sides. We don’t eat at the island because we have what was known as a “breakfast nook” on the side of the kitchen, where we have space for a good sized table and 4 chairs. Our previous 2 houses also had spacious breakfast nooks where we ate our everyday family meals but we had peninsulas instead of islands.
    What I particularly like about breakfast nooks is that they are out of the way of the cooking area and do not interfere with the kitchen’s work triangle. Guests can be seated close enough to chat with but far enough away that they don’t have the kitchen mess under their noses.

  68. We only put in an island about 5 years ago and I love the look of our island. I love working at our island when I am by myself. I love hanging around the island when we have company and I am not done cooking. However, we noticed when our family is eating at the island there seems to less conversation, and less lingering after the meal is done to just talk. My dining table is less than 10 feet from the island and when we sit down at that, everything changes. It took us a bit to notice, and now we make sure we eat at the table. This post is timely because about a year ago I had decided my next kitchen is going to have a table in the middle of the kitchen instead of an island and I have been collecting ideas ever since.

  69. What a great post! If we were renovating our (all white – love not tired of) kitchen (no island) I would do this! Imagine having the flexibility of moving things around. But the notion of an island (always seems to be in the way) I am over. But perhaps the island is because we have open floor plans? Hides the junk and divides the room?

  70. YAY! My concern is if people are allowing adequate space for pulling out chairs and working at the perimeter at the same time.

  71. I love the pictures from Finland. The kitchens look modern, efficient and cozy.

    I have been a fan of the eat-in kitchen with a table for a long time. It is what I grew up with and what I have had most of my life. Now that I live in a home with a kitchen too small for any kind of table, I miss it terribly, especially since the dining room is down a hallway. A table is just the right height for baking and it is nice to be able to sit and peel potatoes or do other chores, and to sit down for a casual meal with family looking at each other, not sitting in a row like at a diner, putting the cook in the role of short-order chef. Plus unlike an island, it can be moved around and doesn’t need any expensive wiring to meet code.

    Historically, the kitchen table was the mult-purpose work surface of the kitchen and it still can be so. A kitchen can be divided into work zones around the perimeter with a table in the middle or off to the side and still be efficient and have a lot of storage. I have often wondered why tables have fallen into disfavor. A table is economical and easy to clean. They also look great, especially if you want an old-fashioned unfitted kitchen or retro-mid-century look. As your examples show, they can also look quite modern. Plus if you want a style change, tables are easy to paint or to change out, or moved elsewhere to accomodate other uses or overflow guests. What’s not to like?

  72. Hi Maria
    I live in the UK and kitchen tables are a key element of traditional country kitchen style. Islands are more popular in town houses. I’d go for a table every time – more sociable more relaxed. Who really prefers perching on a bar stool to sitting in a comfortsble chair. If space is an issue tuck under benches are the way to go. Love your posts by the way Jo from Manchester UK

  73. Anne Elise Hudson

    Another plus for a table, not an island, is that table height is best for kneading bread, rolling out cookies, or pie crusts. We had an old farm table in our kitchen – no island – placed in front of the window with a gorgeous view. Kids did their homework there, we had family meals there, it was terrific. I need a stool to knead bread on a kitchen counter!!

  74. I actually love the table in the kitchen! It’s so cozy and perfect, it’s how I grew up! I am Canadian though, I thought you were too? Why are you only referencing America? Every kitchen I design is fighting for an island….they all want an island! Thanks for pointing out it’s not the only way! In Canada too!

  75. I think most islands are gathering places, so islands have really added social atmosphere not taken it away.

  76. Just catching up on my emails. So this is my take on farmhouse kitchens. Love the example pictures that you posted but I think you would need a large open kitchen to have a table with chairs. First of all you need enough space to walk around the table and chairs when people are seated. Not all kitchens can accommodate that layout. Secondly for me it visually would be too much clutter. Most islands have a purpose such as working space, under counter storage and of course the option to sit there if the island is large enough. Don’t get me wrong I do like the look but not as practical as an island! IMHOP!

    Love the picture of your aunt! You came from beautiful stock.

  77. Trends…
    The house my parents built in the early 40s had a dining area in the kitchen and a dining room. Breakfast and lunch remained at the kitchen table. Once the 3 of us could make it through a meal without spills and modicum of manners we moved to the dining room for family dinners.
    The house I bought in the 60’s (probably 50s build) had kitchen dining and a dining area in the living/dining room. I kept my family including 3 preschoolers in the kitchen. Next house had kitchen dining too as well as a dining room.
    I wasn’t living in or buying pricey houses. This just happened to be the trend.
    Kind of nice to have Dad’s grilled cheese sandwich come right off the stove and hot onto my plate. Also nice to have the dining room set so you can’t see into the kitchen. Don’t particularly like the open great room with it’s smells and noise.
    Is there a new trend coming? Is Maria leading it? Yay!

  78. Carrie Smurthwaite

    I love the idea of a table in the middle now, but I also loved, loved our island. When my two boys were almost teenagers, we moved to where there was an island in the kitchen. The boys would sit at the Island and talk to me about anything and everything while I cooked and prepared. Had I not had the island they would have never stayed in the kitchen. 🙂

  79. We have a Taliesin Architect designed home from the 70’s with a sizeable kichen, and have a pub table with four chairs right smack in the middle!
    It is the place we eat 95% of our indoor meals, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

  80. We have a Taliesin Architect designed home from the 70’s with a sizeable kichen, and have a pub table with four chairs right smack in the middle!
    It is the place we eat 95% of our indoor meals, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

  81. Oh my goodness…I love these kitchens! I think people don’t even realize islands are optional at this point. They seem to be the norm. I’m all for making this a trend.

  82. We are adding an addition on to a cape cod home built in the 1940s. We will not have enough space for an island and a dining room table so this type of layout will be for us! I have to admit I really did want an island but there definitely is and humbleness to just having a table. Also, an island would definitely scream “just renovated” for our time period.

  83. I can see an island having its benefits, but I think table is better for conversation and interacting with each other. Maria, I do love the color of your Aunt’s dress, she’s right on trend with color.☺️

  84. Reminds me of my grandmother’s mid-century farmhouse, some of the best meals and family gatherings in that kitchen at her formica table. Maybe I’ll consider an eat-in kitchen for my new-build… you got me thinking!

  85. can’t find other comments, but if you look at the “mint” tiles under the shelf, all the way on the right,
    those tiles look white.

  86. How interesting this topic is! I didn’t even realize that my mom has done this all along! Growing up in our first house, a family of 5, we always had supper at the kitchen table, in the kitchen. My mom placed the formal dining table in her large living room. Again, when we moved to a new home when I was a teenager (many years ago), we always ate at the small kitchen table (only big enough for 4, one brother had moved away) and for larger or more grand occasions (my mom likes a little high drama or afternoon tea with china) we use the dining room table in the next room. But I’ve always loved the cozy kitchen table. Plus if we ate at the dining room table, that meant having to get out of our casual clothes & dress up, which I was not fond of, as I was a bit of a tom boy.

  87. I am almost done building our house – and the whole thing centered around EXACTLY this. People think I’m nuts – I can’t FREAKING WAIT. Going to me fantastic.

  88. I am a Yay.
    We have a narrow galley style kitchen with a four chair table at one end. I find the layout, while small and compact by some standards, to be very efficient. We have ample storage and work space. As we garden we put up our harvest annually, and cook from scratch every day so our kitchen is heavily used. I will sit at the table when I have large amounts of preparation. Guests sit around the table and chat as I cook. We eat our everyday meals at the table when not dining out on the patio. I wanted a kitchen island until I actually experienced cooking in a kitchen with one. The island blocked access between the stove and the refrigerator or sink, forcing the cook to circle around the island. Possibly poor design?

  89. My husband and I just built a home with this design. No dining room just a farmhouse table in the middle of the kitchen. We love it! I can send you photos if you wish. I designed the kitchen with a built in china hutch and all of the appliances except the stove are paneled and integrated. Limestone walls and art work add to the effect. You honestly forget your in the kitchen!

  90. Way back in the day, here in New England, kitchens didn’t have cabinets with countertops at all. The table was the work surface. And yes, open concept plans often use the island as a way to delineate the kitchen from the living area. But I would rather not have my kitchen in my livingroom, thank you! Unless I plan to film a cooking show in my kitchen, I’ll take a big table in the middle of the kitchen every day of the week!!

  91. Hi Maria,

    Wonderful post! I love a table in the kitchen, can’t really imagine one without it! We have an island and a table in ours (island came with the house). Never have we sat at the island, well, maybe the first two weeks in the house. It is not conducive to conversation while dining, and I simply do not want to lower myself to simple “eating” instead of “dining”. The formal dining room is there also, but for day to day, the kitchen table is where live is lived! We finally added some cupboards and shelves where the counter stools would have been.

  92. I’m from Ontario (Canada) and grew up with an eat in kitchen. It was very convenient, but could get a little cramped (5 kids!). Now I have a peninsula type island, with a table right next to it, and I LOVE it. It’s a small kitchen, and the extra prep space from the extra wide counter area is wonderful, for anything from making pastry to folding laundry. And my kids often sit at the island after school to do homework while I meal prep. It’s also great to put food (since it’s right next to the table) when the table is crowded (as it is every day since we have a small, round table and 3 kids–but it’s a cozy crowd). What I don’t like about the table in the kitchen is that the table is lower, so bending to do things on it from standing (or even helping w/ homework) is annoying (I’m very tall). All the kitchens you’ve shown in this post are LOVELY.

  93. Your post really caught my eye. I live in Wisconsin but my dad was 100% Finlander and grew up in Upper Michigan. I have an eat-in kitchen with a peninsula. I have taken out peninsula once and had it put back in but this is convincing me to take it out again. This quote from Real Simple magazine is above my desk “Happiness is a place between too little and too much.” Finnish Proverb Love that!

  94. Maria, I have had this post on my mind ever since you created it. I am a retired educator and counselor, not a designer, and I re-did my kitchen a couple of years ago. I have long been alarmed at the insistence that every kitchen have an island, with multiple stools or chairs lined up, side by side, for the family to eat. They may be handsome, and some are beautiful, but it is the notion that a family doesn’t need to face each other when they dine that appalls me. It reminds me of a Woolworth counter from the 1960’s. As a counselor, I cannot overstate the importance of meal time and communication. No one needs a lecture, but between this trend and everyone’s dependence on their “device” while in the same room, I fear the human race is losing something important – real connection. So to answer your question, yes! I refused an island despite paying a respected designer for a plan. She could not understand why I would not have it. If there is a design trend that I believe will fall out of favor and make houses look dated, it is this awful trend. I know that sometimes a kid grabs a quick sandwich on the way to practice, etc. and might just want a seat at a bar or island, but that is not what has happened. I think this style will be the pink and green bathrooms of the 50’s. If not, I fear for the health and connection of our families. Thanks for putting the question out there. You are the only designer I know of who has paid attention. Gloria A.

  95. Canadian girl in Finland

    This is exactly the blog post that I was looking for… as a Canadian living in Finland, I have been debating about how we would install an island in our L-shaped kitchen here (there’s just enough space). After watching tons of reno shows (based in North America), I really wanted that island look! But seeing your post actually now is swaying me more towards keeping it an eat-in kitchen and realizing that the Nordic kitchen look IS cozier and more efficient! By the way, when we were doing house hunting here, we did come across a few houses with islands so they DO exist (ones with an open concept kitchen/living room), but the eat-in kitchen is definitely more of a thing here 🙂

  96. Born and raised in Norway I can totally relate: I will NEVER have a kitchen island ever. We redid our kitchen 2 years ago and all my friends suggested an island and every time I turned it down.
    In all my years in Norway I only had one apartment during my studies that had zero room for a table in the kitchen (the apartment was 300sqf after all 😉), and every home in the US has sorely lacked a room for a table until now. I love it. My kids love it. And when I host brunch that’s where everyone ends up even though my large dining room is just around the corner.
    I don’t know who can up with this island idea, I’m absolutely NOT a fan.