Using the Island A simple island can provide valuable extra working space, or you can opt for something more elaborate fitted with a sink or a cooktop. The top of the island can be made from laminate, solid granite, artificial stone, solid wood, or tiles. If you plan to use the surface for food preparation, choose real or artificial stone with a solid wood butcher block inset. It’s easy to damage a laminate top by forgetting to use a chopping board and although tiles are attractive they can be impractical as a work surface. Using real or artificial stone is sensible if you want to include a cooktop. Where electricity is being run to an island, it’s a good idea to make the most of it by installing a couple of outlets, either mounted in the top or on the side, so that you can use small appliances. Top-mounted sockets must be protected from spills and liquid by a flap cover. Using the Top The top can include a sink or a cooktop but existing floor coverings may have to be lifted so that gas and water pipes and electric wiring can be brought to the island. It’s sensible to site the island opposite the existing sink position to minimize piping. Connections can be run across a concrete floor before the final topping is laid, or run beneath floorboards. Secondary sink: The island sink is normally secondary to the main sink and can be used for washing vegetables or for preparing drinks. It isn’t really a good idea to make the island the site for the main sink – there’s unlikely to be enough room for anything more than a single bowl. Cooking center: You could use the island as a cooking center by installing a cooktop into the surface. An island is the perfect site for an additional cooking unit such as a deep fat fryer or an indoor barbecue. These small units take up less space than a normal 23 in (600mm) wide cooktop, which does not allow enough work space on each side. These small specialized cooktops can be used alone or in combination. A typical unit includes an indoor barbecue, griddle, deep fat fryer, two zone gas, electric or halogen burners, and a two zone gas cooktop with a wok burner. If you want to install a cooktop, you need a ceiling-mounted range hood above the island. A dramatic stainless steel chimney range hood, or an integrated range hood hidden in a handsome wooden canopy, helps to turn the island into an interesting focal point. A ducted range hood that carries cooking smells, steam, and smoke is more efficient than a recirculating model – in an island installation, the ducting can be hidden in the ceiling cavity. Even expensive range hoods can be noisy so if you intend to use the room for living and eating in addition to cooking, consider a remote motor model. Copyright 2009 Rhonda Morin, MyInteriorDecorator.com. May not be reprinted.