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Wander into most American kitchens and you’re bound to find one, hulking focal feature: a kitchen island. But fun fact, guys—this mascot of modern home design wasn’t actually a mainstay until the 1980s, when houses grew substantially bigger and entertaining became less formal. Plus, as folks amassed more stuff (wine fridges! Immersion blenders!), they needed more space to store it...

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navu blue kitchen island 728
monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

So what happened before all this open-concept mania? Well, people relied primarily on good ol’ tables for seating and meal prep. And it brings us immense joy to report that these “sit-in”-style kitchens are back en vogue. Here’s why: 

cozy kitchen sean anderson
Design: Sean Anderson; Photo: Alyssa Rosenheck

COMFORT

Truth talk: Islands are not entirely comfy to sit at. (Bar-height stools leave your feet dangling awkwardly and closed-off lowers don’t allow for leg-crossing without bonking your limbs.) This Sean Anderson-designed sit-in? Ahhh, much better.

alison pickart kitchen
Courtesy of Alison Pickart

AIRINESS

Designer Alison Pickart’s slim farmhouse table opens up a narrow footprint—and it doesn’t hide the dreamy floors either. 

marie flaniagn dining room
Julie Soefer Photography; Courtesy of Marie Flanigan Interiors

STYLE

You can only get so creative with kitchen island materials. But a table? The options are endless. We swoon for the surprisingly industrial surface in this Marie Flanigan-designed kitchen.

plain engflish worktable kitchen
Courtesy of Plain English

ROI

When we sell our homes in 10, 20, 50 years...will kitchen islands look like dated relics? We suppose only time will tell, but in the meantime, we’d rather not stub our toes while eating our granola bowls.

Image: A timeless worktable by cabinetry brand Plain English

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