The general rule for dressing a work surface is this: the more dramatic the colour and finish of your island, the more minimal the display. This applies equally if you’ve built things such as a hob, sink or breakfast bar into the island – in this scenario, it’s a good idea not to clutter the surface with too many objects that might get in the way. The essentials could be a wooden chopping block, some pots of fresh herbs and a stand for recipe books, positioned so that you’re not constantly moving things around when you need to cook.
Baskets are useful for keeping things like utensils and napkins at hand, or you might want to use one for storing fruit or bread. A shapely basket can also look really beautiful as a centrepiece on your island.
When it comes to pottery and glassware, consider scale first. Things like vases, platters and fruit bowls should be large enough to hold their own when you look at the room as a whole, but not so big that they’re impractical to have on your work surface. Islands need to be functional, so they aren’t really a place for breakable bone china pots and plates, either. Instead, opt for sturdier materials like stoneware – they’ll complement the island’s strong shape too.
Like baskets, vases of flowers can also be an impressive centrepiece for an island, but we think simpler arrangements of tall stems work better than big bouquets (three sprigs in a white china vase are all that’s needed to bring the Chichester kitchen pictured to life). It’s partly to do with scale – islands tend to be quite big and wide, and a little height helps balance this out – but it also comes back to practicality and keeping your worktop functional. (If you use your island for eating, you might also want to avoid strong floral scents in favour of greener, herby aromas or life-like flowers.)
Large platters and marble blocks are great for grouping similar things together, especially when you need easy access to them – think herb pots, salt and pepper grinders or olive oil.
If your hob is built into the island, try using a pitcher or vase beside it for wooden spoons and spatulas – objects used in unexpected ways like this are always eye-catching.