How Architect Cheryl Hughes Brings Kitchens to Life

These island designs blend the practical with the posh
Posted January 02, 2013

Cheryl Hughes, of HUGHES STUDIO ARCHITECTS (South Lake Union, 820 John St.; 206.264.1301;, is known for her user-friendly kitchen designs. And in her 17-plus years of residential practice, she has seen the kitchen island evolve from an oft uninspiring second thought to an aesthetically inviting workhorse that is the communal hub of a home. “The island is a transition from function to comfort,” she explains, “and this main driver [of the kitchen] has become the gathering place.” 

Hughes’ eclectic output includes a square island (shown above) with plenty of room for both cooks and onlookers, which she designed for clients who love to entertain. It has a great granite stone prep surface with a lyptus-wood surround that handily hugs a microwave while hiding the recycling and storage drawers. A “steamer trunk” island with a myrtlewood butcher block and sides of sapele wood and blackened steel detailing complement features throughout the house, such as its exposed steel beams. Then there’s her long, knife-shaped island. Not only does its horizontal expanse, and “movement” of the cherrywood at its bottom, help to balance very high ceilings, its veritable blade of a PaperStone counter aids in the room’s circulation, literally pointing to where guests should move next—toward a gorgeous view of Lake Washington. 

And proving that an island’s size really doesn’t matter, Hughes designed a narrow 20-inch island for her own home. It’s her smallest island creation to date.