Few people would disagree that kitchen islands don’t look fantastic. They can be the real focal point of any kitchen space – literally the centre of attention. However, when it comes to choosing the right kitchen island, it’s not as simple and straightforward as you might think. This is because of all the different factors you need to consider.
Kitchen islands come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and styles. Essentially, whatever your purposes and needs are from an island – with careful thought and planning – you know that you can have it. The typical rule is that an island should be at least 4 feet long, and slightly more than 2 feet deep. But this is just a general rule of thumb. As long as there is enough space for people to work and move around the island, it can take on virtually any form.
An island can be long and slim or massive and wide. It can run parallel to your countertops and workspace or house a sink and appliances. The options are virtually endless and that’s part of the appeal of a kitchen island. Versatility really is the name of the game. Islands can be designed to meet the needs of most spaces. Typically, an island has two parts. The working side which usually houses cabinets and the equipment needed for food preparation. The ‘public’ side tends to be more decorative and neat.
However, you can make your kitchen island what you want it to be. Everybody’s needs are different. Of course, a certain amount of space is necessary but don’t think that you necessarily need a really large kitchen space. Just follow our guide to getting the right kitchen island.
Choosing the right kitchen island: What is its purpose?
Islands can have various uses. Thinking carefully about what you want its main purpose to be is essential if you are to choose the right kitchen island for your needs. Any island obviously provides extra space for food preparation and cooking. But, in all honesty, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what a kitchen island can do.
Kitchen islands can house appliances, or even a hob and sink. They can provide extra storage and shelving. Not only that, a kitchen island provides a table surface. You can either use bar stools or include lower table seating to one side.
One clear advantage of a kitchen island is that it makes entertaining easier. It will make the kitchen a generally more sociable space. You can entertain guests while cooking – or have the kids doing the homework with you as you cook dinner.
Last but not least, a kitchen island can have genuine design appeal as well as practical benefits. Having an island can help to direct traffic in the kitchen away from busy areas. A kitchen island can also provide a boundary between the kitchen and the living room in any open plan design.
The Right Kitchen Island: Size Matters
The first major decision to make is about the size of your kitchen island. Obviously, this will depend on how big your kitchen is and how much space you have to play with. Naturally, the larger the kitchen is, the larger your island can be. It will be able to accommodate more storage and even a sink or hob.
While it is true that things are a little trickier if you have a smaller kitchen, there are several clever ways to make the most of what space you do have at your disposal. Undoubtedly, with a smaller space there will have to be an element of compromise. You need to prioritise and decide what your kitchen island ‘red lines’ are – the things you absolutely can’t do without.
An important thing to bear in mind is that kitchen islands don’t need to be massive. It’s all about being in proportion with the rest of the space and delivering on your priorities. If a design does that then it’s the right kitchen island for you.
Although width and length immediately spring to mind when you think of size, the height of a kitchen island is very important too.
Your island needs to be the correct height for all your needs. The height of the island’s eating area dictates the type of seating you will need. Typically, a counter between 42 and 48 inches will require a bar stool. A standard 36-inch counter is best served by a low stool. With a 28-30 inch counter, the island will work best with a chair. A dual-height island is a useful option. It can create an eating area and is a good way of hiding away clutter or keeping those seated at the island away from any cooking splatters and splashes.
Getting the shape and size right
Again, the size and shape of your kitchen island will depend on the space you have. You have more opportunities to be creative the more space you have. Most islands are slight and straight, running parallel to the counter, or larger, round or square. However, there are other options, such as a curved design. This will give you an ultra-modern look and could be a great choice if you have little ones around, as there are no sharp edges and corners. ‘S’ shaped kitchen islands can also look fantastic, as well as being a practical way of allocating particular purposes to different sections.
When it comes to size, like any other aspect of kitchen design, proportion is the most important thing. The dimensions of a kitchen island should be dictated by the size of the room and its layout. If you have a long run of units, a long island running parallel is the obvious choice. This echoes the classic double galley layout. However, if the room is squarer, a square or round island placed in the centre would be ideal.
What you want your island for is the other major consideration which should help you decide what size of island you need.
Do you want it for cooking or as additional food preparation area? Is a seating area required, or do you need extra storage. When it comes to storage solutions, size doesn’t have to be everything. From pan draws to spice racks and slim wine chillers, there are all kinds of ways to use space creatively.
What is the average kitchen island size?
As a rough guide, a kitchen island should not really be smaller than 4ft x 2ft. Ideally, there should be a gap of at least a metre between the island and the next piece of furniture. Of course, every kitchen space is different but it still makes sense to think of standard cabinet sizes as a starting point.
For example, a standard unit is 600mm x 600mm. This would give you the option of including a sink, hob and/or a dishwasher. This shows that even a small island design of just three units can still serve several practical purposes.
There are a wide choice of cabinet sizes available, ranging from 300, 400 and 450mm at the narrow end of the scale – and larger unit sizes of 750, 800 and 900mm too. Therefore, it’s easy to mix and match size combinations to make best use of the space you have.
Using standard sized units as a guide, a long and narrow kitchen island would be 600mm deep. You need to allow for a little extra space for worktop overhang. If seats and stools are needed, you also need to add an extra 300mm to allow adequate leg room and to stow stools. If you have children, adjustable height stools are a great idea.
How wide can you go?
Square can stretch to a width of 1200mm but even if you want to pack in as much storage and functionality as possible, you should resist the urge to go much bigger. Wide islands can make a big impression and have a massive impact, but they are not particularly practical. Ideally, you need to be able to comfortably reach the middle, so you should really stick to a depth of less than 1400mm.
How much space is needed between an island and the countertops?
You need to allow a decent amount of space to allow for the opening of doors and drawers – and to be able to move around safely and freely. This is typically a distance of about 1200mm. You also need to consider areas that are busier, such as around the hobs. Here, extra floor space is always a bonus. The flow around the kitchen is important. A kitchen island can help with this. However, if you don’t leave adequate space around it, the effect will be the opposite.
Finally, it’s important to make the right decision if there simply isn’t space for a kitchen island. Don’t just try to squeeze one in. It is far more sensible to try something different, such as adding a peninsula with a breakfast bar. If you would like to chat to a member of Kitchen Warehouse team about your kitchen island options, just get in touch.