Kitchen Islands: Maximizing all Areas of the Kitchen Design

Kitchen islands are a great way to maximize the kitchen plan. Additional counter space, seating, a secondary sink and storage can all be gained from adding a kitchen island. When planning for an island installation, be sure to take the kitchen plans, along with the style of the space into consideration to ensure a proper fit.

Space Planning

When adding an island to the kitchen design, it’s important to be sure that the proper size and orientation are selected and work flow is not interrupted. NKBA guidelines state that the work triangle or the orientation of the sink, stove and refrigerator should not be interrupted by traffic. The island can become part of the work triangle, by placing the stove or sink there, otherwise, there needs to be enough room to direct traffic through the kitchen without interrupting the work triangle.

If seating is planned at the island, enough space also needs to be left behind the seats for traffic, while the island remains large enough to accommodate those seated. For a 36” high counter, 24” of width and 15” of knee space needs to be allotted for each intended seat.

Kitchen Island Attributes

There are many ways to utilize a kitchen island. Determining what the homeowner’s and the kitchen’s needs are, will help determine the island’s attributes. Will the kitchen’s work triangle flow better if the cooktop is moved to the island? If so, than the island will need to accommodate not just the 12” and 15” on either side of the cooking area for landing surface, but will also need to have an additional 9” of space behind the cooktop. Ventilation will also need to be added, either in the form of a riser which can be pulled out behind the cooktop when it is in use, or suspended from the ceiling.

If storage is required, then the island will need to be shaped to accommodate enough interior cabinet space to make the space usable. This can be combined with seating, if there is enough of an overhang on one side of the island for seating clearance, while the other side of the island has working doors.

If there is an auxiliary or second sink located in the island, a minimum of 18” of landing area will be required on one side of the sink. 3” of space is sufficient on the other side, to accommodate the counter integrity and cabinet stiles.

Islands in the Kitchen Design

The kitchen island is an excellent way to add additional design elements to the kitchen. Traditional kitchens can include a butcher block counter top, as well as design elements, such as carved posts and decorative bracing for countertop edges.

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For a modern kitchen design, or for a small kitchen, consider using a portable kitchen island. A portable kitchen island is frequently made from stainless steel, as well as either granite or wood, and can be moved around the kitchen as needed. Storage, landing areas, and prep areas can all be utilized in a portable island, while the entire unit can be safely stored to one side of the room when not in use.

If the kitchen island is being used for seating, and prep work, but not for storage, consider tiling the surround of the island, rather than using paneling. This can enhance any kitchen design, by using glass tiles in a modern kitchen, or large, carved stone tiles in a rustic or traditional kitchen, added design elements can become the focal point, while providing additional counter space.

Be sure to include an island that is large enough to be usable, but not so large that it overwhelms a kitchen, or interferes with work flow. The kitchen island should be a design and functionality enhancer, not a hindrance to the design. Plan to include one in a kitchen update, and watch the kitchen style, and usability go to new levels.


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