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Kitchen island design: creating a functional space

When designing a dream kitchen, almost everyone includes an island. Make sure your kitchen can accommodate one and find out which features you should include to make the most of your space with these tips from interior designer Patricia Davis Brown.

A kitchen island is meant to be functional - it can be your storage solution, extra seating, and more prep space all at the same time. However, if it's too big, it just becomes an obstacle that you have to get around. On the other hand, if it's too small, then it won't multi-function the way you want it to.

I've had clients bring me a house plan showing a great kitchen, and in the middle of it, an island is drawn in with no real thought as to whether it will work in the space. If you're designing a kitchen island, there are three things to keep in mind:

  1. The dimension of the room will determine the island's size.
  2. Is the island one level or multi-level?
  3. Will there be seating designed into the island?

Determining if your kitchen is big enough to warrant an island in the first place is just a matter of mathematics. You determine the overall dimensions of your room in both directions, and from there, subtract the cabinetry and pathways around the island. The minimum a pathway can be is 42 inches. 48 inches will allow two cooks to work in the space comfortably.

Let's pretend we have a kitchen that is 180-inches wide. The formula to determine your first dimension would be: 180 - 24x2 for cabinetry - 42x2 for pathways = 48 inches for your island. You can use the same formula to determine length. Voila - you have your island's size.

Once you have determined the size of your island, you'll want to think about how you're really going to use it. A one level island is great for spreading out and working around or doing projects on.

one-level kitchen island

A two level island is perfect for creating a seating bar. By changing the height, you can also mix materials as shown in the picture below. When you do this, you want to consider a wall with supports, which will subtract around 4-1/2 inches out of the equation.

Two-level kitchen island

If you want to have built-in seating in your island, the depth of the overhang will be determined by the height of your chair. If you are using bar stools, then your overhang should be 12-inches from the 4-1/2 inch depth knee wall, taking up an overall depth of 16-1/2inches. Kitchen-counter height bar stools would only take up 15-inches and would not need a knee wall for support. If you are using dining chair height, your overhang will need to be 18-inches from back of knee wall, taking up 22-1/2 inches of overall depth.

Finally, If you decide to have seating built into your island, consider the number of people you will be accommodating. You can figure 24-inches for each person, which will guide how long your island should be.

Kitchen island with seating

I highly recommend hiring a certified kitchen designer when designing a kitchen. There is so much planning that goes into creating the most intricate room of your house, and a beautiful finished product will make this the best money you will ever spend.