How Much Room is Needed For A Kitchen Island Remodel?

The Space Needed For A Kitchen Island When Renovating

A kitchen remodel is one of the most complicated projects most homeowners will undertake. There are many moving parts and a lot of decisions that can affect how your project proceeds. Your kitchen design needs to not only be beautiful, but it must be functional and meet the needs of your family. 

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For many homeowners undertaking a kitchen remodeling one of the biggest requests and most sought after features is an island. A well planned and designed kitchen island can offer plenty of extra storage, seating, and prep space. When adding an island to your design, you'll need to make some additional choices including size, seating height, appliance and storage options. 

Let's take a look at some of the options available, as well as how you can size an island so that it doesn't overpower your kitchen design, but still provides you with all of the functionality you need.

Start By Asking Yourself These Six Questions

Determining your needs is the first step towards planning a functional island design. Start by defining your needs and asking and answering six simple questions. 

1. What is the islands function?

Kitchen islands are pretty straightforward. Before you start thinking about countertops or storage and what type of range you want, decide what your islands primary function will be. Many islands are designed with one side for cooking and one for eating, but what do you need? Are you looking for additional prep space, a cooking station, will you add a sink or will you primarily use it for entertaining? Or will you use it for everything including homework and house projects?

If you want appliances or sinks, you'll need more space. If it's just for weeknight family dinners, you'll want to emphasize seating. Ultimately, the space available will help you to define your islands functionality.

2. What appliances will you need?

If you have space and choose to add appliances, you'll need to plan for function and spacing. If your main sink is in the island, you'll need to place the dishwasher nearby. If this is going to be the main prep area in your kitchen, you'll need to locate trash, recycling and compost bins nearby. If you're adding a cooktop, you'll need space for a hood. 

3. How much storage do you need?

If your space is too narrow for seating, then placing cabinets on both the front and back of the island can provide extra storage and allow for the deeper countertop space that is so desirable.

Kitchen storage depends on the rest of your kitchen and the layout. If you have a lot of cabinetry, island storage might not be a priority. If your island is your main prep area, the sink and other prep areas should come first, but then you may want to add drawers for prep utensils and cutting boards.

4. How high should the counter be?

First, determine your seating height. If you want the look of barstools at your kitchen island, you'll need to choose between 36-inch or 42-inch high seating. A 42-inch bar stool and bar has a bit more flexibility. You can design a two-level island with a seating area and a lower working area. The step in between is a great place for electrical outlets.

36-inch seating is between a typical barstool and table seating. And while not quite as flexible regarding design, it can be a good choice for a defined seating area. Remember to leave at least 12-inches of overhang – or if possible 15 to 18-inches for more comfort.

5. How will your island fit into your kitchen layout?

Kitchens are busy spaces, and because of this, every part needs to be cohesively designed. Make sure that the working side of your kitchen functions with the kitchen counter opposite the work space. Does it make sense with the layout and flow of the rest of the space? Does it work with the work triangle of the sink, range, and refrigerator? Or will you need an additional working area or prep sink? 

Answering these questions can help you to define your needs better and be able to fit an island into your kitchen design layout that will be a functional workspace.

This curved island top was carefully planned to allow clearance between the island and desk, while still allowing the right amount of space so that grandchildren can sit at the stools.

Sizing Your Kitchen Island

A large island makes a statement and can be a thing of beauty. Determine whether your habits will help you to present that island at its best: clean and clutter-free.

Island with waterfall top design

Many islands are 36” to 42” deep to accommodate cabinetry and an overhang for seating.

When thoughtfully designed, and well placed a kitchen island offers homeowners plenty of benefits. If it's poorly planned, the wrong size, or improperly placed it can become a frustrating hindrance to the space's flow. This is especially true if you don't have enough room for an island. If you're planning on adding an island to your kitchen design, you'll need to be aware of exactly how much space you'll need. 

While there's no set formula for figuring how to size a kitchen island, here are a few guidelines to consider.

• Bigger isn't necessarily better
While we'd all love a big beautiful island in the kitchen, the fact is in some cases some of the most practical options are smaller, especially if you are working with smaller kitchen space. In fact, a 42-inch long kitchen island can be perfectly functional in the right situation. 

• Clearance determines size.
At the very least, you'll want a minimum of 36” of clearance between your island and any other solid object like countertops, appliances or walls. Thirty-nine inches is better, 42-inches is ideal. Most islands are created using a standard cabinet that is 2-feet deep, but when it comes to custom design, your contractor can build an island that fits within your available space. 

• A large island makes a statement.
If you have the space and want the look, then a large island can work for you. It can be usable on all sides, while providing a center space for decor.

• Even if you have space, less is often more!
Will you keep that large island clean and uncluttered? One common mistake is creating a giant island, 5-feet wide or more. While a large island will look great if you have the floor space, or if you're living area is an open concept design, large islands like this are often impractical. Remember you'll need to clean the surface, and if it's 5-feet wide, it'll be a chore to clean the countertop. 

• Size depends on use.
Think about how you'll use the island. For example, will more than one person be working on the island? What cooking or baking tasks will you use it for? If you're planning on using it for baking, consider putting your commercial mixer of a spring-loaded tray that folds up when needed and lowers out of sight when not in use. Pull out spice drawers, cutting boards, or specialty cabinets can be included to maximize the functionality of your island. 

A kitchen island is a beautiful, functional addition to include in your kitchen remodel. Your design-build contractor can work with you to design your island for maximum functionality and size it to fit your space perfectly. They will work with you to define your needs and then create a design that meets them.  If an island is impractical, they can offer other options, like a peninsula, that can add valuable workspace to your kitchen while still keeping the flow.

If you're considering a kitchen remodel, or have questions about adding an island to your design, give the experts at Degnan Design Build Remodel a call. Our design team has helped our Madison, Wisconsin area clients to create their dream kitchens, and we can help you too!

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 2/1/2019.

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