Kitchen Design: What Size Kitchen Island Will Fit In My Kitchen?

Small Kitchen Design: How To Fit An Island In Your Kitchen

Secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, we all dream of having a beautiful kitchen, with a huge island where our family can gather for dinner, our friends can sit, and we can enjoy lively conversation while we're preparing for the party, and where we'll have all extra storage we need. After all, a well-planned and designed island can give you the smooth workflow you need for preparing and cooking food while providing space for dining, working, and storage. 

However, a poorly planned island can be frustrating. This is especially true if space is limited in a smaller kitchen. But fret not! Even in a smaller kitchen with proper planning, you can enjoy a functional and beautiful island.

Here are some ideas to help you design the perfect island when remodeling your kitchen.

Kitchen Design: An Island For Every Kitchen!

Small Rectangular Island

One of the smallest islands we’ve built, it is only 48” x 18”. But the clients love it and would not wish to live without it. There is 36” between the island and the sink, with about 42” from the island to the range. The distance to the pantry cabinets is well over 36”, while the “pinch point” of the refrigerator is just barely less than 36”.

When it comes to kitchen islands, don't assume that because you have a smaller kitchen, an island is out of the question. Depending on your kitchen design, there are many options available to make an island work and offer you many of the options you want, even when space is limited. Most design-build companies offer options with reduced depth, customized height, or extra large cabinets that can be custom tailored to fit your space.

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When creating your kitchen design, you'll need to consider several factors such as how many people live in the home, and how they use the kitchen space. However, the most crucial consideration is the actual size of the kitchen.

Medium Rectangular Island with an Angled Top

While the rest of the floorplan is similar in some ways, this kitchen is slightly larger than the one above. This allows for a larger (69” x 24”) island plus overhang on 2 sides which provides seating for the 3 kids. Click the image above to see more photos, noticing that the island overhanging countertop is an irregular shape, a “d” of sorts, allowing for the seating where there is room available and narrowing up at the end near the range to allow plenty of room to access the pantry and refrigerator.

The ideal distance around an island is about three feet. This is enough space to allow for free and safe movement around the kitchen, and offers the right clearance between the island and cabinet and appliance doors, allowing them to be opened easily and safely without obstruction. In a large kitchen, you might appreciate 42” or more space, but if the space is too large, it is no longer convenient for working back and forth. For most small kitchens, even if you are limited to 36” to 39” of distance, you’ll find it better to have the island than to not have the island.

Potentially the most dangerous obstruction is always the oven in the range, followed closely by the dishwasher door. Because these doors open downward, they can be a trip and fall hazard, which can be particularly hazardous if you're carrying hot food, or sharp knives. While it's always best to leave as much space as possible around the island, a minimum of three feet should provide safe passage.

Medium-Large Rectangular Island with a Curved Top

Yet another variation on an asymmetrical island design, this is the largest of these 3 islands, at 84” x 24”. Click the image to see more photos. The curve of the island top is placed precisely to fit where the most room is available for 2 grandkids to sit, and stays narrow where walking room is needed to go by the pantry and desk.

Islands can vary widely in size and shape, but the minimum recommended size for a fixed kitchen island is around 40 by 40 inches (if square) and possibly as small as 48” x 18” (if rectangular). Although small, an island of this size is still a practical working island and includes the option of integrating appliances like a microwave, or dishwasher. An island of this size would require a minimum clearance zone of about 37 ½ inches making it ideal for a smaller kitchen; however this space is suitable for one person working in the kitchen, but many of our clients solve this problem by working from opposite sides of the island at once. One person works from the sink side, while the other stands with his back to the range or the refrigerator, for example.

Planning For a Kitchen Island

Especially in a smaller space, you should plan your island as a multipurpose workstation. For example, including space for seating, cubbies for storing cookbooks or cooking utensils, as well as a workspace for food preparation into your island design.

Medium-Large Square Island

At 72” x 57” it’s not truly square, but an island like this tends to feel square. A generous amount of space (45” to 57”) surrounds this island on each side. It provides seating for 3, and is part of a larger-than-average kitchen.

In terms of overall kitchen design, you need to keep your island proportional. Creating an island that is too large for your space can ruin the kitchen's aesthetic. Typically size is determined by the distance available around it. A good kitchen designer will work with you to design an island that is functional, proportional to your space, and aesthetically pleasing. 

Even in a large kitchen, the proportion is important. You may have space for a large island, but if it's too big for the area, it can make the kitchen feel cramped and inefficient. While it may seem logical to leave more space around the island in a larger kitchen, a wider walkway between the island the workspace opposite, for example over four feet, can make the kitchen layout less comfortable to use and impact the workflow making it less user-friendly. 

To make the most of your space, consider what you'll need in terms of functionality. In a smaller kitchen counter space is essential, and today the focus is on clean lines for a modern look. By integrating your microwave into the island, you can free up valuable counter space. An island is a perfect place to create open shelving for cookbooks, an area for your pet's dishes or a quiet sleeping nook for Fido, hidden storage for special items like holiday platters, or a fold out appliance shelf for your stand mixer. If it's larger, adding an induction cooktop or a small prep sink can give you extra functionality and free up space for additional cabinets for improved storage.

Adding an island to your kitchen design can be an excellent solution, even in a smaller kitchen. You can use an island to add a visual focal point in your kitchen, create a dedicated workspace, for example, if you love to bake, a smaller island with a marble countertop can be the perfect place for making bread, or create additional seating for the kids to do homework, or relax with a cup of coffee in the morning. When you work with a designer, they can help you to create an island that will meet your needs, look great, and give you that little extra space you need to improve your kitchen's functionality.

If you're planning a kitchen remodeling project in the greater Madison Wisconsin area, give the expert designers at Degnan Design-Build-Remodel a call at (608) 846-5963. We can design the perfect kitchen island to meet your needs and give you the kitchen of your dreams! Call today and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your remodeling project.

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