The kitchen can be one of the toughest, and most fun, rooms in a house to design. There are so many possible configurations for preparation, cooking, serving, cleanup, and storage. An island can handle any number of those functions, expanding the counter and storage space of your kitchen, but you’ll need to decide what your priorities are before you and your designer can create a kitchen island that’s perfect for you.
Get Out the Tape Measure
First, do you have room for an island? An island should be 2 to 3 feet wide and at least 4 feet long, but if you’re including a range, sink, and dishwasher, it should be at least 7 feet long. And to ensure there’s room to work at the island and the counter next to it, and allow people to move around, you’ll need about 4 feet of space on all sides. So if your kitchen is less than 13 feet wide, you should think about other options for increasing your counter space.
What’s Most Important to You?
About those priorities: Some kitchen designers still hold to the work triangle of refrigerator, stove, and sink equidistant from each other for efficient movement. Others, working with a more open plan, try to arrange the kitchen into work zones where like tasks are grouped — food prep with trash and compost nearby, or baking with the oven, counter, and baking supplies in their own area. So you’ll need to decide what approach you want to take to using your kitchen.
Maybe it’s food prep on the island, so you’ll want a second small sink there to wash the vegetables. Or if cooking while conversing is your thing, you might want the cooktop on the island, with seating for family members and guests at a bar on the other side of the island. A more spacious kitchen will allow you to customize, building in multiple ovens, dishwashers, refrigerators, and sinks if that’s how your family likes to use the kitchen. The island should have storage cabinets, drawers, or shelves, too. Their configuration depends on what supplies you’ll need for the tasks your island is designed for.
[Read More: Five Kitchen Remodel Design Ideas for Your Home]
If you’re planning to include bar-stool seating on one side of the island, make the counter 42 inches high and include an overhang of 15 to 18 inches so the people sitting there have room for their knees. On the working side of the island, the counter should be 36 inches high — provided you’re 5-foot-3 to 5-foot-8. If you’re designing a kitchen island for your family, by all means consider adapting the counter height so that it’s most comfortable for the main user. If you’re incorporating a baking station, make the counter in that zone lower — about 7 to 8 inches below your elbow.
If you’re putting your main sink in the island, you’ll probably want your dishwasher next to it. If you’re including a cooktop, you’ll need a range hood. And don’t forget the light and power. Include pendant and other task lighting over your island; make it dimmable if you’ll also be eating there. And for those plug-in appliances, be sure to work in plenty of outlets.