All you need to know about designing a kitchen island
Updated: Jul 19
Kitchen islands are in demand! They are becoming a staple fixture in a kitchen and it is easy to understand why they are so desirable. Homeowners enjoy having a social hub where family can congregate, visitors can drop in for a coffee, and cocktails can be lined up on a snazzy countertop and enjoyed while the host is rustling up the appetizers. Let’s face it kitchens are taking over the lounge in the entertainment space stakes!
We all secretly want that beautiful showstopper island, but it’s not all for show. Having a large work surface and storage area centered in your kitchen provides a very functional workflow for food prepping and storage; most especially where space limitations is of the essence. Comfortable seating around an island for family and friends creates a social space that brings us all together under the rich aroma of culinary delights (in my case it might be a microwave meal!).
So how do we design our ideal kitchen island? Firstly, we need to address the space. Aisle space for traffic flow around an island is a crucial factor. A rule of thumb is to allow at least 36 inches for aisle width to manoeuvre comfortably between island and kitchen appliances. A 48-inch clearance is ideal for two people to walk past each other, and also allows for extra space when removing hot dishes safely from the oven.
The next thing to consider is your island size. Focus on length first which is indicative of how many seats you would like placed along the island, allowing 24 inches per stool. The resulting island width should take into account the depth of the recessed area for seating to avoid those dirty scuff marks reaching your cabinetry, and also the depth of the integrated cabinetry within the island. You would expect approximately 48 inches for an island width in a reasonable sized kitchen and up to 60 inches in a large kitchen.
How do we maximise storage within an island? Be smart about it. Incorporating ample cabinetry is a valuable source of storage especially for those non-everyday items, like food processors etc. Get creative with storage and install drawers, roll-outs, shelving and lifts for heavy kitchen utensils. Integrating amenities like a sink is advantageous when food prepping, but ensure this it’s not your main sink since you don’t want a build up of dirty dishes on your island! Don’t forget to make room for wine! An integrated wine fridge is the perfect showpiece in an island and easily accessible!
Let’s talk about style. Your island has the opportunity to make a real design statement. I’m a fan of the waterfall island where the countertop surface cascades down both ends of an island, creating a seamless contemporary flow. Natural stone like granite is stunning and popular but expensive. It is usually treated with an impregnating sealer that makes the countertop stain resistant. More affordable finishes are engineered quartz and sold-surface materials like Corian, which is comparable to granite. They are highly resistant to stains and scratches. When considering paint colours for the island base, be bold! Contrast to the kitchen’s aesthetic is interesting but be mindful of the colour you pair with your countertop. You’ll want to get this right first time!