When our designers listen to homeowners about their wants in a kitchen remodel, probably the most requested element is an island.
And why not? Islands make kitchen tasks such as food prep, seating, and storage more efficient, plus they are a design focal point and serve as a room divider.
Of course, space always dictates how many people and how many functions an island can serve. Your designer can provide the best solution for you after taking several factors into account.
Islands work best in kitchens that are at least ten and a half feet deep and 12 feet long. Anything less than that and free flowing movement will be impossible, not to mention trying to open the dishwasher door. The rule of thumb is to have 42 inches, the minimum amount of space between the unit and any surrounding cabinet. But since cooking is frequently a sharing activity, 48 inches is recommended.
Some homeowners choose to have a sink or dishwasher in their island. No problem, but remember that plumbing will have to be housed underneath, so you may not have as much cabinet storage as you want. If you are equipping the island with a bar sink or vegetable washing sink, you will want it to be at least nine inches deep to prevent splashing.
When considering storage options, you may want to opt for glide-out shelves, lazy Susans, tip-out trays or extra deep drawers to make it easier to reach those hard to get items in the back of the unit.
Islands that serve functions such as food prep, cooking, or cleaning, are more aesthetically pleasing if they are configured as bi-levels, with the higher countertop serving as a screen from the invariable mess and clutter. For example, your design could include a 36-inch high work counter for food prep and a 42-inch high bar for casual dining. You could also vary the finish on the counters to further define the zones.
Even if you don’t want an island cooktop, you’ll want electrical outlets for when you want to plug in a warming tray, buffet server, and such. Another thing to consider when using the island for a cooking center is adequate ventilation. Depending on ceiling height and overall space of the kitchen, a vent may block the view to adjacent living areas or provide a barrier to those who want to be seated opposite you while you cook. Your designer can help you determine the best option.
When using the island for additional seating, whether casual or for meals, you will also need knee clearance. We recommend nine to fifteen inches. Besides knee room, don’t forget about elbow room – about 24 inches for each person.
Once the function of the island is determined, you can have fun with the shape, materials, and color. Islands can be configured as squares, oblongs, triangles, round, angled, and even L-shaped. They can be stand alone or abutted to a wall or room divider. Hint: For those with young children, island corners can be rounded to protect children from injury.
Numerous countertop options are available from natural stone, solid surface, concrete, butcher block, marble, and stainless steel, but that’s another blog.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the lighting. If the island is task oriented, you will need overhead recessed lighting. But you’ll also want to supplement that with pendants for dining and setting the mood.
Of course, many more elements go into a functional, beautiful kitchen besides the island. But by creating an island that combines form with function, you will help your kitchen look and perform better.