Kitchen Islands: A Guide to Sizes
Having an island is probably the most desired feature in a new kitchen. While they are lovely and can be incredibly practical for a kitchen layout, they won’t fit into every space. There are some kitchen island size guidelines you should consider before deciding if this feature is right for your space.
Having an island isn’t always possible and installing one for the sake of it can actually make a kitchen much more difficult to use on a daily basis.
While the average size of a kitchen island is 2000mm x 1000mm (80 x 40 inches), there are many possibilities when it comes to the shape and size of kitchen islands.
Everything will be determined by the size and shape of your room. Not every island has to be large with a seating area. Small, compact prep islands can work well if you have a smaller space.
If you are considering having a kitchen island, the following guidelines are a helpful way to figure out if one will work for your space.
If it’s not looking like a kitchen island will work, don’t worry. There is an alternative at the end of this post that I promise you’ll love just as much.
How much space do you need between an island and a counter?
Ideally, you should aim to have at least 1 – 1.2m (40 – 47 inches) between the worktop/cabinets and the run. Any narrower and it will likely feel too tight.
This distance ensures you can walk around the island easily. It also allows someone to stand at the island or worktop/cabinets and have someone walk behind them.
Finally, it ensures that all drawers and cupboards can open easily without any limitations.
If you are tight on space but really want an island, you can push the gap to 90 cm (35 inches), but make sure you are happy with this limited space before signing off your kitchen design.
On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much space between an island and the worktop/cabinets. Having a space of 1.5 metres (60 inches) or more can feel a little too big.
The island can start to (if you’ll forgive the pun) float away from the fixed kitchen, looking a little lost in the space. It is also not as practical for the layout, as it will cause you to take a few extra steps every time you change workstations.
As with everything in your kitchen, you want to find a happy medium between island space and walking space.
Top Tip: Try setting up an island made of cardboard boxes in your existing space for a week or two. Is there enough space to get around? Or are the edges of the boxes crushed by the end of the first day? If the latter is the case, you might not have enough space for an island.
How big is too big for a kitchen island?
Having a great big kitchen island is fantastic, but there can be such a thing as too big. The size of the room will dictate the size of your island.
Another limiting factor is the size that the worktop material is available in. Ideally, you want to create the island top out of one clean slab of material.
Most stone (quartz/granite) worktops come in slabs of approximately 3m x 1.4m. However, some slabs are jumbo-sized and are available a little larger at around 3.2m x 1.5m.
Be safe and ask questions. Don’t plan anything bigger than 3m without first checking if the worktop of choice is available in the size required. If it’s not, you will have to have joint lines in the worktop, which can spoil the look of an island.
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How much space do you need for a kitchen island?
Now we’ve explored the upper limits of space for an island, it’s time to look at the other end of the spectrum. So, the question is, how much space do you need for an island?
If we add together the dimensions we now know, this will give us a good guide on how much space is needed to fit an island.
650mm cabinet depth
+ 1000mm walkway space
+ 900mm island (made up fo 600mm cabinet + 300mm overhang)
+ 1000mm walkway
= 3550mm wide.
That means you need 3550mm of central free space in your room for an island if you have only one run of cabinets in your kitchen.
If you have two runs of cabinets, you will need 4200mm of clear space for an island in the middle.
These measurements are based on having an island 900mm in depth. If you want a deeper island, then add on the millimetres of extra depth you want.
For example, if you want an island that is 1200mm deep (full cabinet + shallow depth cabinet on the back + overhang), you would need to add an additional 300mm to the overall size needed for the room, making it 3850mm.
The size/depth of your cabinets may also vary slightly depending on your design and manufacturer. You may only require 600mm of depth for your cabinets, giving you a bit more room to play with for your island.
Alternatively, you may want to install deeper cabinets for more countertop space and thus will require more space in your room to accommodate a kitchen island.
This can sound a bit confusing, but it’s not too tricky if you write everything down. Measure, document, and calculate – then you should know roughly how much space you have and how big the island can be.
As always, if in doubt, check with your kitchen designer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s our job!
How much overhang should a kitchen island have for seating?
Many clients envision their island as the social hub of their kitchen, with space for cooking as well as seating. An overhanging worktop, in this case, serves as a makeshift table for the kids, guests, and armchair chefs in your life.
The minimum overhang for this kind of seating is 20 cm (8 inches), though 25 cm (10 inches) is the standard. The maximum is 30 cm (12 inches) – anything deeper than this and you will need supports. These can be legs or L-shaped brackets.
Top tip: the worktop you choose also determines the overhang limit. The thicker the worktop, the larger the unsupported overhang can be. Here is a quick guide to consider:
12mm thick = 200mm overhang
20mm thick = 250mm overhang
30mm thick = 300mm overhang
If you are at all unsure, check with your worktop supplier or kitchen designer.
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How much space do you need per person for seating at a kitchen island?
Having space for bar stool seating at a kitchen island is a common request and often a feature to consider when designing a kitchen island.
A good general rule to go by is 60cm per person (24 inches). This allows for enough elbow room to sit comfortably and not feel like you are on top of the person next to you.
If space is at a premium, you could go a little less at 50cm – especially if the seating is to be primarily used by kids.
Let’s do the math. If you want to seat four people you should be looking at having an island length of around 2.4m (60cm x 4 = 2.4m).
Top tip: If you don’t have enough space for the number of seats required all along the back of the island, consider having an L shaped overhang to seat people on two sides of the island. You could still seat four people but wouldn’t need to have an island as large as 2.4m long.
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What can you do if you don’t have room for a kitchen island?
Not all of us will have the luxury of a space big enough to fit a kitchen island, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a social seating area in your kitchen.
An equally effective alternative is to create a peninsula. You can design seating on the outside to create that social element, as well as gain more prep space by having a deeper worktop.
The benefit of the peninsula is that you don’t have to have that extra clearance space on a fourth side like you would for an island. This means you can often design a peninsula in a smaller space and still achieve a seating area.
Islands are great, but peninsulas are too. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t fit an island – this alternative will give you an equally stylish and practical seating and prep option for your new kitchen.
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Kitchen Island or Peninsula – A Complete Design Guide
Having an island in your kitchen can be the dream for many, but it’s not always the correct decision depending on the space you have available.
Using these guidelines you can ensure you get the perfect sized kitchen island for your room. One that maximises a functional layout while not compromising on the space needed to move around the room and not feel cluttered.
Now you just need to decide if you want to have your hob, sink or nothing at all on your kitchen island.
If you’re considering having your hob, have a read of my post – Is a Venting Hob the Best Option for a Kitchen Island? or check out my post – Island Cooker Hoods – Everything You Need To Know.
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.