9 Things To Consider When Planning The Perfect Kitchen Island
Kitchen islands are becoming increasingly popular. Most of my clients now ask if they can plan an island into their kitchen design.
It makes sense, as not only do islands add a definite wow factor to any kitchen but they can also be practical when it comes to gaining extra work surface and storage space.
However, there are a few important factors to consider when planning a kitchen island.
In this post, I will talk through what all of these considerations are. By the end of reading this, you will know exactly what you need to consider when planning the perfect kitchen island.
How To Plan The Perfect Kitchen Island
Here are my top nine questions to ask yourself when planning the perfect kitchen island. These considerations will help you create the ideal island for your space and personal cooking needs.
Working through each point will help to focus on exactly what type of kitchen island is right for you. You’ll be able to determine what size, shape and function will be the perfect fit.
1. Do You Have Enough Space For A Kitchen Island?
The first big question, and the most crucial one, is if you have enough space in your kitchen for an island. If the answer is no, stop right here. Do not pass go; do not collect a kitchen island.
It can be a little heartbreaking if you don’t have space for a kitchen island, but placing one in a room without enough space will only create more problems and long-term frustration.
Kitchens are a hub of activity and the heart of the home. They have to work well and cater to everyday life.
In case you can’t fit in an island, have a read of my post: Best Kitchen Layouts: A Design Guide to see what other options could work better for you and your space.
How much space do I need for a kitchen island?
To have a standard-size island (900mm or 35.5in deep), as a minimum you need a room that is at least 3.5 metres (11.5 feet) deep.
This will allow you to have a run of cabinets on one wall with an island in the middle of the room and a one-metre gap on either side of the island. This space acts as a walkway and adds breathing room around the island.
A one-metre gap is a comfortable minimum. Of course, if you have a little bit more space, that’s great.
I have broken down how I got to these measurements below. The overall room size needed will alter slightly depending on the depth of the cabinets you are having, the size of the island you want, and the layout of the kitchen you desire.
You can alter these measurements to suit your circumstance, but I would always advise aiming to have the one-metre walkway/gap around the island.
650mm cabinet depth + 1000mm walkway space + 900mm island (600mm cabinet + 300mm overhang) + 1000mm walkway = 3550mm wide.
3550mm if only one run of cabinet and an island
4200mm if two runs of cabinets and an island in the middle.
These measurements are based on having an island that is 900mm deep. If you want a deeper island, then add on the extra depth of the island to determine how much more room you will need.
If you would like to learn more about the measurements required for kitchen islands, then have a read of my post: Kitchen Islands: A Guide to Sizes.
2. What Is The Purpose Of Your Kitchen Island?
There are several reasons why you might want to include an island as part of your kitchen design. There’s no right or wrong reason here. Every kitchen is different, as are everyone’s tastes, wants and needs when it comes to kitchen design.
Here are a few reasons you might want a kitchen island:
Aesthetic – Simply put, having a kitchen island looks great!
Social (seating) – You want to create a social hub in your kitchen by adding some seating (bar stools) around a kitchen island.
More prep/countertop space – You like to spread out when you cook and serve food and want as much countertop space as possible.
Extra cabinet storage – Let’s be honest, you can never have too much storage space. Having an island means more cabinets, which means more storage!
Sink/Hob – You want to put the sink or hob on the kitchen island. This may be because you don’t have enough space on the wall run to fit both, or it could be to add more of a feature to your island.
Identifying the purpose of your kitchen island can help when it comes to designing and planning the cabinets that are its base.
For example, if it’s all about the look, then you might consider a freestanding island as you don’t need the cabinets for storage.
Or, if it’s for practical cooking and preparation reasons, then you might want to keep the countertop clear and design it without a sink or hob.
3. What Shape Should Your Kitchen Island Be?
The next thing to consider when designing your island is the shape of your kitchen. This will dictate not only the size, but also the orientation, curvature, and overall geometry of the island.
That being said, it doesn’t have to match exactly. An L-shaped or curved island can add the wow factor to your kitchen – if you have space.
Just don’t try to squeeze in a large curved island in a rectangular kitchen without the space to walk around.
Another thing to consider is the placement of your doors (internal and external). You’ll need a bit of extra space between these elements and the island to make sure it’s comfortable and appealing to the eye.
You don’t want to get stuck with not enough space to open your patio doors on a hot day!
4. What Type Of Countertop Do You Want On Your Island?
The type of countertop you pick for your kitchen island may influence the size and shape you can achieve.
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, but this is only a selection.
This can limit the size of your kitchen island. Be safe – don’t plan anything bigger than three metres 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. Ideally, you want to create it out of one clean slab of material.
On the other hand, if you pick an acrylic countertop material such as Corian, you can create whatever size and shape kitchen island you like. Corian countertops can be joined together seamlessly and made into all kinds of curves and shapes.
You may also consider mixing two types of material on your kitchen island. Having a timber breakfast bar section can create a fantastic-looking contrast and are a softer material for dining on, rather than granite/quartz.
For more detailed information on the different types of kitchen countertops, check out my post – What is the best kitchen worktop for your budget?
5. Do You Want Your Hob/Cooktop On The Kitchen Island?
Having a hob or cooktop on your kitchen island is increasing in popularity. This layout can create a more social cooking environment, where you stand facing the room or your guests seated around the island. This means you don’t have to have your back to everyone, and everything, while you are cooking.
It can also act as a bit of a central hub, or command centre if you will, with the main cooking area in the centre of the kitchen.
A possible downside, or at the very least something to consider, is the safety implication of having a hob/cooktop close to where people may be sitting.
This means heat, steam, splashes or spitting grease from your cooking might get a little too close to people – especially worrying if you have small children.
You will also need to factor in getting a power supply to your island. In the case of an induction hob, this will likely be a larger, dedicated power supply from your fuse box. This usually means taking the floor up and burying the cables.
The other consideration to make is what type of extractor, if any, you will have if you put your hob/cooktop on the island. I’ll explain these in the next section, but it’s worth noting that non-wall-mounted cooker hoods are usually more expensive and less effective than their traditional counterparts.
Check out my video on how to plan the perfect kitchen island!
6. What Type Of Cooker Hood (Extractor) Would You Prefer?
If the answer to question number 5 was yes, you will now need to consider your options for cooker hoods/extractors.
When it comes to extraction for the cooktop/hob on an island there are four options:
An island extractor is the big chimney style cooker hood that would hang down from the ceiling directly above your cooktop.
There are lots of different styles of these on the market and most come with the ability to either be vented out or recirculating.
Although island extractors may not always be the most attractive option, they will usually be the most effective choice when it comes to extraction, especially if they can be vented out.
Having your extractor directly above and closer to your cooktop/hob will mean that it catches the most amount of grease/smells from cooking and can, therefore, extract the most out of your kitchen.
You May Also Like:
How to Buy the Best Cooker Hood for Your Kitchen
A ceiling extractor is a little less in your face (literally) than an island extractor. These extractors are designed to fit flush into your ceiling above your hob/cooktop.
If for any reason it can’t be fitted flush into your ceiling, it is quite common to build a box that comes down from the ceiling so you can install the extractor in this.
Operated via remote control (because no one can reach a ceiling extractor), these extractors can also be either vented out or recirculated, depending on the make and model.
A downdraft extractor lives in your countertop behind your hob/cooktop and can be raised when needed through the touch of a button. It then neatly lowers itself down to be flush with the countertop and hidden away when not required.
There is definitely a certain amount of ‘cool’ or ‘wow’ factor with a downdraft extractor and it can be a great alternative if you can’t or don’t want anything above your hob/cooktop.
The thing to keep in mind with a downdraft extractor is the space it will take up from the cabinets below it. This is due to the extraction mechanism needing to be housed underneath the worktop, which might also mean your island needs to be a bit deeper.
You will most likely need to have a half-depth cabinet on the back of your island for the mechanism and motor to sit in.
Venting Hob (Hob With Integrated Extractor)
A venting hob or venting cooktop is similar to a downdraft extractor except it combines the downdraft extractor into the hob/cooktop itself, creating a two-in-one appliance (extractor + hob).
Again, as this is relatively new to the market, there is a certain level of ‘wow-factor’ that comes with it.
There are some downsides and things to keep in mind, however. Like the downdraft, it will take up cabinet space underneath the hob to house the mechanism and motor. You will most likely lose the drawer or cabinet space below your hob.
As well as this, you will only get four zones, as the fifth or centre zone is taken up by the extractor itself.
If you would like more information on venting hobs and how they work, have a read of my post:
Is a Venting Hob the Best Option for a Kitchen Island?
7. Do You Want Your Sink On The Kitchen Island?
Having a sink on your kitchen island is another popular option. If you can’t fit both your hob and sink on a wall run, then one of these usually has to go on the island. If you don’t like the thought of the hob or any of the extractor options, then the sink can be the better choice.
Be aware that sometimes the sink can become a bit of a dumping ground for dirty cups and plates. We all do it. So if you’d rather have a nice clean island or just don’t want to see the washing up on there, then this isn’t the best option for you.
Keep in mind that you will need to get your water feed and waste to the island. This means chopping up the floor and plumbing these bits early in the renovation process.
However, if you’re having a full kitchen renovation and you want to change the layout of your kitchen, now is the time!
8. Do You Want Seating At Your Kitchen Island?
Having seating around a kitchen island can be a great way to create a social hub in the kitchen. This is perfect for chatting to someone while you cook, or having the kids sit and do their homework.
If you want seating, this can influence the size and shape of your kitchen island.
The length of the island will be dictated by how many people you would like to be able to seat.
A good general rule to go by is 60cm (24in) per person. 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 if you don’t mind getting a bit close, or the seating is primarily for kids.
If you don’t have the space for the number of seats you want all in one row, consider having an L-shaped seating section and using one of the ends to also seat people.
9. Does Your Kitchen Island Need Power Supplied To It?
Yes! In my opinion, the answer should always be yes.
You are always going to need power wired into your kitchen island if you are having any larger appliances on or in it. They could include an electric hob, wine cooler, dishwasher, etc.
Aside from needing power for appliances, having sockets on the island to plug in small appliances of charge phones and laptops is a must. You might also want this for your kettle, toaster, espresso machine – any small appliance that migrates onto the island.
You could achieve this in three ways:
1) having pop-up sockets cut into the countertop
2) having sockets cut into the ends of the island
3) tucking sockets underneath the seating overhang section.
However you do it and wherever you place them, you won’t regret putting power on the island. Trust me!
Planning the perfect kitchen island can sometimes feel a little overwhelming at first. However, if you work through each of these 9 questions, then your kitchen island will almost design itself and you will be left with the perfect island to suit your particular needs.
If you’re currently undergoing a kitchen renovation or if you’d just like to upgrade your existing kitchen, then have a read of my post – 11 Accessories You’ll Want For Your Kitchen Renovation.
If you would like to learn even more about the measurements required for kitchen islands, then have a read of my post – Kitchen Islands: A Guide to Sizes
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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.