7 Design Considerations for the Perfect Kitchen Island

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Next, you want to factor in all the necessary “workspaces” into your island design. This will help you determine island size and location in your kitchen. A few kitchen island necessities:
two kitchen designs
Left: Watermill Walnut hardwood flooring in Colorado Kitchen from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. Right: Traditional kitchen by Boston Kitchen & Bath Designers Venegas and Company.

1. Outlets

You can really never have too many. And it is easy to hide them when not in use when you factor them into the overall kitchen design early on. You can even use pop up outlets that are accessible only when you need them.

2 examples of hidden kitchen outlets
Left: Traditional kitchen by Beaverton Cabinets & Cabinetry Rockwood Cabinetry. Right: Eclectic spaces by Mountain View General Contractors Harrell Remodeling

Be sure to talk to your electrician early on in the process to make sure they incorporate all the necessary components for your island electrical plan.

2. Storage

Your kitchen island is going to take up roughly 20% of your kitchen — don’t let it be a waste of space. And storage doesn’t mean you have to hide everything behind your cabinets. There are a number of great storage solutions you can incorporate into your island.

Three examples of kitchen storage
Top left: Traditional kitchen by Millersburg Cabinets & Cabinetry Mullet Cabinet. Bottom left: Contemporary kitchen by Inglewood Architects & Building Designers (fer) studio. Right: Traditional kitchen by Phoenix Interior Designers & Decorators Palm Design Group.

Depending on your design aesthetic, your storage doesn’t have to be hidden behind cabinets. This eclectic Los Angeles home allows some of the owner’s books, cups, and plates to be on display in the island. This Cleveland home has pull out shelving so the cabinetry is accessible and easy to keep organized. Instead of traditional drawers or cabinets, this island has wicker baskets.

When designing storage keep a few things in mind:

Contemporary kitchen by Washington Architects & Building Designers Bonfigli Design
  • Everything must be easily accessible when the island is in use
  • If you are going to keep something on “display” rather behind a closed cabinet door, are you going to be able to keep it looking neat on a regular basis
  • Don’t make the island too big or too narrow. Generally 3 feet wide by 5-7 feet long depending on whether you are going to fit appliances into your island
  • Make sure the cabinets and drawers won’t conflict with cabinets and drawers from the opposite side when fully extended.

3. Appliances

If you are going to incorporate appliances into your kitchen island, and most people do, this will play into the overall size and design of your island. Task planning becomes more important as well because you don’t want to be loading the dishwasher at the same time as you are cutting up vegetables. Having certain appliances in your kitchen island can be a huge advantage to the overall functionality of the space. Having a spare sink on your island means easier cleanup and less clutter guaranteed. And it doesn’t have to be big unless you are installing your main sink in the island. In this case, you want a compost, garbage and other necessities close by.

Kitchen appliance storage
Left: Contemporary kitchen by Southfield Kitchen & Bath Designers Al Williams. Right: Storage spaces by Costa Mesa General Contractors JDL Construction.

If you are installing a stove in your island be sure to factor in the extra space for the range and venting overhead.

4. Seating

Kitchen island seatng
Left: Traditional kitchen by Ocean City Interior Designers & Decorators Beach Transformations. Right: Contemporary kitchen with Maple Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors.

Seating at your kitchen island is optional, but can also add to the functionality of your space. If you want seating at your island the ideal height is 42”. This provides more flexibility for the design of the island and gives you more room when seated at the island.

If you are going to have seating, kitchen designer Thomas Ahmann, suggests at least 15-18” as an ideal overhang.

5. Workspace

If you are going to use your kitchen island as a workspace don’t underestimate the importance of size. If it is too short, or too narrow, you will quickly run out of room. And don’t let appliances disrupt the flow. If you are installing a sink consider installing it to one side so you have a large work surface. Or if your island is large enough you can install it in the middle thereby giving you two distinct workspaces.

Kitchen workspaces
Left: Traditional kitchen with Reclaimed Oak Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, by Claremont Cabinets & Cabinetry Crown Point Cabinetry. Right: Mediterranean kitchen by Carmel Architects & Building Designers Claudio Ortiz Design Group, Inc.

Make sure the necessities of your workspaces such as knives, mixing bowls, compost, and garbage are designed to be close at hand when you are working.

6. Lighting

Lighting above your island is so important to the overall functionality of your space.

2 examples of kitchen lighting
Left: Walnut flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. Right: Contemporary kitchen by Other Metro Kitchen & Bath Designers Mal Corboy Design.

Recessed/Track lighting is a great way to light up your kitchen island. And if you install dimmers than you can adjust the brightness as you need to. You can also use pendant/hanging lighting units above your island. When in doubt you can never go wrong with a combination of both.

7. Dare to be Different

Your kitchen island doesn’t have to be so “square”. Have a little fun with it, as long as it fits in with the scale and design of your room. Just make sure it is something you know you will enjoy for years to come.

3 examples of contemporary kitchen islands
Top Left: Contemporary kitchen by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Butler Armsden Architects. Bottom Left: Contemporary kitchen by Toronto Architects & Building Designers Taylor Smyth Architects. Right: Contemporary kitchen by East Anglia Cabinets & CabinetryBrayer Design.

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