7 Design Considerations for the Perfect Kitchen Island

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If the kitchen is the epicenter of the home then your kitchen island is the epicenter of your kitchen. It can make your kitchen super functional, or just become a harbinger of clutter. We’ve identified some of the most important design considerations for creating the perfect kitchen island.

The first step to any interior design project is to understand your needs for the space, how you want it to function and what purpose it will serve. Your kitchen island can do a variety of things – act as work station for food prep, homework station, breakfast bar, charging station for devices and of course provide valuable storage solutions for your home. But in addition to designing around what you need today, you also want to plan for the possibilities and create a kitchen island that can evolve.

Next, you want to factor in all the necessary “work spaces” into your island design. This will help you determine island size and location in your kitchen. A few kitchen island necessities:

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.

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. This Colorado home has factored in storage and cabinetry but also a wine refrigerator.

Watermill Walnut Hardwood Flooring in Colorado Kitchen from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

This Cleveland, home has pull out shelving so the cabinetry is accessible and easy to keep organized.

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.

Instead of traditional drawers or cabinets this island has wicker baskets.

You can even set up a mini indoor planter for your favorite herbs (or wine as the case may be in this DC home) – nothing better than fresh basil for your pasta dish!

And don’t forget to make room your appliances, especially those that you might not use on a regular basis. This California home has a great cabinet designed for the KitchenAid mixed. It pops out and up for easy access.

When designing storage keep a few things in mind:

• 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 clean up 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 compost, garbage and other necessities close by.

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

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.

Traditional Kitchen with Reclaimed Oak Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, by Claremont Cabinets & Cabinetry Crown Point Cabinetry

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 work spaces.

Make sure the necessities of your work spaces 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.

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.

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