One of the most frequent questions I get as a designer is: Can I put an island in my kitchen?
Gone are the days when kitchens were the epicenter of the kitchen and here to stay, at least for a long time, is the modern version of the kitchen that has become not only a space for cooking, but a center for social gatherings and entertainment. To balance all the functions of a kitchen, designers have turned to the kitchen island, making it the new workhorse of the kitchen.
The islands are multifunctional and offer owners additional work areas, storage space and social / entertainment space. More recently, the kitchen island has even become the main piece of furniture for dining. With so many features, it’s no wonder the kitchen island has become such a popular design item in the home.
But is an island suitable for your kitchen, and also do you have space for it?
Let’s start by looking at the different island configurations and the space requirements for each.
The Work Island – Cooks serve function and purpose with the added bonus of more easily accessible storage for everyday items or deep storage for appliances all at once in a blue moon.
The function of the work islands is to give the homeowner more useful space for the preparation and daily tasks that take place in the kitchen. For bakers, the work island is often constructed with a marble or quartz surface to facilitate the preparation of the dough. For novice chefs and cooks, the work island offers plenty of square footage to create multiple dishes at once with the convenience of tasks being done in one central location.
The work island is most effective if the NKBA clearances for pedestrian paths are met, however these are only guidelines and are not part of any IRC code.
When planning your work island, you must first establish whether your kitchen is a one or two cook kitchen. In other words, how many people will cook at a time? For most people, even if there are multiple cooks, they tend to stick to the guidelines for a one-person kitchen. That guideline calls for a minimum of 42 “for the work aisles and 36” for the walkway.
In a two-galley kitchen, the work aisles are increased to 48 “while the walkway remains at 36”.
Another island that remains extremely popular is the island designed as the social hub of the kitchen. On this island, designers incorporate bar stools for additional seating and social gatherings. Properly designed, this island will quickly become the place to hang out, do homework, socialize, and catch up on the day. Although it still functions as a work island and offers storage, its main purpose is to bring people together.
For this island, the work aisle clearances remain the same, however the aisles need to be thought about once the stools or seats are incorporated into the design.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends a 44 “clearance for the path where there are stools. However, 36” is allowed but only leaves clearance for one person to pass.
If the stools are not walkable, 32 “clearance is acceptable.
Another island design that is becoming increasingly popular is the island designed to function as a home workspace and kitchen table. This design idea works well in smaller spaces where the island and kitchen table are difficult to accommodate. In this design, the designer must pay close attention to adding enough seats to accommodate the needs of the users and the size of their family.
All of the NKBA guidelines discussed above apply to this island, but it is important to think more about the seating to ensure the island works properly, allowing the owner to use the space as intended.
For table islands, it is important to consider the following seating criteria. For a 36 “high counter, allow 24” wide x 15 “deep per person seated.
If you plan to raise a section of your island counter, all the guidelines remain the same, with the exception of the depth of space required which is reduced to 12 “.
Designing an island that fits your space will require some planning and following the guidelines. But with the right distribution and spaces, a kitchen island can become one of the most used spaces in the home.