10 Decisions to Make When Planning a Kitchen Island
Dreaming of installing an island in your kitchen? Choose wisely to make the best of your layout and lifestyle
The starting point is to figure out whether you have room for a kitchen island in the first place. If not, don’t worry, because, as this series has shown, there are plenty of other great layout options available instead. But if you do have room, then read on for tips on designing the perfect island for your space.
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Once your designer has established that an island will fit into your kitchen, they should next look at the orientation of the island within its intended space. This depends on a number of factors, including access routes, location of windows and, most importantly, the shape and size of the room.
For example, if your room is rectangular and you want a rectangular island, this would typically follow the same orientation as the room, with the longest edge running parallel with the longest wall.
Of course, you can position the island perpendicular to the longer wall, but this would considerably restrict the size of the island you could have.
The size of your island is the next important consideration. Lengths and depths of islands vary depending on how you plan to use them, but generally they’re a platform for either the sink or the hob.
About 80% of our clients put a hob on their island so they can face into the room, and towards family or guests, while cooking. To allow for a hob, the ideal size of an island is between 2.4m and 3m in length, and approximately 1m to 1.2m in width. The minimum size it could be is 2.2m in length x 1m in width; any less and the work surface would be too small.
It’s important to note that for a continuous piece of worktop with no join, you may need to reduce the size of your intended island, depending on the size of worktop slabs available.
Standard sizes for most solid stone materials are 3m x 1.35m, although within quartz ranges the biggest size available is a jumbo 3.2m x 1.14m. Any bigger than this and you would need two pieces of worktop, with a resulting join.
Alternatively, materials such as Corian (pictured) can be joined seamlessly, although they’re a more costly option as a result.
Once these two core decisions are taken, there are a number of fundamental design decisions to make…
Rather than trying to conceal a worktop join, a different solution is to make a distinguishing feature of it. This is often achieved through mixing and matching different materials. For instance, you might have 3m of quartz contrasted with a wooden breakfast bar or butcher’s block at one end of the worktop.
Another option is to increase the worktop’s surface area by insetting a contrasting worktop colour or material, as in this kitchen. This extends the island outwards, and creates an additional seating area at your preferred height.
Similarly, if you wanted to extend an island down the length of a room, you might drop from worktop height to an adjoining table at the far end. Again this could be in a different colour or material from the main worktop.
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It boils down to personal preference and how you want to use your kitchen, but including appliances on an island will often make for a more sociable setting.
If you do choose to include any appliances, it’s important to liaise as early as possible with your builder to ensure all plumbing and electrical work is in the necessary position. Doing this retrospectively can prove a lot more expensive or, in some cases, impossible.
Appliances you might choose for your island include sinks, hobs, ovens, microwaves, dishwashers and wine coolers. Pop-up sockets can also be included and are convenient if you want to use small appliances on your island, such as blenders and juicers.
There’s a reason that 80% of islands we install come with hobs rather than sinks, and it’s an aesthetic one. With a sink, it’s too easy to leave unsightly accessories around it – dishcloths, washing-up liquid, dishes, hand soap, tea towels… you get the idea. You don’t want these things spoiling the look of your new kitchen island.
However, if you do want a sink in your island, there are a few solutions. Some homeowners install drawers underneath the sink for easy access to washing-up paraphernalia. Not having to bend and strain to pull them out of a cupboard every time encourages them to put the items away after each use.
Other homeowners deliberately split the level of their island, so they have a raised breakfast bar behind their sink, like the one pictured. As well as creating added depth and visual interest, this can act as a screen, obscuring the view of the sink area from the other side of the kitchen.
When talking about islands, a lot of clients tell us they’d love to include a hob, but they don’t want an extractor fan hanging from their ceiling.
So how to get around that? Well, there are a couple of different options. The most popular solution is a flush-mounted ceiling extractor. Contrary to popular belief, in most instances these are not actually mounted into the ceiling, because the body and chassis of these machines is approximately 300mm deep, while a normal ceiling is around 250mm deep. So to fit it we have to build an architectural ceiling bulkhead the same size as the island, like the one in this kitchen. Into this we recess the extractor fan.
As the bulkhead can be used to hide lighting feeds, it also provides the opportunity for some added layers of light within the room.
The other option for an island extractor fan is to have a ‘pop-up’ or downdraft extractor, which rises up out of the worktop at the push of a button. When it’s in use, it rises from the worktop, but when closed, it’s completely flush.
As well as providing light and a filtration system, this extractor also acts as a splatter guard, which is particularly helpful should you have people sitting behind the island.
Many homeowners wish to include seating at their island, as it makes for a sociable setting, as well as providing a practical space for working or dining. Typically, islands are rectangular in shape, with seating at either of the shorter sides, across the back length, or a combination of both.
Ensuring enough space for seating at your island is important. Generally, we would allow a width of 50-60cm from the edge of a worktop to the back of a stool, and 30cm of knee space for an average-sized adult. On a 3m island, these dimensions would allow for 4-6 seats, depending on your choice of stools.
Some stools have very small backs and narrow bodies, while others have large wingbacks, which prohibit more than four stools around an island of the same size.
Shop bar stools on Houzz
A lot of the seating we design for islands is intended for children and their visiting friends. Where children are involved, you might prefer to lower the height of your island’s seating to allow for three or four chairs rather than stools.
If seating is intended for the end of an island, we generally aim to create a drop-down table of 1m x 1m, with four chairs around it. But as an alternative, some people prefer to include their lowered table option along the back length of an island, as pictured above. This creates a longer table, but it’s important to plan this option carefully, otherwise it can leave quite a small space for comfortable dining.
Will a glass splashback suit your kitchen?
Rectangular islands have been covered quite a lot here, but kitchen islands come in different shapes and sizes.
For instance, if the room is wide enough (such as a 5m wide x 10m long room), you could create an L-shaped kitchen layout complemented by an L-shaped island.
Other designs include round islands, islands with curves, or islands with integrated open shelving, which is functional as well as decorative.
Space permitting, you could even include two islands facing each other. With a hob in one and a sink in the other, this arrangement creates an intense and focused work zone, while still allowing others to continue around the outskirts to reach, say, the oven or fridge.
If you’re looking for something a little different, and you have the space and the budget, this last idea would certainly give your kitchen some serious wow factor.
How would you design your dream kitchen island? Share your ideas or photos in the Comments section.