Islands are very popular in kitchens, the provide extra worktop and storage, room for appliances and also make an attractive feature as well as being a social hub. Increasingly new kitchens are planned along with extensions incorporating kitchen, living and dining areas. Many of us visualize family and friends gathering round a kitchen island to eat, socialise or even work. It is rare that a customer’s wish list does not include an island and for good reason, they are a multi-function space that if executed properly can enhance any living space, providing a “buffer” between the kitchen and living areas and directing foot fall. However there are a few points that are worth considering when designing the perfect island for your perfect kitchen.
The first question that should be asked is whether you actually have the space for one. An ideal would be a space large enough for one person to be working at the island and a second to walk behind them without touching. Most designers will recommend at least 1 meter between the island and any other cupboards or walls. This rule is doubly important if there are appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines or under- counter fridges and freezers, or in areas that incorporate seating. In really tight spaces with no appliances or seating then 800mm can be considered but it is worth shaving a little off the depth of the island as a first resort.
If you do not have space for an island than consider a free-standing butchers block, or work bench. These are useful pieces of furniture as they tend to be narrower than a fixed island and can be moved out of the way if need be. A high table can provide a seating area and extra worktop space, or you could consider a peninsular. A peninsular is similar an island but it is attached to the main kitchen on one side leaving three sides free to walk round. Very popular in the 1970’s they have been out of fashion for quite a while but are enjoying a bit of a comeback at the moment. They provide continuous worktop space and give you most of the benefits of an island in a space that normally would not allow one.
A fortunate few might have the opposite problem and have a space so large that any size or shape of island is really not an issue. If you are one of the lucky ones try not to leave too greater distance between the island and any other kitchen cabinets as often the island worktop provides the set down space for hot dishes coming out of the oven. As a rule of thumb 1200mm is a really comfortable distance, after that and it becomes a little impractical.
The size of your island or peninsular is often dictated by the worktop you choose as you are unlikely to find a single slab of natural stone larger than 2.8 meters x 1.5 meters. Some quartz is available in larger slabs, up to 3.2 meters x 1.6 meters and worktops like Corian can be made any size you wish. If you find yourself in a position where you are considering putting a joint in your worktop to allow for a really big island I urge you to think again. Joints in island worktops should be avoided at all costs as they tend to be a lot more obvious than joints in other areas so if you are planning a super-sized island consider a seating area in wood or a butchers block chopping space.
Another consideration is exactly what you want your island to do. Are you going to have a sink or hob on your island, is there going to be a seating area (most islands do feature seating). Do you want your island to be at one level or is one area to be higher or lower. Would you like to use different materials (for instance wood) to define a seating area or would you like a clean flat surface.
Think carefully if you want to have any electricity and/or water incorporated into your island, as these services need to be planned for and installed before the floor is laid, it may be that you are not planning to change your floor finish in which case it is best to make sure you can purchase a few meters of extra flooring to patch in if necessary. It is useful at the very least to be able to plug in a phone or tablet and use small appliances such as hand mixers at your island.
If you are planning putting a hob or a sink on the island it is best to have a minimum of 300mm at each side and also at the back of the appliance for safety and also to provide space to work. It may be that the sink on the island is to be your main sink in which case the layout of the cupboards below is very important. Generally it is best to plan a dishwasher and a bin either side of the sink for maximum practicality. Wine coolers are another popular choice for islands but consider building them into the side of the island that is used for socialising and keep them away from the prep area.
Where to place any seating is the final part of the jigsaw. Most island seating is on high stools but if you have very young or elderly people in your household you might like to consider a lowered seating area instead. This can help to break-up the area but bear in mind you need a little more space for a chair than a bar stool so it may be a compromise on the number of people you can incorporate. Finally try not to plan the seating in an area that will get in the way of other functions in the kitchen, for instance opening a fridge whilst people are seated or getting food out of an oven.