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Kitchen islands are the dream of many homeowners who are starved for more cooking, washing, and prep areas, as well as more storage and cabinet space for cookware. If you have enough floor space in your kitchen, it is rarely a bad idea to add an island.
But many homeowners get so caught up in the excitement of creating a kitchen island that they end up with space problems. The kitchen island might be oversized, impeding kitchen traffic as well as visually overwhelming the room.
Cooktops might be placed in the wrong spot, hoods and exhaust fans forgotten, and sink opportunities passed over, with outlets not located in the proper places. Learn how to create and space your kitchen island, along with all of its peripheral services.
From an aesthetic perspective, adding a kitchen island can be a great opportunity to add contrast into your kitchen design by giving the island cabinets a different finish and topping the island with a distinctive countertop.
Kitchen Island Sizing
As a rule of thumb, your kitchen island should take up no more than 10-percent of the total square footage of your kitchen. Any larger than that and the island will dominate the kitchen and will make it difficult to maneuver.
For example, if a kitchen’s total size is 10 feet by 13 feet (130 square feet) and its kitchen island is four feet by seven feet (28 square feet), then the island is too large. Over 20-percent of the kitchen floor space is given over to the island.
To properly size a kitchen island for this space, the island should be no more than 13 square feet. Thirteen square feet can be reduced to 12 square feet in order to more easily create a length and width for the island: four feet long by three feet wide.
Experiment with your intended kitchen island size by placing a small table in the space for a few days. Expand the table visually by taping cardboard to the table surface to mimic the size of the intended island. Elevate the table by placing books under each of the four legs to raise the table surface to 36 inches for standard kitchen islands and 42 inches for eating/sitting kitchen islands.
Adding a Cooktop or Stove to Your Kitchen Island
Cooks like having a cooktop stove on the kitchen island, because it allows for increased working room. Also, centralized stoves make for a more social atmosphere, especially when bar chairs are added to the island.
However, consider whether you are ready to break your cooking area away from the perimeter. This across-aisle back and forth can frustrate some cooks who are accustomed to having a tight, unified sink-counter-stove classic kitchen triangle work area.
For such cooks, a kitchen island cooktop can be a secondary, overflow mode of cooking; the primary stove would still be located in the perimeter countertop area.
For island cooktops or stoves, electrical or gas lines must be brought up from the floor, through the crawlspace. If your home is built on a concrete slab, the concrete must be broken up and pipes laid under the slab.
Providing a Hood and Exhaust Fan for the Island Cooktop
If you have ever burned food when cooking, you will know the value of having a hood and exhaust fan. Blaring smoke detectors seriously detract from your carefully prepared food.
With a kitchen island, you do not have the usual option of installing an exhaust hood against the wall, with the odors and smoke drawn straight out of a vent in the wall and safely away. Instead, you must either vent up or down.
Kitchen Island Upward Venting
Higher-end stove installations in kitchen islands often drape a hood over the stove, with the smoke being drawn straight up a vent and out of the house. Because smoke and steam rise, venting upward tends to be the best option from a functional standpoint. The downside is that you will have a hood and vent looming in the middle of the room.
Kitchen Island Downward Venting
With some cooktops, a grate in the stove next to the burners pulls the smoke straight down and then out of the house through a vent that runs through the crawlspace.
Creating Maximum Kitchen Island Storage Space
Kitchen islands often eventually become less about cooking and more about storing stuff. Cooks sometimes gravitate back to the perimeter cooking area and leave the island only for special events, emergencies, and storage.
That said, kitchen islands are great storage areas. Make the best of it by adding smart space in the form of drawers and shelved cabinet space, instead of giant, empty caverns where you have to stack pans upon pans. Generally, the more cavernous the space, the less valuable it is for storage. If you lack woodworking skills, this may be the time to hire a qualified carpenter to build out shelves, sliders, and drawers.
Pairing Kitchen Islands With Freestanding Kitchen Islands
If your kitchen island isn’t as large as you would like, think outside of the box. Literally. One easy solution is to pair that less-than-giant permanent kitchen island with a freestanding rolling or table-style kitchen island. This gives you the extra counter space that you want, but with an escape plan. If you should decide that you don’t like the arrangement, locate the mobile island elsewhere in the kitchen or even in another part of the house.
Freestanding kitchen islands pair best with permanent islands when both counter surfaces are level.
Each surface should provide a different value. For example, a freestanding island with a large butcher block might be used only for chopping meat and veggies. Pair this with a permanent island for mixing, using small appliances, and other prep work. The permanent island will typically give you two additional electrical outlets, a requirement based on the electrical code.