A Guide to Choosing the Right Island for Your Kitchen
Kitchen islands come in multiple shapes, sizes and styles, serving a variety of diverse purposes depending on what the owner needs. They are extremely versatile and can be designed and built to suit the needs of each kitchen.
They can be long and slim, running parallel to your counters and workspace; small and freestanding; massive and broad, housing your appliances and sink – the options are endless, and that is the beauty of the island!
An island has two parts, a ‘working’ side and a ‘public’ side. The working side should house the deeper cabinets and the items needed for food prep, while the public side can be more decorative and neat.
The typical rule given is that an island should be at least 4 feet long and a little more than 2 feet deep, but it must also have room for people to move and work around it. However, everyone’s needs are different, so don’t let that put you off it you don’t have a large space.
What is the purpose of an island?
Islands have multiple uses, and what you want from it will dictate how it looks.
In general, they are often used to:
- Provide extra space for prep and cooking.
- Provide a boundary between the kitchen and living space in an open plan room.
- Help direct traffic in the kitchen away from busy areas.
- Provide a table surface, either by using bar stools, or have lower table seating at one side.
- House appliances, or even your hob and sink.
- Provide extra storage via drawers, shelves etc.
- Make entertaining easier and more social – if you have a breakfast bar and/or your hob on the island, you’ll be able to entertain while cooking.
What should I consider when thinking about design?
First off, you need to decide on the size of your island. This will depend on the size of your kitchen and how much space you have to play with. Obviously bigger kitchens can allow for larger islands, which can then house a sink/hob etc and allow for more storage and space.
While it does become trickier with a smaller kitchen, there are clever design hacks when it comes to making the most of the space you have. Undoubtedly there will be compromise though, and you’ll need to prioritise what specific function you want it to serve.
Bear in mind that islands don’t have to be massive – if you’re just looking for more prep space, for example, you could simply use a small table as an island. Get creative!
When thinking about size, height is important. Make sure it’s the right height for all of your needs – including your seating arrangement, as the height of your island’s eating area dictates the type of seating you’ll have (typically a 28- to 30-inch-high counter works best with a chair; a standard-height 36-inch counter is served best by a low stool; and a 42- to 48-inch counter requires a bar stool.)
You might want to consider a dual-height island – this is handy as it can create eating areas, hide mess, protect non-cooks from splashes and splatters, and generally make your kitchen more interesting.
This will again depend on your space. With more space, comes greater license for creativity. While most kitchen islands are either slim, straight and run parallel to the counter or larger, square or round blocks, there are other options.
You might want to consider a curved island for example – these are perfect for adding flair, and look great undulating through a kitchen. While they look sleek and modern, they’re also a good idea when you have kids running around as there are no sharp corners.
S-shaped kitchen islands also look good, and are very practical as they allow you to assign each section a different purpose, helping keep things organised.
Again, it all comes down to what you need out of your island: its function should dictate its design.
Looking for more hidden kitchen storage? Deep-set drawers and plenty of shelving space are key. Want to access cookbooks and crockery easily? Fit open shelving behind the cupboards and display your goods.
You also need to consider other practicalities. For example, if you’re looking to house your hob on an island, you need to think about ventilation – will you get a downdraft, an exhaust fan mounted on the ceiling, an overhead hood extending up through the ceiling? – this needs to be thought out.
Likewise, what lighting will you need above the island?
Islands are an investment, so if you’re renting you might think about a free-standing island which is less of a commitment and means you’ll be able to move it around easily, take it if you move etc. This is only useful for storage/prep space, however, as it can’t house any utilities.
What should I consider when thinking about style?
Kitchen islands have loads of style potential, allowing you be more creative with colour, texture and materials.
Islands are a great way of introducing colour into neutral kitchens, and are an opportunity for you to be creative and fun while introducing a splash of colour. They’re also easier to switch up when you get bored or fancy a change.
Material & Texture
Again, islands are a great way to introduce some variety and interest into the kitchen, allowing you to play with contrasting textures and styles.
Typically, as they’re often fairly small, you may be able to choose from more expensive materials you wouldn’t have been able to consider for your kitchen counters.
Add some variety with different textured materials – veined marble, timber veneers, mirrored glass, pretty granites, burnished metal, rough wood or stone – choose something different that will still complement your other surfaces.
When thinking about material, consider mixing them to suit the function of sections. For instance, if you have an island for both prepping/cooking and dining, you can separate them by using glass around the workspace and warm, welcoming wood on the dining area.
Your material will dictate the feel of the kitchen e.g. a rustic butcher’s block wooden island with a chopping board counter will give your kitchen a vastly different feel to a stainless steel, stand-alone island.
Free Design Consultation
If you have any questions or want some help choosing the right island for you, come down to the nearest Optiplan Kitchens showroom where one of our talented designers will give you a free consultation.