Designing the Perfect Kitchen Island

May 17, 2017

The kitchen is the heart of the house, and inevitably you find family and friends gathering around the kitchen island. Here are three important elements to consider when designing the perfect kitchen island.

Designing the Perfect Kitchen Island with Wood Countertops and Butcher Blocks

Design by Kelly Bailey of Coastal Cabinet Works

1. Function

The first step in designing the perfect kitchen island is to decide what the main function is going to be. Some kitchen islands are designed around food preparation, storage, entertaining guests, doing homework and even charging stations for devices. Islands are often designed to be used for a variety of reasons. The functionality of your kitchen island should be designed to fit your family’s daily kitchen activities. In addition to designing around what your family needs today, you also want to plan for the possibilities and create a kitchen island that can evolve as your family evolves.

Kitchen Island Design by Paul Bentham of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen Bath includes Wood Countertop

Design by Paul Bentham of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath

2. Size

After choosing the main function of your island, you can then figure out the size of the island. The size of your island should be proportional to the size and design of your kitchen. Professionals on Houzz recommend an island to have a width of 2 to 3 feet. For length, professionals feel that 4 to 7 feet is best, depending on how much storage and how many appliances you plan to incorporate.

If your kitchen already has a lot of cabinetry space, island storage may not be a priority. Designer Steve Justrich explains, “Typically, two 24-inch base cabinets back to back will accommodate most under-island functions,” in this article by Houzz.

If the island will be used as a main food preparation area, a sink and other appliances may have to come first in priority. Should you choose entertaining as the main function of your island, then seating arrangements should be the main priority of your island.

An important factor to keep in mind is the aisle space between the kitchen island and any perimeter cabinets or appliances. According to, experts suggest that an ideal aisle space would be 42 inches between the counters. If you have a smaller kitchen, they suggest a minimum of 36 inches.

3. Style

The next step in designing your island is choosing the style. Style includes the cabinetry finish, countertop material, lighting and seating arrangements. Typically the style of the island follows suit with the style of the rest of the kitchen.

When it comes to cabinetry finish, some choose a paint or stain color that stands out against surrounding kitchen cabinets. Others choose a matching finish to bring the design together.

Kitchen Island Design by Pine Street Carpenters features a Tigerwood Countertop

Design by Pine Street Carpenters, Inc.

It’s important to choose the right countertop that best suits the island’s activity. For food preparation, a butcher block countertop is most recommended. Waterfall counters have a sleek look that works for both modern and traditional kitchens. For seating areas, a wood bar top is a warm place to cozy up to.

Kitchen Island Design by Karen Kassen of Kitchens Unlimited features a Waterfall Countertop

Design by Karen Kassen, CMKBD, ASID, of Kitchens Unlimited

Lighting above your island is a way to express your personality, while adding to the overall functionality of the space. Some designers choose recessed lighting, others choose pendant lighting. Some also choose to use a combination of both. Designers often use three pendant lights above an island, depending on the light design.

Kitchen Island Design by Denise Quade of Denise Quade Design features a Wood Countertop

Design by Denise Quade, CMKBD, of Denise Quade Design

Seating is another way to add to the style of the overall kitchen and island. Some designers choose backless bar stools, while others choose a chair style stool.

Visit the Countertop Image Library to see more perfect kitchen island designs.

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