Although it’s been said that no man is an island, many people want an island in their kitchen. In fact, surveys show that 80 percent of home buyers consider a kitchen island to be desirable or essential. Kitchen islands can range from simple work and storage stations to multi- tiered custom units that include a sink, a cooktop, an under-counter refrigerator and a surface that’s extended into a breakfast bar or table height peninsula. From a design standpoint, an island can form the central focal point of a kitchen, making meal preparation more efficient and helping direct the flow of traffic.
An island can also serve as a boundary of the kitchen area, allowing the cook to interact with guests in another room. The key to designing an island kitchen you’ll love (and can afford) is to figure out which options will be most useful. For around £500, you can get a serviceable, basic island built from stock kitchen cabinetry and finished with a laminate countertop. However, the price can easily climb into the thousands if you decide to include a sink or cooktop. Keep the project affordable by choosing materials wisely and incorporating only the features that you’ll find most useful.
Locating an Island
The traditional spot for a kitchen island is the middle of the room. A centre island provides a focus and organises the workflow, while pro- viding accessible counter space from all directions. If you have an enclosed kitchen, this location is your only option; it’s the only place the island won’t block the work areas or interfere with traffic. A perimeter island works well in an open or semi-open floor plan, where it can simultaneously connect spaces and separate them. In open or semi-open kitchens, especially those without windows, people tend to stand at the island facing the adjoining area. So, if you install a sink or cooktop on the island, orient it so you can face the public side of the space. It’s important to size the island in proportion to the kitchen. An island that’s too large will crowd the space and form an obstacle to traffic. If an island is too small, it won’t be useful when you need it.
There isn’t much point in building an island that’s less than 2 x 3 ft., and one that’s 4 ft. wide is even more useful. lf your kitchen is smaller than 10% to 12 ft., consider other options, such as a rolling work cart, rather than a built-in island. Islands that have amenities, like sinks and cooktops, need to be larger than simple work-area islands. A cook- top island requires at least 9 in. of countertop in front and back of the cooktop and 15 in. on each side, so pot handles don’t stick out into the walkways.
The top of the island should have at least 36 in. of continuous space for each cook. Although there are no set rules for the overall size of an island, there are some guidelines for the space around it. Start with the distance between the existing cabinets and the island. The work aisles should be 42 in. wide for one cook, and 48 in. wide if two cooks often work together. The main traffic path through the kitchen should be at least 48 in. wide. ln addition, you’ll need at least 42 in. of clearance in front of the refrigerator, oven and dishwasher to avoid being pinned against the island when opening or closing the appliance doors.