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What makes a good kitchen island? It could be a grand focal point of your kitchen- a way to express your inner-creative-executive-chef self. You can picture it now… a sleek block of perfectly designed cabinetry, housing an ultra modern cooktop, and topped with a glossy-metallic, futuristic-looking hood like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae.  Or your dream kitchen island may simply be a space to sit in the morning while you drink coffee and read the newspaper. Nothing fancy… just extra countertop that belongs to you and you alone. Or it may serve as extra storage. Some even implement a kitchen island just to take up space in an enormous room. Whatever your reason, chances are if you have an island in your kitchen, you love it!

And then there are those poor island-less souls (myself included) who can only dream of a kitchen complete with an outstanding chunk of island where guests gather round to watch you whip up your latest Rachael Ray recipe. We brainstorm over and over how we could fit an island into our kitchens, only to face the disappointment that we simply don’t have the room for one. So take a deep breath, island-dreamers, and know that NOT EVERY KITCHEN NEEDS AN ISLAND. Yes, I said it. But the fact is that you should never sacrifice the function of your kitchen for the sake of an un-needed mass of cabinetry. 

To help you decide if a kitchen island will work for you, I’ve compiled a list of traits your kitchen MUST meet:

  • AT LEAST 42” of clear space surrounding the island for adequate passage. This is what we at Kitchen Expressions, Inc. call a “one-butt pass.” Ideally, you would try to accommodate a “two-butt pass” with 48” of clear walkway, especially if you expect to have more than one person in the kitchen at most times.
  • No interference with opening appliance doors. For example, if you were to install an island that would be in front of your refrigerator, you should have enough space to stand between the island and fridge and still open the refrigerator doors without complication.
  • The island does not need to block the natural flow of traffic. If you know that guests in your home take a certain path due to your home’s layout, don’t obstruct that path with an island. However, an island can cleverly be implemented to steer guests in a different path when there is another, more welcomed path available.
  • If including a work center (sink or cooktop) in your island, the distance from that work center to the other work centers in the kitchen should be no less than 4’ and no greater than 9’.
  • If you plan on incorporating seating in your island where no traffic passes behind a seated diner, allow 32” of clearance from the counter/table edge to any wall or other obstruction behind the seating area. If traffic passes behind the seated diner, allow at least 36” to edge past or at least 44” to walk past.
  • If you install a sink in your island, plan for at least a 24” wide landing area to one side of the sink and at least an 18” wide landing area on the other side.
  • If you install a cooktop in your island, allow for a minimum of 12” of landing area on one side and 15“ on the other side.  The countertop should also extend a minimum of 9“ behind the cooking surface.

And now that we’ve gotten all the guidelines out of the way, here are some images for your viewing pleasure of exceptional kitchen islands :)

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Image found at:

Image found at:

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