One of the most frequently asked questions I receive as a designer is -Can I fit an island in my kitchen?
Gone are the days of kitchens being the epicenter for cooking and here to stay, at least for a long while, is the modern version of the kitchen which has become not only a space for cooking but a hub for social gatherings and entertainment. To balance every function a kitchen now serves designers have turned to the kitchen island, making it the new work horse of the kitchen.
Islands are multi functioning offering home owners extra work zones, storage space and entertainment/social space. Most recently the kitchen island has even become the primary piece of furniture for dinning at. With so many functions it's no wonder the kitchen island has become such a popular design element in the home.
But is an island right for your kitchen and furthermore do you have the space for it?
Let's start by looking at the different island configurations and the space requirements for each.
The working island- the cooks answer to function and purpose with the added bonus of increased easy access storage for everyday items or deep storage for once in a blue moon appliances.
The working islands function is to give the home owner more usable space for prep and every day tasks that take place in a kitchen. For bakers the working island is often built with a marble or quartz top for ease of dough preparation. For chefs and novice cooks the work island offers a large amount of square footage to create multiple dishes at one time with the convenience of tasks taking place in a central location.
The working island is most effective if NKBA clearances for walk ways are met, however these are guidelines only and are not part of any IRC codes.
When planning your working island you must first establish if your kitchen is a one or two cook kitchen. In other words how many people at one time will be doing the cooking? For most people even if there are multiple cooks they tend to stick to the guidelines for a one person kitchen. That guideline requires a minimum of 42" for the work aisles and 36" for the walkway.
In a two cook kitchen the work aisles are increased to 48" while the walkway remains at 36".
Another island that remains extremely popular is the island designed as the social hub of the kitchen. In this island designers incorporate bar stools for additional seating and social gatherings. Designed properly this island will quickly become the place to hang out, do homework, socialize and catch up on the day. All though it still functions as a work island and offers storage its primary purpose is to bring people together.
For this island the working aisle clearances remain the same however thought must be given to walk ways once stools or seating is incorporated into the design.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recommends a clearance of 44" for the walk way where stools are present. However 36" is allowed but only leaves clearance for an individual to edge past.
If the stools are not in a walk way a clearance of 32" is accepted.
Another island design that is becoming increasingly popular is the island designed to function as both work space and the homes kitchen table. This design idea works well in smaller spaces where both island and kitchen table are hard to accommodate for. In this layout the designer must pay close attention to adding enough seating to accommodate the users needs and the size of their family.
All NKBA guidelines previously discussed are applied to this island but further thought on seating is important to assure the island functions properly allowing the home owner to use the space as intended.
For table islands it's important to note the following seating criteria. For a counter that is 36" in height allow 24" wide x 15" deep per person seated.
If you plan on raising a section of your islands counter all guidelines remain the same with the exception of the depth of space needed which decreases to 12".
Designing an island to fit your space will require some planning and following of guidelines. But with the proper layout and clearances a kitchen island can become one of the most used spaces of the home.