Last Updated on May 27, 2013
A kitchen island is not only functional but decorative as well. The island makes preparing meals more convenient because you have additional surface space. It also helps direct traffic around the kitchen in an efficient manner, much like a round-about in a roadway. Islands also offer additional storage space, which is useful when the cabinets are not sufficient to hold everything you need. Most modern kitchens open up into other rooms and the island assists in this transition.
Size and Function
Kitchen islands can be set up to suit your personal tastes. There are multiple ways of doing this.
Hollow out one side of the island and place chairs there to create additional seating space if you often have large meal gatherings.
Add extra stove tops. This gives you more options when preparing your meals and speeds up the cooking and preparing process at the same time.
Use multiple levels. An island doesn’t have be the same height throughout. Have a lower area for people to sit at and a higher section for cleaning or food preparation. This helps families interact with each other more conveniently when meals are being made.
Size-wise, an island should be four feet long and two feet deep at a minimum but still provide ample space on all sides for people to walk by. The kitchen should therefore be at least eight feet deep and 12 feet long to consider island installation.
Islands are often a mixture of wood and granite. Granite is durable, easy to clean and aesthetically pleasing, making it ideal for both island and countertop surfaces. It is also heat-resistant, which is important in any cooking environment to make sure your pots and pans won’t damage it. Granite can also be colored in various ways to fit the design of your specific kitchen.
The shape of the island is important to the kitchen design also. Shaping the island so it curves outward from the stove helps to create a defined cooking area while the curves help prevent people from hurting themselves on the edges. This also opens the kitchen up more that a traditional rectangle.
An island is the focal point of the kitchen because of its size and positioning so you can also place photos, fruit baskets, crafts and other decorations on the top of it to further personalize the room and help it blend in with the rest of the house. The woodwork on the island should usually match that of the kitchen cabinets so the island doesn’t call attention to itself unnecessarily.
Make sure the dishwasher and oven have plenty of room to open fully before installing an island to prevent annoying and costly renovations later. You should have enough room between the edge of the doors and the island to walk by safely to prevent tripping. The island should also have outlets for you to plug in small appliances. Small grills or sandwich makers generally are not permanent kitchen fixtures and only come out when needed so you need convenient places to set and use them.
If you have cooking surfaces on your island, you’ll also need proper venting, making a vent hood or a downdraft fan a must. If you use a downdraft fan, you’ll also need a second exhaust fan installed in the ceiling. It’s also important to see what you’re doing and ambient lighting isn’t adequate to light a workspace. Install lights directly above the island to both improve the working area and to also improve the island’s appearance.
Granite reflects light nicely and this helps make the island look more attractive from a distance. Special lighting is needed if the ceiling is more than six feet above the island surface because otherwise the light diffuses out instead of down and the island won’t be illuminated effectively.
Always check local building codes prior to having an island installed to make sure all regulations are being safely met.
The stove, sink and refrigerator traditionally form the points of a triangle in the kitchen to maximum efficiency of movement for those working in it. An island can either disrupt or enhance this, depending on its placement and what you use it for.
Avoid using harsh cleaning detergents on a granite island because the stone may stain permanently. Mild soap or liquid dish detergent is usually enough to remove any dirt or grease that accumulates and this keeps your island in peak condition.
For more kitchen island design and construction tips, check out this great post on This Old House.
Author Bio: Donna M. is an interior designer and freelance writer for Insurance Providers. She enjoys offering her expertise to homeowners looking to go beyond the average designs below the average budget.