What to Consider When Designing a Kitchen Island (Checklist included!)
In a home, there’s nothing that embodies having ‘made it’ better than a kitchen island. But there’s more to it other than being a status symbol; it’s also pretty nifty to have around the kitchen, embracing a wide variety of functions from eating to entertaining.
If you’re including one in your cooking space, consider the following aspects so you can get the most out of your kitchen island. We’ve also included a checklist at the end of the article so you can keep tabs on the planning process.
Consider the purpose of your kitchen island. Will it be:
- The “main kitchen”, used primarily for food prep and cooking
- A complementary, multipurpose unit, used for eating, socialising, working and other activities
In the former, allocate the space necessary for a sink and/or a cooktop. Using your island as the main kitchen helps to free up countertop space elsewhere, which you can use to place small and frequently used appliances like the rice cooker or food processor. If you’re installing a hood above the island, see how it will affect the overall appearance of your kitchen.
Design: Box.ID Studio
Keep in mind that you will also need to have an area for storing your everyday use wares, utensils and oils/condiments/spices on the island so as to ease the workflow in the kitchen. For instance, deep cabinets underneath to store pots and pans, shallow drawers for knives, and a spice rack near the hob. Because nothing gets hidden on an island, you will want to curate the things you have on the unit so that the space doesn’t look like a clutter fest.
If your kitchen island’s function is more a complementary kitchen element and a multipurpose unit that can accommodate a range of activities from eating to homework, consider what you will need to house those activities. It could be height-appropriate seating (a bar-height stool wouldn’t be the best for your kids), electrical outlets to charge your laptop while working, or cubby holes by the side to keep baking essentials if you’re using your kitchen island as a baking station.
Design: The Local Inn.terior
Design: Project Guru
There should be approximately a 90-cm clearance on all sides of the island for moving around the kitchen seamlessly and to accommodate the opening of any cabinet or refrigerator doors. For an efficient workflow, you also don’t want your kitchen island to be located too far away from the rest of the counters or the refrigerator.
In terms of length and width, it really depends on the size of your kitchen and what you’re using the island for. If it’s going to accommodate seating, you will need to set aside 30 cm on the width for a legroom overhang and approximately a 60-cm space for each seat along the length of the island to make it comfortable to sit there. So if you’re going to have two seats, your island should have at least a length of 120 cm. If you’re going for cabinet storage underneath your kitchen island, the standard cabinet depth is around 60 cm.
Most islands are rectangle in shape, but if your kitchen is too small, like with most BTO flats here in Singapore, you might want to go for a box-shaped island instead. For narrower kitchens, think lean. Or simply go for an odd-shaped island to make the most of your cooking space while maximising your island unit.
Besides the shape of your kitchen island, consider also whether you’re going for a bar-height (105 cm) or counter-height (90 cm) unit. For frequent hosts, a bar-height island would be great for serving bite-sized morsels on while you busy yourself in the kitchen. It can also work as a home bar area where guests can mingle and interact in a casual setting. Bar-height islands are also good for hiding the mess in your kitchen.
If your kitchen island is the main prep area or the sole dining zone in the home, we would recommend going for a counter height island, which is a more comfortable height to work with and sit by. This also applies if you have kids and want them to sit by the island. Counter-height kitchen islands also create a more open kitchen setting.
Design: Meter Square
You can also consider a double-tiered island, with one side bar-height and the other side counter-height, which is useful for protecting those seating from water splashes and oil spatters while also lending a more visually interesting space since you can opt for two different types of materials on the bar and the counter.
Design: Museum Homes
Design: Studio 20 Concepts
Your kitchen island can have the same material as the rest of your kitchen, which will help to blend it in with the rest of your cooking space. But it can also be vastly different, depending on your needs and whether you want to make it the statement piece in your kitchen.
Besides how it looks, your material for your kitchen island should also be practical. If you’re using it for cooking, you will want to cover it with a heat-resistant material like stainless steel, so you can place pots and pans directly on the surface. Make sure the material you choose is also non-porous and stain-resistant. And if you’re particular about appearances, ensure the material is hardwearing enough to withstand dents and kinks.
For an island mainly for baking, consider a marble top, whose cool surface is great for rolling out pastry dough. Avoid tiles if you’re planning to do homework on the island—the grout lines won’t make it easy to write on. If you’re doubling your kitchen island as a home bar, wine spills will probably be more of a frequent occurrence so you will want to avoid materials like solid surface which aren’t that stain proof. For folks concerned over the appearance of fingerprints and grease and water marks, you will want to avoid stainless steel which show up these marks more visibly.
Print this out to serve as a handy guide when designing your kitchen island (right click to save as image):
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