What to Know About Adding a Kitchen Island to Your Home

If you’re looking to increase storage, countertop, and seating space in your kitchen, look no further than an island. A kitchen island is the optimal way to streamline your culinary workflow, making it easier to move between your countertop areas, appliances, and sink without straying far from a single feature. Beyond their unparalleled functionality, kitchen islands are also a way to enhance the cozy atmosphere of this room, providing a central space to gather with family and friends.

Despite an island’s advantages, it can be difficult to figure out how to incorporate one into your kitchen. From choosing the correct material to accounting for clearances, there are a few things to keep in mind when designing your dream kitchen island. 

Choose the Right Material

From natural stone to manmade options, there are a few different materials suitable for a kitchen island—but the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference.


Marble comes in a wide range of unique colors and variations, so you can easily find a style that suits your current kitchen aesthetic. The durable material has been used for centuries in a handful of applications, and it can gain a stunning patina when used over time. 

Despite its timelessness, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing marble for your kitchen island. “It can be prone to etching,” says Mindy O’Connor, the founder and principal of Melinda Kelson O’Connor Architecture & Interiors. “Etching is damage to your natural stone caused by contact with an acidic substance (including but not limited to citrus fruits and juices, vinegar, coffee, soda, wine, tomatoes, and bleach cleaners).”


Another natural stone, soapstone is non-porous, heat resistant, and will not crack easily. “It is easy to clean and can be oiled to periodically create a dark gray hue,” says O’Connor. “Soapstone can be susceptible to scratches and nicks (the greener the piece is, the softer it is) and is available in limited colors, as it primarily appears in shades of gray with black-and-green undertones.”

Engineered Soapstone

A man-made material composed of ground natural quartz, resins, polymers, and pigments, engineered quartz countertops are available in practically any design. “Engineered stone is favored for its ease of maintenance, as it is non-porous, stain-resistant, and easy to clean, with no sealing or oiling necessary,” says O’Connor. Keep in mind that engineered stone often has a repetitive pattern, creating a more manufactured feel. It’s also slightly less heat resistant than natural stones, meaning trivets should be used under hot pans and bakeware. 


Wood is a less common choice than stone, but it adds welcome warmth to the space. “Wood countertops can be made from strips of wood tightly glued together to form a slab showing the face, edge, or end grain,” says O’Connor. “Or they can be salvaged from beams or other historic structural elements and fastened together.” Wood is porous, so it will need to be sealed in order to prevent water damage. On the other hand, stains or nicks can be sanded away and refinished—meaning this material has longevity on its side. 

Tatiana Kutina / GETTY IMAGES

Account for Clearances

One of the most important aspects of designing a kitchen island is considering the clearances around it, which will help you determine how big or small your island should be. “The minimum you can make an aisle is 36 inches for a wheelchair, but I like to be a little more generous and go between 42 inches and 54 inches,” says Scott Dresner of Dresner Design. Generally, 42 inches is comfortable for two cooks and opening appliances. “On the eating or social side of an island, more space—often 48 inches or more—is desirable for walking past chairs and general circulation around the eating areas,” says O’Connor. 

Consider the Work Triangle

Though the work triangle is less important now, since open concept kitchens have grown in popularity, it’s still something to keep in mind—especially for smaller workspaces. “The kitchen triangle describes the triangular relationship between the cooking appliance, refrigerator, and sink,” says O’Connor. “The island should consider the relationship between these elements and be sure not to completely block any path for efficiency in cooking.”

Choose a Shape

While you may have an artistic vision for the design or your island, it’s important to let functionality guide your design when it comes to shape. Consider workflow, air circulation, needs for appliances, functional cabinetry, seating requirements, and clearances when you get to this stage of the design process. “Every kitchen has a different layout, so the shape of your island really takes cues from the shape of the space and clearances required,” says Dresner.

hikesterson / GETTY IMAGES

Add a Seating Arrangement

For many homeowners, the island is an ideal place to feed kids, entertain guests, or keep a cook company while they’re preparing a meal, O’Connor says—so incorporating seating is key. If you do choose to add bar stools around your kitchen island, keep in mind that a chair for each person typically requires 24 inches of space to ensure comfort while sitting and eating.

Incorporate Additional Storage

A kitchen island is a great place to add extra drawers or cubbies for miscellaneous entertaining items and small appliances. Keep a smaller storage space under the seating area reserved for items you don’t use on a daily basis and a larger “business” side for appliances. “The business side of the island has more depth and we always prefer to use drawers versus cabinets,” says Dresner. For aesthetics, add a few decorative cubbies for a more open feel. There, you can keep pretty linens, cookbooks, and other practical decorative items. 

Add Outlets

Outlets are required by code; you should have at last one for every 9 square feet of countertop, depending on local regulations. “I typically incorporate multiple outlets for plugging in countertop appliances, charging phones, and working at computers, all of which are common island uses,” says O’Connor. 

Add Appliances

There are a few different appliances you can add to your island, depending on personal preference and cooking habits. An island stovetop is a great option for the social cook who wants to face an open space, rather than stare at a wall. “Cooking on the island can mean hot surfaces, ingredients, and splatter, so if the idea of cleaning and controlling those elements bothers you, it’s not recommended,” says O’Connor. Putting a cooktop on the island also means you’ll need to add a ventilation hood which will interrupt the ceiling plane in the middle of the space. If this sounds like too big of a project, consider adding a sink instead, which will allow you to socialize when washing dishes.

Next Post

85 Gorgeous Bathroom Ideas That Go Beyond Business

Sat Mar 2 , 2024
85 Inspiring Bathroom IdeasAlanna Hale “Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links.” Our most private spaces are the ones we often neglect, and bathrooms are at the very top of that list. Often this is where we relegate the sad old towels […]
85 Gorgeous Bathroom Ideas That Go Beyond Business

You May Like