Kitchen & Dining

A guide to kitchen island spaces and sizing

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A kitchen island can serve many functions for members of your household. As well as providing extra space for storing, preparing and cooking food, an island can also be an informal place to get together or eat as a family.

If you want to add an island to a kitchen that’s currently lacking one, you will need to strike a careful balance with the unit’s size. It’s really important to factor in the floor space of the kitchen itself before making a choice. Here are some things to think about when planning a kitchen island installation.

Does your kitchen have enough room for an island?

What is the average size of a kitchen island? Real Homes suggests 40 by 80 inches (around 1 by 2 metres), but emphasises the need to leave adequate space around the island. 

A kitchen island should ideally take up one tenth to one fifteenth of your overall kitchen area. Usually, a kitchen would need to measure at least 150 square feet (14 square metres) in order to comfortably accommodate an island, but you might be able to find a creative solution for a smaller room.

How wide should you go with your kitchen island? 

Theoretically, the wider the island, the more storage space and functionality you can pack into it. Still, you should impose a certain limit on your island’s width. 

“Wide islands make a big impact, but they’re not very practical,” kitchen designer Matt Baker warns as quoted by Homes & Gardens. “You need to be able to reach the middle, so try to keep it no deeper than 55in (1400mm) front to back.”

How much space should separate the island from the counter?

“Leave at least one metre of walking space around each side of an island, and ideally more if there’s seating,” kitchen design expert William Durrant tells Homebuilding & Renovating. “Where there are appliances, try to increase the space between them and the island to around 1.2m.”

Make sure there is enough free space for people to be able to move easily and safely past the island, even when it’s in use.

How much overhang will your island need? 

If you won’t have any seating at your island, the simple answer would be “none at all”. However, you might want to leave a series of bar stools positioned along one side of the island. 

“A standard counter overhang is 12 inches (30.5cm),” Real Homes quotes another kitchen design expert, Elyse Moody. “Whether or not it needs support underneath depends on your countertop material.” The thin legs of hairpin tables can help to maximise space beneath them.


How much seating space should your kitchen island offer per person?

You probably already have a good idea of how many people are likely to sit at your island at any given time. One good rule of thumb is to create 20 to 24 inches – that’s 50 to 60cm – of seating space along the island for each anticipated sitter. So for example, for two people dining together an island width of four feet should suffice.

Have you installed an island in your kitchen? What’s your top tip for getting the sizing right?

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