Design A Kitchen Island Like
A Pro- The Ultimate Guide

Whether you are renovating or building a new home, you’ve got to know these kitchen island tips that’ll turn your kitchen truly into the “heart of your home.”

As Chicago’s leading kitchen designers and builders, we have the knowledge and experience to provide you with this ultimate guide to designing your home kitchen island like a pro. While it always makes sense to hire a pro designer to do the final designs and calculations, this guide is intended to provide support to do-it-yourselfers as well as those brainstorming before hiring their kitchen designer.

Kitchen design is as much engineering as aesthetics. This guide will walk you through all of the major considerations you’ll need to know before starting on your own plans.

Kitchen Island Usage

From serving as a countertop for food prep to hosting guests during house parties, the centerpiece of the kitchen is the quintessential “multi-tasker” that can seamlessly juggle between jobs.


The island’s unattached, four-way accessibility allows the cook more freedom to move around the kitchen, which makes cooking on the island an enjoyable experience. An island that is meant for cooking will be sporting a marble or stone countertop and comes equipped with cooking essentials like a stove, a range hood, an under-the-counter oven, and lots of storage.

Food Prep:

Having an island in your kitchen can be an added bonus for food preparation. A large, uninterrupted countertop can be the ideal space for all the cutting and chopping duties in the kitchen- especially when your island has a built-in sink!


Apart from the basics of cooking and food prep, islands are a great gathering place for your friends and family!


With seating, an island can also double up as a dining table- which works great for casual breakfasts, evening cocktails, or even as a way to save space in a condo or townhome. One can even design an island with an extended eating surface that serves as a dinner table. These types of islands do not just save you money and real estate, but they also spare you the effort of having to carry food from the kitchen into the dining room.


A kitchen island can be the perfect solution to one of the biggest problems in a kitchen – storage. With the option of under-the-counter drawers, pull-out shelves, and cabinets, an island can be the perfect extension of a kitchen’s existing cabinetry. The island can have drawers, cabinets, and shelves, or it can have a combination of all three, and you can store anything from cutlery and utensils to small appliances like a blender or an air fryer. The space under an island can also hold a pull-out garbage and recycling bin.

Size Considerations

According to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 76% of home buyers in America consider a centrally placed island as essential to their kitchen. But not all kitchens are built the same. Kitchens have varying floor plans and dimensions, and so it becomes important to consider knowing the correct proportions.

Knowing the Right Island Size For Your Kitchen:

One of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make when deciding over an island is that they think “bigger is better,” but that’s totally wrong. In fact, some of the most functional islands are are smaller ones. Keep in mind that the bigger the counter’s surface, the harder it becomes to reach the center with your arms for cleaning.

In terms of height, a standard island is around 36-inches from the ground up, but a 30-inch tall island counter is ideal for food preparation. The lower counter allows you to apply more downward force when kneading or rolling out dough, or slicing. Bar height islands, on the other hand, can be as tall as 48-inches, great for entertaining, yet poorly suited for kitchen prep or cooking.

Fitting In The Traffic – The Perfect Aisle Size:

More important than the physical dimensions of the island is the proportion of the island in relation to the entire kitchen. An ideal kitchen island should have enough countertop space to meet all your needs, and at the same time, look proportional to the rest of the kitchen and have enough of a footpath around its perimeter.

The clearance or aisle around an island is what usually restricts an island’s size. The National Kitchen & Bath Association recommends at least 42 inches of space between the edges of an island and any other solid object in its perimeter, like kitchen cabinets and appliances. If the kitchen is used by more than one cook simultaneously, then a 48-inch aisle is recommended. If you want to include seating, you should allow at least 44-inches of space behind the seated diner for walking and 60-inches for wheelchair access.

But all that is in an ideal scenario – when you have a lot of floor area in your kitchen. For a more moderate-sized kitchen, you will at the very least need 36 inches of space between the island and the perimeter objects, 39 inches would be even better, and 42 would be ideal.

Keep in mind, if you hire a general contractor to design and build your kitchen, you shouldn’t have to worry about any of these measurements. Our Chicago kitchen designers will compute all of the measurements for you so that you don’t risk making any costly mistakes. Hiring a pro is ALWAYS the smart choice.

Island Design Considerations

Choosing The Island Type That Fits Your Needs

Built-in – Furniture Style Island

A built-in-furniture style island gives a kitchen ample storage area without taking up additional space or making it look cluttered. It complements the kitchen, makes storage spaces easy to access and improves functionality. Built-ins can be customized in terms of color, style, and dimensions to match your kitchen decor or to meet your particular needs. Give good thought as to what you want to store in these built-ins before designing to make optimum use of them.

Freestanding – Tables and Carts

A freestanding cart or table gives you more work space in your kitchen without the need to build a permanent structure. If you are remodeling on a budget or if you live in an older property and don’t want to damage the floors, these would be a good option. They also give you additional storage space. Most of the carts come with wheels and this gives you the flexibility to move around. It is also great if you have a smaller kitchen space which cannot entertain a permanent large island. You can design the table or cart to blend with the rest of your kitchen decor in terms of color or material. You can separate the cooking area from the entertainment area by strategically placing a cart as a space divider. They can be replaced easily if you want to remodel or find better furniture.

Choosing The Best Island Shape


A rectangular kitchen island is the most popular island shape. A rectangular kitchen island is an ideal choice in terms of both functionality and visual appearance. They are also preferred if you need more storage, as the shape can accommodate more drawers, cabinets, and shelves. It also gives more tabletop space for cooking, staging food, or placing other decor items such as a vase. Rectangular kitchen islands are optimal for fitting sinks or cooktops. Entertaining becomes easier as seating arrangements around a rectangular table are more comfortable and each person has enough personal space. Many use them as breakfast bars.


Round kitchen islands are ideal if have the need for both functionality and style. When designed with a narrow depth, they can accommodate a smaller sink(s) and/or cooktop. Since it can be reachable from all sides, users can easily multitask and do not have to walk around much. Seating is restrictive for narrow depth versions, so they aren’t as conducive to breakfast bar seating. The shape is also kid friendly as it doesn’t have as many sharp edges.


Another popular shape, L-Shaped islands, are optimal to achieve the kitchen work triangle—the relationship between refrigerator, stove, and sink. The L-Shaped island allows for the workspace, sink, and cooktop to be kept separate, and hence there is more area to work with and the space is easier to clean. The shape provides ample storage. It is also ideal for open floor plans or homes where the dining and kitchen areas are combined as the island creates a boundary which helps to visually separate or close off the kitchen from other areas. The shape is not suitable for very large kitchens as it can block traffic flow. Also, cabinets in the corners will be slightly difficulty to use.


This shape is ideal if you want to have a breakfast bar but don’t have the space for a super-wide rectangular island. It is often used to create a clear distinction between your kitchen workspace and seating space. Many people opt to use different materials or colors to accentuate the distinction between the two spaces. In addition to providing more storage and workspace in the kitchen, this shape keeps those high chairs outside of the tight kitchen.

Making Material Decisions

Wood/Butcher Block

A butcher block island add a rustic charm and warmth to a kitchen. They are functional and durable. They are also perfect when the kitchen is mostly occupied by two chefs. If you select a heavy-duty wood, you won’t have to worry about damaging the surface, and can even directly chop on it! (We wouldn’t dare, though, as they are so perfectly beautiful). It may, however, require more maintenance than other materials, scratches may appear, and unless sealed, they are not waterproof.


Metallic kitchen islands make your kitchen look sleek and stylish. Stainless steel will give the kitchen an industrial look, while brass, copper, or gold provide a warmer look. You can combine other materials such as wood, marble, or tiles with metallic to create a modern look. Stainless steel islands are extremely durable and resistant to water, germs, molds, heat, and stains. However, stainless steel tends to develop dents or scratches over time, they are noisier than other materials, and some fear that it may look too cold or clinical.


Zinc is a very popular choice as a countertop in Europe. It has a rich grey color. Eventually, it will oxidize and reaction to the other substances that it comes in contact with such as water, lemon juice, and fingerprints, and the zinc countertop will develop a unique dark blue-gray patina. Designers and homeowners opt for zinc because of the patina that develops over time.
Zinc’s non-porous nature make it easy to clean. It is also non-bacterial (like copper) and thus can be safely used for prepping food. A zinc countertop island, however, is prone to scratches and can be quite expensive—think $150+ per sq. ft.


Stone is typically a very durable material, resistant to heat and water, and it can be maintained very easily. Natural stone countertops last an average of 30+ years. These countertops are considered environmentally friendly, by some, and typically do not harm the air quality of your house. Detractors point out the environmental damage from extracting from the Earth and note that some stone, granite in particular, holds the potential of emitting radon. (Source: EPA)

Visually appealing and available in various colors, granites make your kitchen look luxurious. It is heat resistant and can be stain resistant if sealed properly. It is also not susceptible to scratches.

Marble will give your kitchen a timeless, elegant look. Like other natural stones, it is more resistant to scratches, has a long life span, and is heat resistant. As it is softer than granite, homeowners can add on design elements during the fabrication process.

Owing to their porous nature, if not properly sealed, both granite and marble can develop permanent stains, and harbor bacteria in its pores.

Recycled Glass:

For people who want to create an eco friendly home, recycled glass is a good option.
While some countertops are made of 100% recycled glass, others are a mixture of recycled and new glass. These countertops are however not 100% environmentally friendly as they need cement or resin binders. Solid recycled glass countertops which do not use these binders are the most environment friendly. These countertops are available in a wide array of colors and are a beautiful sight.

Recycled glass countertops are resistant to heat and scratches, however, if chipped, repair is expensive and the entire countertop may have to be replaced. Glass countertops are becoming increasingly popular on kitchen islands.

Plastic Laminates

Plastic laminate countertops are suitable for homeowners on a tight budget or those who enjoy remodeling often. These countertops are inexpensive and can be imitated to look very much like a stone countertop. They are lightweight and can be installed without professional help.

Plastic laminates are prone to cuts and scratches and are not very heat resistant.


Concrete countertops lend to your kitchen a rustic look. The classic grey concrete countertop can be opted for if you want to achieve a modern contemporary or industrial look.

Concrete can be cast in any shape and size, and it can be pigmented or stained with various colors. You even have options for different finishes and can embed materials such as stones, shells, tiles, and glass. Custom edges can be created by using molding products. Concrete evolves over time and develops a patina.

Being very durable, concrete countertops are not prone to scratches. They are heat resistant, except for the parts which are sealed. A surface sealer is necessary to keep the concrete water and stain resistant. Sealing also makes it easier to clean.

Since it is quite heavy, concrete may have a negative impact on floors and cabinet frames. It is also more expensive than other materials. Many high-end homes that don’t want to look stuffy or cookie-cutter are opting for hefty concrete kitchen islands.

Cabinet Options

You can always opt for matching kitchen cabinetry, to create a unified visual field in the kitchen, such as here:

Or, you can choose to go with contrasting kitchen cabinetry to great juxtaposition such as here:

Opting for the Right Colors

Like with the cabinet material and style options, the same applies to the color selection for the cabinets.

Kitchen island colors tend to follow one of these patterns:
The Integrated Look is has it blend in with the rest of the kitchen’s colors:
Two-Tone adds some interest and pop:

The monochrome color pattern is soothing and interesting to the eye:
Whereas, bold colors bring personality to your space:

Seating Solutions

Overhangs & Extended tables make seating spacious and comfortable.

This long overhand makes it easy for large chairs to pull up fully:

This extended table island provides a space far away from the splashes of the sink for dining comfort:

Make sure to use seats that are wide and comfortable, and provide plenty of space around each chair. Kitchen seating should be a luxurious, not a cramped, affair!

Maximizing Under Counter Storage

For the maximum amount of storage space, select Double-Sided Storage on your island:

And, surely don’t forget to include drawers and shelves to provide an array of storage solutions:

Adding Storage Above The Island

When you can’t get enough storage space in your cabinets, there are two great solutions for additional storage.

Hanging Storage (which includes wine racks, pot racks, and glass holders) is not only practical for increasing your space, but it can also add an interesting aesthetic to your space.

Whereas, Ceiling Mounted Shelves allow for a novel way to get the shelves without clutter your work space.

Selecting The Features That Work For You

Consider Adding a Sink

Adding a sink to your countertop is a great idea to separate your wash area. Place it in a way that it suits your needs and contributes to the kitchen’s functionality.

Single Sinks/Double Sinks

You’ll need to decide if you want a single or double sink on your kitchen island.

Single sinks, which have one larger wash basin, are more apt for smaller spaces and for washing bigger items. A large single sink does not take up too much counter space. It is preferred by people who like to do one task at a time.

With double sinks you have the flexibility of using the sides for different purposes. A popular use is to wash dishes on one side and prep food on the other, so that you are cleaning during your cooking process. You can always use both for prepping, such as washing veggies in one sink while having them draining the other.

Double sinks, however, may not be suitable to wash larger items. Food particles may even get stuck in the side without the garbage disposal. Give good thought as to how you will be using your sink(s) or you may be left with a small sink and a sink you hardly use.

Sink With Drainboard

These are sinks which come with a permanently attached drainboard which is angled in such a way that water drains directly into the sink. The board could be used to dry fragile glassware or crystals which you want to wash by hand, or to set a hot pan or pot when you want to drain water off food items. You could also place a cutting board on the drainboard when you are preparing food, or cutting fruits and vegetables and then conveniently push the waste into the garbage disposal. These kind of sinks are more expensive than basic sinks and also tend to take up more space.

Farmhouse Sink

Popular and classic looking, apron farmhouse sinks are large, wide, and attractive. They are available in a variety of colors and materials including porcelain, copper, stainless steel, or cast iron. A farmhouse sink can either be top mount or undermount. Top mounts are placed atop the counter and are easier to install. Undermounts are placed under the counter top creating a seamless look that is easier for you to sweep waste into the sink. Farmhouse sinks are visually great for kitchen islands.

Installation can be difficult. These have to be installed by cutting out your kitchen counter. You will have to get the existing countertop and cabinets redone, unless you are completely remodeling, in which case you can customize accordingly. Also, the base cabinets need to be strong enough to support the sink’s weight and the area between the sink and the countertop should be sealed properly to avoid leakage.

Contemporary Sink

There are a variety of contemporary stylish kitchen sinks available in the market today. Select one which will match the style of the your kitchen as well as your needs.


Available in various designs, faucets are a necessity in every kitchen.

Single/Double Handle Faucets

Single faucets are easy to install and require just one hole to be made in the countertop. They are ideal for smaller sinks, although they are preferred by most people for all sink sizes and configurations. They are easy to handle and intuitive. Faucet manufacturers make a wide array of sink faucet options.

Double faucets are not as practical as they require more holes for installation (3 as opposed to just one), they take up more space, and they are harder to regulate water temperature—especially if you only have one hand available.

Spiral Faucets

Spiral faucets are both stylish and flexible. Like all pull-down faucets, they are great for cleaning large pots, pans, cookware, and serving dishes. Available with a 2-function spray head which can switch from aerated stream to spray, the faucet features a spin coil neck with a nylon hose.

You may be wondering what is the difference between these spiral faucets and the traditional pull-downs. It is primarily style, efficiency, and durability. These were originally designed for commercial kitchens. The more expensive models allow you to plough through your dish cleaning with the roughness of a restaurant dishwasher. They’ll move with your needs and they don’t require a moment of civility on your part!

Pull-Down Faucets

Pull-down faucets make your kitchen tasks simpler. The spray head can be pulled down to make tasks such as washing fruits and vegetables, as well as pots and pans. Even cleaning the sink is easier. One should make sure that the spray hose has enough space in the base cabinet to move freely.

Faucet With Side Sprayer

A side sprayer is installed when the faucet doesn’t have spray capabilities. It requires an additional hole in the countertop. The trigger needs to be held on to spray.

Instant Hot/Cold Water Dispensers

These involve the installation of an instant hot and/or cold water dispenser system. Energy use is nominally higher for both of these, as is maintenance cost.

The advantages? The instant hot saves you the time required to heat water for small household tasks, such as making a cup of tea. And, the instant cold is perfect for those with more upscale refrigerators, such as Sub-Zeros, that don’t come with cold water dispensers. Also, if your ice machine is in a low freezer drawer, you might prefer skipping on using it for your water and instead have easy access to an instant cold water system.

Adding Appliances

Stoves (Gas, Induction and Electric)

Stoves are the most important element of the kitchen. They are available in different types, sizes, and brands. Gas, electric, and induction are three types of cooking ranges available. Gas and electric are the more popular options as induction stoves are relatively newer.

Through the flame on gas stoves you will be able to assess heat levels better than induction stoves. However, several induction stoves now feature LED flames to get an idea about the level of heat. Inductions allow for better heat control than electrics. The temperature changes the moment the current is adjusted, while electrics take a while to heat up.

Induction stoves are more efficient, 90% of heat generated reaches food, in comparison with gas and electric, where only 40-55% and 60-70% reach food respectively.

Induction stoves, however, are offer by less brands which may result in increased expenses.

Ventilation Systems (Range Hoods)

A range hood extracts polluted cooking air, excess heat, odor, steam, smoke, and grease, and thus it maintains air quality in your kitchen. Absence of grease in the kitchen makes it so much easier to clean.

Range hoods come in a variety of types such as ducted, recirculating, under-cabinet, over-the-range, wall-mounted, ceiling mount, and downdraft. For kitchen islands, keep in mind that the most common is the ceiling mounted island range hood.

An option that is becoming especially popular for kitchen island stovetops is the telescopic downdraft range hood that rises from behind your stovetop with the touch of a button. Just be warned that it won’t work as well for heavy cookers and for those cooking oil-intense cuisines.

For those sensitive to noise as well as connoisseurs of ambiance, be mindful of the positioning of the hood’s fan. Conventionally, the fan will be inside of the hood, so that the noise is generated within your kitchen. There are some brands that are now making range hood systems where the fan is outside of the house, so that the noise is generated at a distance.

Ovens – Microwave & Convection

You could opt for a simple microwave, a combo grill microwave, a convection microwave, just an oven, or a convection over, depending on your cooking needs and what else you have in your kitchen.

A popular choice is to have a double oven (with the upper also being a microwave) against the wall, and then a convection oven in the island. This provides plenty of oven space for both cooking and keeping food warm—perfect for entertaining!

Refrigeration Units (fridges, wine chillers, & cooler drawers)

Cooling units are a less conventional use of island space, yet it can become essential when your space is limited against the walls. You could opt for a drink-only refrigerator, a cooler drawer, or a wine cooler. There are paneled models that will blend in with your cabinetry for the seamless look, as well as glass and stainless steel door versions.


Make sure to place your dishwasher in the right place to be more practical, functional, and comfortable for you. It would be ideal to place it near the sink and cabinets where you keep your dishes, utensils and glassware. When your main sink is on your kitchen island, the drip-free location for your dishwasher will be on your island too. It is important to keep the sink and dishwasher together in order to minimize dripping and debris on your floor.

Lighting Fixtures

Lighting fixtures not only brighten your kitchen they also add character to it.

Hanging Pendant Lights

Pendant lights can be used to focus light on a particular area in a room where there is already another broader lighting source. Think of them as light art.


Chandeliers become the center of attraction in any room that they are placed. The chandelier must placed at the proper height to achieve the desired look. While they are typically hung about 30 inches above an eating space, you might need it higher above the island because people will be standing close to it. Make sure it is on a dimmer switch so that you can adjust the brightness for the desired ambience.

Having a chandelier above a kitchen island is not a good idea if you use it for cooking. If your countertop only includes a small sink, the chandelier should work just fine.

Ceiling Mounted Light Hoods

Lighting on range hoods provides great visibility while cooking. Always select a hood with lights unless you have strong spotlights in your ceiling.

Adding Accessories

Additional accessories can be added on your kitchen island based on your preferences and needs. For a passionate cook, this can be a tempting situation so be sure not to go overboard and clutter the kitchen. Choose what you’ll use the most, what is the most fun, and what would be the hardest to cook without the speciality appliance.

Built-in Fryers

Whether you crave onion rings or falafel, veggie tempura or french fries, relish the comfort of fried food from the comfort of your home with a stainless steel built-in fryers. They include features such as oil temperature control and timers. They are aesthetically pleasing on the kitchen island as they close up and don’t block your visual field. Make sure you have a strong range hood above!

Built-in Steamers

Built-in steamers are great for healthy steaming, thawing, and simmering. They also come with a temperature control regulator. This sophisticated option is a must for healthy eaters.

Japanese Teppanyaki Griddle

Feeling inspired to put on a show for your family (or date) by juggling utensils, flipping a shrimp tail into your shirt pocket, or flipping shrimp pieces into your guests’ mouths?

If so, you’ll love this Japanese metal teppanyaki griddle on your kitchen island. It comes with temperature control and optimal heat distribution features. Develop your skills and bring the fun of Benihana into your home!

Then in the morning, channel your diner short-order cook and prepare eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, and pancakes on this steel griddle.

Indian Tandoori Oven

Install an Indian style vertical tandoori oven in your kitchen’s island to enjoy the rich succulent taste of tandoori cooking. From tandoori chicken and paneer kebabs, to roti and naan flatbreads, you can get a restaurant quality preparation in the comfort of your home (and with your trusted organic ingredients).


Hidden Electrical Outlets

Electrical outlets can be unattractive and look out of place on your island, so opt for hidden outlets that pop up. Ideally for those times when you pull out your blender or toaster, or even to recharge your phone.

Heated Countertops

Make your kitchen comfortable with heated countertops. Stone countertops can become especially cold in winter months. So, avoid the cold touch with countertop heaters for your kitchen island’s breakfast bar. They are customizable and easy to install.

Vacuum Drawers

Vacuum sealing your food maintains the quality of food for longer periods.

Vacuum drawers are perfect to serve a variety of purposes including storage (both short-term refrigeration and long-term freezing), marinating, portioning, and for sous vide.

Having a vacuum drawer on your island will make your kitchen feel oh so professional.

Kitchen Floor Vacuums

Built-in kitchen floor vacuums are installed in the toe kick of kitchen cabinets, keeping it out of sight. Dirt swept to it, is vacuumed just by kicking the switch.

Designing For Generous Counter Space

Islands with Extra Large Countertops

Designing an island with large countertops can be a challenge in terms of spatial layout. However, they’ll offer you more workspace, extra seating, and plenty of storage. Larger countertops allow for more seating and functionality including sinks, stovetops, work spaces, appliances, and accessories.

Large countertops become the center of attraction in any kitchen. They can really make a statement.

Double Islands

Double islands can be used to make large spaces more functional and cozy. In some cases a single large countertop just looks out of place and does not go with the design aesthetic. With double islands you get additional work and storage space which can be optimally utilized. Each island can be used for specific purposes such as one for food placement and seating and the other for food preparation.

Freeing Up Space In Smaller Kitchens

Rollable Islands/Island Carts

Rollable islands or island carts are perfect for smaller kitchens. As you work, they can be rolled to the most useful position. When not needed, they can be rolled away. They make the kitchen more flexible and functional.

Storable Islands

Storable islands are another way to save space in a kitchen and make it more flexible. They can be dragged out when needed and pushed back in place after use. Since they are part of the kitchen cabinetry they don’t look out of place.

Foldable Islands

Foldable kitchen islands can be tucked into a corner after use. These are easily portable to any space.

Drop Leaf Islands

Drop leaf islands can be opted for if you don’t always need a large countertop. They can be extended whenever required, perfect for a smaller kitchen that only occasionally has bigger needs.

The Process: From Design to Completion

So now that you have made all your choices and shortlisted a few ideas for your kitchen island, you might be confused whether hiring a professional design-build company is a good idea or whether you can go about doing it yourself. While DIY-ing is undoubtedly a feasible option for smaller projects, a kitchen is a complex thing with too many opportunities to make mistakes. Hiring a professional has its own advantages that can save you from serious mistakes in the end- and, pros get things done faster and will less surprises.

Let’s take a look at how a design-build firm, such as ours, will handle the process, step-by-step.

Step 1: Design


Full-service, design-build companies assist in making the right choices, from the selection of materials to the overall design. All you need to do is fill out an inquiry form with a brief description of the project, or call them and schedule a FREE in-home consultation.

Conceptualizing the design and providing feasible options

For the consultation, the design-build firm will first interview the homeowner to know the requirements and then they will take necessary measurements to ascertain the correct size of the island, so that it fits the space perfectly. Then, their interior designer will propose a couple of concept designs along with a rough estimate of the project cost.

Step 2: Developing the Design

The next step of the process is to develop the concept into the final design. This step builds upon the concept and will involve structural and non-structural changes. Once the design is agreed upon, the next thing will be to determine the materials, colors, and the additional features such as electrical outlets.

Step 3: Construction

After the design, material choices, and features have been finalized by the homeowner, the company will commence with the construction of the final product. At this point, a team of expert tradesmen will meticulously carve out the island using the highest quality materials. Since, the island is a major part of the whole kitchen renovation or building process, the tradesmen will work in tandem with the rest of the team to make sure the centerpiece of the kitchen fits perfectly with the rest of the kitchen and/or home design.


Now that you understand the basics of kitchen island design and have been introduced to a variety of styles and options, let’s review the most common questions that people ask of us.

How big should a kitchen island be?

The smallest is typically 2 feet by 4 feet yet a more common size is 3.5 feet by 6 feet. Large islands can be over 10 feet long.

How long should a kitchen island be?

Most homeowners appreciate an island at least 6 feet long. The normal range is 4 feet for tight condos and townhomes to over 10 feet long for spacious homes.

How much space do you need between an island and a counter?

The minimum should be 36 inches. If you are working in that aisle, leave 42 inches to 48 inches. Always leave extra room when you have multiple things happening such as a fridge door opening and a major walking route in the same space.

How far should a kitchen island be from cabinets?

36 inches is the industry norm for the space between the kitchen island and the cabinets. More room is required if it is a working space.

How much space do you need around a kitchen island?

Walking paths should be 36 inches at minimum, whereas multi-purposes spaces typically require 42 inches to 48 inches.

What is the minimum aisle space in kitchen?

You will typically be comfortable with a 36 inch aisle in your kitchen. Just keep in mind that the more activities taking place within the aisle, the more space you need.

How wide is a kitchen island with seating?

The recommended amount is 24 inches wide per person. Thus, a 4 chair island should be at least 8 feet long.

What is the standard height for a kitchen island?

The industry standard is 36 inches high for a kitchen island- which many view as the perfect height to balance out slightly high seating with a standard level kitchen work surface. Some designers prefer 42 inch high islands for bar-height seating, which works great for breakfast bars. It is always best to get a professional opinion before making a selection in order to keep the kitchen looking good.

How many stools should you have in a kitchen island?

Couples tend to be content with 2 stools, but families often prefer one stool per child so that it can serve as a breakfast bar. Most common is 2 or 4 stools per kitchen island.

How much overhang should a kitchen island have?

You’ll want 15 inches or 18 inches of knee depth, and thus your overhang should be either 15 or 18 inches deep. Go the luxurious route and select up to 24 inches deep if your island is big enough.

How big is too big for a kitchen island?

A kitchen island typically only gets too big in relation to the room size and the aisles. If you maintain 48 inches around the island on all sides, you are likely not going to experience the island looking too big. Also keep in mind that you need to be able to reach to the center of the island for cleaning, so anything more than 4 feet deep can be challenging to keep clean.

How much would a kitchen island cost?

Islands typically cost from $1000 for simple do-it-yourself projects to $10,000+ for professionally built islands with plumbing, electricity, and choice materials. Appliances can increase the cost as can sinks. On average, an island adds about $5000 to the cost of a kitchen design process.

What is the best countertop material?

Design pros agree that the best are quartz and granite as they are both beautiful, strong, and easy to maintain. Marble is a distant third. But don’t be afraid of experimenting with butcher block wood, concrete, or recycled glass.

What countertop material is easiest to maintain?

Quartz is the easiest countertop to maintain, followed by granite. Avoid butcher block if easy maintenance is a concern.

Does quartz scratch more easily than granite?

Yes, quartz scratches more easily than granite. Granite is sharp enough to cut directly on. Quartz will show scratches if you drop pots or knives on its surface.

Which is stronger, quartz or granite?

Granite chips more easily, so quartz is a stronger surface. However, in the case of chips, granite is easier to repair.

What is cheaper, quartz or granite countertops?

Natural granite is typically cheaper to buy and install than quartz. Expect to save 30% by using granite.

Are quartz and granite heat resistant?

Granite is much more heat resistant than quartz. The resins that go into manufacturing quartz can be easily damaged under a hot pot. Natural granite is much stronger. We recommend protecting all countertops for hot pots.

Are quartz or granite damaged in the sunlight?

Yes, darker colors of quartz are easily damaged in the sunlight. If you have a sun-filled space, stick with a natural stone like granite or marble.

Let us know if you have more questions about kitchen island design.

Our kitchen designers and builders work from the Near Southside of Chicago well into the Western and Northern suburbs- as far north as Lake Forest. Some of our most beautiful creations can be found in Chicago, Glenview, Wilmette, Evanston, and Winnetka.

We have a field office in Chicago’s Logan Square and our main operations office (and client meeting room) is in Skokie.

If you’d like support with designing and building your Chicago kitchen, call our team at 847-983-4024 or via our contact form here, and we’ll answer all of your questions and even come to your home for a free consultation.

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