For some mysterious reason, a kitchen with an island is a winner-winner, chicken dinner. Okay, maybe it isn’t that big of a mystery. What’s not to love? Extra space for working and storing, maybe even a little eating if you play your cards right. These bonus features make it beyond appealing. Flip through the pages of every home magazine and you’re likely to find every – if not close to it – kitchen with its very own island. But is it the right choice for your kitchen? Like all fairytales, things are never quite the way they seem. Before setting your heart on a new kitchen – complete with an island – let’s pump the brakes and evaluate.

You Know What You’re Getting, What Are You Sacrificing?

More space! It’s quite ironic, hysterically so, that in order to gain this extra, super-awesome, bonus space, you also have to forfeit quite a bit of space. See, when it comes time to build and install your kitchen island, there are certain requirements you must first meet in order to make it worth the time, money, and effort. 

In order to keep the traffic flow within the walls of your kitchen from getting gummed up, you need at least 42 inches of clearance on all sides of the island. Anything less than this and it becomes a complicated and not at all sexy tango of maneuvering yourself, food and dishes, and another body around the room. You’ll still have extra storage and workspace, but it now becomes a hassle to walk about, and that’s not what you want.

The second part of this equation is the size of the island itself. Unless you’re buying something pre-built, your kitchen island can be created to fit your specs. This means it can be as big or small as you want/can accommodate. However, what’s the point in spending all that money if the finished product barely provides any room to work? At the very least, your island should be 4 feet long and a little more than 2 feet deep. Anything smaller than that is just a waste of space.

How Do You Accommodate?

Unfortunately, the simple solution isn’t ‘Just knock out a few walls!’ No. First, that is not a simple task. Walls aren’t just there to separate rooms and reduce noise, the are usually load bearing support structures that keep the house upright. It becomes even trickier if you have a two-or-more story house. Yes, an open kitchen is nice, but sometimes it just isn’t in the cards. 

One option is to modify the counters and cabinets that are already in place. If you can spare some space on these fronts, you might be able to get away with an island. However, if this is what you’re considering resorting to, it would be a better use of time and money to deepen your cabinets and counters, even spring for some custom features like a lazy susan in the corner unit, and drawers that make these deeper cabinets still easy to access. 

The second option is to add a peninsula instead of an island. Peninsulas can be added to the edge of existing cabinets, or tacked on to the end of a wall. They don’t require as much clearance space, and still provide you with more room for working, eating, or storing things.

Open Floor Plans

Kitchen islands were made for open floor plans. In fact, the island is quite essential to facilitating an open plan. Without it, you’d have absolutely zero prep space. Not only that, they bring a little more form to a vast, shapeless area, clearly identifying where the kitchen is without closing it off to the rest of the house.

Bells And Whistles

If you are fortunate enough to have a kitchen island installed in your new kitchen, consider what you want it to contain. Obviously, there’s the storage space. But you can also place your cooking range on the island (which will require a ventilation hood that taps into your house’s HVAC system), or a sink. You could even leave the counter open for interpretation. Underneath – aside from storage – you can put your oven, trash, or wine fridge. Whatever you choose to do with your island, make sure it works for you.