Kitchen Island Planning Guide: Space, Sinks, Cooktops, and More

  • 01 of 05

    Most People Over-Size Their Islands. Don't Do That!

    Beautiful kitchen in luxury home.
    Chuck Schmidt/E+/Getty Images

    If you've got ample floor space in your kitchen, it's not a bad idea to add a kitchen island. They can add 25% or more counter and cabinet space, give you more electrical outlets, and often more sink options.

    But many homeowners get so caught up in the excitement of having a kitchen island that they end up oversizing it.  The island visually overwhelms the kitchen's true work area.

    The Ten-Percent Rule

    Your island should be no more than 10% of the total square footage of your kitchen. Any more than that and the island will dominate the kitchen and make it difficult to maneuver. For example, the kitchen shown in the accompanying image is 10 feet by 13 feet (130 square feet). Its island is 4 feet by 7 feet (28 square feet). So, about 10% of the kitchen is used for the island.

    Experiment by placing a table in the space for 2-3 days, and see how it feels. However, if you are planning to have large appliances or services (downdraft cooktop or a sink), bigger is definitely better.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Provide Vent and Hood (Exhaust) For Your Kitchen Island Cooktop

    Kitchen Island with Cooktop and Vent Hood
    Kitchen Island with Cooktop and Vent Hood. Getty / Spaces Images

    Ever burned something while cooking? Then you know that if you have a stove, you need an exhaust.  With an island, you do not have the usual option of an exhaust hood against the wall (with the vapors drawn straight out a hole in the wall). You have two choices, either up or down.

    • Up and Out:  Higher-end stove installations in islands hang a hood over the stove, with the smoke being drawn straight up a tube and out of the house.  Because of smoke and steam rise, the "up and out" overhead hood option tends to be the best from a functional standpoint.  The downside is that you have a hood and vent in the middle of the room.
    • Down and Out:  With some cooktops, a grate in the stove next to the burners sucks the smoke straight down, and then out of the house through the crawlspace.

    "Out" is never an option, since most building codes require that residential kitchen exhaust be vented clear to the outside.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Be Creative: Pair Permanent and Freestanding Kitchen Islands

    Kitchen Island with Butcher Block
    Kitchen Island with Butcher Block. Getty / Jean-Yves Bruel

    Think flexibility:  pair a less-than-giant permanent kitchen island with a freestanding island.  This allows you the massive island that you think you want, but with an "escape plan," if you should decide it's just too much.

    Freestanding kitchens pair best with permanent islands when:

    1. Level:  Surfaces are level, as shown here.  
    2. Different Surfaces, Different Needs:  Each surface provides a different value.  For example, a freestanding island with a large butcher block, only for chopping meat and veggies, paired with a permanent island for mixing, using small appliances, and other prep work.  The permanent island will typically give you two additional electrical outlets--a requirement based on the electrical code.
    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Consider: Should the Island Cooktop Be Your ONLY Mode of Cooking?

    Kitchen Island with Cooktop Stove
    Kitchen Island with Cooktop Stove. Getty / Spaces Images

    Cooks like having a cooktop stove on the kitchen island because it allows for increased working room. Also, centralized stoves make for a more social atmosphere, especially when bar chairs are added to the island.

    However, think hard about whether you are ready to break your cooking area away from the perimeter.  This across-aisle back and forth can frustrate some cooks who are accustomed to having a tight, unified sink-counter-stove work area.

    For such cooks, the island cooktop is their secondary, overflow mode of cooking; the primary stove is located in the perimeter countertop area.

    For island cooktops or stoves, electrical or gas lines must be brought up from the floor, through the crawlspace (or through the concrete slab, depending on your home).

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Max Out Your Storage Space (It May Be Your Island's Main Virtue)

    Fiery Orange Kitchen Tile Backsplash Repeated on Island
    Fiery Orange Kitchen Tile Backsplash Repeated on Island. © Susan Jablon

    Kitchen islands often eventually become less cooking areas and more repositories for stuff.  Strange but true:  the few extra feet needed to go from the main peripheral cooking counters to the island is often too much.  It's just human nature.

    But islands are great for holding stuff!  Make the best of it by adding "smart space" in the form of drawers and shelved cabinet space, instead of giant, empty caverns where you have to stack pan upon pan.

    The island in this photo (showing tile from Susan Jablon) has cabinets and drawers along its entire length on one side.