By Meg Escott
I have spent many happy hours analysing kitchen island designs and deconstructing them so that I can give you a summary of the different design options.
A kitchen island is a really useful addition to a kitchen and might be used for any number of activities:
When you're considering your kitchen island design it's important to think carefully about how you will use your kitchen island and choose the design options that will best support the way you want to live in your kitchen.
On this page we'll first discuss the elements of kitchen island designs. The idea is to talk about the different options available so that you can pick and choose the combination that will work best in your kitchen. The examples are all for rectangular islands but go ahead and use your imagination to apply the principles to the shape of island that you're planning.
I've illustrated the ideas as they would appear on a plan from the top down and in section as if someone had cut the island in half.
It's a long page so you can skip right to the kitchen island designs or other section that you're interested in.
I recommend taking a look at the kitchen dimensions page to familiarize yourself with the clearances that a kitchen island needs under different circumstances.
The kitchens with islands page suggests some overall kitchen layouts which include an island.
This page is part of the kitchen design layout series.
The first depth option is to make a kitchen island with some cabinets of wall cabinet size. Check what depth of base cabinet is available from your kitchen cabinet manufacturer.
Here's what a 1ft / 30cm kitchen island design would look like on the floor plan.
It’s fair to say that this would be a very thin kitchen island. In fact it serves more as a space divider rather than an island as such but it does still provide a useful surface which can augment the counter space in a kitchen. Since it’s thin, it needs to be bolted down to the floor very firmly to prevent it falling over. I have come across kitchen islands of this depth in several configurations. We'll take a look at them now.
Here's the 1ft deep island in it's simplest form where the shelves are facing the kitchen and there's a flat countertop with no overhang apart from the lip that extends over the cabinets.
Then if we just spin the island around the shelves face away from the kitchen providing some storage to the living space.
The next design element that's added here is a vertical divider.
In the first example, the divider shields the countertop (hides any mess) of the island from the area beyond the kitchen.
Equally, this arrangement can be reversed to present the shelves and the countertop to the area beyond the kitchen.
If we play with this arrangement we can make the shelves available for kitchen storage and the countertop directed to the space beyond the kitchen.
And if we reverse this we have the shelves available for storage outside the kitchen and extra countertop space available within the kitchen.
Another way of creating a visual barrier is to raise the height of the island itself to bar height.
There are a few different configurations for doors with a 1ft / 30cm kitchen island.
The most obvious is with all the doors opening towards the kitchen.
Or if storage is more useful to the area outside the kitchen, the doors can be placed on the other side.
Or you can choose an arrangement using both sides.
Here's a space saving idea. How about building a bench on the back of your island?
The next size up is to make an island out of a run of base cabinets.
Here's what that would look like on the floor plan.
And in cross section...
A divider can be added to prevent the countertop being used as a set down place for the area outside the kitchen, and to shield the view of the kitchen.
Another surface at bar height can be added to overlap the surface of the island to give more counter space.
All the examples above have the shelves facing in towards the kitchen, but you can choose other configurations.
First of all, here's how the doors would look with all the shelves facing the kitchen.
You could opt to have some of the shelves facing out into the area beyond the kitchen.
How about incorporating some storage at the short ends of the island?
Another alternative is to half the storage depth and allocate half to each side.
Now let's look at 2ft / 60cm deep kitchen island designs that include the use of 1ft 30cm base cabinets in order to create an overhang which acts as legroom for seating. The dotted line in the plan view below shows a 'cut out' area that is created by using 1ft / 30cm cabinets along that section.
Let's have a look at this in section view.
Another option is to have an overhang the entire length of the island.
And in section view below. Now, you can see that the total depth of this island is slightly greater than 2ft / 60cm. Strictly speaking to allow for the most comfortable clearance for seating an overhang for 15 inches / 38cm is required.
How about turning the shelves to present to the area beyond the kitchen? This can be a little bit impractical because stools have to be moved to access the storage, but if there is already enough kitchen storage, it might make more sense to orientate the storage this way.
There are options with the surface height of the seating are as well. You can take the surface height to bar height which would create more of a barrier between the kitchen and the area beyond the kitchen.
The vertical edge at the back of the 'breakfast bar' is important to avoid objects being accidentally pushed into the kitchen side of the island.
Equally, tabletop height is another option for the surface height of the seating area.
Another idea worth considering is including some overlapping surfaces.
In the example below the surface height of the seating area is at bar height. Another shelf has been added on top of the divider which increases the flat countertop space available.
A booth built on the back of a 2ft / 60cm island would need an additional 65 inches / 1.65m.
Now we move along to 3ft / 91cm deep islands. Here's what that would look like in plan.
If you choose to make the island entirely storage you can pick which side has the deepest cabinets. The dotted line represents where the storage is split.
Here's what the arrangement above would look like in section (or side on view)
Here's a couple of other arrangements on the theme above with varying surface heights for the countertop heights for the area beyond the kitchen.
First let's look at what table height looks like.
And if we try bar height...
Or the storage could be the other way round.
Perhaps the most popular arrangement for a 3ft / 91cm deep island is to use base cabinets and eave an overhang to create a seating area.
Let's have a look at what that would look like side on. As we saw earlier the most comfortable clearance for seating an overhang for 15 inches / 38cm is required.
Of course you might find that changing the surface height of the overhang will work better for you.
How about adding a divider?
Let's see what an overhang at bar height looks like.
Another alternative is to include a cut out area in the island for seating.
Here's a door plan for the arrangement above.
In this arrangement base cabinets are used on both sides of the island.
This is how this depth of island looks from the side.
Here's a few door plans for the above arrangement.
If seating is required, a slimmer cabinet can be substituted on the appropriate side for the length of the run of the seating.
Let's see what that looks like from the side.
You can choose to have the surface height of the seating area at a different height to the rest of the island.
In the example below, the counter for the seated area is at table height.
Another option would be bar height.
Or you can decide to have a cutout seating area.
Deeper kitchen islands are of course possible, but it leaves a dead space in the middle of the island. If you have plenty of space this isn’t a problem.
All the examples above have been for a rectangular island, so let's explore a few other options for kitchen island shape.
In the picture below the shape of the island become gradually more curved. When it comes to cabinets, curves generally mean more expense. Some manufacturers will have curved cabinets available as part of the range in which case you could have a kitchen island design with a straight edge and rounded at the ends.
A full oval shape would be very expensive to build and is likely to require custom cabinetry.
Now let's look at an island that's curved on one side. The thing about curves is that it's often only possible with custom built cabinets if you want to include cabinets along the curved edge. If you're not going to go to the expense of custom cabinets then a good trick is to have one side of the island in a shape that's suitable for off-the-shelf cabinets, then you can get the countertop of the island cut to include a curve. Below, this is demonstrated in the right hand example.
Similar logic applies if you need a triangular shaped island to deal with an angle in your kitchen design.
There are some options for the power sockets on your island on the how to design a kitchen page.
And don't forget to check out the kitchen lighting ideas page to see how your kitchen island lighting can contribute to your kitchen ambience.
This page wouldn't be complete without a few real life examples. I've written a few notes which reflect the discussion on this page.