Your guide to Kitchen Islands

If dimensions allow, kitchen islands can truly transform the look and feel of any space. Additionally, they can be used to subtly divide open plan living and dining areas or create a ‘social hub’ for the family. Moreover, islands provide an opportunity to create a focal point in the space. One can a easily introduce contrasting materials and colours to add a personal touch of style.

If you are planning to incorporate a kitchen island into your project, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind.

  • Firstly, you need to assess the dimensions to ensure the island fits appropriately within the space. In this article we show you how to account for surrounding cabinetry and walkways.
  • Secondly, it’s essential to determine the purpose of the island. Will serve for preparation, cooking, seating, or other functions.
  • Additionally, you should consider the services required. By this I mean electrical, gas, water, and waste water. How easily can be introduced to the island.
  • The choice of worktop materials, seating options, and proper lighting are also important factors to contemplate.

Below, we will delve into each key consideration in detail. We will provide you with all the necessary information to determine if an island is suitable for your space.

Dimensions for kitchen islands

Kitchen island dimensions play a crucial role in determining whether your space can accommodate one. It is recommended that the island depth be at least 900mm for functionality. The island should have a minimum of 1000mm clear space for walkways around it (1200mm is optimal). 

This means you require at least 3,5m wall-to-wall for instances with just 1 run of units parallel to your island.  (600mm cabinets + 1000mm gap + 900mm island + 1000mm walkway).

Infographoc showing minimum space needed around a kitchen island in the UK

 Should you need a run of units on both sides of your island then your room needs to be greater than 4000mm wide. This is shown in the picture above.

The length of the island should consider factors like available space, intended function, desired seating capacity, and limitations of the worksurface. (more on that in worktops for kitchen islands below)It is also essential to leave at least 1000mm of clear space at each end and allocate ample worktop space for sinks and hobs, as well as sufficient width for each seating spot.

For seating, a general rule of thumb is to allow for 600mm width for each seat / stool. (eg. 3 seats = 1800mm)

Have you considered the real purpose of your island?

The purpose of your island is another significant consideration. It can serve various uses, such as food preparation, cooking, entertaining, room division, or cleaning. Determining the primary function early in the design process allows your designer to plan accordingly.

Here, we have listed some of the most common uses for and some useful tips and ideas for each.

Food preparation

Think about the equipment that you use regularly and plan the storage under the island to suit. Knives, chopping boards, food processors, herbs, oils, mixing bowls etc should all be kept within easy reach.

Image of a food preparation island

Remember to have side mounted or pop-up countertop electrical sockets for your small appliances. Another thing to consider is having a wooden butchers block inset in the worktop? 

A small prep sink for rinsing and washing foods may also be a good idea, if space allows. Just remember that services (water and a waste pipe) will need to be brought across to the island. Water supply is under pressure and normally uses narrow pipes but waste water is normally the challenge. Waste pipes are 40mm wide and need to have a fall on them to drain the water away. Few people realise that the 40mm waste needs to increase to at least 50mm if it goes under the floor. This is to prevent blockages that would be hard to get to.

Cooking

Installing your hob on an island is a great idea. You can interact with family and friends whilst cooking a meal rather than having your back turned to them. This is also useful if there are two or more people in the household who like to cook together at meal times. There will be a significant amount of preparation equipment needed in the island. Things associated with cooking – utensils, pots, pans and perhaps the odd recipe book will need a “place to live”. 

Consider using drawers under the cooktop for easy access to heavy pans and all your utensils.

Image of drawers and utensil storage

Entertaining

You may like the idea of having a central ‘social hub’ in your kitchen for entertaining which includes, seating drinks, snacks, crockery and glassware. Plan adequate storage under the island to accommodate what you need. Drawers are ideal for storing stacked crockery. You could plan to include a drinks / cocktail station with a fridge, wine cooler, wine racks and even somewhere for your cocktail umbrellas.

Image of a functional kitchen island designed by Saffron Interiors

For breakfast bar stools, remember to allow 600mm width for each person.

Room division

A kitchen island is a great way to divide areas within an open plan space. If you have a kitchen / living area, the island can act as a physical marker between both zones. You can create an attractive focal point at the rear of the island using feature units and lighting. Or perhaps something more creative like backlit glass or a stylish fretwork panel.

Example of how kitchen islands can be used as a room divider

Cleaning

The island in your kitchen may serve as the area reserved for cleaning. It houses the sink, dishwasher, bins, and all of your cleaning products in one place, making washing up and clearing away the daily rubbish and after meals easy. 

Having one central workstation facilitates the process. This is particularly relevant in open plan kitchen/dining rooms.  You can easily transfer everything from the dining table to the island before loading the dishwasher and clearing everything away. 

Considering services for kitchen islands (gas, electric, water, waste)

Considering kitchen island services is crucial if you plan to install sinks, hobs, or electrical goods. Ensuring the introduction of necessary services like electrics, gas, water, and waste is vital during the preparation phase.

For sinks and dishwashers, hot and cold-water supplies and a waste outlet need to be brought up from the floor below. Hobs require a gas supply or appropriate electrical supply, and extraction solutions should be considered.

Consulting a professional kitchen designer will help you choose the most suitable options for your project.

Worktops for kitchen islands

Selecting the right worktop for your island can be challenging. There are many questions that you need to answer to ensure that you choose the right solution.

  • If you have a large island, will your worktop have joins?
  • How big are the worktop slabs available?
  • Do you plan on creating a book-matched waterfall edge to your island?
  • Does your island have different heights, do you want to use more than one material?
  • Which materials are stain-resistant?
  • To ensure that it is fit for purpose, it is important to understand the properties of the material you plan to use.

The answers to these questions are beyond the scope of this article. Your designer can help you with the intricate detail and choosing colours. See our ultimate worktop guide to help you choose the material that is right for you and new kitchen islands.

Image of a book matched kitchen island worktop
Example of a book-matched island worktop

Kitchen island seating

Seating options for the island offer flexibility and customization. You can incorporate a worktop overhang for a conventional breakfast bar or integrate an integral bench into the cabinetry. Creating a formal dining area within the island is also possible by using different worktop materials to define the seating area. And by varying the thickness in material, this too can create interest.

Image of how kitchen islands can incorporate bench seating
Image of a long kitchen island breakfast bar with 4 seats and a food prep butchers block at one end

Image showing how kitchen islands can seamlessly incorporate table height seating

How are you going to light your island?

Lighting your kitchen island requires careful thought. If you are using your island for preparation or cooking, you should utilize adequate task lighting. Cool White LED ceiling lights or pendants with a temperature colour of 5,500 – 6,500k are perfect.

If your island is primarily used for seating or room division, you may want to consider low-level, softer lighting. Illuminating the plinths or worktop profile can create a warm and inviting soft glow. This subtly highlights the kitchen space when overhead lights are off or dimmed.

See our lighting guide for more information on lighting.

Image of kitchen island pendant lights

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