How to Plan the Perfect Kitchen Island
how to ge There can’t be many t kitchen wishlists that h e don’t include a kitchen island. m Not only do they have the potential ri to look great, but they are also hugely g h practical, says Natasha Brinsmead t
The kitchen island is high on the wishlist of many homeowners, but what do you need to consider beforehand? We explain all
Perhaps it is the rise in popularity of the large, open plan kitchen diner, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that everyone seems to be carrying out super swish kitchen extension projects of late — whatever the reason, the kitchen island has become something of a must-have feature.
Kitchen islands come in so many configurations and designs that your kitchen, be it teeny tiny or gargantuan, can benefit. Islands not only provide extra storage and worktop space, but they can also form a boundary between cooking and living or dining spaces, while curved or shaped units can work to direct traffic away from busy preparation areas.
When it comes to interior design features these days, the choice has become almost overwhelming. While we want plenty of options and chances to tailor our homes to our unique needs, it can mean that decision making is nigh on impossible. Kitchen islands are no different. Size, shape, colour, configuration, height — all these factors need to be taken into consideration. But before you give up completely on the idea, rest assured, there are ways to simplify the selection process. Begin by asking yourself: l Why do I want a kitchen island? This is the big one and your answers will determine its complete design and, ultimately, what you are willing to add onto your budget to achieve it. Answers might include: extra storage or work areas, somewhere to sit and eat informal meals, as a cooking area, or as a simple room divide. l How much space do I need for my island unit to work well? l How much will an island unit add to the overall cost of the kitchen? l Do I want it to ‘match’ the rest of the kitchen units or be made from a contrasting material? l Do you want a place to sit at the island? l How will it affect the kitchen lighting plan?
Armed with the answers to these questions, you should be able to start forming a mental picture of the kind of kitchen island that will suit you.
Ideally, the kitchen island will form part of your overall kitchen design from the off, but sometimes islands are added later, after the main kitchen units have been installed. In the majority of cases, however, a kitchen island will be purchased at the same time as the kitchen and from the same supplier. Other options include building one on a DIY basis or asking a joiner to make one for you. Do bear in mind that if you add it at a later date, it will be more disruptive to get power, water etc. to it if needed.
Selecting the Size and Shape
The size and shape will very much depend on the rest of your kitchen design and the overall size of the room. The
beauty of the island is that it can be long and narrow, wide and hefty, simply a work surface or packed full of shelving for all your cookery books, or maybe an appliance hub — you can tailor it to your own needs and wants.
The bigger the kitchen, the bigger you can afford to go with your kitchen island. If your kitchen lies more on the bijou side, don’t rule an island out. Yes, you might have to compromise when it comes to what you can include, but set out clear priorities, such as extra preparation space, another couple of cupboards or somewhere to perch for a quick snack, and you should not have to miss out.
The minimum recommended size for a fixed kitchen island is around 1m x 1m. These dimensions allow for the inclusion of an integrated appliance while giving useful workspace too.
The space left between the island and the surrounding units and walls is known as the ‘clearance space’. This needs to be observed as not only will it provide the space you use to walk around the kitchen, but also allows unit and appliance doors to be fully opened. With the smallest of islands, a minimal clearance zone of 800mm is recommended, although the ideal distance is 1m.
Getting the Height Right
The height of your island unit will depend on what you intend on using it for. The chances are that, if you are planning on using it for a worktop, hob or sink (anything you stand at basically) then you will want it to be set at worktop height. This tends to be 910mm, including a worktop thickness of 40mm. Of course, if you find it more comfortable to have your worktop set higher or lower than this, then some tweaking will be required.
If your island unit is going to provide a spot to sit at, its height may be different. In general, to sit at an island unit on a chair, an overall height of around 760mm works well, whereas to sit at an island on a stool requires a height of approximately 1,060 - 1,220mm.
Some of the most practical kitchen islands are dual height. Not only is this is a good way to achieve both an eating area as well as a food prep site, but it can also work to conceal cooking clutter from the dining side of a kitchen.
Choosing the Worktop
Some homeowners like to match the island worktop to that used on their base units, while others prefer a contrasting material. Practicality is key. If you plan on incorporating a hob or sink into the island, then a material that is heat or water-resistant makes sense — otherwise, integrated trivets are a brilliant idea.
Hard, non-porous stones such as granite are practical, as are composites containing quartz. Marble stains easily, and timber needs a good amount of care and maintenance.
If you want a continuous piece of worktop with no seams, you may have to either reduce your island size or rethink the material. The standard size of most slabs of stone for worktops is 3m x 1.35m, although composites such as Corian can be made to join seamlessly, at a cost. Otherwise, custom-made stone slabs and timber sections are an option.
Where you place your island will reflect the layout of your kitchen. However, a central position in the room tends to work well for most spaces, keeping in mind the required and recommended clearance spaces.
Creating a galley kitchen layout using an island is a great idea — loved by chefs for its practicality and ease of use. A galley kitchen layout enables you to work at the island, turn and spin and reach the work surface behind; this allows quick and safe access to all useful areas of the kitchen. Avoid clearance spaces of more than 1,200mm in this instance as they require an extra step and create an awkward and disconnected feel in the room.
Creating an appliance ‘nerve centre’ or even including just one or two appliances within your kitchen island requires some extra planning.
An integrated hob or cooker means you will need to consider an electricity or gas supply as well as extraction, while including a sink or dishwasher means thinking about water supply and waste. None of this will typically be a problem as long as you make your requirements known to your electrician, plumber and kitchen supplier early on in the design stages, before work starts on site.
If you plan on siting your kitchen sink within your island, consider how you will conceal the washing up mess from the dining side of the island. Many people choose to fit a higher level plinth to create separation between food prep and eating areas — and to hide dirty dishes from view.
Extractor Hoods for Islands
When it comes to ‘ over-island extraction’, wall-mounted units are out. Instead you will need to look at freestanding extraction units, either mounted onto the ceiling directly above the hob, or coming out from the worktop. In the case of ceiling-mounted ducted extraction units, the ducting will need to be taken up and out through the ceiling, using the shortest route possible for maximum efficiency.
Pop-up extractors are commonly known as downdraught extractors. When not in use, these units are hidden beneath the worktop. When required, they rise from the work surface, to a height of around 310mm.
Like all extraction units, these downdraught extractors can be used to simply recirculate the air, through a
charcoal filter, eliminating the need for ducting. However, they work best when ducted to the outside. In this case, the ducting usually passes under the flooring, below or along the back of the kitchen units. (As such, you begin to build up a picture as to why islands – and indeed the whole kitchen – is best planned in advance, before starting work on site and certainly before first fix.)
If you neither like the idea of a downdraught or a pendant-style extractor, then consider a flush-mounted ceiling extractor instead. In order to make them appear flush, the units usually need to be fitted into a section of false ceiling or overhead bulkhead. The result is a sleek, yet effective, feature — plus the overhead bulkhead allows for the inclusion of some interesting lighting effects.
Kitchen Island Seating
The kitchen island is the perfect place to include some extra seating — and makes the ideal spot for guests to perch or for more informal dining as a family.
The shape and size of your island will dictate how much seating you can incorporate, but in general, you will need around 300mm of clear space beneath the island to accommodate knees. You will also need to leave enough space behind and to either side of your chosen stools or chairs for people to get in and out comfortably.
If your seating will be used by children, you might want to consider lowering the height of your island at one end or along one of the longer sides — so that it transitions from island to table.
The Lighting Scheme
Good lighting will transform your kitchen island from functional into an architectural feature. The simplest lighting route is the tried-and-tested three pendants in a row solution. This is a method that looks great and does the job of shedding light where it is needed well.
However, not all islands lend themselves to this set up, meaning you may need to look for some nifty alternatives. Well-placed recessed downlighters can work well, providing they are positioned in such a way that whoever is working at the island will not block the light from the surface. Spotlights set on a track are a great option, particularly if they are adjustable.
A striking oversized chandelier can really add glamour and wow factor to the island, while incorporating some concealed LED lighting within a section of false ceiling directly above the island will inject some architectural magic to the set-up.
above: The K7 solid wood kitchen by Team 7 morphs from a kitchen countertop to a dining table, a sideboard or a bar — all at the touch of a button. The island can be adjusted in height from 74cm to 114cm. The sink can be covered and the taps retracted. From £33,000, as shown (wharfside.co.uk).
above: Howden’s Allendale white kitchen features shaker-style doors. The U-shape kitchen here features a small custom-made peninsula, perfect for smaller kitchens (howdens.com). right: The Oxford painted kitchen island from Cotswold Co. comes complete with handy storage baskets, £849 (cotswoldco.com).
islands for every kitchen
left: This island, part of Howden’s Burford range, doubles up as a cosy seating area (howdens.com). below: This contemporary island is part of the Genoa collection from Optiplan Kitchens (optiplankitchens.co.uk).
central kitchen islands
from top: The Fitzroy kitchen from Second Nature (sncollection. co.uk); The Milbourne kitchen from Second Nature (as before); Grey Linear kitchen from Harvey Jones (harveyjones.com).
left: This Harvey Jones’ Linear kitchen combines different worktop materials and breaks up a large expanse (harveyjones.com). below: Using three pendants over a central island works well. These Upton ceramic pendants from Fritz Fryer are ideal (fritzfryer.co.uk).