Kitchen Island: The Best Tips for Planning

With the kitchen island, you get a piece of individuality, design, and social gathering in your own kitchen. Around the kitchen island, you can cook together, eat, and talk. Which kitchen island is right for you and your home – and what should you pay attention to when planning and selecting your future kitchen island? We reveal to you in this article.

With a kitchen island, you get a piece of individuality and design in your kitchen.
With a kitchen island, you get a piece of individuality and design in your kitchen.
Photo: living4media/Great Stock!

The most important thing, in a nutshell

  • For a kitchen island to fit in the kitchen, the room should ideally have a square footprint and a size of at least 15 to 20 square meters. The larger, the better to ensure the distance between the kitchen unit and the cooking island.
  • The depth of a cooking island depends mainly on the size of the room. Thus, there are no limits upwards. However, note that the depth should not be less than the typical depth of kitchen countertops. So, the cooking island must be at least 80 centimeters.
  • We recommend a distance of at least 1.20 meters between the kitchen counter and the cooking island – this will allow two opposite drawers to open simultaneously, and you can move around easily. It’s best to keep this in mind when planning the kitchen.
  • A fitted kitchen with a cooking island is not entirely cheap. Island kitchens are available from $4,000, but some cost $15,000 or more – depending on the number of cabinets and the materials used.

It provides conviviality in the kitchen and is ideal for ambitious hobby chefs: the kitchen island. However, when planning a kitchen island for the home, many things need to be taken into account: from the size of the kitchen to the desired functions and the budget. And, of course, the material and quality of the kitchen island should be right. We give you an overview of the possibilities and costs for a successful kitchen island on your own four walls.

How Big Does the Kitchen Need to Be for a Kitchen Island?

Whether a kitchen island is suitable for your kitchen at home is, first and foremost, a question of the size of the room. According to experts in kitchen design, at least 15 to 20 square meters should be available to place a kitchen island in the center of the kitchen. The more space you have at home, the more design freedom you have with your future kitchen island.

But it is not only the size of the room that matters: the dimensions of the kitchen island itself are also important. At a length of one meter, you still have enough room to move when cooking – but the kitchen island should not be shorter. Conversely, if you have a lot of space, limit your kitchen island to four to five meters to avoid constant running through long distances at home.

Decide according to the actual use of your kitchen by the number of people. Whether you are a single person realizing your dream kitchen or planning a family kitchen should ultimately determine the size of the planned kitchen island.

When placing the kitchen island in the room, consider the distance from the rest of the kitchen unit. Kitchen outfitters recommend a distance of at least 1.20 meters between the kitchen counter and the cooking island so that you can work at home without feeling cramped in the kitchen.

How high should a cooking island be?

Ergonomics is playing an increasingly important role not only in terms of office equipment but also in terms of kitchen design. When you plan your kitchen, you can directly adjust the height of the cooking island to your size and needs. You can find the optimal working height by bending your elbows to 90 degrees while standing and measuring 15 centimeters down from the spot. For a body height of 175 centimeters, for example, this results in a total height of the work surface of 95 centimeters.

You can base your kitchen island choice on your kitchen counter's design
You can base your kitchen island choice on your kitchen counter’s design.
Photo: living4media/Bauer Syndication

What Can I Use a Kitchen Island For?

In the planning phase, you should determine how and for what you use the cooking island quite practically. After all, a cooking island is much more than just a work surface for cutting vegetables and preparing meals. Depending on your preference, the island work surface in the center of the kitchen can integrate a cooktop with hot plates, a dishwasher, or even more storage space for dishes. If you like, you can also use the kitchen island as a table or counter and create a central seating and eating area with bar stools. This way, the kitchen island can transform your kitchen into a living room kitchen.

So clarify in advance with your kitchen or interior designer whether you need an additional water or electricity connection for the cooking island at home, as well as a water drain in the center of the room. Ask about the costs in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises. The same applies to extractor hoods with exhaust operation, which requires a vent shaft to the outside – if you also want to cook on the kitchen island. To save costs, you can alternatively opt for a cooker hood with recirculation mode, i.e., a cooker hood without exhaust air.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Kitchen Island?

Advantages

The advantage of a kitchen island is its social function. If you group around the island kitchen while preparing and cooking, you almost automatically start a conversation and enjoy cooking together. In addition, it is also wonderful to eat at the kitchen island – if you place bar stools or chairs in front of it. With a counter on the worktop, you also create a bar effect. You gain a lot of storage space with a cooking island thanks to base cabinets and drawers that you can integrate underneath the kitchen countertops.

Disadvantages

Conversely, a kitchen island has the disadvantage of often requiring a lot of space, depending on your vision, and also relatively extensive planning, depending on its useful function. For example, if you want to install hot plates or a kitchen sink on the kitchen island, you must plan the corresponding connections in advance and implement them at great expense. The island kitchen is also not a good option for people who like to leave their dishes behind because the central design of the room means that untidy items are immediately in view.

If, on the other hand, you have a penchant for order and cleanliness, the kitchen island is a real eye-catcher that visually enhances kitchens and supports communication and social interaction.

Stainless steel countertops are convincing in terms of hygiene and heat resistance
Stainless steel countertops are convincing in terms of hygiene and heat resistance.
Photo: living4media/Scoffoni, Anne-Catherine

Which Materials Are Suitable for a Kitchen Island?

The following recommendation applies: When choosing the material for your kitchen island, be guided by the design and style of your kitchen unit – or buy both “from one source” from the same manufacturer. Conversely, a mix can also make for a good look if the material of the kitchen island visually harmonizes with the fronts of the kitchen unit: For example, combine kitchen fronts made of natural wood with a kitchen island that is designed throughout in stainless steel, white plastic or even in a slate look.

Which material you choose when planning and designing your kitchen island ultimately depends on your taste, but also on the degree of stress: While stainless steel countertops are impressive in terms of hygiene and heat resistance, they are, however, extremely susceptible to scratches and stains compared to ceramic countertops. Ceramics, on the other hand, like quartz, which is sensitive to heat, is robust and resistant even to acids but is relatively expensive. It is cheaper to choose a kitchen island made of plastic – this material is straightforward to clean and available in many design variants. For nature fans, natural wood or natural stone is a real alternative. Especially countertops made of granite, slate, or marble, and wooden plates made of oak provide the island with an individual look. However, wooden countertops, in particular, are less resistant than ceramics.

What Materials for the Kitchen Island Are Sustainable?

If ecological aspects are important to you, you should choose natural materials for your island. Wood and natural stone are both ecological raw materials and score high in terms of durability. However, you should prefer domestic wood species that come from sustainable forestry. They conserve resources and hardly pollute the environment, since they do not produce CO2 emissions. In addition, they are free of pollutants and therefore equally friendly to health and the environment. However, make sure that the wood is not rare tropical wood. These are often not sustainable raw materials and the transport routes are also long. There is also usually a lot of packaging waste during transport. If you want to play it safe, ask about supplier certifications such as the FSC seal.

Hardly any energy is required to produce natural stone, as the rock chunks are already ready-made. They also occur sufficiently in Germany or neighboring EU countries such as Austria and Switzerland. Long transport routes are thus eliminated. Moreover, the stones do not have to be packed. Marble is well suited for a kitchen island because it is soft and easy to quarry and work with. Granite countertops are also a good solution for a sustainable kitchen island. The rock has been growing for millions of years and does not need to be elaborately manufactured. Only a little energy is incurred for the processing, but still less than for the production of other building materials.

Ceramics is also an environmentally friendly material by nature. It consists of natural raw materials such as earth, clay, or water and is 100 percent recyclable. Ceramics are also extremely resistant and durable. However, the high energy input during production hurts the CO2 balance.

For example, an adequate and sustainable alternative to aluminum and plastic is stainless steel. Its manufacturing process is comparatively more energy-efficient than that of other materials. In addition, stainless steel is characterized by its long durability and high recyclability. It can be melted down and completely recycled – this is not possible with plastics, as they are usually composite materials.

How Much Does a Kitchen Island Cost?

The price of professional cooking islands varies and increases with the size and equipment of the kitchen island and the value of the materials used. The kitchen island becomes expensive mainly when connecting electrical appliances and water inflow and outflow in the center of the room. For this purpose, new connections must be laid on the floor – in this case, obtaining and comparing several price quotations in advance is worthwhile. A ceramic hob is cheaper than an induction hob to connect a stove to the cooking island. If you want to cook particularly energy-efficiently, the induction hob is often less suitable. On average, a kitchen island costs at least $4,000, but often more. Inexpensive alternatives are the cooking peninsula, built as a kitchen block to the countertop, or the mobile serving cart variant for small kitchens.

The price range for countertops also varies greatly: from an average of 10 euros per square meter for foiled fronts made of plastic to upwards of 200 euros per square meter for high-quality countertops made of real natural stone. Those who opt for higher-quality materials get more durable countertops – but have to dig deeper into their pockets for a kitchen island.

My Kitchen Doesn’t Have Enough Space for a Kitchen Island

Your kitchen doesn’t have enough space for a kitchen island? Or do you shy away from the investment and would rather find a cheaper solution for your kitchen? There are also alternatives for small kitchens: Why not think about a cooking peninsula – this is a variant of cooking islands in which the cooking island is permanently connected to the kitchen unit. Installation on the wall is also conceivable – you decide on the purpose and the functions of use yourself. Thus, you can also use your cooking peninsula as a kitchen sink, additional work surface, or seating for breakfast. So you see: Island kitchens are available for various kitchens.

Tip
Alternatively, budget-conscious people and those living in small kitchens can opt for a mobile model: Kitchen outfitters and furniture stores usually carry serving carts and movable kitchen islands on legs or even wheels, which often have the same design as the existing or newly purchased kitchen unit. Since a mobile kitchen island is free-standing, you can place it wherever you like in the room – and spend relatively little money.

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