When speaking with homeowners about a kitchen remodel, an island is high on their wish list for their new space. Aside from added storage and counter space, an island can contribute to the function of a kitchen in many other ways. It can be a space to have a quick bite to eat, for a someone to sit while you prepare for a gathering, to direct people to other areas of your home (and away from the cooking area), and to simply stage food for your party. Aesthetically, it can conceal your cooking or prep areas from the dinner table or family room as well as add accent materials and colors for your cabinets and counter top.
However, the size of your kitchen will determine if an island will fit, what shape it can be, and how it can function. At a minimum, an island will need 36″ of walkway between it and another cabinet, an appliance, or a wall, but for a comfortable cooking and entertaining experience, a little more space should be considered, especially if more than one person will be cooking the same time. A properly trained kitchen designer will be able to help you determine the best spacing for you. At Design Build Pros, we group islands into 2 main categories: 1-Tier and 2-Tier. 1-Tier islands have one consistent counter height (generally 36″). 2-Tier islands, as you would expect, have counter tops set at 2 different heights, with the main area being 36″, and an accent or seating area at 42″ (bar height). In some instances, where a table is to be integrated, or a wheelchair accessible area is designated, the secondary areas will be lower than 36″
Below are a few different types of island shapes, their uses, and characteristics. In design, there are many variations of these general shapes, and are customized to your kitchen. With enough space, the possibilities are endless
1. Straight, 1-Tier Island. This type of island is narrow, and mostly used in a narrower space and provides more function than design. These islands provide storage, landing area for food preparation and staging, and direct traffic away from the main cooking area. To enhance to look of this simple island, you can add corbels to the ends and shape the counter top around them.
2. Straight, 1-Tier with Seating. In addition to the depth of the cabinets (24″), this island will need an additional 15″-18″ of space for the seating. Also, the size of the chair, when it is pushed in and occupied, needs to be considered when adding this to your kitchen. These islands can take the place of a kitchen table, allowing for greater design possibilities. Support for the seating overhang must be considered. In this island, the use of table legs added support and definition. Corbels can be used us provide support as well. Refer to a professional counter top fabricator for support requirements.
3. Straight, 2-Tier with Seating. This Island is split into two heights – 36″ for preparing food, and 42″ for eating or just “hanging out.” Seating for this height requires less depth than counter height, but is suited more a snack than a full meal. 2-Tier islands can also be used to conceal prep areas from seating areas, or protection from the flames of an island cook top. Support for the raised portion can come from corbels, or, as in this project, the return walls provide the support. Lastly, the raised area creates a back splash that can have outlets for many of your small appliances and gadgets!
4. 2-Tier, L-Shaped, with Seating. Functionally, an L-Shaped island, especially when set into an L-shaped kitchen, can provide excellent work areas, and keep the cooking and entertaining areas separate, but open. The shape of this island clearly defines the two areas, but allows interaction between both. L-Shaped islands (even more so with seating) requires a large kitchen space. This design features a farm sink, painted cabinets, and 2-tone counter tops, will become the focus of the kitchen.
5. 2-tier, Double Angled, with Seating. This shape has become more popular with clients as of late. The angled cabinetry creates “dead space”, and is not the most efficient use of space, but creates a unique look that is still quite functional. Like the L-Shaped island, this shape requires a spacious kitchen. This example, is in a 16′ x 22′ area, and provides seating for two at the island.
6. 2-Tier, Dog Leg with Seating. This shape, is reserved for irregularly shaped spaces, where you want to maximize the island size, and work around an existing obstacle. More pronounced than straight islands, this shape directs traffic around the work area. In this example, the kitchen was enlarged, and the new space was “T” shaped. This island supplies the kitchen with storage and counter space, and guides people from the back door to the family room without interrupting the cooking. The seating area of this island is supported by hidden metal “L” brackets, maximizing leg space underneath, which was a concern of the clients.