Kitchen islands. They’re one the most requested kitchen feature in new homes. This week’s quick tips will cover how best to organize your kitchen island and what type of island storage might work well for you and your family. You should customize your kitchen island to reflect your habits, needs and desires.
Tip #1: Decide what you want to primarily use your kitchen island for because that will determine how to make the most efficient use of that space.
Will you use your island for food prep, clean up, eating, conversation, cooking, baking, as a serving station, and/or as your kid’s homework station? What will the island be used for? For me, the island will be used primarily for food prep, clean up, quick meals and snacks, and conversation.
I’m more of a sous chef than an actual chef. But I do help my husband and family and friends in the kitchen by chopping and dicing, and getting the food ready to be cooked, and I want to do that at the kitchen island.
If you’re also someone who wants to do some sous chefing at your island, take a look at tip #2.
Tip #2: Make sure you have sufficient counter space. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, an island should be no less than 3 feet long and 2 feet wide if you want do any significant prep work on the island. Of course, bigger is better, but that’s the minimum recommendation.
Tip #3: Add a built-in refrigerator drawer to your island if you have the space and the budget, especially if you’re going to use your island for food prep, quick meals and snacks, and/or baking. If you have small children and you want them to grab their own snacks, consider putting the refrigerator drawer at the side of island, out of the way of the main kitchen activity.
Tip #4: Put a knife drawer and cutting board storage in your island, if you’re planning on using it as a food prep station.
Now, what if you going to use your kitchen island as a clean up station too…
Tip #5: Include a sink and dishwasher in the island. If you do a lot of casual entertaining with close friends and family, like I do, you’ll want to position your sink so that you can see and talk to your guests during after dinner clean up. If you have a large family and a large island, you might consider including two dishwashers, or two dishwasher drawers on either side of the sink. That way, clean dishes can be stored in one and you can load dirty dishes in the other.
Tip #6: Add a trash compactor, trash bin, or recycling station in the island so you can easily get rid of bones and other table scraps that shouldn’t go into the garbage disposal. Then, after scrapping your plates, you can put them right into the nearby dishwasher.
Tip #7: For an ultra efficient clean up station at your kitchen island, add a drawer or 2 where you can store your most used dishes and flatware. That way, unloading the dishwasher will be super easy. Look for dish drawers with adjustable pegs that can accommodate dishes of different sizes.
Tip #8: Add space to house your stand mixer, plus slim, upright vertical slats where you can place baking pans and cookie sheets. In addition, you might want to add a drawer for rolling pins, cookie cutters, and decorating supplies. There are also some really cool drawers out there with large, built-in canisters for flour and sugar. A refrigerator drawer would also be nice so you could store eggs and butter nearby.
Tip #9: Seating and a countertop overhang are needed for islands that will be used for eating, conversation and homework. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least 17 inches of knee space for seating at a kitchen island. That means an overhang of 17 inches. However, many kitchen designers say that you can get away with 12 inches of overhang, especially if you use small stools.
Tip #10: Only put your cooktop in your kitchen island if your actual cooking is a major highlight of your entertaining or family time. If you regularly do cooking demonstrations, for example. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to skip the island cooktop. It’s messy, and with splashes and splatters, it can be hazardous, especially for children sitting nearby. Putting the cooktop in the island was somewhat of a trend several years ago, but people are really getting away from that now.
Tip #11: No matter what you use your island for, you’ll need electrical outlets. Don’t forget to talk to your electrician about that.
Tip #12: You’ll want to steer clear of large, deep cabinets in your island. Shallow cabinets, meaning about 12 to 18 inches deep, are ok, but if you want storage deeper than that, opt for full extension drawers, or pull out shelves so you don’t have to get on your hands and knees to see what’s in a the back of deep, dark cabinet.
Tip #13: Useless you’re going to have a waterfall countertop (where your countertop material extends all the way to the floor on the sides of your island), you’ll want to utilize every side of the island for storage.
You can use the sides of your island for open shelving for cookbooks or pretty dishes, or for wine storage. Or you can put a microwave oven on the side of your island. You might also opt for cabinets with push-to-open decorative door panels on the sides of the island, and even beneath the eating counter. Use those spaces for homework supplies and toy storage, if you have small kids. Or you can store infrequently used platters and holiday dinnerware.
Tip #14: The last tip I have is for you to use the toe kick area of your island for storage. You can ask your carpenter or cabinet maker to make shallow drawers for that area. Those drawers could house large platters, linens, small toys and art supplies, or a foldable step stool.
My very favorite idea for the toe kick area is have a built-in, pull-out riser or step that little ones can stand on when helping you cook or do dishes, or so you can reach tall cabinets. You pull the riser out when you need it and simply push it back in place when you're done with it.
Those are the tips that I have for your kitchen island design. Think about how you’ll actually use your island and include features and storage that will make you time at your island more efficient.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, Building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thank you for joining today. I hope found those tips helpful and I hope you’ll Join me for the next episode of Build Your House Yourself University—BYHYU.