Kitchen Island or Not? The Pros and Cons of Including a Kitchen Island in Your New Kitchen Design

The kitchen with island is a relatively new idea, as far as kitchen designs go. Once kitchens got bigger and open concept home plans got popular, the kitchen island became almost a default part of every new kitchen.

That does not mean a kitchen with island is right for every kitchen, however! If you’re contemplating a kitchen remodel and the “kitchen island or not” question is one you’re asking, here are some things to consider…

Do you have room for a kitchen with island?

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), an open kitchen with island should have at least 42 inches of clearance on each side of the island. Why so much? Because it’s meant to be a work area. If you were only walking past it, 36 inches would suffice. But you’re not installing an island in your new kitchen so you can simply pass it by. So 42 inches it is. Consider the size of your new kitchen: Can you make an island fit?

Can you afford a kitchen with island

When answering the question, “kitchen island or not,” consider your budget. Adding a kitchen island adds costs for cabinetry and countertop, plus any appliance or sink and fixtures you’re considering. Granted using semi custom cabinets will save you money from the outset, but still—you need to crunch the numbers and see if you have room in your budget, in addition to room in your room, for a kitchen island.

The pros and cons to an open kitchen with island

The advantages to a kitchen island are many: You get more counter space, more storage, an eating area, and possibly room for an appliance or small work sink. In short, you can easily convert an L-shaped kitchen into a U-shaped one with the addition of an island! With an open concept plan, you also get to interact with people not in the kitchen with you while you’re cooking, or keep an eye on kids doing homework while seated at the island.

On the other hand, you have the additional cost, as noted above, plus an island can disrupt the classic triangle layout of sink/range/refrigerator. More than anything, you want your kitchen to be functional, so adding an island and causing dysfunction is a very bad idea. That said, not all islands have to be rectangular in shape. You could look into something V-shaped if that serves your traffic flow better. But that will also add to your costs.

Alternative answers to “kitchen island or not”

There are ways to add some of the functionality and design elements of an island without incurring the cost or messing with your mojo while cooking. You could use a table instead. With a table, you get additional cooking surface, plus it becomes an eating area that everyone can use. With an island, you only have seating on one side so there’s less togetherness about the meal. Also a table can get moved out of the way and pushed up against the wall, if necessary. Another alternative is a cart on wheels. With the cart, you get a work surface plus storage and—as with the table—you can push it out of the way. Or you can use a piece of furniture that wasn’t meant to be used in the kitchen but looks glorious there in the middle of your room, adding fashion and flair as well as a place to chop vegetables.

Whether you decide to use a kitchen island or not will depend on several factors, obviously, but if you decide that yes, your kitchen has the room for an island, help your budget to have room for an island by using semi custom cabinets for it!