How to choose the right sized kitchen island – everything you need to know

Learn how to choose the perfect sized kitchen island for your space, with help from this invaluable guide

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(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

With our kitchens now bigger than ever, an island unit has become an essential for creating a great working layout and an effective boundary between working kitchen and social space. 

So how do you get the sizing right?

When it comes to kitchen ideas, proportion is key - with dimensions dictated by the room size and layout. A long run of units calls for a long parallel island that mimics the classic double galley layout, while a squarer room is better served by an L or U-shaped layout with a square or round island at its center. 

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(Image credit: Kitchens by Holloways)

Consider what you want your island for when considering its size. Is it for cooking, storage or just an extra prep and seating area? Size isn’t everything – even the smallest island can have super-storage with pan drawers, spice racks, shelves for cookbooks and the slimmest of wine chillers.

See: Kitchen island ideas – guaranteed to make a statement

Tom Howley, Design Director at Tom Howley sees the island as instrumental to modern kitchen living:  ‘It can be the homework base, a relaxed office space and a home bar. A wide island counter or baker’s table will provide a generous and welcoming gathering place, especially when lined with textural barstools,’ he explains.

What is the best size for a kitchen island?

The best size for a kitchen island really depends on the size of your kitchen as a whole, but ideally you need to factor in a gap of at least 1m/3ft between the edges of the island and the the next piece of furniture, whether that be the kitchen units opposite or a dining chair. As a guide for its minimum size, a kitchen island should be no smaller than 4ft long by 2ft deep.

What is the average size of a kitchen island?

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(Image credit: The Main Company)

Every room is different but it’s good to think in terms of standard cabinetry sizes as a starting point, even with bespoke cabinetry which can ultimately be any size.

A standard single unit is 600mm wide x 600mm deep, giving the option to set in a sink, hob and/or dishwasher so even a small island of three units can be highly practical. 

All kitchen companies offer a wider choice of sizes ranging from 300, 400 and 450mm narrow units to 750, 800 and 900mm wider options, so compare combinations to make the best of your space.

What is the standard width of an island?

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(Image credit: Roundhouse/Darren Chung.)

Using standard units as a measure, a long narrow island would be 600mm deep, plus a little extra for the worktop overhang. If you wanted to back this with a seating area, add at least an extra 300mm for stowing stools and giving adequate leg room. 

‘Stools must be the right height for the breakfast bar, comfortable and able to withstand the daily grind, ‘advises Fabiana Scavolini, CEO of Scavolini

‘Adjustable-height stools are perfect if children will be using the island,' she continues. 'High-backed stools that offer full support are a good idea if the area will be used a lot for dining.’

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(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

How wide can you go?

Square islands may stretch to 1200mm wide if you are looking to pack your island with storage and functionality but don’t go too far. 

‘Wide islands make a big impact but they’re not very practical,’ warns Matt Baker, Kitchen Designer at Harvey Jones. ‘You need to be able to reach the middle so try to keep it no deeper than 1400mm, front to back.’ In a small or narrow kitchen, 450mm deep cupboards plus overhang still gives good usable storage and prep space.

How much space do you need between an island and a counter?

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(Image credit: Neptune)

A decent amount of space all round is a must for opening doors and drawers, and to move freely and safely. 

‘The desired amount of room is around 1200mm between fitted cabinetry and the island,’ says Graeme Smith Head of Retail & Commercial Design at Life Kitchens. ‘But bear in mind that extra floor space may be needed around areas such as the hob that typically experience high-traffic.’

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(Image credit: Naked Kitchens)

What if there really isn't the space for one?

‘A kitchen island is almost a deal-breaker for some customers,’ adds David Roy, Country Manager of Schmidt UK. ‘Where they simply do not fit, we try to incorporate a peninsular with a breakfast bar to give the same spacious feel.’

Where should a kitchen island be placed?

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(Image credit: Matrix Design)

An island should be planned as part of an overall scheme to ensure optimum functionality and also take into account sight lines – what the island looks like in the space from all angles, as well as the view from the island. 

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(Image credit: Tom Howley)

Any other considerations?

Flow is also an important consideration and an island is a great way to guide traffic around hotspots such as the oven and hob. 

Think about how you use the overall kitchen space and any natural pathways between doorways. This is when curved designs can smooth the path or an island set at an angle can be a useful steer.

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(Image credit: Life Kitchens)

A moveable island can be a good option if you need flexibility. ‘It can be valuable to those who need furniture to act as a preparation-based room divider during the day and pushed aside at night to make way for entertaining,’ adds Graeme Smith of Life Kitchens. 

Hopefully this guide will have given you the confidence and know-how to be able to choose the right sized island for your kitchen.