This is the biggest kitchen island mistake you can make – according to experts

Thinking of incorporating or upgrading your kitchen island? Experts urge caution – to avoid this common design error

A white island with dark cabinets and brown leather bar stools
(Image credit: Davide Lovatti/Future PLC)

When it comes to the focal point of the kitchen, few features rival the kitchen island. The island has emerged as a kitchen staple in recent years – and this is unsurprising when you consider its appeal. Whether you admire the feature for its functionality (as a food preparation space) or its social qualities – you would be forgiven for believing the kitchen island can do no wrong. 

Despite its assets, however, there are some common kitchen island mistakes that can hinder the look and effectiveness of the busiest room of your home. And while all these mistakes may have a negative influence – there is one error that experts warn against in particular. 

The most common kitchen island mistake – according to experts

When designing a kitchen island, you will likely begin by considering the perfect size for your space. However, if your kitchen is unsuitable for an island, it is better to forget the idea of the feature entirely. 

Kitchen with mirror tiled wall, white walls, and dark blue kitchen island with integrated fridge and bar stools.

(Image credit: Davide Lovati)

'There is no need to have an island if it doesn't make sense in your space. Don't get sucked into creating an island if your space really doesn't have the room for it,' warns kitchen expert Teri Simone from Nieu Cabinet Doors. Teri has worked with personalities such as Angela Rose and HGTV's Kortney Wilson to create the perfect kitchen – meaning we certainly trust her observations of this kitchen island mistake.

'Installing an island at the expense of sufficient walkway clearances or putting in a tiny or shallow island makes your kitchen look slapped together instead of intentional,' the expert warns.

Gray hexagonal tiles in a kitchen with an island and bar stools

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti/Future PLC)

And Teri is not exclusive in her observations of this misconceived kitchen island idea

Rose Zefferino, the CEO and principal designer at Z Domus Designs, similarly emphasizes the mistake – and highlights the importance choosing the right size kitchen island so that it looks well proportioned in your space. 

'When it comes to kitchen islands, the biggest mistake you can make is choosing the wrong size. Your kitchen island should feel proportional to the space, whether your kitchen is large or small,' she says.

'If it is too big for the size of your kitchen, it will command too much attention and feel obstructive. An island too small for the kitchen will feel like it's floating, with no attachment and no connection to the rest of the perimeter.'

'For an island to be practical, it should have a minimum of 40in of clearance around it (48in if you commonly have multiple cooks in the kitchen together) and be at least 4ft x 2ft to give you utility,' Teri explains. 

If you follow these measurements, it is unlikely that the feature will look like an afterthought – and you will have enough space to cook and host around your island – as you may have intended.

kitchen island with white worksurface and white painted upholstered chairs with green cabinets behind and double oven

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

As the designers suggest, it is essential not to interrupt your workflow for the sake of an island. Therefore, before investing, you should ask yourself how the feature will benefit your kitchen ideas and whether it will help (rather than hinder) your space. 

'Islands add functionality when they contain a sink or cooktop or offer additional prep space that doesn't get in the way, but they can just as easily make cooking more difficult if placed right in prime real estate for foot traffic, without any real purpose,' Teri adds. 

'Putting one of your working kitchen triangle items within your island to bring it closer to you is a common choice – such as sinks or cooktops, and can reduce your steps around the kitchen if placed correctly.'

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.