Island Living: Is a Kitchen Island Right for You?


Are kitchen islands a deal-breaker when it comes to buying a home? Some would say yes, but we’re not so sure. As wonderful as the kitchen island can be, we think there are a few reasons to steer clear of this island.

Kitchen Island Pros and Cons

An island can be an excellent addition to many kitchens. They’re extremely useful, versatile, and even stylish. They can be used for extensive food prep as a central gathering point for guests (and hors d’oeuvres), or as a breakfast bar. Use your imagination: the island can become almost anything!

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But even with all these virtues, there are downsides. As with anything in life, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – and when designing a kitchen, that means the island is not always the best choice. So what are the downsides to a kitchen island, and how can you decide whether one is right for you? Read on to find out!

Optimizing Space

Kitchen islands can be big and bulky. Because islands are freestanding structures, they need a lot of room, which only really works in larger kitchens. No matter the size of your island, you still need to ensure that there are clear paths for kitchen traffic all the way around. Building safety codes dictate that there should be at least 36 to 42 inches of clearance on all sides of your island – although the ‘ideal’ number is probably closer to 39-40 inches.

kitchen islandsIf you’re already working with a small kitchen, meeting the safety codes will probably leave you with very little space for your actual island. Not only is that not particularly useful, but it can also look pretty cluttered and even a little awkward. Practically speaking, an island just doesn’t make sense for small kitchens. If you’re determined to have some kind of island in your small space, you might be better off with the L-shaped island or peninsula. The arm of the island is perpendicular to the countertop lining the wall, which means that you won’t need traffic clearance on that side, and it can be more suitable for a tight space.

Stacks on Deck

kitchen islandsYour kitchen island may very well just become another space for you to stack things. It’s normal for clutter and everyday household items to accumulate in common areas like your kitchen. Unfortunately, a broad swath of countertop like an island can quickly become a magnet for all manner of household junk. Kitchen appliances, clean and dirty dishes, mail, school work, laptops, laundry, and more can all migrate onto the catch-all tray that is your island.

This can especially become a problem for families with children, those who struggle with organization, or, well, anyone, really. Mess happens! But it can be frustrating and visually displeasing, especially if you have an open-concept floor plan where it’s virtually impossible to hide clutter.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

kitchen islandsIf you follow our blog, you’ve already heard us talk about the importance of the kitchen triangle. That’s the clear and accessible path between the fridge, stove, and sink that allows you to work most efficiently in your cooking space. While we’re not saying that an island makes it impossible to have a good triangle, it can be more challenging to find the perfect placement with this structure in the center of it all.

To optimize your triangle, you have to have the right space, appliance layout, and plumbing and electrical wiring where you need it. This can prove expensive and/or impractical for the average homebuyer. Ultimately, many factors go into having not just a perfect triangle but a perfect kitchen space. Sometimes, an island just doesn’t feature in that fantasy.

The Breakfast Club

Everyone loves the idea of having an island breakfast bar in their kitchen, but the reality of it may not be what you’d expect. Meals are much more sociable when you can all see each other, which simply isn’t going to happen at an island bar. Having stools around your island can block the traffic paths, which can be impractical, not to mention dangerous. Inevitable, everyone will have to sit in a straight line at your breakfast bar. For some homeowners, that image alone can make the idea of an island just a little off-putting.

kitchen islands

Still, love the kitchen island? If you’re not dissuaded by the points above, J.T. McDermott can help you bring your vision to life. And if you need an alternative to the island, we’ll help you find a solution that suits your needs. Connect with us today, and let us show you what we can do!

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