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DESIGN | Can I Have an Island in My Kitchen?

Kitchen Design, Manchester, Didsbury, Chorlton, Wilmslow

Kitchen islands are one of the most requested features from my clients. Even if they know they can't fit one in, they still always tell me that they thought about it & that they even considered extending the house, or even moving just for the chance of having an island. I've been forced (against my designer's will) to design a kitchen or two with islands that don’t fit (more on this later). I advised a client once that they would have to walk through the gap between their island & the wall sideways; which is really impractical; but they didn't care because they wanted an island no matter what.

I can understand why, islands are a beautifully social & practical feature for any kitchen, & that's why everyone wants one. If you're lucky enough to be able to fit one in, I can 100% guarantee you will spend the majority of your time, gathered around the island, prepping food, eating & sharing time with family & friends. It just works, & it feels great. In a practical sense an island can add additional storage, extra worktop space, a seating area & most importantly, in a big room, it utilises space.

Keeping all this in mind, the question on everyone's lips is... "Can we fit an island in?".

Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn’t simple, it’s fully dependent on the size of the kitchen area, which I will explain in some detail below.

When it comes to designing an island there is one rule that we must follow no matter what. The minimum industry standard measurement for any circulation space is 900mm. This will allow all doors & drawers to open fully & will also ensure a practical & safe kitchen environment. So between your island edges & any walls, other cabinets or other furniture there needs to be a minimum of 900mm space. If the island is in front of an American fridge freezer, if there is a wheelchair user at home or if there is a particularly busy route past the island I'd always increase this if space allows. 1000mm is my preferred space and the biggest I go to is around 1200mm. Even in a very large room anything bigger than this can start to make the kitchen feel disconnected.

In the examples below, I'm going to use a pretty standard rectangular island of 1800mm wide by 900mm deep as this is a substantial size to accommodate either a hob or a sink, or simply to be an additional workspace. The guidelines I outline below will still apply for any size island whether it be bigger, smaller or a different shape than my example. The minimum sizes represent the space required to hold my example island, so these will change accordingly & your designer will be able to tell you exactly what is available in your room.

Lets take a look at some of the most popular island layouts.

Single run

A single-run kitchen & an island is a sure recipe for a bold open-plan kitchen. As you can see from the plan below even if you have what you think is a big space for a kitchen with an island there is still a minimum requirement. The general width of the room should accommodate for a minimum of 900mm circulation around all four sides. As I have included a breakfast bar to the rear of the island we also need to consider the space between the island & the next piece of furniture (in our case the sofa). When the stools are pulled out or when people are sitting there we will require extra space to ensure circulation is still comfortable so just keep this in mind when designing.

Kitchen island layouts & advice Manchester

Minimum kitchen width - 3600mm

Minimum kitchen depth - 3300mm


If you want a complete U shape kitchen including an island, you'll have to have a big room & probably quite a big budget too, because this particular layout requires a lot of furniture. However, if you can fit it in, & comfortably, you'll have a stunning kitchen space on your hands with tonnes of storage & working space. I feel like this layout is very suited to a traditional or classic style kitchen, but of course, there is no rule against you using a contemporary range too.

Kitchen island layouts & advice Didsbury

Minimum kitchen width - 4800mm

Minimum kitchen depth - 3300mm


A classic L-shape layout works with any style of kitchen & is great in slightly smaller rooms where you can't make use of all the walls. If we're going to add an island we will need a bit more space. An L-shaped kitchen is another layout that works great for integrating a kitchen into open-plan living. The kitchen is contained in the corner but it allows it to spill, just enough, into the room to make it feel connected with the rest of the space.

Kitchen island layouts & advice Chorlton

Minimum kitchen width - 3400mm

Minimum kitchen depth - 4230mm


Peninsulars, in my opinion, are so underrated. If your room is just a touch too small to accommodate a decent size island, a peninsular gives you a great alternative. It will still provide heaps of space & storage but is simply attached to the wall at one end. I think they get a bad rep for being quite outdated because they were popular in the 70s & 80s but with the right style & some gorgeous accessories, a peninsular can be just as much a hub of the room as an island.

Kitchen island layouts & advice Wilmslow

Minimum kitchen width - 4000mm

Minimum kitchen depth - 3650mm

A couple of things I'd advise against...

Squashing in an island when it really doesn't fit.

Squashing an island in when it really doesn't fit.

Circulation space is key & if you don't have the minimum requirement, your kitchen will feel impractical & any good designer will warn you of this. All I can say is please listen to their advice; I know you probably really want that island, but having to shuffle past it every day will get old very quickly.

The plan below is a very rough re-enactment of a kitchen that I designed (against my will) a few years ago. The clients were a young couple with a new baby & for me, the whole room design was wrong. Fixtures on every wall meant there was no room for a decent run of kitchen furniture & the width of the extension was too small to accommodate an island but a bit too big to have two runs of kitchen on each side and the services were already in place, which meant they either needed to be used or the builder would need to dig up the concrete floor to move them. Going off track a little, this is a classic mistake of building an extension first with the kitchen layout as an afterthought. Ideally, the kitchen layout should be (generally) discussed & major services confirmed while the build plans are being drawn up; but I will go into this in more detail in another post. Anyway, it's clear to see, they have hardly any worktop space, or storage space (two of the larder units on the back wall were a full-height fridge & full-height freezer & 2 single ovens, so not much storage there).

Kitchen island layouts & advice South Manchester

A really wide hob at the end of an island

This can also be seen on the plan above (it’s a very unfortunate kitchen design). The client requested an extra wide hob over a 1200mm drawer pack leaving just 150mm on either side, which is not enough. It's not practical & it's dangerous. There should be no less than 300mm on either side of the hob, not only for setting down plates & having a little room to prep but also for pan handles to overhang the edge of the hob. If a panhandle was long enough to overhang the worktop it could easily be knocked off when passing by which could result in a serious injury. This is a much better position to place the sink, but the island is only ever going to be so wide, so space will always be limited on the end. If you don't have to use the space in this direction I'd always stick to placing services where they have lots of worktop space around them.

So just remember that when planning an island, space is key!

I hope this was helpful & gave you some insight into spatial planning in the kitchen. Which Island layout would you choose for your new kitchen? Let me know in the comments below.

See you next time,




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