DESIGN | Can I Have an Island in My Kitchen?

Kitchen Design, Manchester, Didsbury, Chorlton, Wilmslow

From a designers point of view, islands are one of the most requested features among my clients. Even if the client knows they can't fit one in, they still always inform me that they thought about it & they even considered extending the house; or even moving just for the prospect of having an island. I've been been forced (against my designers will) to design a kitchen or two with islands in smaller rooms that leave barley any circulation (walking) space (more on this later). I measured an island out in the showroom once during a meeting & I advised the client they would have to walk through the gap sideways; which is not only impractical but really annoying; but they didn't care because they wanted an island no matter what!???

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 & worktop space, a seating area & most importantly, in a big room, it utilises space. Can you imagine the kitchen above with no island? It would be a big hollow shell of a room full of empty space.

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

The answer to that question is fully dependant 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 to ensure a practical & safe kitchen environment. As a standard industry measurement, the minimal space required to have a comfortable circulation path around an island is 900mm. 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 or anyone at home requires use of a wheel chair or there is a particularly busy route past the island I'd always increase this if space allows. The biggest I would go is around 1200mm. Even in a very large room anything bigger than this can start to make the kitchen & the island feel detached from one another.

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 sink, or simply to be an additional work space. The guidelines I outline below will still apply for any size island whether it be bigger, smaller or a different shape than my example size. The minimum sizes represent the space required to a hold my example island, so these will change accordingly.

So lets take a look at some possible 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 a still a minimum requirement. The general width of the room should accommodate for 900mm circulation on 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 bare this in mind when designing.

Kitchen island layouts & advice Manchester

Minimum kitchen width - 3600mm

Minimum kitchen depth - 3300mm

U shape

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

L shape

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; but, if we're going to add an island we will need a bit more space. An L shape kitchen is another layout that works great for integrating a kitchen into an open plan living space. It contains the kitchen to a corner of the room but 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 that 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.

Circulation space is key & if you don't have the minimum requirement, your kitchen design will begin to 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 sideways every day will get old really quickly.

The plan below is a very rough reenactment of a kitchen I designed (against my will) a couple of years ago. The client were a young couple with a new baby & for me the whole room had been designed in a very impractical way. 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. The services were already in place in the floor. too which meant they either needed to be used or the client needed 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 after thought. Ideally the kitchen layout should be (generally) discussed & major services confirmed while the build plans are being drawn up; but we 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 are 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 be seen on the plan above too. The client requested an extra wide hob over a 1200mm drawer pack leaving just 150mm either side. Simply put this isn't enough. It's not practical & it's dangerous. There should be no less than 300mm either side of the hob, not only for setting down plates & having a little room to prep but also for pan handles to over hang the edge of the hob. If a pan handle was long enough to over hang 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 here. 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!

Which Island layout would you choose for your new kitchen? Let me know in the comments below.

See you next time,




​​​​​​​Do you want to connect with other people who are undertaking kitchen projects too? Head over to the THE KITCHEN DESIGN GROUP on Facebook for ideas, inspiration, discussions, reviews & also tips & advice on renovating/building your dream kitchen. Anyone can join & get involved so be sure to add friends & family who may be interested too!

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