The kitchen is one of the most complicated rooms to design and figuring out how to add an island to your kitchen can be both confusing and difficult. Deciding on layout, dimensions, seating, appliances, and cabinetry options can quickly become overwhelming.

Here are five things you should ask yourself before starting the process.

1. What is the island’s function?

Before you start thinking about which appliances and countertops you want, decide what your island’s main purpose will be. Many islands accommodate multiple functions, with one side dedicated to cooking and the other side dedicated to entertaining or eating. But what purpose does your kitchen island need to serve? Food prep, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, or eating? Or do you need a multipurpose area that can serve all of these functions?

2. How will it fit into your kitchen layout?

The busy nature of a kitchen requires a cohesive design. A well-designed kitchen should create a triangle between common workspaces– the range, sink, and fridge. The island is a great way to maximize that working arrangement by including a sink or appliances. If your island has multiple functions make sure the working side of your island compliments the function of the opposite counter.

3. What do you features or appliances do you need to make space for?

Once you know the main function(s) of your island and understand how it will interact with the rest of your kitchen, you can plan for features like appliances, seating, and storage. Make a list of everything you want to be included on your island, in order of priority. Choosing your priorities is especially important if your island needs to serve multiple purposes. You may not be able to fit everything in your island, but try to get at least your top 3-5 priorities.

Appliances and Storage

An island meant for cooking will need to include appliances such as a range, cooktop, oven, or microwave. Be sure to consider the additional space required for ventilation needs, too.

If you already have a lot of cabinetry and storage in your kitchen, island storage may not be a top priority. If your island is going to be your main prep area, the sink and other appliances may have to come first, but be sure to reserve some storage space for prep utensils such as knives and cutting boards.


Space is essential if your island is going to be used for entertaining. The countertop must provide ample surface area for dining or serving. There should also be plenty of room for family and friends to mingle without getting in the way of workspaces. Plan to leave a minimum of 12” of overhang for seating areas, but 15” – 18” tends to be more comfortable.

4. Is your kitchen big enough for the island you want?

Trying to squeeze a large island into a small or narrow kitchen could make the whole kitchen more difficult to use by restricting walkways or access to key workspaces. Island dimensions should allow you to maintain safe and easy movement between workspaces and throughout the kitchen. This area is known as your clearance zone.

The clearance zone takes into consideration; how much space you have to work with, and how you utilize your kitchen. The distance should allow for opposing doors on cabinets and appliances to open fully without obstruction. Ideally, the minimum distance you should allow for your clearance zone is 3 feet.

5. Did you measure that?

A few final tips you won’t want to overlook

In addition to figuring out if an island will fit with the layout and function of your kitchen, make sure your countertop will fit through the passageway into your kitchen.

Inaccurate measurements can cause delays to the project, additional expenses, and stress. Be sure to double check all of your measurements. When it comes to kitchen design, every inch counts, in fact, every 1/16″ of an inch counts.

Still need some inspiration? Take a look at some SSB kitchen islands.