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Designing a kitchen island may seem like an easy task, but there are plenty of things that can go badly wrong with an island. To be sure your island is as functional as you hope it will be, ask yourself a few questions to help plan the perfect kitchen island.

How Will I Use the Island?

Before designing an island, determine how it will be used in your daily flow of life. Many islands have a “work” side and an “eating” side. Is that how you want to use your island? Will you do prep work, cooking, baking or dishwashing on your island? Or will it be mainly for casual meals or doing homework? Defining the purpose of the island is the first task in design.

Do I Need Appliances in My Island?

If the island is an important part of the work triangle in the kitchen, you’ll need to plan for function and form as you decide where each appliance will be placed and how it will affect the use of the island. If you intend to use the island as a buffet when entertaining, it must be wide enough that the sink or cooktop doesn’t take up too much space. If the primary sink is in the island, then the dishwasher must be in the island as well. Remember that the sink is used early in meal prep and after the meal is completed. If you envision family gathering time around the island as you prepare meals, then a cooktop rather than a sink may be a better choice for island appliances. Remember to plan for a hood or vent if you do have a island cooktop.

Do I Need Storage?

For some people, storage is a primary purpose for an island. If you have lots of other cabinets, however, storage space becomes secondary. If you plan for lots of storage, be careful not to make the island so deep and wide that you are unable to reach the center to clean.

How High Should my Counter Be?

For seating, 42 inches is a comfortable height for bar stools, and provides lots of flexibility but requires a multi-level island. A 36 inch height can work for bar stools, but allows less flexibility in the seating options. Be sure to allow adequate overhangs as well.

Will It Fit in My Space?

Remember that an island that crowds your oven, refrigerator or cupboards will be a bane, not a blessing. Leave adequate space between cabinet and refrigerator doors, and leave enough room around the island that several people can move easily through the kitchen.

A well-designed island can be a great asset to a kitchen. Be sure to take the time to design it well, and you’ll enjoy your island for years to come.