Kitchen islands look great, offer extra storage space, and give you more room to prepare and eat your meals, at least in theory anyway. In reality, islands may not be the enormous advantage some make them out to be. What pros and cons come with having a kitchen island?
The biggest pro of having a kitchen island is additional space to store appliances and prep food. However, you need a sizable enough kitchen to accommodate the area. While islands also provide more seating space, they can be hard to vent and wire to electricity.
Islands are helpful, but you should know everything, the good and bad that comes with them. Read on to learn more about kitchen islands and if your kitchen should have one.
Is Your Kitchen Large Enough for an Island?
Your kitchen might not be large enough for an island, because the smallest size a kitchen can be while trying to accommodate an island is 12’ (3 m) long and 8’ (2.4 m) deep. If the area you’re working with is any smaller, you won’t have enough space to do anything in your kitchen.
Islands should only be as small as 4’ (1.21 m) long and 2’ (0.61 m) deep. Even with the small, default island size, at least 42” (106.68 cm) of space on each end of the island needs to be clear of anything.
Technically, 36” (91.44 cm) would be serviceable, but islands serve as spaces where you work, eat and socialize. You need enough space around the island for complete and easy mobility.
If you’re not able to meet any of these measurements, the island is probably a bad idea. Squeezing an island into a tiny kitchen will just make everything uncomfortable and challenging to access (source).
The Pros of Having a Kitchen Island
We’ve thrown plenty of hints already, but there honestly are a lot of good reasons why you should have a kitchen island. The list of pros below will detail the advantages of having an island.
There’s a Type of Island for Everyone
There are 12 kinds of kitchen islands that homeowners can select. You can choose a movable island that allows you to decide where you want it to be at any time.
U-shaped islands look like horseshoes and provide a lot of workable space.
L-shaped, circular, and galley islands are three more varieties you can choose from as well. Each kind of island comes with its pros and cons. Circular islands, for example, are uniquely shaped and add a spot of fun and variety to kitchens.
Circular islands also have a lot of space, but a lot of it may be hard to reach because of the roundness of the countertop. Cabinets in these islands tend to be very deep too, and often underutilized.
Regardless of the good and bad aspects of each kind of island, it’s up to you which one you decide to install. Consider what you want from your island and learn what each type offers in space and customizability.
Islands Provide Extra Storage Space for Appliances
Some kitchens have a woefully small amount of cabinetry and counter space. If you have a kitchen where storage and prep space are minimum, you might want to consider an island.
You can add additional drawers and cabinets, and if you recycle, you can add bins underneath the island.
An island would still be an asset in kitchens that do have a decent amount of storage. Even if you have a decent amount of cabinets or shelving, an island can serve as storage for extra appliances you don’t often use.
A Movable Island Provides Extra Storage and Prep Space On-Demand
The movable island might be what you’re looking for if you’ve got a smaller kitchen.
If you need more prep room for large family cooking events, like during Christmas or Thanksgiving, roll out the mobile island to accommodate the extra helping hands.
Movable islands can also serve as more storage space. Unlike most other storage options in your kitchen, you have your choice of where this one goes. You can keep it in the center of the room or move it off to the side until it needs to come close to the countertops and oven.
Islands Provide Space for Extra Seats
An island can serve as an informal dining space or seats for entertaining guests. While you’re in the kitchen getting food and refreshments ready for parties, you and everyone else can still interact with each other.
Islands are far enough away that people aren’t in the way while you’re cooking, but close enough that you still feel like you’re part of the crowd. Your island doesn’t have to be large, either.
Extending the end of your countertop is enough to make a small island for a few guests to sit at.
Make a Kid-Friendly Space
A kitchen island is also an excellent way to interact with your family while you’re on cooking duty. Children can do their homework while you’re able to keep an eye out.
Your island is a way for younger kids to feel like they’re helping while not being in close contact with more dangerous kitchen appliances and utensils. Perhaps they can discuss recipes or prepare ingredients. After dinner, you can let them clean the area.
You can add a refrigerator drawer and a microwave for your kids also. Giving them the means to prepare their own snacks allows them to make independent decisions for themselves.
You Can Add More Kitchen Conveniences
An island’s only purpose in a smaller kitchen may be limited to additional storage or recycling space. Larger kitchens, however, can add various other things like the previously mentioned refrigerator drawers or wine fridges.
Your island can become a dedicated food preparation area, complete with a preparation sink if you prefer. A big enough island can have plumbing and electricity installed, and if you want, you can do more than just prep food in this space. You can cook it as well.
A grill or another stove or oven is an amazing addition to their islands for people who entertain a lot.
The Cons of Having a Kitchen Island
Many of the cons of having a kitchen island involve improper planning and budgetary concerns. It can be easy to get in over your head when making arrangements for building an island.
Let’s take a closer look at the problems that having a kitchen island can cause.
Islands Can Cause Workflow Disruption
Even tiny kitchens require a sufficient amount of space between the island and everything else. One of the best parts of owning an island is that you can access each side from every part of the room.
They become problematic if they’re stuffed in a room that can’t accommodate them, however. It becomes difficult to smoothly travel from one part of your kitchen to another because traffic grinds to a halt.
The island itself becomes useless, also. If the kitchen is too packed, it gets too hard to access the island from every direction, and your kitchen ultimately ends up practically inaccessible.
Your Kitchen May Not Have Much Space
Kitchens on the smaller side may find themselves hard-pressed for space with the addition of an island. The issue of reduced space can tie into workflow disruption, but there’s a difference. Whereas disruption has more to do with being unable to move in the kitchen, lack of space involves having no room to work.
No matter how much you may want an island, it’s best to opt out if your kitchen is too small. The structure will eat valuable space, and the kitchen will end up feeling claustrophobic.
Connecting Plumbing, Electricity, and Venting Can Be Hard
Connecting water and power to a kitchen can be incredibly difficult. If you want a fully functional kitchen island where you can prepare food or cook, you’re going to have to run pipes and wires through the floor.
Neither the electrical nor plumbing systems will connect to the center portions of your kitchen where the island will likely be. It’ll take a lot of invasive and intensive work to make your island a functional part of the kitchen.
Venting for the stove or oven becomes a challenging task as well. You have two options to vent your island. You can use a downdraft vent which is incorporated behind the cooktop and pulls the exhaust down.
Your other option is a traditional overhead hood. It’s possible to install an overhead hood, but the project can get expensive because the island is in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Installing a Kitchen Island Can Get Very Expensive
On average, an island in the US costs about $4,000.
A complete kitchen renovation can range from $4,000 to $50,000 (source), so four grand may not look too bad in comparison. A little premade mobile island can cost $100 while bigger, stationary islands may run upwards of $10,000.
The kind of island you want will largely determine how much you pay for it. Islands with dishwashers and sinks cost $3,000 to $5,000, including labor costs. A sink by itself is about $400, and installation of any other kind of appliance can be about $300.
Kitchen islands that reach the ten grand price range are of the custom-built variety, which will get you custom countertops, running water, electricity, and appliances.
Hiring someone to design the kitchen, a plumber, and an electrician comes with separate price tags. Granted, a kitchen designer isn’t usually required unless the island is just one part of a larger project.
Before hiring a designer, keep in mind that the least they may charge will be about $3,500 on average.
You Don’t Have Many Lighting Choices
Kitchen islands are essentially free-floating structures that do whatever you want them to do, provided you’ve built them to perform various functions at once. Given the multifunctional nature of islands, it can be hard to get the lighting right.
You’ll need to choose lights that are bright enough so you can see. Food prep can be messy at best and dangerous at worst by ruining recipes and injuring yourself because it’s too dark to see.
But if you choose bright lights for food prep, they might be too bright for the children to do homework or for guests sitting down for a drink. Flush and semi-flush lights look good in smaller areas and cast a bright light over broad areas.
Not only can they light your island, but they can brighten up the rest of your kitchen too.
Take care when choosing the globes, though. Clear ones cause harsh shadows, which can be hard on the eyes.
Frosted globes help soften the light.
Pendant lights are pretty and do an excellent job of drawing the eye towards ceilings. Their long, mostly streamlined design can overwhelm a kitchen, though, by drawing too much attention themselves.
You also have to take care not to hang long lights like pendants too low. Pendant, clear pendants, and chandeliers can take a lot of space between the ceiling and island. Low hanging lights like these work best in kitchens with high ceilings.
Whichever lights you choose, they should point down at the island. Consider installing a dimmer switch, too, so that you can control the brightness.
There are good and bad parts to having a kitchen island. The best part of installing an island is the utility that comes with it. You can add extra seating space and create a delightful place for kids to socialize with you or do their homework.
Islands give you more room to prepare meals and serve as the primary cooking spot for parties.
Building an island can get pricey, though. At most, you can spend over $10,000 depending on what you want the island to do. Before making an island, carefully consider all the pros and cons.
As a homeowner, I am constantly experimenting with making the structure of my house more energy-efficient, eliminating pests, and taking on DIY home improvement projects. Over the past two decades, my family has rehabbed houses and contracted new home builds and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I share my hard-learned lessons so that you can save time and money by not repeating my mistakes.