When planning a kitchen renovation, adding an island to your new kitchen is a great way to increase both counter space and storage space. Considering that people always seem to need more of these two things, it’s a huge win. But many people make kitchen island mistakes. Here are some key kitchen design problems to avoid when planning your perfect island.

1. Not Thinking Through the Island’s Purpose

Kitchen islands can fill any of the five kitchen functions: storage, prep station, cooking, serving, and washing up. Before you design anything, however, you need to decide which role (or roles) your island will fill. This will have an effect on the width and depth of your island, especially if you need room for major appliances.

Contemporary Kitchen Island
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If you have a lot of room for a wide island, you can have multiple kitchen stations installed in it – for example, a stove and a sink. Most people want to incorporate seating on the kitchen island, too, although that’s not always a great fit with a cooktop if you have a more formal space.

If you’re installing a stovetop on your island, don’t forget you’ll need a cooker hood above it. (Otherwise, your home will smell like those fried onions forever.) To avoid having a range hood hanging down into the middle of your space, install a sink on your island instead.

2. Making an Island Too Big

You may have a nice-sized kitchen now, but if your kitchen island is too large, it’ll make your kitchen feel cramped. This is one of the most common design mistakes we see: in an effort to maximize countertops and extra storage space, the walkways around the island suffer.

The general rule is that you will need at least 42 to 48 inches (106.68 cm to 121.92 cm) of open space around your island. Another life-saving guideline: if your kitchen is less than 13 feet wide, we don’t recommend adding an island at all. And, for a U-shaped kitchen, the opening should be at least 10 feet wide to accommodate an island without causing claustrophobia.

Contemporary Kitchen Island
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3. Obstructing Workflow

Your kitchen island will need to be placed far enough away to avoid cutting into the path between the sink, stove, and fridge – otherwise known as the functional kitchen triangle. This path needs to be kept free to help you work as efficiently as possible.

It makes a big difference in open concept main floor layouts in small homes. If your kitchen design includes an island in the wrong spot, or it is jutting out into the sitting area, maybe an island won’t work in your space.

4. Making an Island too Small

A kitchen island should be at minimum 4 feet long by 2 feet wide in order to be useful, but ideally larger. If you have a small kitchen and don’t have enough room to allow this, we recommend a mobile butcher block station or a simple table. Either will provide more prep area (and possibly additional kitchen storage space) but shouldn’t be used as primary workstations.

In terms of depth, islands must be 4 feet deep to accommodate two sets of 24″ deep custom cabinets back to back. If you plan to include a breakfast bar on one side, you’ll lose valuable space storage. The island will be one set of kitchen cabinets deep, and the bar will have 12-18 inches of overhang. Please keep in mind you’ll need to add extra space for any trim.

Contemporary Kitchen Island
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5. Cramming in Too Many Seats at the Bar

For many people, the appeal of kitchen islands hinges on the ability to add a breakfast bar. This is a great way to add supplemental seating outside the dining room. One of the mistakes to avoid is packing the bar with seats.

The size of your bar stool (or chair) will impact how many seats you can have. Be sure to allow each person at least 24 inches of space. Otherwise, people will be elbowing each other by accident when they eat. Also, if you plan to incorporate additional storage or open shelving instead of cabinets into your kitchen island, opt for fewer chairs.

6. Poor Lighting

Chopping food can be a dangerous activity if you don’t have enough light to see what you’re doing, so be sure to factor in lighting during your kitchen remodel. Learning how to properly light different areas of your kitchen, including the use of accent lighting, can really elevate your space.

A trio of pendant lights is an elegant way to boost illumination over a kitchen island. It pays off to make them dimmable if you’re eating at the island, too, because good lighting for cooking can feel painfully bright when you sit down to eat.

Contemporary Kitchen Island
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7. Reminder: Don’t Forget the Electricity

The Ontario building code now requires a PLUG CABLE on all islands. Islands are often used for prep work because they offer convenient counter space. Some prep tools require electricity, though, so avoid one of the most common mistakes and build outlets into the kitchen island. (It’ll definitely make using a blender and food processor much more convenient).

If your new layout features a two-tier island with a higher bar where your family can sit, that extra riser between the lower prep level and the bar is a handy place for the outlet. Of course, islands that incorporate stoves, dishwashers, and microwaves will need proper electricity and plumbing too.

8. Forgetting the Fun

An island is a great place to add a pop of colour to your new kitchen. Have fun and take your interior design up a notch with a contrasting countertop or cabinet colour. Seats at the breakfast bar can be bright without having to commit—if you tire of them or sell the house, they can be easily replaced or moved to other rooms.

Kitchen Island Cabinets with contrasting wood 2
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9. Forgetting Plumbing

If you plan to use your kitchen island as your main food preparation area, seriously consider incorporating a sink into the island itself. You’ll find it is a huge bonus, as is a dishwasher! This addition does make your kitchen design a bit more involved, but it’s well worth it.

First, be sure to keep the functional kitchen triangle intact; any time you are cooking, you need to easily move from the sink to the fridge to the stove. Next, hire a professional to handle the plumbing. Major kitchen island mistakes revolve around plumbing issues. A typical sink or dishwasher has vent and drain pipes hidden in the walls; installing them in islands is doable but a bit trickier.

10. Not Measuring Appliances

One of the biggest kitchen island mistakes that can derail your Ottawa kitchen renovation plans is failing to measure appliances properly. If you plan to include a stove or dishwasher in your island, take note of the dimensions when the appliance is closed and when all doors are fully open. Check to make sure nothing impedes the walkway or interferes with other appliances, drawers or cabinets in your kitchen.

An island is also a space efficient way to include small appliances, such as wine refrigerators, microwaves or warming drawers. Again, lack of planning is one of the mistakes to avoid, so measure once and check twice!

11. Wrong Countertop Material

The purpose of adding a kitchen island is often to create room for additional storage, leaving you with loads of glorious countertop space. Therefore, it’s crucially important to choose a suitable countertop material for this well-used worktop.

Maybe you are wrestling with the quartz vs granite vs marble debate or pondering butcher block? Whatever your decision, be sure to choose something durable. And, if you can’t decide on one material, try mixing and matching; your new island is the perfect place to flex your design muscles and add character to your space.

12. Neglect Space for Garbage

Trash management isn’t an exciting part of kitchen design, but it is necessary. Kitchen islands thankfully offer enough space to address this problem. Utilize the additional storage within your under-island cabinets to conceal garbage, recycling and even compost bins.

13. Choosing the Wrong Flooring

Any kitchen remodels likely include new or refinished flooring. When selecting coordinating colours and textures for your new room, be sure to visit lots of kitchen design galleries for inspiration.

But don’t stop there! During the planning stages, take special care to address kitchen islands. You can’t secure an island’s cabinetry to wall studs, so you may need to arrange for some preparation of the floor or subfloor. Also, different flooring materials (tile, concrete, wood, laminate, etc.) require special installation considerations.

14. Not Trusting the Experts

A kitchen island should integrate seamlessly into your dream kitchen and never make it feel crowded. Avoid making costly mistakes; you don’t have to go it alone! For island design advice and practical considerations regarding your kitchen renovation, enlist the help of a professional designer. A kitchen designer backed by a company with years of experience can ensure you love your new island for years to come.

Be Sure of Your Design

An island should integrate seamlessly into your kitchen, and should never make it feel crowded. To make sure you get results you’ll be happy with for years, ensure you get the help of a professional designer. Finding a designer that is backed by a company with years of experience can ensure you love your island for years to come.

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