Choosing Sizes and Shapes
Practical and esthetic concerns converge when it comes to determining the size and proportion of the island to the kitchen. Too large, and the island becomes a physical and visual obstacle, crowding the kitchen instead of centralizing it. Too small, and it won't be useful; an island is no good if it's out of arm's reach when you need it.

There are no set guidelines for sizing an island, but there are a few rules for the spaces around it. A designer figures out the work- and walk-aisle clearances, and those dimensions dictate plans for the structure.

Designers suggest that work aisles facing a range, refrigerator or other appliance be 42 in. for a single chef and 48 in. if there are two cooks in the household. These standards help keep cooks from colliding and prevent appliance or cabinet doors on an island from banging into the ones opposite them when open. The pros also stipulate the island surface provide at least 36 in. of continuous countertop for each cook.

Like the location of an island, its shape is often determined by the surrounding area. The basic four-sided island is the workhorse configuration most popular in closed floor plans. For open rooms, angular islands—think L, Y, U or V shapes—act as a wall delineating the kitchen without totally blocking it off. While these multifaceted designs cost more to build, they typically offer more places for shelves, drawers, wine racks, towel bars, pullout bins and other amenities, as well as more space for appliances.

This all-in-one stainless-steel unit was introduced by bulthaup, a German manufacturer, in 1989 as the first ready-to-install kitchen island. With a few design tweaks along the way, it has become a modern classic as the functional heart of a modular kitchen.

Its $11,000 price tag includes a four-burner glass ceramic cooktop, a fitted cutlery drawer and two sinks—one deep for washing dishes and filling pots, one shallow for spraying and draining tasks. The shallow basin adds work space by trading depth for surface area. A recessed track houses sliding cutting boards and a slicer/ grater encircles the sinks. Drainage and power connections are integral—just hook up the lines and plug in the cooktop.

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