Size, Placement and Storage

Size and Placement
Kitchen islands suck space. At minimum, an island should be 4 feet long and a little more than 2 feet deep, but it must also have room for people to move and work around it. Unless your kitchen is at least 8 feet deep and more than 12 feet long, don't even think about an island. (For more on practical dimensions for islands and the minimum space around them, see "Island Minimums," above.)

Storage Needs
You can gain valuable real estate on both the "working" side and the "public" side of an island for storage, always a critical need in kitchens. On the public side, take advantage of shallow cabinets (installed back-to-back, with deeper cabinets facing the kitchen) for serving items—napkins, cutlery, platters, etc.—that don't need to be in the food prep area.

On the working side, make sure there's room to store the things that are needed for the activity the island supports, because an island's strong suit is also its biggest downfall: It's isolated. If it's a cooking island, then pots, pans, and spices should be at hand. The space under cooktops is great for deep drawers for pots and pans. (The temptation is to hang them from an expensive pot rack, which won't hold deeper pots or lids and gets in the way of your view.) If it's a prep island, don't forget storage for knives and small appliances like mixers and food processors (consider pop-ups — platforms that swing out from behind a door in the island base—or appliance garages for these), and convenient access to garbage and compost bins. If the island is going to be dedicated to cleanup, you'll need a place for dish towels, detergent, and brushes.

Undercounter storage space is limited on islands that include a sink and/or major appliances like a dishwasher or oven; you'll have to plan more carefully for those. The same is true for cooktops with downdraft fans, the machinery for which must be stored in the cabinet below. One way around this is to use the ends of the island. Round ends are perfect for lazy Susans, and almost any island end can accommodate open shelving or even a shallow cabinet.

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