I recently went through a small kitchen renovation that centered around having a custom kitchen island built. I’ll tell you — I OBSESSED over every detail of this island. I’d been dreaming about it for five years, after all!
The most critical thing I needed to figure out was what size to make my kitchen island. Too small, and it wouldn’t be functional. Too large, and our kitchen would feel completely cramped.
A kitchen island should be a minimum of 48″ long by 24″ wide, but the best size for a kitchen island largely depends on the overall size and layout of your kitchen. An island that’s 72″ long by 36″ wide is a great size for the average kitchen as it offers both ample counter space and seating for three people.
These general guidelines are helpful, but a lot depends on how you plan to use your kitchen island, how much space you have to work with, and whether you want to add seating. Read on to discover how these factors affect you and what the best size island is for your kitchen.
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What is a Good Size For a Kitchen Island?
In my mind, the best size for a kitchen island is the largest size that will comfortably fit! Islands offer valuable counter space, storage, and seating (if you want it). When considering the best size for your kitchen, keep these guidelines in mind:
- You should have a minimum of 36″ around all sides of your island. 42″ is even better. 36″ will allow two adults to pass one another along the walkways around the island comfortably. 42″ will allow a wheelchair to maneuver easily.
- You shouldn’t have more than 60″ between the counters and your island. Anything above 60″ will make it awkward to move between your counter’s workspace and your island’s workspace. Plus? It will be visually disconnected from the rest of the kitchen.
- A storage island should be a minimum of 48″ x 24″. Any smaller than this will no longer offer much function.
- An island with seating should be a minimum of 30″ – 39″ wide. Counter stools require a 15″ overhang, so plan for at least 30″ of depth for an island with legs or side supports, and 39″ for an island with no side supports.
To calculate a good size for your kitchen island, measure the open space in your kitchen and subtract 36″ from each side of the space with a wall or cabinets. That is the maximum size your kitchen island can be.
For example, if your floor space is 144″ x 120″ (12′ x 10′) and you have cabinets on two sides of the kitchen, a wall with a doorway on another, and the end is open to another room, you would calculate your maximum kitchen island size like this:
Depth: 120 – (36 x 2) = 48″
Length: 144 – 36 = 120″
Check out the diagram below to get a better sense of how this works:
Of course, you don’t have to build your island to its maximum possible size. You may have budget constraints or want more floor space to fit the way you use your kitchen, but now you at least know what your limit is.
Check out my remodeled kitchen to see this measurement method in practice.
How Wide Should a Kitchen Island Be For Seating?
If you plan to use your kitchen island for dining, you’ll want to be sure it’s wide enough for seating.
A kitchen island with seating should be at least 30″ wide to allow for enough overhang for people to sit comfortably.
What size should my Kitchen Island Overhang be?
For a counter height island (36″ high), you should allow for 15″ of overhang to accommodate your stools. If your island is table height (30″ high), the overhang should be increased to 18″. Finally, if your island is bar height (42″), you’ll only need a 12″ overhang.
In short, the higher your island, the less overhang you’ll need.
How Many Stools Can I Fit at My Kitchen Island?
The general rule of thumb for how much room you need for kitchen island seating is 24″ for every stool, but the real number depends on the width of your stools and who will be sitting on them.
The true number you should consider for how wide your kitchen island should be for seating is how much space is between each stool. Allow for 4″ to 8″ between each seat. More towards 4″ if kids or smaller adults will most often be sitting at the island, and more towards 8″ for larger adults.
If you need more seating at your island, look for narrower counter stools without backs or arms. If you don’t need as much seating, you can be more flexible in the style of stool you choose.
Assuming you’ll be using average-width stools (18″), this table will show how many stools will fit at your kitchen island:
Number of seats
|Length of island needed|
|2||At least 48″|
|3||At least 70″|
|4||At least 92″|
|5||At least 114″|
|6||At least 136″|
All that said, take this table with a grain of salt because counter stools come in a huge variety of sizes. I was able to fit four of these stools in the 80″ of seated space I have at my island.
For more guidance on seating, read my article on which way kitchen island seating should face.
Is it OK to have a kitchen island without seating?
Absolutely! Some people prefer (or need) the storage more than the seating. If you opt not to have seating at your kitchen island, you have more room for storage. A storage-only kitchen island is a great option for smaller kitchens as well since you won’t have to account for the overhang.
These types of islands are also great as a statement piece. Does your island have to match your cabinets? Definitely not, and in this article, I cover how to figure out how to mix and match those finishes.
A basic 48″ x 24″ island can be constructed of two stock base cabinets for an inexpensive workhorse with a great amount of storage. Take four of those cabinets and place them back to back to form a 48″ x 48″ square island, and you’ll have a ton of storage along with a huge countertop workspace.
These types of islands are also great if assigned a function, like baking or meal prep. Keeping all of your gear stored in the same place as your work area adds so much functionality to your kitchen.
Ultimately, the best size for a kitchen island will depend on your specific needs and preferences. By considering the size and layout of your kitchen, the intended use of the island, and the number of people using it, you can determine the perfect size for your kitchen island using the guidelines I just shared with you!