Narrow Island-Worth It?

jimson11March 20, 2013

Is a 15" or 18" deep island too narrow to where it's not even worth it? We are looking to put in a 24" x 60" island which will leave 36" of walkway on each side. I've read many posts where people say 36" is too narrow, some say it's great, and some refer to "the rules." But is making a less than 24" deep island worth it if it's just for prep/landing zone and will it look odd as far as proportions? Thanks!

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I think any island is worth it, frankly. I could possibly be stoned for my next statement, but take it for what's it's worth: 36 inches is plenty of space. No you will not be doing the tango in the kitchen and yes you might have to nudge butts every once in a while, but it's plenty. I have 32 inches of clearance on two sides of our island, which I know is blasphemy here, but I can open the dishwasher to load and unload it, open the oven to put food in and out and two of us can work in there at the same time. Is it optimal? Probably not, but it's WAY better than not having an island at all.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:11PM
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wi-sailorgirl's statement is overly broad. An island is not always the answer and quite frankly does not make sense in a lot of kitchens. Have you posted asking for help with a layout? You may surprised at some of the creative ideas that come out here.

Why don't you mock up what you kitchen would be like with an island to see how it feels. Put the outline of the island in tape on the floor or if you want to get a better impression stack some boxes to make an actual island.

Also remember that the size of your walkways isnt measured from cabinet to cabinet but from counter to counter. The counters will overhang the cabinets so that could take away as much as 3 inches.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:31PM
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I am in the same boat as wi-sailorgirl with only 32-33" counter-to-counter on either side of my island. It works fine for us as well. I wouldn't sacrifice a usable island to adhere to the "rules".

This post was edited by mike701 on Wed, Mar 20, 13 at 13:39

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:36PM
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I know everyone wants an island, but they are not the holy grail solution to every kitchen problem. Sometimes, a peninsula works better. Sometimes, something else is the culprit in not having enough prep space in the right spot where you think you "need" and island.

Post your layout. There may be another solution.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:43PM
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Instead of a narrow island, how about a work table? This might be better visually (will feel more open) and give you a useful work surface.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Totally depends on the layout. A narrow island can be nice simply to protect the prep and cooking zone, or to plunk your mise. In that case it can be better to use a cool-looking piece of furniture.

36" is code. Also, if you plan on 36" cab to cab, remember you will also lose up to 3" for your counter overhangs. It's very tight. It can be OK in a one-butt kitchen where it's serving a lone cook who can pivot as needed. Not OK if it's supposed to accommodate traffic during cooking.

Definitely post your layout.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:48PM
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I agree that a 30 something island is plenty and that 36 is generous feeling in my kitchen for clearance. I saw that someone suggested going to houzz and entering "narrow islands in kitchens" and when I did that all sorts of skinny islands came up. They look great! I use my island constantly and would not want to be without it. Mine is 33 x 60. I love the extra storage it affords underneath where my microwave is, cookbooks, booze, my husband's myriad of vitamins and protein bars. Keeps that stuff out of my pantry! If you are really concerned you could get something that is removable or on wheels.

I really don't like that people make you feel like if you don't have 42 inches or more of clearance your kitchen isn't big enough for an island. Honestly, more is not always better. I like that things are at hand and convenient and can't even imagine having more space. I've seen very highend homes that don't have the space for more than 36". To each his own. Forget the "rules" and do what works for you.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:07PM
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We have roughly a 36" aisle on one side of our island, and I think a little over 42" on the other side. I know one or both aisles ended up an inch or two wider than expected, just don't recall which (or both!). The wider side was done that way at our request, because we wanted enough clearance to allow us to walk past the open DW door while loading/unloading the DW.

The 36" aisle is plenty wide enough for our needs. The only time it's even remotely an "issue" (and I use that term quite loosely) is when we are entertaining, and someone sits at the tabletop (at the end of the island) with the counter-stool pulled out. Walking past is no problem, but if I need to grab something from the pantry cab behind him/her, I usually have to ask the person in that seat to scooch in a bit so I can get into the cabinet. Other than that, plenty enough room.

This post was edited by cat_mom on Wed, Mar 20, 13 at 14:11

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:10PM
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I dunno. My mom's pet peeve is islands that act as barriers in the middle of traffic patterns in the kitchen. She makes a good point. In your situation, I would consider putting a narrow table that is moveable in lieu of a permanent island.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:29PM
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Thank you for all of the thoughtful replies. I get that an island is not always the answer but I think it's at least the obvious answer for prep in this case. I was thinking if I could get an 18" deep island, then it'd be enough for prep and leave more space.

Here is the layout.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:30PM
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We installed a narrow island in our last kitchen, because there was already an island, and we used the heck out of it. I didn't feel that there would be increased functionality by eliminating the island.

That said, I moved before really using my kitchen.

Fast forward to now... I was just speaking with my tenant who has been in the house for two years. She said my kitchen has ruined her for all future kitchens. She said it is the most functional she could imagine.

I specifically asked about the island - and she said that they love it and do not feel it is in the way.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:53PM
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Me again, I saw this island and liked it a lot for your situation. It's on wheels and it's very pretty. But I love your layout, with the area open to the other room it is giving it the feel of much more room.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:57PM
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In our last house we had 42 and 36 on one side. The 36 had no appliances and only led to dining room do it worked for us. Not only do you have to comfortably open appliances, possibly with room for someone to walk by but also service or replacement of appliances can create a problem. Many of the portable islands are narrow and useful so I am sure a permanent one would be too.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:11PM
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I think a moveable island/cart is the best solution for a space that would only fit a narrow island. No offense to kailuamom but the island in that photo just looks way off to me. A moveable cart would give the same functionality and would look a lot better. Either that or not have an island with seating.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:23PM
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I guess I should clarify because some people have brought up good points about islands. Ours is a freestanding island (so, a glorified raised table, I guess). Visibly it provides enough airiness that the kitchen doesn't look cramped (which it definitely could with our small clearances), but from a functional standpoint, we can slide it to one side or the other if we have to create a larger temporary walkway (such as when we took our upper cabinets out last night).

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:26PM
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My island top is 27" x 69". There is a 35'' aisle on the work side and 44.5'' on the traffic aisle and 40.5'' on the range side. It is a vast improvement over the peninsula we had before. The only downfall is that there is a smaller space to get around when the dishwasher door is open. That being said, I wouldn't change a thing. You might want to mock up how much room there is when your oven door and/or dishwasher is open to see if it bothers you. The one thing I notice with your plan is that the counter seating and the table seating seems very close together. That would bug me as chairs would always seem to be in the way. Have you considered a round table with the chairs offset from the counter chairs? (This probably would not work if you need to seat 6 all the time.)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Mine is 24 W 36 L and is where I do all my food prep. I couldn,t afford to lose even a inch and have it still be funktional. That said this island is a heavy wood one with wheels and I easily have room for triple the size if I where to move it out. It stays towards the back of the kitchen I guess just because I got used to it being there in the old kitchen. I have it centered with 30 inchs on each end and 24inchs on one long side and 11 feet on the other long side. All my prework is done on the 24 inch clearance side that faces out into the room. I have 22 feet of granite countertop I could use but entirely use that little 24 bt 36 island . Go figure;) I really absoluty couldn,t go any smaller than that though. If you don,t entend to use it as your major prep place you could get way with something smaller just to set things on. Looking at your floor plan though I think your going to need the prep and storage space. Another poster suggested doing a mockup with boxs to see how the space feels. I did that and think its a great idea.

This post was edited by madeyna on Wed, Mar 20, 13 at 15:50

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:49PM
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No offense taken - The stools that go with the island are just little with no backs. What was in the picture was what we had left after all of our furniture had been shipped back to the mainland. I think the backs make it look busy.

All of that said... I still have doubts about it (really because of the look) BUT the users seem to like it for the functionality.I thought that it would be good to show what it looks like though so the OP can see if it would work in their situation.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 7:29PM
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I love our island, and our clearances vary as you go around it. On the range end (one of the long ends in our kitchen) it's 42" from front of the range to the island top. This allows me to back up and fully open the oven door without running my backside into the island -- I measured for this, setting a box in place of the island to test it out. On the refrigerator side, it's 36", which is just fine. We have a french door refrigerator, and I guess since the doors are not so wide, others have no trouble walking behind someone at the open refrigerator. Then on the sink/DW side it's 37". Someone can pass by the open dishwasher, though it's tight when the dishwasher is open. But they could always go down the other side of the island....

The island itself is 38" x 72" (top), and super functional. I can do all my prep there and keep my perimeter clean and ready to receive plates etc.... One end of my top is maple finished as a cutting board, the other is Waterlox finished maple, with a decorative strip of sapele dividing the two ends which matches the sapele perimeter countertops. The end opposite the range has an overhang with stools, which two people sometimes use, though it's most comfortable seating for one.

By the way, in our old kitchen -- in the double wide we occupied while building -- I had an island which left me with 19" at the narrowest (the kitchen perimeter wasn't square). For another person to use the kitchen, we had to do a merry-go-round maneuver around the little cart we used as the island. But it was so useful, it was worth it!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Your floor plan is almost the same as ours - except your peninsula is another counter run and on your refrigerator wall, we also have our ovens.
Our cooktop and sink are in the same locations as yours. The big difference is the open area leading to your island.
I wanted an island but alas - we could not do it in our plan - but I think it works fine in yours.
Go to A2gemini final reveal to see our kitchen and what we did or A2gemini new island to see our cart.
We ended up getting a Boos cart for our island - which is mobile and I can move it out of the way.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 8:02PM
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Another vote for design against the rules. Our walkways are less than 42" and they work fine. I don't know what I would do without my 30"X 66" island. It provide great storage that is accessible from both sides, it's a great work space, and serves as a wonderful place to set out our holiday buffets.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 10:14PM
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Ours is approx 27 inches wide with the countertop and honestly I can't imagine our kitchen without it.
As others have said, it really does depend on your layout to ensure that an island will work for you but I wouldn't hesitate to bend 'the rules'.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 11:00PM
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Cindy Noll

Here's another vote for doing an island if you really want it! We moved cabinets and took away an 8 foot peninsula that impeded the traffic flow for 28 years. Our island is 3 by 4 on top (24 by 48 inch cabinet) with 37 clearance on one side & 42 on the walkway side. The 37 inch side is across form the DW, but works with the door open with enough space to walk by except if the dog is standing there. I needed the counter & cabinet space. I understand why some suggest a moveable cart, but that limits storage & I would have no where to really move it anyway. I also would miss the electric outlets on my permanent island.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 9:26AM
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when you think about it perimeter countertop depth is only about 25 inches and where most of us do all of our work. What's the big deal? I may be missing something... : )))

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 9:52AM
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Though I like islands and am planning one for my kitchen, I'm not a card-carrying member of the Island At Any Cost club. You have to be honest with yourself about how much space you have.

Two suggestions:

1. Move all the furniture back in your biggest room and tape off exactly how much space you'll have. If you have boxes to mock-up the size of the countetops, all the better. Do not neglect the counter overhang. SEE for yourself whether you'll be satisified with this amount of space.

2. Consider building the narrow island . . . but include some sort of fold-down table, something you could pull up when you want the island to be bigger /put away when you want the space. Or consider a pull-out cart that could fit under your island.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 10:27AM
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My $.02... mock it up with boxes, sawhorses, whatever, and top the "island" with a temporary but usable counter (e.g., plywood). Figure out the dimensions that work for you.

I had a work table with 40" on each side, but it wasn't comfortable with the way I work: I couldn't knead bread since the thing moved all over the place, everything we stored there got REALLY dusty and hairy from our two dogs, no electrical meant that I couldn't use my various mixers/grinders/blenders on it without cords blocking walkways (plus, without enclosed storage it looked cluttered and icky all the time). DH got tired of the incessant complaining and we built an island with exactly 36" on each side and outlets on either end. Perfect. I love it, the kids love it, DH loves it, etc.--but it might affect resale if we have to get out of dodge for some reason. Solution: the butcher block countertop hangs over one side by almost 10 inches, so we'll just lop off that side and shove the island over a bit if we need to clear out quickly.

Different solutions for different folks.

This post was edited by knoxmomx2 on Thu, Mar 21, 13 at 12:57

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 12:53PM
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Circus Peanut

Given the choice, I'd prefer 30" deep countertops over 24" counters with an island any day of the week. I will go to great lengths to avoid any cooking prep scenario where I have to carry food or liquid over an open floor in the midst of working.

Which is just to say that one must be well aware of one's own cooking habits/preferences - that's the highly personal deciding factor in this decision, and really nothing else.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:16PM
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I like an island and I have 37" counter top to counter top. It works well for us.
Perhaps you could make your cabinet on the side of the refrigerator an L shaped 12 in deep pantry or a 12 in open shelf cabinet. ( I like something on the side of the fridge so it doesn't' stick out all alone.
Then you could move your island down farther toward the pantry side and even make the island cabinet 30 inches deep with aisles 37 in or more. You would even gain length, but you would want to consider an angled or rounded side on the right side to allow for a 36 aisle between the fridge and island.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 2:11PM
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That is one tight kitchen, what is the clearance between the peninsula and the fridge area? I ask because my last kitchen had an area similar to this but probably wider and it would get congested. My current aisles around an island are 41 inches and are tight for more than one person, no way would I go smaller. If you remove the cabinet beside the fridge then you could push the island back a bit. Have you tried any U plans to see if you could make one work? Or maybe just use a movable cart type island.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 2:31PM
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I thought I would post a photo of the before narrow island. What we decided was to reduce the cabinet depth (since the kids ended up at the island with too little overhangon the old one).And, we got rid of the sharp corners on the busy areas where clearance wasnt as good as we liked. (I did that as a result of bumping into the old corners for two years while planning the kitchen).

I have never been a fan of the portable workspaces, they just don't work for me for all of the reasons stated above.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 3:18PM
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The wheels on my island lock. It has never moved even a little. A movable island doesn,t have to be open either.My freind had hers retrofited with wheels after they had to replace a stove that was blocked by her huge island( its so big she can,t reach to clean the center) It brought her island up three inchs but she could have had it done inset and that would have only raised it one inch. i have never needed electrical at my island but that is also still a option on a movable one the outlet is put raised into the floor and the island more or less plugged in when locked in place.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 4:32PM
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