Is 5 seats at an island too many when dining table is close by?

ontariomomMay 25, 2014

Hi everyone,

DH and are I debating the pros and cons of having four island stools vs 5 and would love your opinion. We have a family of 6, but the oldest child is 20 so won't be living with us forever (I don't expect he will be moving out any time soon though). Our every day dining room table is quite close by so we had thought we would continue to eat many meals at the dining room which is around 17 feet away from the island seating.

Here are some of the pros and cons we've thought of for going with 5 stools instead of the 4 stools shown in the island plan below (please note we have already added a bit more leg room for the stools than shown in this picture after some GW advice)

Pros of going with 5 stools:

1)More of us could eat lunch at the island instead of moving to the dining room table. : would still like to eat our dinners at the dining room table.

2)Travel from cook top to eating area is very nearby for island seats (picture less travel with a bowl of soup)

3)The dining room table would take less wear and tear. Currently we have a glass top on our oak, partly veneer table -- at some point we would like a nicer dining room table.

Cons of going with 5 stools

1)We have to reduce the stack of drawers on seating side of island to 12 inch cabinet. We envision using these drawers for writing material, drawing materials, junk drawers etc and not kitchen stuff as there is plenty of space on the L shaped perimeter and business side of island for that (plus there is a closet sized pantry behind the seating too),

2)There will be more stools that need to be pushed in so they are out of the way as the area behind the stools is a major walkway through our house

3)As our children move out, we might regret having so many seats around our island (youngest is 8, oldest is 20).

4)Five seats is still not enough for our family of 6 (often at least one member eats earlier or later than the others).

5)The fifth seat would be behind an induction cook top, so not a safe seating spot when the cook top was in use.

How many seats would you think would be optimal for our family of 6? Are there anymore pros or cons you would add to this list. Please help us decide. Thanks!


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We are a family of four and most days we have 4 stools at our island. We eat most dinners in the dining room (not formal). We have an extra stool for the island we bring out during parties or when having extra people (like my DD's friends) over.

Perhaps you could set up for 4 stools and have an extra to squeeze in when needed. We have backless stools so they can all push under the island and not be in the way.

In our house the island is a magnet. Its hard to tell if that will happen in your house or not.

A lot of breakfasts and lunches as well as casual dinners are eaten at our island. My DDs friends like to just hang out there to talk. They also like to cook and eat!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 2:24PM
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Does your family like sitting on stools?

What about the laundry? I was amazed at the greatly lowered number of stains when I got rid of my counter height seating...

As to the number of people in the family, that's going to constantly change. One will leave, another will bring a mate, then there will be grandchildren, etc. Unless the ones you still have at home are less than ten years old (which they're not, unless they're multiples), change, soon, is inevitable. If you have an extra stool, perhaps even a folding one (they do make them) or a Cosco style kitchen stool with steps, you can squeeze it in when everyone is there and you don't want to move to the dining table. Not comfortable and elegant seating, but good family togetherness.

A 12" wide drawer isn't 12" wide on the inside. It should be wide enough for letter paper, but think through the utility. One drawer for pens, pencils, markers, erasers. One drawer for paper. One drawer for junk. One drawer for rubber stamps OR string, pipe cleaners, sticks OR colored paper. But your need for kitchen drawing supplies will change too.

I'm less concerned about the cooktop, being that it's induction (doesn't get hot except under the pan) and you have a couple of feet clear. There could be hot spatter, but you can shoo kids away if you're doing something spattery, and you can also declare the fifth seat off limits or mom's or something while the stove is on.

OTOH, would having nearly enough seats make those coming in from practice, or whatever, feel excluded? Whereas having four would force you to just sit at the table already?

My biggest concern isn't the number of seats but the aisle. You said it was a main path. Do you really have enough room for easy walking without toes and chair legs intersecting? I wouldn't add another seat if the space is tight. I'd want at least five feet.

Or...if you want to get tricky, instead of reducing that bank of drawers to 12", you could put it on wheels. :) It could live under the island when there are four stools there, but have two folding stools and everyone crowd around when it's pulled out. :)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 2:28PM
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debrak and plllog,

Thanks so much for your replies, and thoughts. I appreciate you weighing in! I will write a longer reply when I get home. In the meantime, I have posted below the rest of the layout to answer plllog's question about space behind the stools. It is not 100% up to date but shows there is over 58" for the aisle behind the stools (from counter to pantry).


    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 3:17PM
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One more thought, our cabinets can be custom sizes (RTA from Scheer's). So we could consider making the dish storage drawer a little less deep, to make the drawer stack beside seating wider than 12 inches. I will have to measure out the plates to see if a more shallow drawer would be worth considering for the plates.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 3:25PM
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51 inches wide is pretty wide. If you bevelled the corners on the seating end of the island, could you seat a person in the middle and a person at each corner bevel? I would mock this up and see if it is a possibility. The rounding effect would make for better conversation, too.

Also, your fridge door will not open all the way as drawn. It will be very hard, maybe impossible, to pull out inside drawers. Can the wall beside the fridge be shortened, so the fridge door can open further than 90 degrees?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 4:13PM
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Thanks Bellsmom for your comments. DH has carefully looked into the fridge issue (Liehberr specs), and he has reassured me the fridge will be able to open fully to access drawers. I will go down to the fridge (currently stored in garage) and see for myself what is possible as this is important and maybe I need to double check DH's analysis.

BTW, you were referring to the fridge marked with an "A" and an "R" and not the freezer (marked F). The freezer (marked F can move over whatever inches needed as there is a closet/pantry going beside it that has not yet been built.

In a pinch, we may be able to use the corners as you suggested (not for a meal, but maybe sitting and conversing).

@plllog, Thanks again for your detailed pros and cons to the debate, and your most creative problem solving. I always enjoy your thorough comments! LOL about the reduced laundry issue if more are sitting at a table vs stools.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 6:24PM
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OntarioMom- 4 stools are plenty. The next few years are going to fly by with the kids and you will soon not need even that many on a regular basis. Even when friends drop by, time at the island is more of grab and go than sit and chat. Now girlfriends with frosty beverages are a different matter:)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 7:22PM
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OntarioMom- 4 stools are plenty. The next few years are going to fly by with the kids and you will soon not need even that many on a regular basis. Even when friends drop by, time at the island is more of grab and go than sit and chat. Now girlfriends with frosty beverages are a different matter:)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 7:23PM
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Four stools are I would stay with four. Think of this as a place for 'helpers' to sit, rather than 'diners'. Diners can sit at the table (so you use it on a regular basis) and stools can be reserved for those, who want to help make dinner, clean up or visit while you cook.

Just my two cents :)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 7:32PM
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Thanks for your vote, musicgal. Kids range in age from 8-20 (8, 13, 16 and 20).

Do most people with big families have fewer bar stools at their island than people living in the home? For those of you who are empty nesters, did you limit your bar stools to 2 to accommodate just those living in the home? Anybody else have as many as 5 bar stools?


    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 7:33PM
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Thanks lavender_lass and nice to hear from you and get your vote. When you say four stools are safer, were you thinking about having fewer bar stools in the way or another safety issue?

I also wondered if 5 look more balanced than four (3 on longer side and 2 on shorter). In other words, does having only 2 bar stools on a 10 foot island look like too few to balance the long side?


    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 7:38PM
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OntarioMom- our stools will be at the peninsula bar, which is adjacent to the family room. We have a restaurant booth nook in the kitchen for seating up to four big people. We are empty nesters but when the birdies return, they cone back with appetites and extended family members. So we will probably have 4 stools in addition to the booth space... then my little cooking stool that tucks into the island.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 8:38PM
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Side view of kitchen- there is a little overhang on the opposite side of the island to hold my cooking stool... or another garbage can if I need it.

This post was edited by musicgal on Sun, May 25, 14 at 20:45

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 8:44PM
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Thanks for the kind words. I think, given your layout, that the nearly five feet will be fine. Just be prepared for rushers to bang into the pantry, like puppies, now and then. You have a full three feet clear, so it's really not a major tripping hazard. It gets a lot worse when there are chairs on the opposite side of the aisle.

It's true that the nest will get emptier soon, but I just can't see you regretting seating. Deciding four is plenty is one thing. It may be. But I can't see you, five years from now, saying, "Boy, I wish I didn't have so many chairs!" The fly away ones come back as twos and threes. I think what is more likely to lose it's necessity is more art supplies than a small box of crayons and a piece of printer paper. :) You may change what you want to put in those drawers. But when the threes turn into fives, the art supplies may come back.

Seeing the whole plan, I think it comes down to how much you want the bigger drawers more than anything else. :)


    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 9:30PM
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Do you have a television in the kitchen that people watch during casual meals or while snacking before dinner is served?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 11:32AM
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robo (z6a)

Based on my experience as 2 people, no kids, frequent entertainers, I would have as many bar stools as possible. We only really have room for three but a fourth always gets dragged up to the peninsula whenever people come over and if we had a fifth, it would be there as well. I actually regret not making room for at least four.

My inlaws also are 2 people, no kids at home, frequent entertainers, and they have six. When we're over all six get used frequently.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 12:01PM
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I recently wrote a Cinclips review here. At that job, the mom commented that she was amazed that all the teenagers were home at one time. In fact, she was so surprised she mentioned it twice.

You've got to calculate your attrition rate into any seating capacity proposal.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 12:20PM
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Not addressing your stools, but is there a reason you have put both DWs to the left of the sink instead of centering the sink between them? It looks like you were considering proximity to the dish drawer in the island, but I think there is more to consider that might outweigh one or two steps when unloading.

I have my sink centered between 2 DWs and yes, it is one or two more steps over to the cabinet where I store the dishes when unloading the far DW, but they are clean and dry (less likely to drip, etc.), I gather them (all the plates and or bowls at once, use both hands -- 4-5 glasses at a time) and do it a few times-- not for every piece. And not everything goes in that cabinet (mixing bowls, baking dishes, etc.). In over 7 years, I have never regretted that decision, but I think in 7 days I would regret the bending and reaching across to load (which is every piece) and the water and guk drips I know would be on the floor. For me at least, the sink would be more comfortable to work at if it was pulled away from the corner. and centered. It would also be a more direct line to plunk pans from the cooktop over to the sink.

Think about it. Test the idea with your current sink and "loading" dishes into the next cabinet over from your DW. It's an easy switch until your counter top is templated, but once the counter is done, it's a major redo.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 1:11PM
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@Musicgal: Thanks for posting your lovely kitchen progress pictures. Good to know your thought process on seating in your kitchen. I do like that idea of the cooking stool -- never thought of that.

@plllog: Good additional thoughts and I appreciate you checking my aisle size on the stool side. You are right that when we are grandparents one day, I can see five stools being used quite often (hopefully some of the grandkids will live close by!) We might consider making the dish drawer a few inches shallower to increase the size of the junk drawers and still have the fifth stool.

@Californiagirl: The closest TV will be in the great room which is diagonally across from the kitchen but not able to be viewed from the stools. It will be able to be viewed from the dining room chairs so that might move some off the stools. The kids use a computer and Xbox with basement TV more than the great room TV. The laptops can be used in the kitchen.

@robotropolis: Thanks for your first hand experience with seating numbers especially when entertaining. Your ideas make sense to me too -- never enough seating when entertaining a crowd.

@Treb: Yes calculating attrition rate is important but not an exact science. It is true that the teenagers are not always home at the same time. However, with five seats, we are already allowing for one person to be absent as we have 6 in the house.

@lascatx Oh yes the 2 DW location debate. Thanks for your comments; you make many good points for sure! We have debated this at length. However, I am going to review your notes again with DH to see if we are still happy having the 2 DWs side by side. One thing I do like about the 2 DWs side by side was that there was no island or barrier behind me as I washed dishes at the sink. I will mock up the sink location and be sure it won't feel too squished in the corner. I also liked that the dirty dishes would always go to the left of the sink and clean to the right. Also, I like that the corner drawer unit would not ever be blocked by an open DW. I think there was an issue with the fact that the clean-up run is being raised by two inches under the DWs and sink and side by side DWs worked better in this situation (I can't really remember why).


    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 7:32PM
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I raised my counters -- don't see why it would be an obstacle to splitting the DWs. Any installation issues would be slight and everything needs to level out before the counters go on regardless of which part is where. We also still have a clean side and a dirty side for anything that comes to the counter -- ours is just reversed.

If you did have the sink centered between them, you would only be partially against the island and you have a significan'ty wider aisle there than I do. I have 37" and one DW pulls down half against the island and one not. The other is completely across from the island. I can still get by both. Not sure what drawer you are concerend about blocking, but DWs are only open for a few minutes when loading and unloading (I unload mine while the milk for my coffee steams and am always done byt he time my coffee is ready, so it's 1-2 minutes on the unloading side, not usually a lot more to load) and when the DW is open, I'm not susually trying to get into other cabinets. To me that would be an issue of what you put in that cabinet and not a reason to not place the DW there. I mean, you are going to have the cabinet under the sink open at times too -- to get soap, detergent, perhaps scrape dishes if you have trash or composting there. and such (I do).

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 9:36PM
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Thanks for your continued thoughts on our kitchen. You make more good points, lascatx. We will debate it further (cabinet order is due at the end of the week). However, there was an issue with the raised DWs (neither DH nor I can remember exactly what it was); maybe something to do with the raised toe kick and wanting to have the raised two kicks side by side. I will have to dig further to see what this issue was (better yet DH will dig further into this as he is assembling the cabinets so better get his head around raising this DWs.

Do you happen to have a picture of your clean-up run, lascatx?

BTW, the drawers I referred to not wanting to block are in the corner of the L (Korner King unit).


    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 9:55PM
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I didn't really take photos of my completed kitchen -- something about burnout, life happening and wanting to keep my kitchen my own. This is obviously during installation (amazing how many things are partially done) and before we were actually back to working in the kitchen, but you can see the DWs (before panels were added) either side of the sink. Your kitchen is MUCH larger. I don't think you will get hemmed in.

I'm not trying to argue with you. We went through similar discussions, but for us the issues were more 1DW or 2 DWs, and both DWs at the cleanup sink of one on the other side of the island (so glad we didn't do that -- would not have worked out well for us). As long as you take the time to think about how you will truly use the space, you know that anything that isn't perfect was carefully considered and why you made the choice you did. A well-reasoned choice beats regrets every time. Good luck. You're going to enjoy your new kitchen,

This post was edited by lascatx on Tue, May 27, 14 at 0:16

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Family of 5- we'll have 6 stools and an informal dining table close by. No formal dining room though

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 11:10PM
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Thanks again for your thoughts. DH and I are in the process of revisiting the DW locations and how we might be sure the clean-up area is as efficient as possible. Did you mean to post a picture or your kitchen?


Thanks for telling us how many stools for have chosen for your family of 5. It does make sense to me to use the space for an extra stool rather than junk/misc drawers. DH is not so sure yet, so we are still debating. My four kids may be older than yours though (ages 8-20).


    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 6:21PM
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Hi all,

We are still struggling with this decision. I keep going back and forth on the 5 vs 4 stool debate. Anymore thoughts on which number is optimal and why?

I also am thinking seriously about the idea posted by pllog of a movable drawer stack in the 5th bar stool spot to give us flexibility to have either drawers or spot for an extra bar seat when needed.

I need more votes with rationale as I am stuck on this decision. Please give me your thoughts.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 6:55PM
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I don't like the idea of meals at the island. Why eat next to the prep sink, in sight of the dishes, sitting on a stool? Sitting at a real table encourages lingering for conversation and good family time.

Regardless, I wouldn't try to match the stools to the family members. As others have said, that's going to change as kids bring home friends, older kids are married and have children of their own. I'd go with two stools so a couple kids can chat while you're cooking (or so you can sit while you work), but plan the real meals to take place at the table.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 7:35PM
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Thanks MrsPete for your input. I do like eating at the dining room for our dinners, and you are quite right that a table encourages higher quality time via more conversation and comfort. If we don't have enough stools, there will be no temptation to by pass the more social dining room at dinner time.

I have no problem with eating lunches or snacks at the island as those are very casual and non lingering meals for us. I think with a family of 6 living in our house, 2 would be too few for us though especially considering we have the space.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 9:37PM
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So you only have three pros for going with five stools.

#1--lunch. How many times a week/month do you eat lunch together?

#2--travel to the DR. This is a convenience consideration, so it's a good one. Does it outweigh all the cons?

#3--wear on the DR table. I don't think a few lunches will contribute to table wear when you'll be eating every dinner there, so I wouldn't worry about that.

As your family changes, do you expect much socializing at the island while you cook? To me that's the scenario where you need stools for everyone--if everyone wants to sit and socialize rather than stand.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 1:03PM
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Thanks may_flowers for sharing your thoughts.

Both DH and I are teachers. Over the summer months we eat many lunches as a whole family together, and on the weekends as well. It is hard to be sure how many stools we will need as the family gets older. I am sure our home will be the go to place for family entertaining though.

If we add three to the long end, we can reduce the number on the short end to 1 at times to give us some more prep space near the sink. I also think that stool near the sink can be used when we want to sit and prep.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 2:01PM
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I have decided for you. You will have four stools and the larger drawers as originally designed. Now, on to the next thing...

So, did you say "NO" to that, or "Phew. Moving on..."


    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 2:26PM
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Hi plllog,

I think we are ... not moving on LOL. We are strongly leaning to 5 stools with 2 narrow but tall lateral file drawers (12 inch cabs) instead of the junk drawers. We could store cookbooks in the tall drawers or files. In other words, we are more likely to do 5 stools.


This post was edited by OntarioMom on Sun, Jun 1, 14 at 15:59

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 2:42PM
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Aha! I knew it. I was pretty sure you were set on five drawers, and just figuring out the right thing to do with the drawers. Your new option sounds interesting. If you're going to put cookbooks in them, make sure you get extra heavy bottoms and hardwares. Books seem to weigh more than papers, probably because of the density of the paper.

You can put the art supplies, and even the screwdriver and duct tape, in hanging pouches if you're doing hanging file frames. :)


    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 3:47PM
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More good ideas, plllog. Heavy bottomed drawers and full extension drawers are now on my list. I like the pouch idea too. We will likely just do the two deep drawers with the idea that we could lean over and pull-out a cookbook or file while sitting on the stool nearby (having a third top shallow drawer would make this difficult). Other art supplies can go in the closet/pantry behind the stools as well.

DH is not so keen on 5 stools, but I think I have him convinced. If we regret 5 stools, I can always move one away right? An extra stool (assuming not high end ones) will cost less than another stack of drawers which helped to convince him LOL.

Anything else I should know if I want to store files and cookbooks in the two narrow/deep/tall drawers beside the stools? Do they make something that we need inside the drawers so we can use for hanging files?


    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 4:10PM
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I guess the question is do they STILL make things for hanging files inside drawers, since I'd venture to guess that not many people keep filing cabinets anymore.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 8:22PM
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Oh, no! Lots of offices still keep paper files! Some are required to.

Yes, for hanging files you need the aparatus they hang from and Pendaflex or similar folders. The rails come in lots of lengths, but you might need to customize. Just make sure they're well screwed together or they can be a nightmare. If you're planning on hanging cookbooks, however, you probably need something stronger that's built into the drawer. As an alternative, you could get dividers in the drawers, and put rails in just part for actual files, and just stand the books spine up in the drawers. I used to sell books and kept travelling stock in milk crates that way. They're fine, as long as they're in tightly enough not to slop over. You can always put in a can or two as bookends when there aren't enough books.

They make all kinds of accessories for file drawers. Besides hanging folders, there are box folders with wide bottoms and either open or closed sides, multipocket files, etc., and pencil trays, clip rails, and a bunch of stuff I can't remember. Some of them are a little harder to find, but they're out there.

I think you should get six stools. :) Five for the island, and one (or two!) to squeeze in with. :) They do make folding ones...

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 8:59PM
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