Is 5 feet to wide for an island?

kam76May 6, 2013

I am looking at an island in my kitchen that will be 5 feet wide and 8 feet long. It will contain a prep sink and 2 sets of 24" base cabinets that are back to back with a 12" overhang for table height bar seating.

I am wondering if this is too wide to be practically used? I am tall and have long arms and can easily reach 2.5 feet to clean.

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It's going to look like a sub-continent!

Mock it up with cardboard or something and see if it's too big to reach comfortably. Getting into the 24" deep cabinets that are under the 12" overhang is going to be a spelunking expedition.

Unless all users will be your height, you may find yourself having to rescue things that get stranded in the middle.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 3:36PM
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I don't want it to look like a continent, that was what I was afraid of. It does open up into a living room space and I was planning to use those cabinets under the seating area for storage of items I only use occasionally.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 4:02PM
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What about using shallow 12" deep cabinets on the side facing the living room? You will lose some storage space but I think you will find a 4 1/2 x 8' island visually pleasing. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 4:41PM
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I vote too wide.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 5:05PM
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MrsPete what width would you use?

I am debating now between changing out the bases to 12 in on the living room side and deleting them entirely. So a 4 x 8 vs a 3 x 8 island.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 5:57PM
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I don't think it is too wide. Our island is 7' x7.5'. Yes, cleaning and changing the light bulb requires one to climb up on top once in awhile but it is more that worth it to us and you will be able to reach the middle. Two sides have a 12" overhang. One of those sides has three 34" drawers and is open to the family room. The shallow top drawer holds light bulbs and batteries. I just reach under and grab the handles. No spelunking. The two deep drawers below hold a punch bowl and a bin of punch cups only used in December and other rarely used items. On the other side are drawers and a very shallow cabinet both used for adult beverages and ice buckets etc. Not used too often as wine is usually the beverage of choice. You will want to make sure that at least the drawers under the overhangs are full extension. The sides without overhangs hold the sink, dishwasher, appliances and more drawers and cabinets. We did not want to waste a bit of useable space as it is not a very large kitchen.

This post was edited by lindainct on Mon, May 6, 13 at 18:21

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 6:13PM
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MrsPete what width would you use?

I am debating now between changing out the bases to 12 in on the living room side and deleting them entirely. So a 4 x 8 vs a 3 x 8 island.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 6:22PM
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lindainct do you have a picture of your island? You don't have any trouble reaching the middle of it? Sounds like it is a good fit for your family.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 6:24PM
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In my opinion it's less about the absolute size of the island than about it being proportional to the space. An island that size might be a monolith in one kitchen, and just right in another. I think making a mock up out of cardboard to see how it feels in your space is a great idea.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 6:50PM
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It is a new build and I have to confirm the cabinet layout before I will actually be able to "be" in the space. I can make change orders of course, but I would like to avoid that if possible.

The back wall of the kitchen including a door is 21 feet and then it is open to the breakfast nook on the right which is 12'x12' and the long side of the island opens to the living room which is 16' x 18'

This is the plan from the builder so the island in this image is basically showing a 3x8 island. I am planning on having my antique butcher block up against one side of the island. This is mine:

This was an inspiration photo:

Their butcher block may be bigger but it appears they have cabinets on the seating side of the island. I don't care if the butcher block is the exact size of the width of the island.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 7:15PM
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Ours is 5x8 and is not too big. Finding granite that big was a consideration. 14 inch overhang on 2 sides with a microwave drawer to the right of the prep sink.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 8:07PM
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I was going to say 5' is definitely not too wide (we can clean 30" deep counters and their backsplashes with no problems, so reaching 30" to the center of an island is definitely not an issue).

But then I saw the sketchup of your space and I do think the island is much too big for it. I'd prefer to do 12" back counters, and then you can do a 15" overhang (way more comfy than 12" for seating), and by the time you add your overhangs your island width will still be about 4.5'.

In your space myself, I'd personally go with 9" back cabs to cut it down a bit closer so it scales better in the space. Just my opinion...

md0077, your kitchen is really beautiful.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 9:09PM
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Why do you need 4 places to eat? You have two overhangs for seating, a breakfast room, and a dining room. That's way too much space devoted to that.

Overall, the kitchen layout isn't optimum. It's a long distance between the fridge and the sink. You really need a prep sink on the island. It would better break up the prep zone and the cleanup zone, and tighten up your prep zone so you wouldn't walk yourself to death.

I'd also eliminate either the breakfast area, or the dining area. And eliminate one of the seating overhangs. Pick either the peninsula or the island to have seating at. Not both.

If you are going to use the butcher block as a free standing addendum to the island, it should be inset into the island by having the surrounding cabinetry in an L shape around it. Just sitting at the end, it looks lonesome and like it doesn't belong.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 10:15PM
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it depends on the space but 5' isn't too wide. mine is 5.5' x 10' and the size is perfect for our kitchen. it seats four, plus i have an abundance of storage and even made room for an additional oven. storage under the overhang -while somewhat difficult to access is used as a hiding spot for Christmas presents and "stuff" i haven't figured out what to do with yet. it is also a bit difficult to clean the center of the slab, but i think the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 10:37PM
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By itself, if you and your family are tall and/or have a long reach, then 5' isn't too deep. However, that doesn't mean it will "fit", as others have mentioned. Scale should be considered (you don't want it to overwhelm the kitchen)
Do you have room for the island + adequate aisles all around?

Something else to reconsider, in my opinion: 12" for table-height seating? That's far too shallow. For table-height, you need a minimum of 18" for comfortable seating.

Minimum clear knee space/overhang recommendations:
Bar-height seating (42" above floor): Minimum of 12"
Counter-height (36" above floor): Minimum of 15"
Bar-height (30" above floor): Minimum of 18"

If you are tall, don't skimp on overhang. In fact, you may find the minimums too shallow! We have a 15-inch overhang on our peninsula and while it's adequate for me at 5'10", my DH and DS (6'5" and 6'6", respectively) find the overhang much too shallow and rarely sit at the peninsula. My DD (now 6 feet!) sits at it, but I've noticed lately that she tends to either sit sideways or "straddle" the peninsula - which tells me it's a bit shallow for her as well.

Also, I strongly recommend you keep the island all one level - it's far more useful than a bi-level island.

How much customizing are you allowed to do? The current plan is marginally functional. Most of your counterspace is located where it's not useful/needed - the island and the perimeter to the left of the range - and all three primary work zones into that one corner of the kitchen.

With no water on the island, the natural primary Prep Zone is b/w your sink and range. While there is 42" of workspace there, it does cram it's a hike to get from the refrigerator to the sink.

A better plan would be to add a prep sink to the island to allow the island to be a Prep Zone plus be much closer to the refrigerator - where so much food that is involved in prepping originates from (fruits, veggies, eggs, meats, milk, butter/margarine, etc.)

BTW...what is "CNTY" (cab name)? Now that I study the "names" of your cabinets, it looks like you may have a sink base in the island - a 30" sink base. Is that correct? I would probably make it a 24" sink base to gain another 6" of workspace on the island. I would also move it to the refrigerator end.

How about something similar to this? It's not massively changed, but enough is changed to make it more functional and to be a multi-worker kitchen.

Note: The MW Drawer (next to refrigerator) could also be a MW on the counter or suspended below the upper cabinets - but I think it would like nicer if the MW were under the counter in a drawer. An under-counter alcove isn't easy to use for tall people, but a drawer MW is easy to use for all heights.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:01AM
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Good suggestions, Buehl. I do find that 42" is the absolute minimum space I would want, and that includes appliance handles, so I would look at moving the island a few inches or making it less wide. My layout is near identical, except that the prep sink is next to the garbage pullout, and I have less counter space to the left of my range, so the refrigerator is across from the island.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:43AM
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Thank you for all your feedback and buehl for drawing all of that out! Wow you went above and beyond. Such awesome folks on this site :) The floor plan I attached was just to get a feel for where the kitchen is in the room, the builder did not update my kitchen changes on the floor plan yet (because I have not finalized them!). The cabinet layout I posted earlier is closer. This is a "semi" custom builder so I can make some changes but I am dealing with stock cabinets. I will make sure my island overhang is at least 15" and I think I am going to cut the back island base cabinets to 12".

Live-wire-oak, thank you for your astute observations. Yes, there is a prep sink in the island and the back of the peninsula is for bookcases not seating. The island is all one level. No bi-level stuff going on in the kitchen- sorry if I made it seem that way. We entertain a lot and have a nook and formal dining now along with bar seating and it works well with our family. I had a microwave drawer in the island but I like how you drew it Beuhl so I think it will move it over to the fridge and move the sink down closer to the fridge end. The CNTYSB abbreviation is for "country sink base" so it is a base that they can do an apron front sink in. I scored this prep sink on craigslist for $100
and it requires an apron front sink base, unfortunately this cabinet compnay only has apron front bases in the 30" and 36" size so I don't think I can get a 24"...unless a standard sink base can be modified to fit and apron front. I am thinking not. I am a little worried this sink will look swallowed up in a 30" cabinet.

For the clean up sink I am doing the Kohler Whitehaven 36" farmsink.

Thanks again for all the input it has been fabulous!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 2:59AM
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Love what buehl did for you!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 8:37AM
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We have a 5 x 10 island with a 15" seating overhang and storage cabinets on the back side of the island too. The cabinets are used to store larger items that we don't use everyday. I don't find the island too large for the space and it is easy to reach and clean. Our prep sink is in the island on the end closest to the fridge and gets used all the time!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 9:35AM
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Kristen Hallock

I think that sink looks too small to be a prep sink for a kitchen. Its more like a bar sink if you had a small bar area where you made drinks. I would look for a different prep sink for the kitchen. Unless maybe the sink is bigger than it looks?

It will look lost in a 30" cabinet I think.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 9:36AM
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Don't forget to count the overhang of the counter. My cabinets are 54" x 120", but my counter top is 57" x 123". This is a galley island setup in an open room with 10' ceilings. The living room/kitchen space is something like 19'x39' with a pretty large nook open off of the kitchen. I think the size of the island is great and very functional when cooking with my kids, but I don't think I would want it any wider. We have cabinets that open on the side at each end. Our seating fits between them with a 6' wide opening that is about 16" deep.
I don't have any recent pics from the side, but here is one from the time of installation.

Hope this helps and good luck with the build.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 10:28AM
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khallock - the sink is 19 inches diameter. When I talked to the dealer that was going out of business he recommended a 24" sink base because anything smaller and it looks squished. Do you still think it is too small? It looks like pretty good size to me just sitting here. It is a mrsp $1000 + (that I picked up for $100) hand hammered copper sink with nickle overlay. Really pretty. I want to use it if I can.

kfhl your island and kitchen are lovely. Thank you for sharing! Do you find you are happy with your hood that is the same size as your range? That is the set up I am looking at (in the original layout the cabinet guy did ). Now that I see this with the uppers and lowers are lined up it is hard for me to the to add the 42" hood and mess with those pretty lines.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 10:53AM
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I like the 12" deep back cabinet configuration better than full depth. Though, it will be a bit of a pain to use those cabinets being under an overhanging counter top and having to move stools out of the way.

We wanted some cabinets on the back side, for the extra storage, and to have a bit of seating for casual chats with the cook. We just put cabinets on the ends. They are easily accessible. If you are using a custom cabinet company you can make those deeper to give a more suitable overhang for seating. We would have, if we could, but we had a space limitation.

We squeezed a stud wall into the design to provide structure for hidden granite support brackets to mount to (didn't want corbels).

With counter tops, the island will be 8' 7" x 3' 6".

This post was edited by gpraceman on Tue, May 7, 13 at 12:11

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:04PM
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ours if 5' x 11.5' and I do not think it's too wide. I can't reach all the way accross to clean, but I've gotten used to walking around it with a rag. we have 12" deep cabinets all along the front facing the stools and I love them. perfect storage for mixer, blender, paper towels, etc...

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:24PM
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I don't necessarily think so. My island is 54" x 117" (4'6"x9'9"). It does seem massive in our kitchen but we like it.

However, I'd give a lot of consideration to the following:

1) Your aisle sizes. Yes, 42" is what most people recommend but I get very claustrophobic and 42" was a bit narrow for the distance between my rangetop and island. I have 54" on that side, 50" on my sink/dishwasher aisle, and 54" on my refrigerator/oven aisle. It seems perfect to me, especially with children underfoot.

2) Your seating plan. Will this be a place that you sit together as a family to eat or will you do that in the nook or dining room? If so, straight line seating is not optimal for conversation, especially if you're trying to connect with kids at dinnertime about their day, etc. We almost went this route but decided that since the island would also serve as our dinner table and didn't want the people on the ends to feel like they had to shout at the other or turn their heads ackwardly to have to do so :)

If this in not your purpose for seating, then straight line may indeed work for you.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:51PM
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Our 36" hood is working out fine for us. I did not know to look for a 42" when I chose it, but found out soon after. I tend to only use 1 or 2 burners at a time so I think that makes a difference. I need the most power from the hood when I use the rangetop grill and our hood does the job. The grill is centered in the rangetop so the extra width of a 42" wouldn't help with that anyway.
Check with the experts, but the 36" is working for me - just make sure the hood is powerful enough to do the job. A remote blower would be nice, too!

As for the island - our aisle between the island and rangetop wall is 51" clear between cabinets - 48" between tops. I love having this much space as it gives someone the room to walk past me as I'm cooking and not be too much in the way. I think anything less than 42" in this type of setup would be terrible to work with.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:51PM
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My island is 5'6" wide, a little more than 8 feet long. I love the width, as I had plenty of room for a bank of drawers on one end, and plenty of room behind the prep sink. If you're going to have a sink in the island and seating across from it, then you really do need to make sure you have enough room for someone to sit there without getting splashed. I also second the idea of seating people on two edges rather than in a straight line. I did this and we often find ourselves at the island for meals. It really makes conversation easy and comfortable. I also like that there is a spot near my prep area for someone to sit and talk to me.

I am going to be the dissenting voice in aisle space. I have 42 inches between the cooktop/fridge/oven wall and the island, and I like that the island is just a pivot and one step away when taking things out of the fridge or oven and putting them on the island, or taking things from the prep area to the cooktop.

Another thing that worked well for me was to put two trash pullouts in, one by the prep area and the other, larger one by the cleanup area for general trash and scraping plates.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 9:25PM
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