Is my kitchen too narrow for an island?

cedarburgcapecodSeptember 4, 2013

We are slowly working on redoing the layout of our long and narrow eat-in kitchen. The overall dimensions are 10' 7" x 28' 2". The working part of the kitchen is 10' 7" x app 14'. At our old house I had a small 4'x3' island that I used for prep and eating space and I can't tell you how much I miss it! I've read that one needs at least 36" clearance around an island, so technically I could put a narrow one in, but I just don't know if it's practical? Has anyone put in an island in their narrow kitchen? Any regrets or are you happy you went that route? FWIW, I have 2 young kids who love to 'help' and at our old house I liked having them at the island "helping" while I cooked.

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127" total width-2(25.5" perimeter counter overhang)=76"-2(36" minimum aisle spacing)=4". It's not even in the realm of possibility here even if you were to take that spacing to 32" which is very very tight.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 1:28PM
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The only way I can see you adding an island to your kitchen is to have perimeter counters on only one side of the length with approx 37" aisles between perimeters (cabs on one side, wall on the other) and island. You could get a 27" wide island. That's one row of 24" deep counters with standard counter overhang of 1.5". But that doesn't gain you much over a kitchen with cabs along both walls. In fact, you'd have less storage because you'd have fewer upper cabinets.

Your kitchen may be better suited to a peninsula. Why don't you post your plan and ask for help with your lay-out? Read the info in the link below before posting to get the most useful feedback.

Here is a link that might be useful: New To Kitchens? Posting Pics? Read Me!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 2:12PM
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Cedarburg, aside from the children helping, what was it about that island that made it so right for you?

Did you love it because it was the work counter that was much deeper than 25"? Because you didn't have to work facing a wall? Did that 3x4 make dining much more intimate than in other places? Enjoyed the view down the street while you ate? The sun hit it every morning? You could see the kids in every ground-floor room while working? You could eat right where food was cooked/poured without carrying everything somewhere else?

You need to figure out exactly what you got from it, everything, so that you can start designing those satisfactions into this new space in some way. Some may well have nothing to do with the fact that it was shaped like an island.

Each morning my friend would send her husband and kids off from her kitchen, tidy up and then sit down at the kitchen table and call her mom to chat. That table was her special place because of a synergy coming together from all elements, friendship with mom, making school lunches, location, the whole thing, not because it was shaped like a table. See what I'm thinking?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 4:08PM
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I have a "one sided" long and narrow(ish) EIK layout. But at 12'4 wide (and 26'7" long), it is an important 21 inches wider than your space. This allows for nearly full 42" aisles and a 41" wide island with seating on one side. We are finding the traffic flow naturally branches around the work space -- allowing traffic to pass by the person working in the kitchen (even the dog takes this path, which is a like a litmus test for natural traffic flow) -- and that the work zones are quite usable.

If it were narrower I might question the utility of having the island. The work zone would feel cramped to me, although the traffic could still bypass the zone. There are some others with 36" aisles and they could give you their thoughts.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 4:55PM
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Thank you for your insight. Much of what I loved about the island was that it was a workspace that everyone else used while I cooked. It also created a definite traffic pattern that kept everyone (other than the cat) out of my way. It was my buffet for family get-togethers and holiday meals. It just 'fit' they way we lived, if that makes any sense?
This house did have a peninsula, but it was way too long (we had only 30" clearance) and it made the working part of the kitchen really cramped and the eat-in area was nearly 19 feet! I am considering a putting a peninsula back in, just shorter and in a different location, but my first choice is an island, if it can be managed.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 5:42PM
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I completely understand your need for an island. My kitchen is 12' and I have a 5' x 33" island in the middle. I have done this by not doing perimeter counters all the way around my kitchen. One side of my kitchen has a built in from floor to ceiling which extends 1' instead of the counters. In my eyes it is a no brainer trade off for the island.

Why does it need to be a peninsula and not a island? Why is it assumed there is counters on both sides of the 10'? You probably don't have space for a built in, but I am sure you have other layout options that will satisfy what you love about an island.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 7:52PM
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I don't know where your windows and doors are placed, but have you considered an L-shaped layout for the main kitchen...with a peninsula attached to the opposite wall? So it's an L-shape kitchen with an island...but the island 'rests' against the opposite wall. It's not attached to the L-shape cabinets.

This would give you about 5' for the island (2' for opposite counter and 3' for walkway) and the island/peninsula would divide the work area from the eating area.

(I'd sketch this, but my Picasa is not loading pictures, at the moment.)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 8:57PM
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What about an island with casters that can be moved around or out of the way for optimum use? I'm seeing numerous islands on casters on Houzz. I think even larger kitchens are finding them useful because they can be moved out of the way when it is party time.
and here and here's a smaller one that slides under a counter.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 10:51PM
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Sophie Wheeler

With only 76" to the interior space, any mobile island will always be blocking access to something because it would have to rest against the cabinets where you couldn't open them.

The ONLY way to get an island in this kitchen is to give up the cabinets on one of the walls entirely and make it a single wall kitchen with narrow aisles. In other words, even if you could cram an island in there, you couldn't manage any seating and traffic flow would be compromised and there wouldn't be enough room to really spread out with it being so narrow. THat's giving up way too much just to be able to say you have an island. A peninsula would be the only route to get an "island like" area with some type of bulk and seating. Even then, it couldn't be that large.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 7:46AM
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Most likely you will not be able to fit an island with seating along the back of the island unless you can take a kitchen wall down behind the island or something similar.

You might be able to fit one or two seats if you can fit one on each end if you don't have cabs/counter on the sides or behind the island - but you do give up cabinet space in addition to all the space you're losing by not having cabs along the back and on the sides.

"... I've read that one needs at least 36" clearance around an island..."

If you want a one-cook kitchen, a kitchen that no one else can be in to help/get a glass of water/etc, and a kitchen where if you have the DW open you're trapped - then a 36-inch aisle may work for you.

As your children get older, they will be doing more and more in the kitchen to really help - prepping, cooking, cleaning up. If you have 36-inch aisles - they won't be able to help (nor will your DH!) Remember that as very young children, their "helping" is not actual work - that will change in a very few short years (probably only a year or two away, depending on their ages.)

Here are some examples to show how an island would be in your space....

No Seating:



Recommendation...Read the "Read Me" thread, particularly the "Layout Help" topic. Then, start another thread/post asking for help - include a measured layout and provide the answers to the questions - both described in "Layout Help". We may be able to help you come up with a layout that gives you what you want in your space w/o compromising functionality.

You'd be surprised what ideas people come up with here - but you must keep an open mind and seriously consider all suggestions. (I.e., don't dismiss an idea out of hand just b/c it's not what you originally wanted - it's hard, I know b/c I've been there! I wanted an island in my kitchen and it's 11' wide. I had to finally come to terms with the idea that it wasn't a viable option for my kitchen - I am so glad I did - I absolutely love my island-less kitchen - so much so, that I want to take it with me if we ever move!)

This post was edited by buehl on Thu, Sep 5, 13 at 12:18

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 11:17AM
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...Our Kitchen as an example of what is possible in a kitchen your size...

Overall size: 21'10.5" x 10'6"
(We had to build out a 6" wall, thereby reducing the depth of our kitchen from 11' to 10'6")

Main work area size: 15' x 10'6"

Layout with aisles:

Note: There is ample room for two seats at the left peninsula - I can squeeze in a third if the person on the open end doesn't mind sitting partly in the aisle - I do not have 3 seats there normally, only two.

Layout with Zone map:

[Edited to add information about seats under the first picture.]

This post was edited by buehl on Thu, Sep 5, 13 at 14:11

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Buehl- What if you turned the island 90 degrees (in your last drawing) and pushed it against the bottom wall? Then, it's more like a peninsula (attached or not) but you would have seating space and still easy access to all the appliances/work area, in the main L-shape kitchen area.

The 'island' would break up the long space of the kitchen, divide the eating area from the work area, and could have a plate rack or shelves on the wall it's 'hooked' to, whether it's actually attached or not. Just an idea :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 1:05PM
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You mean like this?

What you are now doing is forcing all traffic through the work area(s) - and that's something to be avoided if at all possible. I did make the aisle 48", but I suspect it should be closer to 54" in this situation...which then only allows one seat on each end. You might be able to squeeze two in for very, very small people (like young child size), but not for adults or teens, even smaller adults/teens. The "bottom" seat is against the wall and really needs 30" of linear space b/c of that wall.

Or. like this?

Again, all traffic is still forced through the work area(s) - especially the top wall. The island is now 30" deep b/c you will need extra inches of elbow room since the island is against the wall and so are the seats., doorways, etc. may not allow any of these. Ideas/suggestions are dependent on the actual layout of the space - location of doors, windows, etc. Without that information, there's not a whole lot we can do for the OP other then talk about generalities.

[Edited for typos]

This post was edited by buehl on Thu, Sep 5, 13 at 14:06

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 2:04PM
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More like this :)

From [Farmhouse plans](
    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 2:37PM
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Yes, another option. The permutations are endless (well, maybe not "endless", but there are many!)

The problem is, we don't know where doors, windows, etc are. None of these may work. I've been assuming at least 2 doors in the kitchen - most seem to have 2 or 3 doorways, so I figured that was a "safe" assumption, for now. Locations? Who knows? Only the OP knows the number and locations!

I think we need to hear from the OP before spending any more of our time on this.

[Edited for typos]

This post was edited by buehl on Thu, Sep 5, 13 at 14:43

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 2:42PM
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Oh, and I don't think a 36-inch aisle will be sufficient with this layout. I think you need at least 42" on the top aisle.

Also, unless there's a door in the bottom left wall, whoever is in that left space will be trapped.... But, if it's wide enough, that won't be an issue - I suggest an aisle b/w the left perimeter and island of at least 60" - preferably 72". That would allow two people to work there without either one being trapped.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 2:47PM
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I agree...we really need more info. Another idea might be to add a banquette to give her more space, especially if there's traffic past the kitchen table. There is a lot you can do with a long, narrow space though. Especially with some well placed windows :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 3:03PM
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I was actually wondering about something like LL's fat peninsula and realizing again that much more information was needed.

But just for instance, in LL's picture, if the stove was on the end wall (and perhaps prep sink in the right corner), barricaded from young children during busy times by the fat peninsula, but the cleanup sink and refrigerator were on the children's side of the peninsula, leaving only counter on the passage between, mom probably wouldn't mind brushing past with dirty pots if the kids ended up working on the end as well as the side, and also working on the third side in the cooking area when it worked for her. A sink on the stove side so boiling liquids didn't have to be carried through the bottleneck would be good, though.

One other thing that occurred to me about loving an island as opposed to a peninsula was that it could also involve that inside-outside peninsula-as-kitchen-boundary thing. All 3 sides of a peninsula can be completely in and part of the kitchen work area if the kitchen and kitchen finishes extend right on past to claim them. Children can even play "around" a peninsula if a crawl space is created on the wall side. :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 5:10PM
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Wow- what a lot of ideas! I am going to post our current layout and ideas we have come up with. Our cabinets are shot, but we have to make due with them for a year or two. However, we have taken many of them out already because we moved a door, so we can reposition them into different configurations. (Originally we were planning to widen the kitchen by 1 -2 feet until we realized the joist work would have to redone and that was just too expensive). I'll see what I can post of our layout - we don't have anything other than graph paper drawings!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Graph paper drawings are just fine :)

Be sure to measure everything, especially windows and doors...and give us a rough idea what's on the other side of the wall. For instance, 'this door leads to dining room' or that door is our only access to the backyard'.

It's also a good idea to tell us if a door or window can be widened or moved.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 12:06PM
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Please check the "Layout Help" topic in the "Read Me" thread (linked below) for discussions regarding how to draw up a layout, what layouts we need, and what information we need from you to help us help you find the best kitchen that can fit in your space for you and your family.

There are also many other topics that may be of interest to you now and as you progress through your remodeling journey! (E.g., Planning for Storage)

Good luck & I hope you can post your layout soon - I look forward to seeing it!

Oh - start a new thread when you're ready to post with a descriptive Subject.

Here is a link that might be useful: New To Kitchens? Posting Pics? Read Me!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 1:26PM
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