Consumer Reports Island Size

czecheartNovember 18, 2012

Browsed through Consumer Reports Kitchen magazine at Sams Club today. Read that the number one mistake as per kitchen decorators....trying to squeeze an island into a 12 ft wide kitchen. It says people do it, but they should not. It did not explain further.

What am I missing?

Designing our kitchen with plans to widen up long and 10 feet narrow kitchen by squeezing two feet from our laundry room, so we can add an island. The new design will be 144", 12 feet. Planning on an island 42 inches wide.

Thinking, 24" cabinets on one side, none on the other, leaves 120 inches. Minus 44 inches for island - 42 island plus 1" on each side for overhang, leaves 76 inches or 38" on either side for walking.

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Here is what I think you are missing. Is this correct as I have understood your space?

24 inch cabinet counters will also have counter overhang, plus shim/leveling everything can eat up another inch or two. That puts you at a very tight 36 inches. If you are at the sink or stove, there is not room for another to pass around you with this clearance.

And when a dishwasher, or cabinet doors are open, you must then stand to the side to use, as there is not any room directly in front of the cabinet or appliance to reach in.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:27AM
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julie - leveling doesn't increase the depth of a cabinet, it alters its height, and when has shimming ever reduced the width of a space by 2"? I've lived in 100+ y/o houses and not had that experience.

czek - all generalizations are false, including those from CR (and mine). If you have a layout concern, feel free to post yours in a new thread that uses the word "layout" in the title. There are talented folks here who can tell you in a glance if you're going to have a problem. Best of luck.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:39AM
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Did CR mean an island with perimeter cabs on both sides?
That would REALLY be tight--aisles might be around 30''.

No problem at all with perimeter cabs on only one side and a 2' island, of course.

In your case, I would suggest you consider slightly narrowing your island if possible and making the aisles slightly different in width. You probably will have one aisle that will not have any appliances opening into it. It will just be a passage. You can make this one 36'' from island to wall (let the countertop stick into this 36''). Add the extra inches to the other aisle for clearance if there are appliances opening there.

Even if you can't narrow the island, I would make the two passages different widths. A bit snug when DW or whatever is open, but there will be passage on the other side of the island if necessary.

I agree with EAM44. Post your plans and there will be lots of suggestions available here.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Cindy Noll

I recently moved around some cabinets and added an island to my small kitchen. I have 54 inches from the refrig side, 44 in the walkway by the wall, but only 37 between the dishwasher & the island. I have about 50" between the island & my dining room table, but that is more than I had before when the peninsula was there. Thought the DW side would be pushing it, but it seems wide enough & it hasn't been a problem. I could scoot by it with the DW open if I wanted to. I load dishes from the sink side like I always did. Not sure how you reach over a door & load a dw from the front. Good luck deciding what is right for you.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 9:57AM
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Aisle spacing has recommendations - but its also somewhat personal and somewhat dependant on the exact kitchen design.

Each exposed edge of counter generally has 1.5" of overhang. Something like an island made up of regular base cabinets plus shallow depth (12") cabinets is actually 39" wide at counter top height. Your 42" depth is likely made up of standard base cabinets plus a seating overhang or something like that. Aisles are measured at counter height as far as standards go but most house plans show measurements that are cabinet to cabinet.

So, 144" minus 25.5 for normal base cabinets minus 42" for the island leaves 76.5" for aisles. Tossing out the half-inch, that makes aisles of about 38" on both sides. If you have "stuff" that protrudes into the aisles - refrigerators, ranges, some dishwashers, a sink cabinet pulled forward or some such, it will likely (not absolutely always) become a pita. And its a little close for carrying things like laundry baskets. Can you live with it?

Seating at an island needs space to walk behind the diner - so the minimum allowance on one side of the island is 44". BUT if there is stuff on the opposite side of the walkway - like the back of a sofa, or more cabinets or the laundry room, then 60" is a lot better.

I also feel that its better to reserve a few inches for the unexpected - that partly comes from living in places where the floor changed height by a couple of inches over 8 feet and with walls that were completely out of square. Until the room is remodeled with new wall surfaces installed, its hard to be accurate about measuring. It's best to wait to completely finalize the cabinet order until then.

Things change during construction. Sometimes you end up with a little more space and sometimes less. Sometimes, decisions are made - to flatten walls or add decorative treatments as well as sometimes stuff is just built a little hinky and the cabinet installer needs to pull the cabinets forward.

There are standards for spacing and they're pretty easy actually - aisles without seating at 42" for single cooks and 48" for multiple cooks. Aisles with seating between 32" (dead minimum to a wall with no walkway) and 44" (minimum to a wall with a walkway preserved). I have no problems with people who throw out some of those rules - particularly for short durations - like an end of an island that is only 36" from the cooking surface.

As far as my personal opinion goes - its to build to at least the minimum spacing. This makes your kitchen appealing for resale and also envisions that your needs may change over time - people get married, have children, unexpectedly become interested in cooking, suddenly have temporary or long term physical issues, go broke, start renting out rooms, have kids move back home or whatever.

I know that I need aisles toward the wide side of the recommendations. I've lived in a lot of rentals with varying sizes and layouts of kitchens as well as remodeled several kitchens (and here, the same kitchen more than once). I know what I like because of those experiences, and because of having family members with special needs. And I know 36" aisles drive me insane - poor first husband heard about that for a year ;)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:04AM
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As usual, Bmore is correct with her measurements.

My three aisles within my kitchen's cooking area proper are all about 41-42", except for behind the island serving to the FR couch, which is 61+". After cooking heavily in my space for a year, I know I personally could not tolerate 38" aisles. Way roo small for me. I also know that a 48" aisle between island prep zone and perimeter rangetop would have also driven me nuts for the opposite reason--it was just too much space.

If you're considering smaller than the standard recommended aisle width (and even if you aren't) mock it up at home with boxes or furniture and see how it feels. Its a great learning exercise.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:26AM
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I have a 13.5 foot wide kitchen - don't ask why - it was this way when we bought it. House was built long before all these ideas about what kitchens have to have in order to work properly. I have a 24" wide island with 43" clearance on the high traffic side and 40" clearance between sink/dishwasher and island.

Every year I throw a Christmas party for my husband's colleagues. We have 40+ people who hang out mainly in my kitchen with multiple cooks doing their thing. While it works, no way I would want an island any larger than I have in my space.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:35AM
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CR would be basing their comments on a 12' wide kitchen with cabinets on BOTH sides. Sticking a 2' wide island in that would leave you with less than 35" aisles.

You're only doing cabinets on ONE side which leaves you with more leeway on your island size. Like Breezy suggested mock some different aisle widths up and see how you like it. We did and it made us realize that moving the kitchen just to get an island didn't make sense.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 2:13PM
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Islands have been the go-to, gotta-have-it item in the world of kitchens for about two decades now, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Most of us really like islands!

However, that doesn't mean that we should ALL insert an island into our kitchen AT ANY COST. Cost, of course, meaning space rather than dollars. I'm thinking of a relative who has a 2' square island in the middle of a U-shaped kitchen (seriously, one little cabinet with a countertop). It's not only silly looking, it's in the way.

I agree with Consumer Reports on this one. Measure, go down to Lowe's and look at cabinets that match up to your measurements, mock it up with cardboard boxes. Be honest with yourself about whether your particular room has the space.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 2:41PM
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Interesting discussion going on here. Here's my 2 cents worth.
In my ongoing reno, I have an island 42" x 84" with added curves and corners for detail. Now, I have a 36" aisle where dishwasher opens and a short aisle also 36", where range opens. Walking aisle with counter stools, is 48" and patio door end is 40".
I love it. There is no problem loading dishes directly above in the cabinets, and cutlery in the drawer to the side. I have never stood in front of the door of my dishwasher or oven to use it, as my arms are not long enough to reach over the door and get access. Wouldn't you burn yourself reaching over a hot oven door? If you reach over dw door, what do you do with dishes you remove? You'd have to walk back to counter to put them down, too much work for me.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 7:44PM
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I have a 12' wide kitchen with base cabinets on both sides and there is no way an island would work in the middle of our kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:32PM
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I have a 12' wide kitchen with base cabinets on both sides and there is no way an island would work in the middle of our kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:52PM
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My kitchen is a 12'7" wide L + island with seating, NOT a U + island. There's plenty of room. I'm Nthing that the later is what Consumer Reports was talking about.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:59AM
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*Latter not later. Now I'm going to make the coffee.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:00AM
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Our kitchen is 13'5" wide and we have an island. The narrower aisle is 36" from counter-top to counter-top, between island and DW/fridge. It works fine for me, but my husband hates it. If he had his druthers, we'd have an extra 12" between the area, but it works for me. We have to have a side-by-side fridge for clearance of the door-to-island, and that works well for us, too.

I think you could have an island with a 12' wide kitchen, if the island is narrow, but it will be a tight fit and might make your kitchen look smaller. (I always think about re-sale)

Use some blue painters' tape to mark it out and create a mock-up island from appliance boxes or foam board (office depot type stores sell it), as some other people have already suggested? This would give you ample time to place the mock-up island in your kitchen, live with it, and see if you think it is a good idea for you.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:40AM
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I have a 12 1/2 foot wide kitchen. My island is a VERY tight squeeze between the island and the dishwasher. I have to load the dishwasher sideways and either close it or walk around the island. This is certainly not ideal but it was here when we bought the house. My island isn't secured to the floor so I could move it or remove it if need be. (I'm securing it before the granite is installed.)

If I had a choice between the squishy space between the dishwasher and island or not having an island at all, I'd choose island. I love the extra storage, counter space and not staring at a wall when I am preparing food. It's up to you and what you can tolerate. You have to work with the space that you have.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:06AM
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