Considerations for Choosing the Proper Kitchen Island Size

There are many size considerations when choosing an island for your house. Keep reading as there may be some considerations that you may not have expected to take into account.

Since the 1930s, when legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright began integrating them in his custom-built houses, kitchen islands have progressively increased in popularity. They are a stylish and functional addition to any house, designed to increase counter space and extend dining areas.

Islands provide an open atmosphere to your room by providing extra storage space for cookware and utensils as well as a casual spot for friends and family to meet.

If you’ve been thinking about adding an island to your kitchen design, there are a few things you should think about. Before you start your DIY project, you’ll need to learn about materials, kitchen island size, the shape that will fit best with the surrounding area, and countertop makeup.

But don’t let it overwhelm you. There are plans that will work for both small kitchens and larger spaces with plenty of square footage.

When you understand conventional kitchen island proportions and how to measure them, you’ll be able to design a workplace that outperforms your current prep area and renders your kitchen table obsolete. You might even be ready to add features such as a sink, storage, or cooktops.

A bright white kitchen with black accents.

Standard Kitchen Island Measurements

When it comes to building a new island, there are three critical measures that must be taken. Although they can be tailored to your specific requirements and square footage, the normal size is larger than the working countertop. You’ll also need to consider the height and clearance area.

Average Countertop Size

The most often purchased kitchen island is 80 inches long and 40 inches wide, forming a rectangle.

The rectangular shape is popular because it maximizes both seating and countertop space while leaving plenty of room around it. Rectangular forms are also among the simplest countertop types to personalize.

Standard Height 

Height is a vital issue when it comes to having enough space for drawers, cabinets, or chairs.

The average height from the ground to the edge of your island’s countertop is between 32 and 44 inches.

The height you select should be based on the most common usage for your island. Many equipment, such as dishwashers, come in standard sizes and must be at least 42 inches wide to fit properly. Islands that will function as high-traffic sitting spaces without a lot of on-board features, on the other hand, will need to consider the correct height for stools and chairs.

Standard Clearance Area

It’s equally as crucial to consider the amount of clearance you’ll need around the structure when measuring to create your own island. Installation requirements indicate leaving 36 to 48 inches of space between the island and appliances, walls, and other room barriers to allow for easy mobility and comfortable seating.

Mainly white kitchen with a contrast of black quartz island.

Seating and Measurements

Pulling up any old chair to the kitchen island won’t do. In addition to knowing the kitchen island height, you’ll need to think about the proper spacing of each chair and the comfortable distance from the countertop to your guests’ knees. 

To avoid overcrowding, there are a couple of rules of thumb you should remember. 

Elbow Space

Whether you have toddlers or adults sitting around your countertop, you want to give them enough space to avoid bumping elbows even in swivel chairs. 

Designers recommend allotting between 28 and 30 inches of space per chair. That means that approximately three seats can fit comfortably on one side of a standard 80-inch island countertop.

You’ll also want to use this same rule when installing pendant or track lighting—spacing them out as evenly as the chairs allows for ideal countertop lighting. 

Knee Room

Once you know how many chairs will fit around your island, you’ll want also want to leave plenty of room for knees of all sizes to clear the countertop. For the most comfortable seating experience, you should leave between nine and 12 inches of knee clearance beneath the overhang.

Most bar stools are 30 inches in height, but other types of chairs can be used according to the height of your countertop. For instance, an island countertop that stands at 44 inches could easily accommodate higher chairs that don’t reach over 35 inches in height. 

A decent sized island with a comfortable knee room.

Non-Standard Size Islands

If the average-sized unit doesn’t suit your needs, design aesthetic, or kitchen space, there’s no need to worry. No matter your vision, an island’s size and shape can both be altered to create the perfect breakfast bar, prep area, or any other purpose you have in mind for your kitchen island. 

Larger Sizes

It’s not all that uncommon to need more than the three seats that will fit around your kitchen island. There are many options for those looking to upsize to accommodate more sitters. 

Since you’ll be allowing about 28 inches between each seat, you’ll want to add 28 more inches to your island’s length for every seat you wish to add. If you were going to seat at least six on one side, you would need the countertop to be at least 14 feet long. 

Smaller Sizes

Along the same lines of thought, there are many instances where a smaller island will be needed to fit the available space. In addition to portable islands or ones that come with wheels, size adjustments can be made to a permanent unit. 

Designers recommend that two-person rectangular-shaped islands should be at least six feet long. If you want to seat four, you’ll need at least 10 feet of space. 

Square Islands

While rectangular-shaped islands are the most popular, square-shaped units are not far behind. Although square shapes offer the same usable surface as rectangle tops, these large countertops can create a bold statement and can be used for décor. The center of the island can be used to put some great seasonal centerpieces.

Careful consideration should be taken to ensure they are not too big. Choosing a square that’s too big will allow for a generous amount of decorating area, but your guests might not be able to reach across to grab anything. 

A plain white square shaped kitchen island.

Choosing the Right Countertops

Once you’ve chosen the right size island for your home, there are only a few more things to think about. One of the most essential things in the kitchen design world is the countertop itself. 

Countertops should not only be attractive, but they should also be made from the kind of materials that will endure everyday kitchen use. 


There’s a good chance you haven’t given a lot of thought to the thickness of countertops until now. 

While thicker countertops like granite and marble automatically upscale a space, they are extremely heavy. Your island’s basic structure will need to be strong enough to support them. 

Conversely, lighter weight but thick countertops made from laminates, bamboos, and tile can still pull off a sleek look. However, they may not offer the high-end appeal you might be seeking. 


The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing the materials to make your countertop. Popular choices are quartz, natural stone, concrete, and wood. Being mindful of the ways you’ll use your countertop is a good way to choose which material will work best for your household.

If you are frequently using your countertops for cooking, you’ll want to opt for materials that are cut-proof, scratch-resistant, and easy to clean. Natural quartz countertops are considered the most durable and stain-resistant, but there are many man-made materials that can hold up for years. There are also many eco-friendly options that ad value to any home. 

A simple square white island with a stainless sink.

Other Considerations

Last but not least, the features you want your kitchen island to have can affect the size of the island you want to install and the money you want to spend doing it. You can personalize your unit any way you like, but you’ll have to consider a few extra things when you install a sink or an appliance. 

Sinks and Dishwashers

Adding a sink or a dishwasher to your island requires a couple of extra steps. First, you’ll need to make sure that your unit stands at least 42 inches tall so that you won’t strain while washing dishes or preparing food — 42 inches is also the standard height of residential dishwashers. 

Additionally, you need to make sure that your new install is big enough to hide water lines and pipes without obstructing any opening doors or drawers. 


Planning to add appliances like cooktops and dishwashers brings another set of considerations. How many outlets will you need, and do you want extra to operate things like charging stations? Electricity requires the employment of a professional and could create the need to increase your budget and your countertop space.

Islands may not have always been standard for kitchens, but their increasing popularity has no end in sight. Now that you’re up-to-date on the standard sizes and the latest trends, you know where to begin installing the kitchen unit of your dreams. 

Whether you choose to go with a standard, rectangular shape or a larger square, they’re a worthwhile investment that can increase your home’s value. As long as you keep the required measurements in mind and consider your kitchen’s layout, you’ll be talking to someone across the countertop in no time.

Teresa Burns
Teresa Burns is a design specialist who has been in the business for over 20 years. She has seen design trends change from traditional designs to more simplistic modern designs. She not only has seen it all, she understands it all. She has a large collection of articles to help spread her love for design.
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