Kitchen Island Bars

Is your kitchen large enough to accommodate a kitchen island with seating? Understanding measurements and space considerations will help you decide.
Contemporary Kitchen with Multi-level Kitchen Island

Contemporary Kitchen with Multi-level Kitchen Island

A spacious, multi-level kitchen island with a granite counter top and stainless steel appliances is a sleek centerpiece in this contemporary kitchen.

Installing a kitchen island bar will add countertop and storage space, but it can also provide a designated area for in-room dining, particularly in cozier spaces where seating was not previously an option.

A Kitchen Designed With Real Life in Mind

See All Photos

This Kitchen Does More Than Cook

Like plenty of families with full throttle lives, Sarah and Steve Hyser needed the kitchen in their 1980 Federal-style home in Atlanta to handle more than just meals—a lot more. With two busy daughters—Molly, 12, and Meg, 8, who are constantly racing off to gymnastics, soccer, or ukulele lessons—and Sarah’s position as PTA president, the room needed to be a multitasking dynamo.

Photo By: Jeff Herr

Reimagining the Space

A to-the-studs gut renovation in 2012 overseen by local design firm TerraCotta Properties delivered exactly that, transforming the once cramped area into a hardworking combination of cook space, mudroom, laundry center, reading nook, dining spot, and office. Now twice its former size (knocking down the wall to the adjoining dining room enlarged it to 260 square feet), the space is clean-lined and storage-smart—and sees action nearly round the clock. “If we’re at home and not sleeping, we’re in the kitchen,” says Sarah. “It’s been a total life changer. I still walk in every day and love it.”

Photo By: Jeff Herr


The built-in three-drawer desk is topped with an IKEA butcher block—it was treated with tung oil to bring out the grain and make the wood water-repellent—and is Sarah’s go-to spot for doing paperwork. With no curtains or blinds on the windows, “there’s great natural light,” she says. The linen-covered corkboard keeps VIP papers front and center.

Photo By: Jeff Herr

Cook and Prep Area

Everything from after-school snacks to feed-a-crowd buffets is dished up at the 7-foot-by-3 1/2-foot island, which houses a sink, a dishwasher, and trash and recycling bins. The dark gray paint color on the island’s base (Deep River by Benjamin Moore) echoes the darker speckles in the 1 1/2-inch-thick granite countertop. Sarah found the linen-covered backless barstools with nailhead trim at Pottery Barn.

Photo By: Jeff Herr

Reading Nook

Two compact wingback chairs, lucky antiques shop finds, are the perfect size for the bay window’s nook. Sarah had the pair reupholstered in a graphic dotted fabric (Strands by Waverly), teamed them with a Ballard Designs table, and created her favorite spot in the house. “This is my happy place,” she says. “I have coffee and use my iPad here.”

Photo By: Jeff Herr

Laundry Area

In the old kitchen, a side-by-side washer and dryer were shoehorned into an afterthought of a closet. With the new, more accessible layout, a stacked unit is incorporated into an entire wall of cabinets and concealed behind perforated metal doors.

Photo By: Jeff Herr

Laundry Area

Sorting happens on the long, low bench. “I just line up the clothes on it,” Sarah says. An adjacent cabinet, with adjustable shelves for cleaning supplies, has a rod for hanging clothes and an outlet for plugging in an iron.

Photo By: Jeff Herr


Even on super-rushed mornings, the family’s routine is less stressful thanks to efficient storage by the back door. Inside the locker-inspired cabinets, which are fronted with air-circulating metal mesh to thwart odors, are hooks for the girls’ coats and backpacks, and catchall bins for sports equipment. Shoes can be grabbed fast from the deep drawers, which also stow toys and leashes for Australian shepherd Huck, who has his own customized drawer with drop-in kibble and water bowls. The wool rug is from IKEA.

Photo By: Jeff Herr

However, whether choosing from a selection of pre-designed, portable kitchen island bars or building an island to fit your kitchen's specifications, the most important considerations are space and placement.

Above all, kitchen islands require a good deal of space. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends a minimum surface area of about 3 feet by 4 feet. You'll also need to keep traffic patterns in mind—walkways should measure at least 42 inches wide for unobstructed passage, according to NKBA.

Other considerations, beyond comfortable island seating (think counter- or bar-height stools, depending on height, with arms or swivels) include at least 24 inches of countertop space for elbow room, and anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of space between the knee and counter (depending on the counter height) for clear knee space.

Small Space Kitchen and Design Suggestions
Keep Reading

Next Up

Kitchen Island Bars

Casual dining and kitchen island bar areas go hand-in-hand with this guide for discovering the perfect design for your lifestyle and budget.

Kitchen Island Bar Stools

Make sure this room's centerpiece has comfortable seating for your guests.

Kitchen Island With a Breakfast Bar

Kitchen islands with breakfast bars are the ultimate multitasking addition to any kitchen.

Kitchen Island Chairs

Bring together friends and family in the coziest room in your home with these ideas for kitchen island chairs.

Kitchen Islands With Breakfast Bars

Add a space for informal dining with this guide for designing a kitchen island with a breakfast bar.

Large Kitchen Islands

When space is not an issue, then a large kitchen island might be ideal for additional storage and food preparation space.

Vintage Kitchen Islands

Vintage kitchen islands come in a range of decorative options, including inventive do-it-yourself designs.

Stationary Kitchen Islands

If you are running out of room for storage or food preparation, then a stationary kitchen island might be the ideal solution for you.

Kitchen Islands Offer Variety, Service

Easy to incorporate into any style of kitchen, the possibilities for island design are endless.

Build a Movable Butcher-Block Kitchen Table/Island

Stock cabinetry, store-bought butcher block and staircase posts come together to create a multipurpose table and work space.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.