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The purpose of this buying guide is to help you find the best kitchen islands (and for those on a budget cheap kitchen islands) for your lifestyle and your home.

Here are links to the complete guide:

In part 1 we went over the different types of kitchen islands. In part 2 we discussed the common uses for a kitchen island.

Here, we will talk a bit more practically about logistic and spacing when choosing your kitchen island.

Let’s go!

how to buy a kitchen island

Let’s talk spacing and logistics for your Kitchen Island

Available Space in Your Kitchen

Of course, you need to consider the size of the kitchen island you intend to add among your kitchen furniture. If it ends up making your small kitchen narrower, it totally defeats its purpose. Remember that kitchen islands are designed to increase available countertop and storage space, but if they are squeezed into a tight kitchen that it makes the aisles uncomfortably narrow, you may reconsider purchasing this specific model.

You would not want your kitchen area to be free from trip or bump hazard. The ideal spaces among kitchen furniture are as follows: 36 inches minimum between cabinets, 42 inches for one-cook kitchen and 48 inches for those with more than one cook.

Mobile/Rolling Kitchen Islands have an advantage of portability and flexibility. The downside is to make them as universally appealing as possible, the shapes and sizes are more universal as well.

Built-in Kitchen Islands have an advantage that they can be tailor-made to your kitchen shape (see below). The downside is that if any appliances change in your kitchen, there will be some limitations since the kitchen island is built in already.

Kitchen Islands For Function And Style

Knee Clearance and Elbow Room

Something commonly missed by those shopping for a kitchen island is knee and elbow room. Because certainly, you or your guests would often want to sit at the kitchen island. To allow comfortable sitting, recommended dimension for knee clearance are the following: (1)18 inches for a 30-inch tall island, (2) 15 inches for a 36-inch tall island and (3) 12 inches for a 42-inch tall island. On top of this, enough elbow room is provided if 24-inch clearance between stools is available.

It’s a good idea when checking out kitchen islands (whether mobile or built in) is to grab a stool or chair and sit it next to the kitchen island and see how it fits.

Naturally stool sizes can be changed, but convenience of leaning over to eat or do tasks on the kitchen island won’t change as easily.

Drop Leaf Or Breakfast Bar

Adding on to the knee clearance and elbow clearance:

This is also where drop leafs or breakfast bars come in handy. These are ways to extend the countertop of your kitchen island

The breakfast bar may be a permanent fixture. Or it may be removable or slide-able into the countertop. The slideable type is the best of both worlds since when extended it gives you extra space, and when slid back into its home the kitchen island maintains its knee and elbow clearance. The downside of the slide-able breakfast bar is that it is less attractive since it needs to be smaller than the countertop and also might not feel as sturdy as a drop leaf.

The drop leaf is a collapsible part of the kitchen table that folds out for extra counter space and can fold flat when not in use. The upside of drop leafs is being able to extend the countertop space. It is also more attractive then the slide-able breakfast bar. The downside? When folded, that will interfere with knee clearance on that side of the kitchen island

As an example the “Heart Of The Kitchen” is sold with a drop leaf and without a drop leaf.


Style of the Kitchen Island

It is very important to make sure that your kitchen island goes well with the rest of your kitchen furniture, making all of your devices elegantly uniform and standardized. It may be ideal to choose a darker finish to exude a classier and more sophisticated approach, but if your style is more of an adventurous type, an eclectic pairing design may work for you.

Just always make sure that you make the most out of the available space you have in your kitchen to make a great design statement. It all depends on the appeal you want your kitchen to deliver to your family and guests.

Besides using colors to match (wood, black, white) and various countertop types (wood, granite), using shape and look is key also.

We recommend taking closeup pictures of your various kitchen fixtures, cabinets, and handles as well as a far away photo including your kitchen and your proposed placement of your kitchen island and take them with you when you shop (whether online in front of a computer or in person) so your choice will be as cohesive as possible with the rest of your kitchen.

Below are photos of the Powell Color Story Black Butcher Block Kitchen Island in three different settings (the right one is the staged catalog photo) so you can see how the different settings can affect the entire look of a kitchen even with the same kitchen island.

Powell Color Story Black Butcher Block Kitchen Island Pic


Means of Installation

If you are installing a portable kitchen island (i.e. rolling kitchen island or mobile kitchen island), this may not apply to you. Installation is usually DIY and can be fairly straightforward if you are handy with basic tools. Occasionally some furniture may need some manual “tweaking” and “enhancement” to make things fit together more nicely. In this case, it is helpful to read reviews of the product and key in on ease of installation.

A second factor is that you will want to install in the location that will be its most likely home in your kitchen. Even if it is movable, some of the kitchen islands are rather large and may be harder to move from room to room so check the layout of your construction/installation area.

For built-in kitchen islands, this is where it is more of a construction effort. Installation may either be done by yourself or you make seek professional help for your kitchen islandÂ’s design and installation. It is more advisable to consult a designer just to ensure that someone who is really knowledgeable about this field is handling your furniture development. There are available free consultations among different home improvement chains and kitchen boutiques, so make sure you take advantage of these. Also the store you purchased your built-in kitchen island will likely have installation services available for consultation.

During consultation, you will be advised whether your kitchen island project can be readily done on your own or if it will require professional installation. You need to also note that kitchen lighting will most likely need to be configured too in the process of your kitchen upgrade.

Here are two very brief overviews on installing a kitchen island from the Do-It-Yourself Network



And a helpful video series


Be on the lookout for:

Part 4: Features And More

Where we discuss other factors for you to think about when buying the best (and most inexpensive) kitchen island for your lifestyle!

Remember our links to the complete guide:

See you next time!

Check out all our reviews and buying guides for quality cheap kitchen islands