A home cook’s biggest helper, from benefits and costs to space requirements
(Above) A black walnut-topped island seats three
One can never have too much work room or storage space in the kitchen. Yet both always seem to be in short supply. Kitchen countertops, already forced to share space with the sink, refrigerator, and cooktop or stove, further become cluttered with small appliances and the detritus of everyday life. Cabinet space brims with regular-use dishes and cookware, as well as with additional small appliances and storage containers.
Sweeten, a free renovation platform connecting homeowners with vetted general contractors, offers a breakdown of what these two types of furniture can bring to the activities of daily life.
On top of that, islands and peninsulas provide extra storage room, plus the chance to add optional amenities such as second sinks, cooktops, dishwashers, or wine coolers.
(Above) Nydia’s peninsula in her 250-square-foot renovated Sweeten kitchen
Basics of kitchen islands and peninsulas
- Kitchen islands are detached from the main section of counters and cabinets. Homeowners sometimes supplement this main section with mobile kitchen islands or carts, but true, cook-ready kitchen islands are permanently secured to the floor. This means that the kitchen island becomes a part of the kitchen itself—an enhancement that helps the home’s overall resale value.
- Kitchen peninsulas offer storage and countertop room roughly similar in size to kitchen islands. Peninsulas are secured to the floor for functionality and safety, with one end attached either to the wall or to existing cabinets.
- In most cases, the peninsula stylistically matches the main counters/cabinets. One popular kitchen peninsula layout is to attach the peninsula to the end of an L-shaped kitchen countertop, effectively turning it into a U-shaped kitchen.
Benefits of kitchen islands
- Flexible spacing: Kitchen islands should remain within basic spacing parameters. But within those parameters is a degree of flexibility that allows you to nudge the island to the spot that works best for you.
- Instant social space: People always love to gather at kitchen islands. If you host parties or dinners, or if you just want to draw family members closer, a kitchen island is a people magnet.
- Easy to mix styles: Kitchen islands often stylistically match the main cabinets and counters. But if you choose to incorporate a slightly different style, this is possible. The physical separation from the main area means that dissimilar cabinets and counters are less noticeable.
(Above) Mitzie + Jenifer’s waterfall island, a two-seat island holds a full-size oven, and a marble overhang seats three in Sara + Mike’s ’30s Tudor
Benefits of kitchen peninsulas
- Continuous countertops: Peninsulas typically continue countertops from the main section onto the peninsula. Quartz and solid surface countertop technicians employ seaming methods that erase the line between the two, effectively transforming them into a single countertop.
- Better workflow: Continuous counters and cabinets tend to encourage more frequent usage than separate work centers.
- Easier to place utilities: Natural gas, electricity, and water supply, and drainage lines that originate in the main counter/cabinet area can be continued into the peninsula since the two areas are attached.
Should you choose an island or peninsula?
Is increasing kitchen storage an overriding concern? If so, a kitchen island may be your best choice since the peninsula has a 90-degree cabinet angle creating a type of dead zone called a blind cabinet. While this space can be used, it is difficult for most people to access.
By contrast, the kitchen island provides unimpeded storage area under the countertops. If you think that you will want to eventually change or expand your kitchen, you may wish to go in the direction of a kitchen island since it is easier to remove without affecting the main counter/cabinet section.
If you have a small-to-medium-size kitchen, you may want to choose a peninsula over an island since it is more efficient with space. Also, if you think that the kitchen island’s detachment from the main area may deter use, then you should consider installing a kitchen peninsula.
(Above) Jessica and Jessie’s blue peninsula fits toe-kick storage and a wine fridge, Dawn and David prep, bake, and chat at their peninsula, Melissa’s peninsula pulls up three barstools
Requirements of kitchen islands and peninsulas
Island and peninsula spacing and placement are, above all, predicated on the size and layout of your kitchen. Adequate space between work centers must be maintained both for workflow and for safety. You must be able to open cabinet doors without obstruction. You must also be able to freely access amenities such as sinks and cooktops.
The industry group National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends that you should always keep 42 inches of space between the edge of an island or peninsula and any other counters, work centers, appliances, or walls. Increase that width to 48 inches if you expect to have more than one cook regularly working in the kitchen.
Walkways that are not work aisles (pass-throughs behind an island, for instance) should be no less than 36 inches wide.
Whether for an island or a peninsula, think in terms of an imaginary “kitchen triangle” created by three points: sink, refrigerator, and stove or cooktop. The three legs of the triangle should total no more than 26 feet, with no leg measuring less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet.
Sweeten general contractor Zak notes that homeowners and designers need to keep in mind “the issue of functionality and how you want them used, like bar-heights versus other functional (prep) heights.” Standard countertops rise 36 inches above floor level. If either the peninsula or island is intended to be a breakfast bar, that height may be raised to 42 inches (though it would then be used exclusively for eating, not for food preparation).
Electrical receptacles servicing all counter areas should be GFCI-protected (ground fault circuit interrupter).
(Above) Alex and Jennifer’s beach house kitchen island features a cooktop, wine fridge, and seating
The cost of adding a kitchen island or peninsula is highly malleable. Since countertop materials tend to be so pricey, Sweeten general contractor Claud said that homeowners need to think about whether they want the island or peninsula to have enough countertop overhang to serve as an eating area.
“What many people don’t realize,” said Claud, “is that where you live is just as important in determining the cost. A detached single-family home will be different from a condo or townhouse, where costs can skyrocket.” He noted that HOAs often require that remodel plans be drawn up by an architect, even in the case of islands and peninsulas.
Claud estimated that a 5-foot long, 36-inch high peninsula or island using semi-custom cabinets and quartz or solid surface countertops and with no amenities will cost no less than $2,500 to $3,000. Amenities such as a sink or dishwasher further drive up the cost.
As for the cost difference between islands and peninsulas? Costs run about the same, though islands might cost slightly less, he said. Peninsulas often demand more patching and wall work than islands.
Design professionals rarely consider either an island or a peninsula to be inherently better than the other. Instead, it is a matter of your home, the available space within the kitchen, and your taste and desires. Either way, you’ll be gaining the kitchen’s most efficient workhorse in workspace and storage.
If you’re planning on renovating your kitchen, see how long it can take and set your calendar.
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