Space and Design are Important : You need around 3 feet of walking space around the island unit, and you must be sure that the drawers and doors in the cabinets have room to open. If you keep to the 36 inches then you should be OK. The only dimension that must be stated is that of the counter height. Ideally it should be the same as the rest of your kitchen units. If not, then it is not a disaster, but can be disconcerting when you are working on the various surfaces at varying heights.
Another problem you might face if you buy your kitchen island as a separate unit, and not as part of the overall kitchen, is matching it to your existing cabinets. This might not be as easy as your think, but if you purchase a solid color, such as black, white or red, then you should get away with it.
For those remodeling and looking for an "open" feel where perhaps the wall or half wall separating the kitchen and the dining room is taken down, a strategically placed island acts as a subtle room divider mentally separating the kitchen from the dining room but with a much more open feel.
A kitchen island is not a new concept, since they were known back in the medieval days when knights were bold. They are assuming increasing popularity in today's kitchens, particularly in larger homes where the kitchen is more than just a small cooking area compressed into an area somewhere between the dining room and the garden shed!
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