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 alternative is to have a custom island designed just for your needs. Kitchen design experts can help you come up with an island that will fit perfectly into your space and also have all of the components you really want to have. You can add a cooktop, a sink, or even a built-in microwave oven which can free up a lot of your counter space. Both a cooktop and a sink built into an island can help the cook become more a part of the festivities when you're entertaining if the island is used as a room divider between the kitchen and other living spaces.
Home improvement stores offer lines of cabinets that include kitchen islands, so you can design your entire kitchen to match. Stock cabinets contain drawers, cabinets, and bookshelves that are easy to reach, unlike some of your high cabinets. You can store a host of materials in a small area that used to be nothing but wasted floor space. Of course, you don't want to add such a large kitchen island that you make your kitchen impossible to move around in. After all, the idea of adding a kitchen island cabinet is to make your kitchen more efficient, not create traffic jams.
Plan the height of your cabinet appropriately. Since most islands will have at least two stools or chairs pulled up to the surface, you may want to think about the seating or stools first. There are two kinds of bar stools with one being much higher than the other. Unless the island will be used primarily for family eating, there really are no hard and fast rules on height. It does not have to match the height of the kitchen cabinet, but often does. If it is not going to match it should be taller in most cases.
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