Kitchen islands are mainly of the wooden or the stainless steel types. They can be used in the kitchen or they can be of the outdoor type where they can be placed in the backyard or next to the swimming pool for preparation of outdoor meals. Kitchen isles can be made of blocks where each block has a particular function or they can be one big unit that incorporates all the requirements into the structure. One can build simple wooden kitchen islands that have drop leaves to save space.
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.
Take the opportunity to make your kitchen island mutli-functional because there's lots of options to choose from. Just about any appliance can be built into it including cook tops, under-the-counter refrigerators, sinks, dishwashers and trash compactors. Deep drawers provide a place to store bulky cookware and pullout shelves allow for more easy access.
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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