One of the most requested items in today's kitchens is an island. However, island dreams can become nightmares if the island's placement or size is inappropriate for the space. In an effort to satisfy their client's requests, many designers and remodelers ignore the fundamental clearances and distances that islands require.

According to the “31 Guidelines of Kitchen Design” published by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (, the recommended work aisle width is at least 42 inches for one cook and at least 48 inches for multiple cooks.

One way to ensure the right amount of island clearance is to “block out” all available workspace on the floor plan. In other words, lay out the walls, then draw in the finished counter space (allow for appliances that will extend farther than the standard 25 inches). Next, block in the island, allowing 42 inches or 48 inches of work aisle as outlined in the NKBA guidelines. Doing this should eliminate any conflicts with island clearances.

If an island houses a sink and a dishwasher, and the work area directly across from the dishwasher houses a range, there's the possibility for collision between the oven door and dishwasher door if both are open at the same time. One way to avoid this is to lightly sketch both doors in an open position on the floor plan to ensure sufficient clearance.

Once the design is blocked out, if the island placement does not allow enough room for easy passage for more than one person through the aisle, it should not be included in the design.

Another clearance issue with islands relates to seating. The NKBA guidelines recommend that each seat be 24 inches wide. But the depth, or knee space, required varies with countertop height. For a 30-inch-high island, knee depth should be 18 inches; for a 36-inch height, it should be 15 inches; and it should be 12 inches for a 42-inch-high island.

Morton Block, is an award-winning designer, training consultant, author, and speaker;