How Much Space Should I Plan For a Kitchen?

Wilsonart Wednesday

Welcome to Wilsonart Wednesday! We've teamed up with the kitchen experts at Wilsonart to answer our readers' questions about kitchen renovation. We'll be posting the answers on Wilsonart Wednesdays all summer long, so ask your questions here and check back in for the answers!

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Q: How wide should a galley kitchen be — what width do you need between facing cabinets? 

In a larger kitchen, how much space should you allot between the cabinet/sink wall and the kitchen island? 

How wide/deep should a kitchen island be, and should it depend on how long it is to get the right scale? Does it need to be wider still if incorporating a sink? 

- Niki R.

A: The National Kitchen and Bath Association (www.nkba.org) publishes standards for all types of kitchen measurements. These standards are a great starting point when planning a new kitchen or remodel. But personal preferences - based on your own kitchen usage, home traffic patterns, as well as the physical size of those utilizing the space - should play a factor.

A galley kitchen (a rectangular kitchen with the long sides serving as the work areas and either one or both ends serving as the entry/exit points) is commonly found in apartments and smaller homes. The standard minimum width is seven feet – this allows for 24” of cabinet depth (standard) on either side, and three feet of open space between facing cabinets. If more than one person will be using the space, consider adding 2’ – 3’ of open space to allow more free movement around the kitchen. Also, if both ends of the kitchen are open to the rest of the home, you should consider traffic patterns through the space.

The space between a cabinet/sink wall and the kitchen island requires slightly larger minimums. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends 42” minimum for one cook, and 48” for two or more cooks, so you won’t feel cramped and you’ll be able to move safely around the island (i.e., transferring a boiling pot from the stove to the sink). Consider the work aisles (from stove to sink) and the walkways (moving people through the kitchen to other rooms); you may want to alter the widths on either side of the island.

The width of a kitchen island involves many factors, but again, starting with the standards, the general rule is between 2’ and 4’ wide. The 2’ minimum is really only used when space is at a premium (it would fit one 24” base cabinet) and a 3’ width is a bit more workable. You also don’t want it too wide that you get a no-man’s land area in the middle that becomes hard to reach. 

Consider the following when determining the width that will work for you: function, appliances to be used/incorporated, storage needs, height (counter vs. bar stool chairs, for example), and overall fit within the total kitchen. Also, consider the work triangle when creating a kitchen island – the National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends no more than 26 feet between the stove, sink and refrigerator, with “no single leg of the work triangle shorter than 4 feet or longer than 9 feet”. Diagram out potential options for your island, and discuss these with your contractor to maximize the functionality of your island, as well as its casual use (for seating, doing homework, etc.).

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