Kitchen Countertop Design: Choosing the Right Layout

Today’s modern kitchens are bright, spacious and airy. Many homeowners create additional counter space by having a kitchen island or peninsula built. Both options are extremely functional, stylish, help make the most of your space, and help create a sense of flow in open-plan layouts.

If you’re considering remodeling your kitchen and can’t choose between a kitchen island and a peninsula, keep reading; we’ll answer your questions and help you decide.  


What is a kitchen island? 

A kitchen island is a freestanding workspace that can match your existing kitchen design or contrast with it. Many people use their kitchen island for extra seating with bar stools; in this case, the island often serves as an informal dining option. Kitchen islands sometimes include interior storage options for pots, pans and cooking appliances. However, they’re usually made with a large slab of natural stone.

Kitchen islands traditionally came in the form of wooden farm tables. They became popular in farmhouses, giving the cook the extra space required for food preparation while also providing an informal family dining area.

Today, kitchen islands are used for similar purposes, but they have also been used as statement design pieces more recently. Kitchen islands can be built with the same materials as the countertops and cabinets in a kitchen, or with a completely different material, for a modern, eclectic kitchen.


What is a kitchen peninsula?

A kitchen peninsula juts out from the counter or wall and doesn’t stand alone, as an island does. It creates a centerpiece, without taking up space. Kitchen peninsulas are accessible from three sides (as opposed to an island, which you can access from all four sides), and can serve as an extension of the kitchen’s layout. Peninsulas are popular in large open kitchens, as they can help separate spaces, and in smaller kitchens that don’t have enough room for a stand-alone island.


Is a kitchen island better than a peninsula?

Kitchen islands are among the most popular elements in today’s modern kitchens. 

Peninsulas became popular in the early 1970s, during a time when family dining was becoming less formal. Today, some new homeowners are beginning to favor an open layout over more surface and storage space options. 

However, if your kitchen isn’t very big, you may want to consider a more modern-style kitchen peninsula, instead of the traditional U-shaped one. 

From a design perspective, kitchen islands offer homeowners much more choice. Peninsulas are usually designed to match existing cabinet space and create a sense of cohesion. 

If the other countertops are made of a natural stone like marble, blending the materials will be difficult, and the homeowners will likely need to replace all the countertops. This limitation of design choices is not an issue with kitchen islands, as they can work well as “mismatched” statement pieces, or as part of one cohesive look. 


Which kitchen layout is the most functional?

When weighing up the pros and cons of islands versus peninsulas, it can help to remember what’s called the “work triangle.” 

This “triangle” refers to the sink, stove, and refrigerator in a kitchen layout, and is preserved by an effectively designed kitchen.

The sum of the distance between these three elements should be no more than 26 feet, and no “leg” of the work triangle should be under four feet or over nine feet. 

Ideally, this triangle shouldn’t be blocked by something bulky like a dishwasher or refrigerator. This concept sounds complicated, but you can use these measurements to ensure that your kitchen island won’t disrupt the flow among the work triangle’s points. 

A properly designed kitchen offers enough room and a clear path for people to move among these three design elements, which are the most frequently-used points for cooking a meal and meal prep.

A kitchen island creates a circular flow of “traffic,” allowing family and guests to be involved in the kitchen activity without getting in the cook’s way. A kitchen island may be a more attractive option for those with an open house where friends and family often gather. 


Does a kitchen island add value?

From a resale perspective, well-designed and well-installed kitchen islands often add value to a home. 

If a designer follows the work triangle measurements and if there’s plenty of space for movement, prospective buyers will likely be attracted to the island due to its functionality and current popularity in designs. 

Kitchen islands allow for more flexibility than kitchens without islands; they provide additional food prep surfaces and space for additional outlets and appliances. 

Based on the 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, half of all homeowners either added a kitchen island or upgraded the existing island. Kitchen islands are seen as a focal point of the kitchen, both for design and functionality purposes. Nearly all kitchen island upgrades saw the implementation of storage (98%) and a majority chose to install new overhead lighting (92%). These trends reflect the importance and desirability of kitchen islands for the future.

While kitchen islands are an attractive option for new buyers, it’s worth noting that new appliances are another way to add value to your home. 

While the upfront cost may seem like a lot, new stainless appliances are far cheaper to install than a new island or peninsula. New appliances can also attract a wider range of buyers, rather than a niche selection of people with more specific tastes. 


Is a kitchen island worth it?

The value of kitchen islands and peninsulas depends on the size of a given room,  and what it is used for. 

If you host regular get-togethers and enjoy guests flowing in and out of your kitchen, a kitchen island can be a good option. It’s a great way to informalize the process of cooking, serving and eating, so it’s a popular option for large families or those with young children for socializing. 

However, a peninsula can work regardless of kitchen size. Even if you don’t have a big, open kitchen and prefer to focus on storage space, you can opt for a shorter peninsula. Or, if you have a large, open-plan kitchen, peninsulas can help separate areas so that there’s a distinct difference between the cooking area and the rest of the home.

In short, a kitchen island is worth it for those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen and want to encourage other household members to do so as well. A kitchen with an island is inherently more social than a kitchen without an island, and island kitchen designs  are often favored by those who prefer the communal aspects of cooking and eating. 


Which design choice is right for my home and kitchen?

Each kitchen and family will have their own requirements, just as kitchen islands and peninsulas have pros and cons. To make the decision easier, here are a few questions to answer:

* Is your kitchen wide and long enough to fit an island (at least 2x4ft in size) and have plenty of room to move around it? If not, a peninsula may be the better option.

* Do you want to sit and eat at your addition or use it primarily as a worktop? Both can work, but peninsulas at the edge of the kitchen work well as a breakfast bar.

* Are there any other rooms off of your kitchen? If so, an island may work best because it won’t disrupt traffic flow as much as a peninsula will.

* Are you remodeling or renovating your kitchen? If you’re keeping your current layout, adding a new island may be easier than trying to add a peninsula to your current kitchen.

* Do you need additional storage space and somewhere to eat? An island will likely offer the best of both worlds.

* Do you want to keep the feel of a large open kitchen? While peninsulas offer versatility in terms of space, islands can make better use of the space. Peninsulas tend to create “dead space” in the corners of a room, while an island moves the focus into the middle of the room. 

Are you working on a budget? The average installation cost for a kitchen island is around $101 per square foot, while a kitchen peninsula costs about $90 per square foot. Please note that these estimates are ranges and will vary from market to market within the US.


There’s plenty to consider when figuring out how to refresh your kitchen, from countertop materials and window sizes to lighting and color schemes, but you don’t have to do it all alone! 

At Skipp, we can help you build and lay out your ideal kitchen at a fraction of the cost when comparing to the competition 

What is the average cost of a kitchen island?

When budgeting for your kitchen island, there are a few things to consider. The average cost of a kitchen island can range, depending on size and levels of customization. 

In general, one can expect to spend somewhere between $3,000 to $5,000 on their kitchen island; however, kitchen islands can cost you as little as a few hundred dollars if you go the store bought route without customizations. 

If you are in the midst of a full kitchen remodel and looking for specific and custom-made features in your new kitchen island, you may need to budget for upwards of $10,000. 

Again, the budget for your kitchen island will be determined by the scope of your project and necessities of customizations. No matter what your kitchen remodel budget is, a design team can help you identify what works best for you. 

A design team can not only provide assistance in designing your dream kitchen island given your budget, but also, they can secure trusted partnerships with contractors who will keep your best interest in mind. When it comes to kitchen remodels, keeping labor and remodel plans on track is essential in maintaining your allotted renovation budget. 

What is a good kitchen island size?

It's settled: you are seeking more counter space and are either investing in or remodeling an existing kitchen island. 

But, what is a good kitchen island size? 

After all, you don’t want to eat up your functional kitchen space, but would love to get the most out of your new kitchen island. When determining the size of your kitchen island, proportion is key. Just how much space is right in order to not sacrifice a functional kitchen? 

While every kitchen may be different, there are some general size guidelines to consider when determining your kitchen island size. The first size guideline to consider is the surrounding space. No matter how large or small you make your kitchen island, it's best to try to keep about 36 to 42 inches of space around the island for the sake of maintaining functionality. 

Use this as a starting point to determine the appropriate length and width of your kitchen island. Another key piece to consider is height. Your kitchen island should be at an appropriate height at which you can comfortably utilize the new counter space you have just created for yourself. 

In general, that height is at least 36 inches tall. This may vary depending on what your kitchen island is utilized for. If dining with tall bar chairs around the kitchen island is your vision, you may want to go a bit taller. There is no one right size for a kitchen island, and the beauty is that it can be what you make of it! 

What is the best shape for a kitchen island?

A kitchen island can be modeled in a variety of shapes to best suit the need and the existing space it will be built into. 

With limited space, something more simple like a table or cart may be just what you need to add that additional counter space and beautiful focal point to your kitchen. If you are working with a bit more space and looking to get the most out of your kitchen island, there are a few unique shapes to keep in mind. 

For example, L-shaped kitchen islands and multiple tiered islands offer unique designs with ample utility for your kitchen needs. A multiple tiered kitchen island may provide you both that functional counter space and additional dining seating you were hoping to have. 

An L-shaped kitchen island may allow some flexibility to incorporate more appliances (such as a sink) or storage space within your kitchen island. There are plenty of shapes for kitchen islands. Given your budget, the key is to determine what you plan to use it for and what will be feasible. 

Is my kitchen too small for an island?

You may have some concerns that your kitchen doesn’t have the space for a kitchen island. With the right design and implementation into your kitchen’s layout, an island may be just what you need to achieve a more functional and stylish space. 

A kitchen island offers many benefits for a small kitchen, such as a multi-purpose space for storage and additional kitchen counter space. With unlimited size and shape options for kitchen islands, don’t let the worry of a small space hold you back from searching for an addition to make your kitchen more functional and stylish. 

Some great island choices for a small space include a rolling island or a small stylish table. The rolling island is great because it gives you the flexibility to rearrange, based on your functionality needs in the kitchen! 

How much does a kitchen peninsula cost?

A kitchen peninsula cost may vary depending on what you are hoping to utilize it for. If you are seeking a simple dining or working counter space addition, you may anticipate a budget on the lower end for your peninsula. 

If you are in need of additional storage or custom features, your kitchen peninsula budget may be on the higher end. On average, kitchen peninsulas may cost less than a kitchen island due to the nature of installation costs, but won’t always be the case. 

Keep in mind that the more customization and installation required, the more you can anticipate for your budget. While a kitchen island can be expected to cost about $101 per square foot, a kitchen peninsula averages about $90 per square foot (remember: these estimates vary greatly depending on where in the US you are based). 

On average, kitchen peninsulas may cost between $2,000- $5,000, depending on installation, size, and customization. 

While that is an average kitchen peninsula cost, it is possible to create a more budget-friendly peninsula. A kitchen design team can help you identify just how to create what works for your budget and your space. 

How much space do you need around a kitchen peninsula?

Just as you would with a kitchen island, you want to ensure that the right amount of space remains around a kitchen peninsula. After all, the goal of either is to create a more functional and stylish kitchen space. 

While ultimately, the size around your peninsula is dependent on the space in which you are building it, it is a good rule of thumb to keep that 36 inches of space after the end of your peninsula to the wall for best ease of moving and working around it. 

Keep in mind that if the end of your peninsula meets cabinets, you will want around 48 inches of space between the two, to ensure plenty of room to open and fully utilize that cabinet space. 

How long should a kitchen peninsula be?

The length of your kitchen peninsula should be determined by how much space you are working with and what you hope to utilize the peninsula for. 

With hopes for more dining spaces, more length or width will be required. Utilize those 36-48 inch guidelines of surrounding space first to determine just how long or wide your peninsula can be. 

It never hurts to have more surrounding space, if you find you don’t need as big of a peninsula as your space can offer. 

How do you remodel a kitchen peninsula?

A kitchen peninsula may offer many benefits to your kitchen space. 

With endless peninsula design ideas and customizations, there is undoubtedly a way to find one that appropriately suits your needs, space, and budget. 

You may remodel a kitchen peninsula to give you more storage space, additional seating, working space, or all of the aforementioned combined. When remodeling your kitchen peninsula, keep in mind the following traits: design, lighting, storage, and seating. 

Ensure your peninsula remodel plans address your kitchen needs for all of those key components. 

If you want to see the potential your space holds, don’t delay in starting your kitchen renovation estimate with Skipp. We can show you layouts for your kitchen that you never even dreamed of, in several simple steps that will get you the kitchen of your dreams. 

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