Should I Put an Island in My Outdoor Kitchen?

Posted by Michael Dougherty on Jun 20, 2019 11:33:27 AM

14_Gupta Outdoor Kitchen - Menlo Park, CAKitchen islands seem to be a staple in most kitchens today. Maybe Chip and Joanna Gaines are are to blame, or perhaps people are just realizing how nice it is to have added counter space. Either way, kitchen islands are more than a fad. So does that mean you should put one in your outdoor living area? 

Instead of giving a simple answer to a question that doesn't have one, let's cover the do's and don'ts of building kitchen islands, and then you can decide if you think an island is still appropriate for your outdoor living space.

If you don't have space for an island, don't force it.

The #1 mistake people make with kitchen islands is stuffing them into tiny kitchens, or for that matter, kitchens that are not designed for islands at all. Islands are meant for open floor plans, and they're usually positioned to close in a gap that would otherwise be a long path between one countertop and another.

Islands should make your cooking more efficient, not more crowded. Putting an island where you don't have space for one will end up being more of an annoyance than an act of efficiency.

If you have space in your floor plan for a kitchen island, but you're afraid the addition might make your kitchen look too small, we have a design solution. Consider a pedestal design for your island without fixed cabinetry. This creates open space below the counter, and makes the area look lighter and airy.

If you already have a work triangle, you probably don't need an island.

The ideal kitchen setup has a triangular path from the refrigerator to the stove to the sink. In an outdoor kitchen, your work triangle might be composed of slightly different appliances, such as a refrigerator, grill, and sink, but the concept is the same. You want the main appliances you're using to form a triangle that measures between 13 and 26 feet when all sides are combined. 

For kitchens that do not already form this triangle, islands present the solution—build an island, install a sink to form your third point, and you're set. Two scenarios in which you may be able to forego an outdoor kitchen island would be if a) your kitchen already uses an effective work triangle or b) you can move your grill to complete the work triangle.

It's also worth pointing out that if you opt for a kitchen island, make sure your appliances are on the correct side of the structure. The last thing you need is to install your oven or smoker on the wrong side of the counter, causing you to constantly circle the island while you're preparing a meal. Not only will this poor planning decision frustrate you, but it will also delay dinner due to the time wasted walking further than necessary. Neither situation is good.

Don't make the island too large, or the space in the center will be wasted.

Many avid outdoor kitchen enthusiasts make the mistake of designing a kitchen island that's way too big—even if they do technically have the floor plan to accommodate it. The problem with an oversized kitchen island is not that it will crowd your outdoor kitchen (although it could). The problem is that when your island is too large, you end up wasting all the space in the middle. The island becomes a catch-all because you can shove things toward the middle and they're out of the way. While they're definitely out of the way, they are not out of sight.

In fact, they're very much in sight and most definitely an eye sore for the rest of your outdoor kitchen. Don't fall into the oversized kitchen island trap, unless you want a cluttered countertop or a bunch of real estate you can't even reach.

On the other hand, there are a few solid arguments for the oversized kitchen island. One of them is to promote an all-purpose space, if you envision your kids doing homework at the island while you prep food for dinner, then a large island will be exactly what you need. Your kids will have room to work while you have space to prep without splattering barbecue sauce all over their math assignment.

Know why you want a kitchen island.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice we have for you when determining whether you should or should not install an island in your outdoor kitchen is to know exactly why you want one. Don't do it because it seems like the thing to do, or because everyone on HGTV is doing it, or because the neighbors did. Do it for a purpose. 

Here are some reasons people like having islands in their outdoor kitchens:

  • Space for an added sink. This is especially nice if you want to dedicate one sink to raw meat and another to washing raw vegetables or dishes.
  • Additional food prep surface. When you're prepping steak for the grill and also making a salad, additional counter space lets you keep the foods as far apart as possible, protecting against cross contamination. An island also provides multiple works stations for those times when you have more than one cook in the kitchen.
  • Staging food. Do you host dinner parties often? An island is a great place to arrange appetizers or set up the buffet.
  • Storage space. Kitchen islands are more than another counter surface. Think of all the space you have below for storing pots, pans, grill supplies and more!
  • A bar or casual dining area. It's nice when you can pour your friends a drink, and they have somewhere to sit while you're finishing up the meal. A kitchen island with bar stools is the perfect setup for moments like that.

Talk to a design professional.

We hope this article inspired you in your kitchen design endeavors, but we also want to remind you that kitchen designs always turn out better when a professional is involved. Give us a call at 888) 747-4554 to consult with our design experts, and let us help you with your kitchen island—or whatever other projects you have up your sleeve!

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Topics: Outdoor kitchen design