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How to Determine Seating for Kitchen Islands

Find a balance between the space you have and the seating you want and need as you determine seating for kitchen islands.

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For some homeowners, an essential element of kitchen islands is seating. But figuring out how many seats you want and how many are realistic can be a frustrating exercise. Here's how to work through pros and cons to figure out seating for kitchen islands.

Step 1: Think about how you use your kitchen and its adjacent spaces.

Is your kitchen space isolated from the rest of the house? Or is it open to other rooms, including a dining room? If the latter, then minimal seating for kitchen islands might provide just enough spots for a few family members or friends to join you while you're cooking. But if your kitchen is clearly divided from other living areas, more seating for kitchen islands might be important.

In addition, think about how your family eats and moves through the kitchen on a daily basis -- and how that might change in years to come. Do your kids come and go at different times of the day depending on activities and schoolwork? Or is your kitchen hangout central, where everyone does homework, pays bills, and unwinds from the day? If so, then it might be important to have more seating at kitchen islands.

And keep design tips from the experts in mind: The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends leaving at least 36 inches on all sides of an island to accommodate traffic. You will need to plan for more space if you want seating for your kitchen island.

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Step 2: Analyze available layout options for kitchen island seating.

Seating for kitchen islands is as diverse as the islands themselves. Here are some options:

  • Kitchen island seating along one side. This kitchen island seating option is great for longer spaces.
  • Kitchen island seating on both sides. For islands that are wider, there might be room for a few chairs on parallel sides of a kitchen island.
  • Kitchen island seating at one or both short ends. An overhang might be a good place to group a few chairs, either on one or both short ends of an island.
  • Kitchen island seating at a corner. For very space-challenged kitchens, an overhanging island corner might be the only place to include a seating spot.
  • Kitchen island seating on three sides. For very large kitchens, a very large island might have room for seating on one end and the partial sections of two parallel sides.

Step 3: Review the height options for kitchen island seating.

There are three main height options for kitchen island seating: table, counter, or bar height. The difference isn't just a matter of personal preference; it can also be a clever way to tackle space limitations. For example, a narrow bar-height countertop can be a wonderful way to disguise kitchen messes and add enough width for eating without taking up too much overall kitchen space. Counter height islands are good for seating for kitchen islands because they can easily be incorporated into general work surfaces, too.

Step 4: Consider the available seating options for kitchen islands.

Counter-, chair-, or bar-height seating are the three main options for kitchen islands. In addition, seating for kitchen islands can be either stools or chairs. Stools are great space-savers, especially in kitchens where space is at a premium; they can be scooted under countertops to preserve precious walkway.

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