By Andy Meredith
Renovating an old home can be pretty challenging, especially when it comes to the kitchen. You want to create a space that’s modern and convenient for your buyers, but you don’t want to ruin the look and feel of a classic kitchen. Unfortunately, one of the things that a lot of those classic kitchens have in common is a lack of space. A lot of older kitchens just don’t have a lot of space in the cabinets and drawers.
But today’s buyers want a lot of counter space so that they can spread out while they’re cooking, display knickknacks, have a place to put their blenders and other small appliances, or even eat breakfast and enjoy a cup of coffee in the kitchen.
The easiest solution to this problem is to put in a kitchen island, but it’s not quite as simple as just saying, “Need more counter space? Throw an island in there!” If you do that every time you want more storage and counter space in an old kitchen, you’re going to end up with some pretty cramped kitchens along the way. So how can you tell if you have enough space? And how much space do you really need for a kitchen island?
How Many Cooks Can You Expect in the Kitchen?
Figuring out whether or not you have room for an island depends a lot less on the island than it does on the size of the kitchen and how many people you can expect to be in the kitchen at once. In other words, you can create a custom island that’s small enough to fit in a smaller kitchen, but you still have to think about how many people are going to be using the kitchen at once. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a kitchen that looks practical and well designed but will be a nightmare for your buyers to actually use.
Think of it this way: If you’re renovating a three-bedroom, two-bath house, you’re more than likely going to have a couple or a small family buy it. You can get away with a little bit less room around the island in a smaller house like this because your buyers won’t have five to seven people in the kitchen on a regular basis. In a larger house, you want to leave more of a corridor between the island and the other counters.
Leave Some Breathing Room
In general, if you’re working with a small house and a small kitchen, you’ll want to leave about 30 inches of space around the island. That gives enough space that someone can work or sit at the island while someone else walks behind them. In larger kitchens, I usually recommend leaving a wider corridor—usually a minimum of 40 to 48 inches.
If you’re having trouble figuring out whether you have room for an island or not, grab some painter’s tape and mask one out on the floor. Then spend some time walking around it and maneuvering through the kitchen. If you can’t help stepping on it when it’s just a line on the floor, your buyers are going to have real trouble not running into it when it’s finished.
Sometimes, if you’re dealing with a smaller kitchen, a narrow sideboard or an extension of the counter is a better idea than a kitchen island. Sometimes the best option is an appropriately sized kitchen table. If you opt to skip the island, talk to your stagers about adding something to give buyers inspiration about adding more storage and prep space.