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Advice for HomeownersTimeless

Which Shape is Correct for your Kitchen Island?

By 02/01/2016December 11th, 202024 Comments


via Apartment 34 (or skip the island and have a dining table instead)

I recently received a question about kitchen islands from a reader. She asked, “Is square or rectangle the only way to go for a timeless look?”

Yes, yes and yes.

An odd shaped island should only be specified if the layout doesn’t support a square or rectangle.

It’s rare that I look at an island that is NOT square or rectangular and think ‘Wow that looks really beautiful’. Usually it looks like someone was trying to be overly creative, just like using too much accent tile.  It creates a look that dates quickly.

Anytime we really love a designer kitchen, it almost ALWAYS has a rectangular or square island.

I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions to this, but make sure your kitchen layout really demands an unusual shape before you design one.  Most of the kitchens in this post would have looked better with a more classic shape like the one I’m talking about.


via Glitter Guide

Also, islands with an attached bar top are especially a personal pet peeve of mine. It’s hard for kids to get up that high and I much prefer an island that looks like a piece of furniture. If you’re going to install one, make sure it looks like this (above) instead of this!

Terreeia disagrees with me. Her background is hospitality so she thinks that having an island with a bar promotes being social because you can stand and talk to the person sitting at a bar top island. And some people like that you can’t see the dishes from the other side of a bar topped island. All those are good reasons if they truly apply to your life style, just keep it a rectangle!

Personally, I don’t even like to sit in a restaurant if I have to have my feet dangling. It’s just not comfortable.


via BHG


via Elle Decor


Design by Carla Aston


Design by Lauren Muse

Out of the 50 kitchens shown in this HGTV slideshow, only three were an unusual shape.

By the way I loved your responses to my last post. So many of you so generously posted your experience with rectangular sinks and the lesson we learned was that if you install one make sure it has a sloped base instead of a rectangular base, this way the dirt doesn’t sit in the corners making them difficult to clean!

Also I don’t really think that an oval sink is more timeless than a rectangular sink. Obviously if that rectangular sink has a geometric pattern in it or something like the flowers from the 80’s then that would be considered more trendy.

Happy Monday everyone!



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Related posts:

One More Reason Why You Should Skip Accent Tiles altogether

What NOT to Do with your Kitchen Island Design

Ask Maria: Help! I Don’t Want the Same Kitchen as Everyone Else!

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  • Lucy HAINES says:

    Maria, I have to agree with both you and Terreeia. It is not comfortable sitting with your feet dangling but on the other hand the bar height does seem to encourage guests to stand and talk to the cook. The first picture of the bar height counter looks just like my son’s condo. For one thing in the space of a small condo it does several things. One, it separates the kitchen from the living room and two, it hides the sink and the mess of dishes or whatever from the view of the living area. In a larger area I would agree with you that a counter height flat surface would look better. That said, what I do like about the first picture is the way that the pendant lights are hung. It looks possibly that there is a sky light and then somehow the rods that the lights are hanging on must hide the electrical wires?

    Wish I could come to one of your seminars to fill in one of your empty chairs. Thanks for the usual good post!

  • Judy H. says:

    Maria, I, like you, do not enjoy sitting with my feet dangling. At 5’2″ tall, most any island or bar type eating arrangement which leaves my feet dangling and is exremely uncomfortable and even more so if I happen to be wearing a skirt or dress.
    Both of my children have islands used as eating areas in their homes. I have watched one to many grandchildren slip from their stool and crack their head on the island or the floor. I believe tables and chairs were created for eating a snack or a meal.

  • BillP says:

    Yes, rectangle always. And I prefer counter height islands for a more open look. Interesting that most shown on the HGTV slideshow are also counter height.

  • Mine is unusual. I would not build it this way if I had the choice. There are a ton of angled rectangular bars built in Texas in the last 20 years.

  • Mid America Mom says:

    On a practical note rounded poses challenges in building or finishing. Thin veneer / drywall or maybe brick or glass block could be used. Any moldings would be custom or plastic. My mother has one end of her island with five sides and the rest is storage and trash. It is counter height which is comfortable and replaced a small round dinette set. I look at it and think why didn’t they just round it? Angled walls in rooms and angled kitchen island cabinets had been a trend that I am glad has passed .. storage was tricky and so to furniture placement. A pet peeve of mine is a stove top on the island. Food inevitably gets splattered, overhead vents in the middle of a room are a look I dislike. In the case of open flame cooking – anyone with long hair is really taking a risk just walking past the thing. I do however think a microwave / oven or prep sink can work well. Oh if your family is like ours and dishes are not done immediately is that mess acceptable if your main sink is there? It would drive me nuts. 🙂 Thanks for posting!

  • Nancy says:

    Maria i had to add this tip no matter what sink you have.
    I wax all my faucets ( which are chrome) and my sinks.’
    I use carnuba car wax.
    So easy to dry out and keep vlean.
    When they no longer bead i redo.
    Keeps your faucets from getting water spots too.
    Just dont do it on your tub , you will slide all over the place ,

  • sandyc says:

    Maria, I’m with you and Judy – bar stools are just not comfortable to sit on and there is absolutely no graceful way to get up there, particularly if you’re vertically challenged. And they’re certainly not practical or safe for the little ones or the older ones. Don’t have room in my small kitchen for anything permanent so something like the small black table from the HGTV slideshow, preferably on locking casters to roll out of the way, would be my choice.

  • Alison says:

    Several houses ago we had a ‘bar top’ island and I loved it as it hid the kitchen mess from the dining table. We did not have stools at that island, it was only ever used as a servery, so dangling feet were not a problem. Currently I have a 3m (10ft) island which is continuous stone top. I put the sink under the window so as not to break up the island. Despite a lengthy debate (which I lost) with the builder the island was centered on the kitchen which means there is quite a bit of room at the window end of the room whilst the far end where the fridge lives would have benefited from an a little extra room. To this day I would prefer the island to be centered on the cupboard wall and not the width of the room. Front on it looks right but when in the kitchen the wasted space is annoying. another lesson for when I build the ‘perfect’ house!

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I’ve never had a kitchen with an island. And since I’ve lived this long without one, I guess I don’t understand the need. But if I had the space, I think I’d rather have a kitchen table. I wouldn’t want my company standing around, getting in my way.
    Boy…do I seem like a crotchety old lady or what?

    • mrsben says:

      Hello Mary from Illinois meet me, Brenda from Ontario who I guess is another crotchety old lady as I do have the choice of an island but far prefer a table … ☺. That said; I say to each their own but I know when sitting my grandchildren; one end of my daughter’s very long kitchen island is nothing but a catch-all and it is nerve racking monitoring the children when perched upon high stools. Also as I am a kind of an eye-to-eye person I prefer doing so, rather than talk to somebody’s profile. -Brenda-

  • Ange says:

    As always, I love your posts. They are so full of great information that we can implement into our homes. Thank you for all that you do.

  • Keira says:

    In my kitchen, I repurposed an IKEA desk with adjustable legs to be my counter height island and I love it. I bought 24″ tall “lab stools,” which have a place to rest your feet. They are a great hybrid stool, in that they’re higher than a chair (nice for casual, come and go sitting) and not so high that they’re hard to get on and off and adjust (what I hate about high stools). Interestingly, all three in my household–with heights of 4′, 5’3″, and 6′–find these stools comfortable.

  • mrsben says:

    There are some beautiful islands indeed but per my comment to Mary above I personally prefer the use of a table and will also add, I am 5′ 5 1/2″ and for an old gal pretty agile but I haven’t come across a stool yet that I could claim was comfortable. In summary, I do feel everyone has different needs and enjoyed browsing the links plus reading your post Maria which I found extremely informative. -Brenda-

  • April says:

    What would you suggest for a 6’4″ person (hubby) who desires a higher counter top for food prep? The standard height is quite short but works for me (5’4″). No room for an island so we are considering a bar height table that we can use for either dining or food prep. Small kitchen – two counter areas either side of stove

  • Rebecca says:

    I do not have an island but I do have the higher counter ledge like the second photo. We have never bought stools to use with it. Instead the ledge can serve as a serving area and also hides much of the kitchen mess from the eating area. I enjoy the way it function for our life style. It lets me work in the kitchen while guest stay in the eating part of this room. I am glad for this design.

  • One of my neighbors built a rectangular island but placed it at a weird angle relative to all the other counter elements “to be different,” she said. It was so visually disturbing that when she sold the house, the buyers insisted that she pay to reorient it, which involved replacing the floor. Once again we see that unique personal touches are best restricted to things inexpensive to change later on.

  • Phyllis E says:

    Hi Maria! We have both a counter height and a taller, 42 inch -high snack bar in our kitchen. The 42 inch high snack bar was created when we cut out an opening between the dining room and kitchen (behind the range.) Not only is the higher height necessary to hide the mess on the stove from the dining room, but it is also a safety feature; I wouldn’t want kids eating or working ,at the same level, directly behind the stove top! Anyway– my kids (teens)usually prefer to sit at the higher counter top for some reason –and not just when I’m working at the range either! I agree that you can’t relax if your feet are dangling. So I tested out our barstools and made sure I could comfortably rest my feet on the foot rest bar! Even with barstools at a counter -height snack bar you still can’t rest your feet on the floor and should make sure that your barstools have a comfortably placed foot -rest bar.

  • Katy says:

    It’s like you read my mind sometimes! I was JUST telling my husband why we need to rip out the kitchen island because it has one of those darn bar top attachments! We have 4 kids and the space is too tight and too high, and our house is a contemporary style so the bar-top-with-swirly-granite is like a dog turd in the middle of the kitchen. Men do not easily understand these things but now I can send him this post. :)))

  • Cindi says:

    You said “If you’re going to install one, make sure it looks like this (above) instead of this!”

    They look basically the same to me, I mean different styles of course. But enough similar that I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. Can you clarify?

    • Maria Killam says:

      One looks like it’s designed to be a piece of furniture, the other has drywall and baseboard. Maria

  • Cindi says:

    BTW I prefer the bar height; just installed one in fact. When we have guests, we find they don’t want to sit all the way down, they want to be more upright so they are at the same level of those who are standing. I also like the way it screens off the kitchen mess.

  • Square and rectangle kitchen islands always look good. People should not risk it and install some oddly shaped islands that will make their kitchen look bad. Very helpful post!

  • Katie says:

    I have one of the rare kitchens where a non square / rectangle island seemed to make sense 19 years ago. I’m trying to visualize switching to a rectangle one but I’m just not good at that. Would love help / opinions on options for our semi update of the kitchen. How can I get input / opinions?

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