Designing a Kitchen Island with Seating

By Sandra Rousseau , last updated January 11, 2012

Because of their functionality and versatility, kitchen islands with seating have become must-haves for more and more homeowners. With the addition of seating, an island becomes so much more than just a prep surface. It becomes a breakfast or dinner table, laptop computer nook, homework desk, and a bar for mixing drinks when entertaining. To successfully design an island with a seating area, follow these tried-and-true guidelines form the professionals at the National Kitchen and Bath Association and This Old House.


Design your island's counter height to accommodate standard-size chairs and stools. A height of 28 to 30 inches works best for standard dining chairs, while low stools, also called counter stools, work best at counter tops which are 36 inches from the floor. True bar-height stools require counter tops that are 42-48 inches high. Multi-level islands add interest and dimension to your kitchen. Additionally, a higher bar area does a great job of hiding an adjacent sink or stove.

Seating Room

The number of people who can comfortably be seated at your island will depend upon its size. Figure about 24 inches of width per person for plenty of elbowroom, with a counter top overhang of 18 inches for ample leg and knee room.


The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least 42 inches of open space from the outer edge of your island to the outer edge of the nearest counter top. However, keep in mind this rules applies to standing workspace only and does not include room for seating. Place the seating area outside of the cook's work area for the optimal flow.


Keep in mind the view that your guests will have from their seats. While many islands house the kitchen sink, you certainly don't want your guests gazing at a pile of dirty dishes. On the other hand, overnight guests may enjoy sipping coffee while watching you flip pancakes, and just about everyone enjoys a view of the outdoors from a pretty picture window.

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