1. Fit to traffic flow: Ideally, an island should have 36 to 48 inches of space around all sides to accommodate foot traffic.
2. Tap into the trend: According to the National Association of Home Builders, 76 percent of home buyers consider a central island essential to the kitchen.
3. Size to seating: To use an island as an informal dining space, plan for at least 24 inches of width per person. For adequate legroom, make sure there's a clearance of 9 to 13 inches between the knees and the bottom of the counter.
4. Not all islands are created equal. Your island will be most beneficial to you when keeping your needs in mind. Do you like to bake? Do you need extra storage? Depending on how you use the kitchen, different countertop materials, designs, and features are recommended.
If the kids like to do their homework in the kitchen, a two-tier, multi level island is a great option. You can help them with assignments while cooking dinner at the same time.
If you have a small kitchen and need extra countertop space to prep meals, your island should offer a clean and clutter-free work surface.
5. Opt for openness: Open shelves display your heirloom dishware; plus, they require fewer materials and less labor, costing you less.
6. Focus your attention: The central island will be the focal point of your kitchen, so it's the best place of any to use countertop material with high impact. If you're going this route, think marble, granite, or recycled glass. Also consider features that will add visual appeal and extra benefits.
Detailed legs add character to a transitional-style kitchen, while also offering additional support.
Add a shelf below your island for extra storage and an area to display decorative baskets, cutting boards, and other everyday items.
Increase your kitchen’s “wow” factor by using a contrasting cabinet color for the island.
7. Make material decisions: Base them on your needs in addition to the look. Butcher block is best for chopping food, while stainless steel is valuable for cooling hot pans.
8. Shape-shift: If the traditional rectangle won't fit comfortably in your kitchen, consider an oval or an L- or T-shaped island instead. These are also best suited for lazy Susan attachments.
9. Add extras: Built-in mechanics and features help to customize the island to your family’s needs. For example, additional electrical outlets help to make the kitchen workflow more efficient.
10. The best seats in the kitchen: Seating should be proportional to the height of your island. A chair is best suited to a 28- to 30-inch-tall counter; a low stool is best suited to a 36-inch-tall counter; and a barstool is best suited to a 42- to 48-inch-tall counter.
11. Pick a prime spot: The center of the room is not always the ideal place for an island, depending on your use of it. An island designed for food prep should be situated near outlets and appliances, while an island designed for cleanup should be situated near the dishwasher and garbage.
12. Remember the triangle: The kitchen work triangle is an imaginary line connecting the center of the cooktop to the center of the sink to the center of the refrigerator in a triangle shape. This triangle should not cut through the island by more than 12 inches.
13. Disappearing act: Here’s a design trick -- extend the public face of the island 4 to 6 inches above the surrounding countertop and match the material to the interior walls. This makes the island virtually fall out of view to someone outside of the kitchen looking in, thereby making the space appear larger and more open.
Create your dream kitchen with Martha Stewart Living, available exclusively at The Home Depot. marthastewartkitchens.com