Clients do not consider their new countertops as merely mundane working surfaces, but rather as a design statement—an integral part of the aesthetic and a reflection of themselves. How we determine which surface material to use and how to effectively configure the layout will determine the success or failure of our projects.

Client preferences and room configuration will determine the best layout for the space. In a perfect world, the designers may be able to configure an “L” with an island and “U”-shaped kitchen for the same space. Both layouts accomplish the client’s goals without compromise. The choice is now up to the clients and the way they want to work and move through their space.

When faced with the request for an island, peninsula or any particular count-ertop configuration, basic dimensions and functions should be agreed upon by the clients and designer. Will the desired configuration fit the allotted space?

Will the island or peninsula house a cooktop, sink, dishwasher, wall oven or microwave? Will the island or peninsula have seating and will it be lower or higher than standard counter height? Does the client desire a prep or hospitality sink? If a cooking surface is included, will it be drafted up or down? All of these questions need answers.

When these questions are answered, you are ready to plan the proper landing areas for appliances, seating or other functions. Islands and peninsulas should perform at least two vital functions. At a minimum they should provide additional prep space and direct traffic away from the main work triangle.

The NKBA Kitchen & Bathroom Planning Guidelines recommend specific clearances for count-ertop spacing and landing areas, as well as walkway clearances:

  • The guideline for wall oven, refrigerator and microwave landing space is a countertop minimum of 15-inches wide by 16-inches deep immediately adjacent to or within 48 inches directly across from it on an island or other work surface.
  • The primary sink should have landing space of at least 24 inches on one side and 18 inches on the other side, again with a minimum of 16 inches of depth.
  • A cooking surface should have at least 12 inches on one side and 15 inches on the other, also 16-inches deep.
  • If the cooking surface is on an island or peninsula, a minimum of 9 inches behind the cooking surface is recommended for safety.

Oftentimes, landing space and preparation space is combined, such as between a sink and refrigerator or sink and range. To accommodate this combined space, NKBA suggests adding the maximum space recommended of the two areas plus 12 inches as the minimum. For example, a sink with a recommended minimum of 18 inches on one side and 24 inches on the other sharing the space with a refrigerator with a recommendation of 15 inches on the latch side would require 36 inches of space to meet the recommendation. These are spelled out in the NKBA Kitchen & Bathroom Planning Guidelines booklet.

In a previous article (QR, June 2009, page 62), I addressed the spacing requirements between an inside countertop corner and a sink edge, as well as the spacing between a corner dishwasher and sink front. These spacing recommendations provide access to cabinetry and prevent interference of open appliance doors while aiding traffic flow.

When placing an island, the recommended minimum work aisles should be a minimum of 42-inches wide for a kitchen designed for one cook and 48-inches wide for a two-cook kitchen. This space should be measured between countertop fronts or the face of opposing tall cabinets. This takes the countertop overhang into effect. Measuring from cabinet face to cabinet face would reduce that space by as much as 3 inches.

A critical countertop spacing location falls between a wall or other fixed surface and a seated eating area, such as an eating area on an island or a peninsula. If this is a passageway, the minimum recommended space for an ambulatory person is 44 inches and for a wheelchair is 60 inches. If this space is to provide counter access only, a minimum of 36 inches is recommended for traffic to edge past.

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