As I mull the idea of converting from a conventional kitchen table and chairs arrangement to a centralized kitchen island, a number of great resources have developed. McClurg, a design and renovation firm out of Marcellus, N.Y. traced the origins of this popular fixture to farm tables with open spaces underneath for storing crocks, pots and bowls. Today, however, homeowners can enjoy many cabinet options for islands. So as you consider installing one that will incorporate storage, the firm recommends thinking about what you want to store on the island and how you plan to store it.

An island can be built with drawers - deep drawers for storing pots, pans, bake ware or dishes; and narrow drawers for utensils, cutlery or linens. It can also be created from base cabinets with pullout shelves that could include narrow cabinets to provide vertical storage for baking sheets and cutting boards.

The standard height for an island is 36 inches, and the installation area should be at least 8-by-12 feet. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends planning for an aisle of 42 inches surrounding the island.

This space allotment is especially important on sides that face appliances (i.e. ovens, stoves and dishwashers) where there are doors that open and you need room to work. Depending on the layout of the kitchen, the minimum aisle width should be at least 36 inches to be functional. The minimum counter width of an island should be 24 inches.

At the same time, builder and blogger Tim Carter/Ask The Builder says the biggest mistake he sees homeowners make when planning and designing an island is thinking bigger is better. Some of the most functional kitchen islands he has seen or built are as small as 42-inches long.

He has seen massive kitchen islands that are 5-feet wide or more, where homeowners can't even reach the center to clean it.

Carter says to be sure and plan for electrical outlets in the island if they are desired, and recommends putting one at each end. And if you have the room, he says microwaves work great in kitchen islands, especially the ones that have a drawer design instead of a swinging door.

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