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Eat-in kitchen: do you eat at an island? Do you like it?

kgsd
13 years ago

We're just starting to decide on our new layout. One of my big questions is what to do about the eating area.

Background: the kitchen is long and narrow: 25'x11'. We currently have a peninsula that separates the kitchen and eating area. The eating area is only 9' x 11', and often feels cramped, especially if you're sitting on the short side. Here's a very rough picture of the current layout. (The refrigerator is in the blank area in the top-right corner, and the top wall is actually the exit door to the garage.) The open wall areas in the bottom-left corner go to the dining room and office/den.

{{gwi:1853965}}

We eat all family meals in the kitchen (we have 2 young children), but when company comes over, even for informal meals, we eat in the dining room, which is much bigger. We do not want to move any walls (two are exterior walls and the other two border rooms that we don't want to make any smaller).

So here's my question: when designing the new layout, I'd like to consider doing something different with the eating area. I don't want to take too much space from the kitchen (cooking) area, because it's fairly small already. I'm considering using an eat-at island, but I do like the ability to look at the other people sitting with me.

If you eat everyday meals at an island with your family, do you like it?

Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

Comments (41)

  • remodelfla
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    kgsd... I did a search on the forum and there are several thread about creating a table with an island as opposed to overhang seating. I too love an informal look. Our new kitchen will be large enough for both overhang and a table because I am eliminating the formal dining room. I'm adding a link photo from one of the threads that has a rendering that rhome did that shows an island with a table height seating attached. I hope it's OK that I did that but thought it would be OK since the pix was posted in the forum

    Here is a link that might be useful:

  • hollylh
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Quickly (we're about to eat dinner--in the DR bc it's Mother's Day!)--we eat most of our meals at the island and I really don't like it. It is one of the main things driving our remodel--I want a kitchen table. Our table will be a little ways from the main food prep area. Our DR is too far ro go for everyday dining (although we use it for company). FWIW, teh lack of table has bothered me more as kids have gotten older and are more able to sit longer, set the table themselves, etc. We moved here when they were 2 and 1 and now are 11, 10 and 7 (yes, another one born here). So for long term planning my own preference would be not to plan to eat at an island all the time.

    I think our spaces might have very simiar dimensions--I will measure later and post when I get a chance. Looking at it quickly, I would say move your peninsula in a little bit to give more room for your eating area. HTH and happy mother's day!

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  • oofasis
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We eat most every meal at the island and don't mind at all - but then, it's just the two of us. We have the dining room for more formal entertaining. When our adult son visits us, he insists on bringing a stool around to the other side of the island. He doesn't like sitting in a row, even though the overhang has a bit more depth in the middle. I think with two kids (especially when they're young) I'd rather sit at a table than the island.

  • astridh
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I also would not like to eat at an island if everyone is facing the same direction. We will be putting in an island in the shape of a fat capital D and will be having seating on three sides of it. What is on the bottom of the L shape on the right side of your layout? It seems to me that if you could just cut that off, you would feel less cramped at your current table. I think it might work really well to do a built in booth in that corner. Your kitchen seems too narrow to work well with an island.

  • Buehl
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We have a kitchen w/very similar dimensions: 21' x 11'1" One difference for us is that the right wall has only 15'8" of usable space and then we have a Foyer doorway and then the basement door. The "top" is the FR doorway. The "bottom," where your table & chairs are now, is our DR. However, our island seating was never meant to be used for everyday family dining, just breakfast and lunches on weekends...the rest of our meals will be in the DR.

    We tried very hard to have an island w/eating BUT to do it we would have had to sacrifice one entire wall of cabinets...and that was only if we used the "extra" 18" depth at the bay window for the back of the seating area. (i.e., in front of the bay window the width of the kitchen was actually 12'7")

    I eventually gave up my dream of an island and put in a layout similar to what you have now...with peninsula seating on the DR side... (We took down the wall b/w our DR & kitchen, put in a peninsula w/seating on the DR side and eliminated the tiny eating area in front of the bay window. Our DR is small at 13'8" x 11'1")

    The minimum kitchen width you would need for an island:

    Vertically, so the seats would face one of the walls (and lose one wall of cabinets):
    Seating on one side of island:
    (24" + 1.5" overhang) + 42" aisle + (1.5" overhang + 24" cabs + 15" seating overhang) + 42" aisle = 150" = 12'6"

    Seating on end only w/36" wide "table" (like pic in previous post):
    (24" + 1.5" overhang) + 42" aisle + (1.5" overhang + 36" cabs + 1.5" overhang) + 42" aisle = 148.5" = 12'5.5"

    Horizontally, so the seats would face top or bottom of your drawing):
    (24" + 1.5" overhang) + 42" aisle + (1.5" overhang + 48" cabs + 1.5" overhang) + 36" aisle = 154.5" = ~12'10"

    [For each seat, you need at least 24" in width; recommended minimum aisle width is 42"; For counter-height seating, recommended knee depth/overhang is 15"]

    What am I saying? I think your kitchen is too narrow for an island...especially w/seating. Plus, do you really want to give up an entire wall of cabinets & counterspace?


    As to the eating area being too cramped, have you considered shortening the cabinet run in your kitchen by 4' or so and "adding" it to the table area and then adding seating to the peninsula on the table side (facing into the kitchen)


    To me, dinners with the whole family should be family-centered and conducive to conversation...not for watching TV, etc. That means people facing each other while eating. We make it a policy that unless there are unsurmountable reasons, we all eat together for dinner. We accomplish this 90% of the time by rearranging schedules when needed...including rearranging meal time...sometimes we eat at 7:00 or 8:00pm b/c of games or practices...but we do eat together! (Everyone has a nutritious snack b/f going to games/practices/etc.)

    We have two children, 11 & 13, plus DH & me.


    HTH!


    Old kitchen:


    New kitchen layout (85% done):


    What it looks like today:

  • 2katz4me
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I got rid of my kitchen dining space and added an island. My kitchen is 24' long and 7' wide in the galley part of the kitchen and 11' wide in the part that used to be the dining space. We never ate at our kitchen table and one of the few things I knew I wanted in my new kitchen was either an island or peninsula with seating. The island worked out better in terms of flow through the room. We eat there all the time now - it is just two of us. We have seating for four on three sides of the island. I definitely like having seating on three sides vs. all on one side. And I love having an island - it's gotten much more use in three years than our kitchen table got in 13 years.

  • jtsgranite4us
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Our kitchen dimensions are 24' x 10'2". We always wanted an island but didn't want the added expense of moving walls. We have a peninsula that also has a raised breakfast bar. Our table area is 8'6" x 10'2" and it doesn't feel too cramped at all. Maybe because with have a patio door on side and the opening to our dining room on the other side of the table area makes it feel more open. We also have a bench seat on the wall side of the table that takes up less space then a chair.

    Here are a couple of pictures:

  • rosalita
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    years ago we had a small kitchen table with chairs like you have now and we always felt like we were shoved into a corner so we built an island. Not only do we prefer the seating for informal eating but the prep space was a huge bonus for us. Now that we're remodeling the kitchen, we're definitely keeping our island but making it even larger. We have a lovely dining room that we use when having a more formal dinner and always use if there's company but when it's just the 4 of us, we like to eat at our island.

  • tgpdd
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    My last house had the seating area in an island. I hated it. I like sitting down at a regular kitchen table for dinner and perching at an island just didn't cut it. It never felt to me like we were having a meal as a family.

    For this remodel, my poor KD really wanted to give us an island, but I wanted none of it.

  • kitdreamr
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Our kitchen is pretty similar to yours, and we have an island. It is pretty long and has seating on 3 sides, but we only use 2 on a nightly basis. We also have a dining room for formal dinners. I was skeptical about the isalnd at first, but it's great. Seems just like a kitchen table, and it's great workspace for baking, wrapping gifts, school projects, homework, etc. In a perfect world, I would have a kitchen table too, but if it's a choice, take the island!

  • nskylark
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    My kitchen is a similair size to yours and we definitely wanted to keep it an eat-in-kitchen during the remodel.

    So our KD came up with the idea to create a penisula coming from the butcherblock counter that would serve as a kitchen table. We haven't installed it yet - my DH insisted on building it himself so it is taking a while - so I can't speak to usability yet. But it seemed like a good solution for us.

  • talley_sue_nyc
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    when we had an eat-in kitchen, during my childhood, we nevertheless ate any meal w/ more than 3 people in the dining room.

    I liked having the dining room in use so frequently. And I liked having the kitchen be the place where you perched for a relatively quick meal (lunches only, usually; not even always, in fact)

  • debo_2006
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We have a counter-high breakfast bar AND and an eat-at island. We eat all of our meals at the breakfast bar, though it's only DH and I. I don't always like eating there. Sometimes, I rather have a standard height table and chairs. We will be making our dining room a real eat-in DR for something different especially when company visits. Our DR has been many rooms in the past, but never what it was intended for, so I'm looking forward to having a nice set in there.

  • deedee-2008
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We are putting the finishing touches on our kitchen. It's "downsides" are identical to many above posters: long and narrow (11.5 x 22ft), many doors (5), and no $$ to knock down the wall to the dining room. We installed a two-seat pennisula (like jts' picture), and I now have a much smaller table at the end. My kids are 9 and 11, and the "breakfast bar" (as I call the pennisula), is used just for that. All our other meals are taken at the table. I also want to make eye contact with others when I eat, especially my kids at this transitional age. I never considered an island because the kitchen is too narrow, but would never want one where all the seats are on one side...it would feel too much like a real bar in town.

  • friedajune
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Looks like you're getting responses from both sides! I am one of those people who used to have an island in the kitchen and detested it! As has already been mentioned, with an island you can't face people when you are eating. The other problem I had was that when my senior-citizen Mom came over for a cup of tea and a chat, she found it very uncomfortable to climb up and perch on the island stools. I too didn't find them comfortable for a leisurely reading of the paper with my coffee. I now have a 42" round pedestal table. It seats four, but also has a leaf, and can seat six, but I have never needed to use the leaf (I have a dining room table for larger seatings).

    I LOVE eating at the table. It's cozy, you can face everyone, my Mom is comfortable, my own behind is comfortable, seating for 4 is perfect - I wouldn't have it any other way. I am lucky that my kitchen has room for the 42" round table with chairs. If you decide to go with a table, make sure it's pedestal style; a table with four legs gets in the way and is more awkward.

  • kgsd
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Thanks for all the responses! These are great.

    I don't think I want to move or remove the peninsula (unless to replace with an island). Believe it or not, that's almost all of our useable counterspace, and will probably continue to be, even if we remodel. The whole left side of the drawing is a brick structure that houses the range and cabinets with very little counterspace. It's hard to explain (I'll post a picture later) but we like it and can't move things around without totally destroying the brick. The other side has a little more counterspace, but not much.

    Kitdreamer, your island intrigues me. We could probably do that minus the prep sink and still have seating on 3 sides. If you don't mind, what does the rest of your kitchen layout look like?

  • jess111
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    kitdreamr, I love your island. Do you mind telling me the size of the base & top? I'm looking to do the island, but with the overhang on all 4 sides. Yours is the first one I saw with the overhang on 3. Everyone always seems to go with only 2, but I like your concept. Makes it easier to envision the seating all around.

  • suska6184
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I can't imagine how you could work an island of any useful size into a kitchen that narrow. Mine is only a foot wider than yours, and there was no possible configuration I could dream up that didn't make the thing seem crammed in there. Several people tried to talk me into giving up my table, then there would be room, but there was no way I'd be happy without a table in the kitchen. I have an elevated peninsula (the entire surface) with overhang and I still don't want any stools there. That is my workspace and visitors may either help me work or sit at the table to talk. No eating in my workspace. I am very happy with my layout.

  • vicnsb
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    kitdreamr...love your island! I am also planning an island with sink and
    a large door behind it just like yours. Could you please give dimensions of island and clearance around it. Thanks so much.

  • kgsd
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    suska, what is the layout of your kitchen like? Are you able to fit a table in without feeling cramped?

  • kitdreamr
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I think that the island is 6 and 1/2 ft., then has 14 inch overhang on the two sides. There's about 2 feet of clearnace between the island and the slider. The other end of the island backs up to the family room (open), so clearance isn't an issue. I did the overhang that way, becasue I didn't want us all to sit in a row and not be able to look at each other over dinner - it has worked out nicely, but if we tried to put someone at the other end, they would be very far away.
    Kgsd - here are some pics of the rest of the kitchen.



    {{gwi:1853971}}
    492.jpg" border="0" alt="Cooktop and ovens">

  • kitdreamr
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Here's my layout, if it helps.

  • mominthedubc
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Kitdreamr, Beautiful kitchen! How wide is your island?

  • Buehl
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Kitdreamr, what are your aisle clearances b/w the wall cabinet runs and the smaller island? They look like 30" and 36" and 42" b/w the island and refrigerator, but I'm not sure. If I'm reading your layout correctly, it also looks like the width of the main part of the kitchen is 11.5' and the space w/the larger island is approx 10.5'x12' (with no cabinets on either wall)...is that correct as well?

    If those are the clearances in the main kitchen, how do they work when you have 2 or 3 people cooking and/or cleaning up?

  • arleneb
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We had two stools at our counter-height island and found we didn't like eating there -- I'm not sure if it was the height, the stools, or sitting side-by-side instead of at right angles as we're used to. Guests sat there when hanging out in the kitchen, but we never used them. New kitchen will have a table-height portion for grandchildren's lunch and snacks, and there will be a round breakfast table nearby.

  • kitdreamr
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Buehl - I think that's right 30 in. between the small island and wall of cabinets, 38 between small island and wall with cooktop. Not at home right now, or I would measure. The large island, I believe, is 6 1/2 feet, w/the 14 inch overhang (overhang is only on 2 sides, the one facing the slider and the one opening up to the family room). The large island is not exactly as drawn in the plans -- I changed the overhands when counters were templated.

    I use the smaller island mainly as a landing strip and have set it up for lunch packing in the morning. (It's also good for laying out food for buffet style meals.)Clean up hasn't been a problem, dishes, etc. go from main island (where we eat) right into dishwasher (also on that island). As for cooking, we use the space next to the cooktop and the big island for prep mainly, so plenty of room for 3 cooks.

  • Buehl
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Thanks Kitdreamr! (It makes me wonder if I could have fit one of those smaller islands in my kitchen after all!)


    I will not second guess...I will not think about it....[it's too late, my cabinets are already installed!]

  • kitdreamr
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Buehl -- don't second guess! Your kitchen looks great, plus you have that great pantry! My kitchen is 12 ft, 4 inches wide, which gives me a little more space to fit the island.

  • 2katz4me
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    You know you really can fit an island in much less space than many people would think - provided you don't feel the need to "supersize" the island or stools if you plan to have seating. We very nicely fit a 3 x 5.5 island in our 11' wide space and it isn't crowded or crammed in. I really thought that would be the case and that it would seem overcrowded but fortunately my KD convinced me that wouldn't be the case. Here's mine.

    {{gwi:1853972}}

    {{gwi:1651888}}

  • palomalou
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We've never eaten at the island ourselves because it feels too eat-and run, but I wouldn't want to do without one for working at and entertaining. I DO give (or used to-when we entertained) guests hors d'oerves/tastes, when they are sitting at the island though.

  • talley_sue_nyc
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I would really hate to eat at an island w/ a sink in it.

    My aunt had an island w/ a stove in it, and the seating area was off to the side (farther away than many of these sinks are from the "placemat" space), and it made me nervous, I couldn't relax.

  • mizmcd
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I might try a peninsula height banquette with benches on 2 walls in the nook--with 2 swivel or backless stools on the side closest to the peninsula (and one on the end). That way you could seat 4 or 5 at the table or 2 people could turn around, pull up to the bar and easily visit with the cook.

  • edlakin
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    looking at the OP's floor plan, my first thought was that a built-in bench seat/banquette would be the best use of space to provide an eating area.

    i personally *hate* the whole eat-at-the-island trend. besides the fact that it reinforces the whole american eat-and-run, no time to talk, no time to digest, just bolt your food and go to work/school/whatever, i also just find it downright uncomfortable. i hate sitting on stools for any length of time, and i hate having my elbows on the hard granite countertop.

  • Jean Farrell
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I think the way you could make your eating area feel less cramped is to make a banquette, maybe in the corner. I think if you did that it would feel much more spacious.

    I personally don't like the idea of eating at an island, and I think that in a 11 foot wide kitchen (we have the same) there is not so much space around the island, and that will feel cramped too. I am not even putting seating around my island, because I think it will be too cramped.

    If you look at www.thekitchendesigner.org, she has some interesting plans of kitchens showing banquette seating.

  • longislandinnj
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Before we remodel we struggled w/ this issue. In the end we made a bigger investment so that we could eat at a table & have an island. I am very glad we did. I almost always choose to have our family dinner at the table-- it seems so much more civilized and relaxed and an improtant time for our family of four to be/dine together -- which is only 3-4 times a week. When we sit at the table there have been so many improtant discussions that take place. They are critcal teaching moments for our teenage children. Also I am a stickler for table manners & it is hard to do that the island. Lunch & Breakfast happens at the island.

    FYI- We increased the kitchen floor plan byremoving diningroom wall & absorbing that space into our kichen plan. The dining room furniture then moved to share space with our oversized living room. Two years later- I am sooo happy we did this.

  • holligator
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We eat at our island often, and we love it. We have a kitchen table steps away, but we quite often just naturally congregate at the island instead. It's not eat-and-run mode, either. We take our time and enjoy leisurely meals and conversation there, too.

    Our island setup has the stools on one side, but when we eat there, I pull one of the stools over to the other side to avoid the line-up effect. I didn't put an overhang on that side, so as silly as it may sound, I simply open one of my cabinets on the other side to give my knees some room. It works great and it's quite comfy. There are three of us, so this works fine for conversation time.

    Just last night, I baked cookies, and once again, we congregated at the island with our milk to enjoy our snacks and chat. I love our island!

  • cheri127
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I agree with a previous poster who said island eating feels too eat and run. Now that the girls are teenagers, one of the only times they take the time to tell us about their day and lives is at the dinner table. Because a chair is so much more comfortable to lounge in then a stool, it's easier to get them to linger a while and chat. When we started planning the new kitchen, they were emphatic that we continue to eat meals together in the dining room. We have a large island at the beach house, but eat at the table there too.

  • jess111
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Just curious why so many f you feel that eating at an island is "eat and run." I never had an island, and I can see the lined up seating, but I'm planning an island with seating on all 4 sides, so kinda like a counter height table with cabs below, and there won' be anything (sink, etc) on the island. Please explain why even if there is seating on more than one side it's not conducive to family conversations. Trying to get all the facts before I pull the trigger and order one.

  • bjeanne
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    We didn't want table and chairs in our dinette area of the kitchen and added on to the island, but dropped it down 6 inches to table height. It sort of looks like an inverted P when you look at it from above. There are extra cabinets underneath as it is >80" across and comfortably seats six around the 3 sides. It doesn't stop family conversation/interaction etc. We went with the drop down as we are getting older and I wanted to have a regular table height and I also felt that if we did sell at some point it would be a great height for kids to sit at to do homework etc while parents prepared dinner etc. The entire island is 14 feet long with the prep area 8'x 36" and the drop down 6'x 37" expanding to >80" at the centre

    Barb

  • kandt
    13 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Hi bjeanne:

    Your island shape sounds like something I am thinking about for my peninsula/island (although mine would be more like a D than P). I have been going back and forth about the shape (will it work and will I like it?) and whether to keep it all the same level (good for entertaining) or drop down (more comfy seating.) Do you have pics?

    Forgive me if I am hijacking this thread!

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