Most house plans offer two spaces to sit down and eat—a breakfast area and a dining room. Adjacent to the kitchen, the breakfast area fits a modest-sized table where meals are taken throughout the day. While that setup offers functionality, it lacks flexibility. More and more, the dedicated eating area is a link between the kitchen and the great room. What used to be the formal dining room off the entryway frequently becomes a flex room, now used more often as a den than for dining. The kitchen island has become a focal point. For eating on the go and casual entertaining, counter seating offers more flexibility than a breakfast room or even a peninsula.

Eating area, prep space, homework station, office—multiple functions drive island design. The base needs to be at least 2 feet deep by 4 feet wide, with a 12- to 18-inch overhang for seating. Add a sink and dishwasher, and a base that’s 6 feet or 7 feet long becomes the norm. While some islands are a uniform 36 inches high on both sides, we’ve found that raising the seating side to 45 inches or so is a better solution. The raised area provides a sink backsplash, houses electrical outlets for countertop appliances, and conceals kitchen chaos from guests. The short ends of the island can function as shelving for wine, cookbooks, or dishes.

The smaller the home, the greater the chances that the island will be used as a main dining area. If it’s well-designed, it eliminates the need for a breakfast area entirely. Space formerly used for the breakfast area can then be allocated to a more spacious great room or pantry storage. It’s a plan that addresses households of all types and responds to the way we live today.

Before

• Using different flooring materials for kitchen and living space limits size and function of both rooms.

• Doorway will be blocked by dining table, resulting in obstructed access to deck or patio.

• Sink faces away from common areas and gathering space.

• Island lacks overhang and has no room for seating.

• Pantry area is small and impractical.

After

• Island placement makes it possible to position a door that provides better access to the deck or patio. The new door admits more light into the home, too.

• Keeping floor material consistent throughout the living space makes more room for gathering and offers more flexibility when it comes to furniture placement.

• Setting the sink on the island makes way for wall ovens and allows for more interaction during tasks such as dish duty.

• Island seating allows the option of omitting a breakfast area or even getting rid of the dining table, depending on the owner’s lifestyle.

• An optional butler’s pantry adds storage, while a walk-in pantry offers more openness in the space and requires fewer overhead cabinets.