What’s Better: Kitchen Peninsulas or Kitchen Islands?

Kitchen peninsulas and islands: benefits, costs, and space requirements of the home cook’s best friends

peninsula(Above) A black walnut-topped island seats three

You can never have too much working room or storage space in the kitchen. Kitchen countertops, already forced to share space with the sink, refrigerator, and cooktop or stove, further become cluttered with small appliances and the detritus of everyday life. Kitchen peninsulas and islands add the workspace and storage you need, while also providing a gathering space and focal point. They may also house amenities such as second sinks, cooktops, dishwashers, or wine coolers.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection— for free. Here’s our summary  of the benefits, costs, and logistics involved in choosing these popular kitchen features.

Brooklyn kitchen, renovation, remodel, peninsula (Above) Nydia’s peninsula in her 250-square-foot renovated Sweeten kitchen

Basics of kitchen islands and peninsulas

  • Kitchen islands are detached from the main section of counters and cabinets. Homeowners sometimes supplement this main section with mobile kitchen islands or carts, but true, cook-ready kitchen islands are permanently secured to the floor. This means that the kitchen island becomes a part of the kitchen itselfan enhancement that helps the home’s resale value. 
  • Kitchen peninsulas offer storage and countertop room roughly similar in size to kitchen islands. Peninsulas are secured to the floor for functionality and safety, with one end attached either to the wall or to existing counters and cabinets. 
  • In most cases, the peninsula stylistically matches the main counters/cabinets. One popular kitchen peninsula layout is to attach the peninsula to the end of an L-shaped kitchen countertop, effectively turning it into a U-shaped kitchen.

Benefits of kitchen islands

  • Flexible spacing: Kitchen islands should remain within basic spacing parameters. But within those parameters is a degree of flexibility that allows you to nudge the island to the spot that works best for you.
  • Instant social space: People always love to gather at kitchen islands. If you host parties or dinners, or if you just want to draw family members closer, a kitchen island is a people magnet.
  • Easy to mix styles: Kitchen islands often stylistically match the main cabinets and counters. But if you choose to incorporate a slightly different style, this is possible. The physical separation from the main area means that dissimilar cabinets and counters are less noticeable.

(From top to bottom) Mitzie + Jenifer’s waterfall island, a two-seat island holds a full-size oven, and a marble overhang seats three in Sara + Mike’s ’30s Tudor

Benefits of kitchen peninsulas

  • Continuous countertops: Peninsulas typically connect with the main countertop. Quartz and solid surface countertop technicians employ seaming methods that erase the line between the two, effectively transforming them into a single surface.
  • Better workflow: Continuous counters and cabinets tend to get more use than separate work centers.
  • Easier to place utilities: Natural gas, electricity, water supply, and drainage lines are easier to connect, since one end abuts a wall or existing cabinets.

Should you choose an island or a peninsula?

Is increasing kitchen storage an overriding concern? If so, a kitchen island may be your best choice since the peninsula has a 90-degree cabinet angle creating a type of dead zone called a blind cabinet. While this space can be used, it is difficult to access. 

By contrast, the kitchen island provides unimpeded storage area under the countertops. If you think that you will want to eventually change or expand your kitchen, you may wish to go in the direction of a kitchen island since it is easier to remove without affecting the main counter/cabinet section.

If you have a small-to-medium-size kitchen, you may want to choose a peninsula over an island since it is more efficient with space. Also, if you think that the kitchen island’s detachment from the main area may deter use, then you should consider installing a kitchen peninsula.

(From top to bottom) Jessica and Jessie’s blue peninsula fits toe-kick storage and a wine fridge, Dawn and David prep, bake, and chat at their peninsula, Melissa’s peninsula pulls up three barstools

Requirements of kitchen islands and peninsulas

Island and peninsula placement is, above all, predicated on the size and layout of your kitchen. Adequate space between work centers must be maintained both for workflow and for safety. You must be able to open cabinet doors and dishwashers. You must also be able to freely access sinks and cooktops.

The industry group National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends that you keep 42 inches of space between the edge of an island or peninsula and any other counters, work centers, appliances, or walls. Increase that width to 48 inches if you expect to have more than one cook regularly working in the kitchen.

Walkways that are not work aisles (pass-throughs behind an island, for instance) should be no less than 36 inches wide.

Whether for an island or a peninsula, think in terms of an imaginary “kitchen triangle” created by three points: sink, refrigerator, and stove or cooktop. The three legs of the triangle should total no more than 26 feet, with no leg measuring less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet.

Standard countertops rise 36 inches above floor level. If either the peninsula or island is intended to be a breakfast bar, that height may be raised to 42 inches (though it would then be used exclusively for eating, not for food preparation).

Electrical receptacles servicing all counter areas should be GFCI-protected (ground fault circuit interrupter).

East Hampton open concept kitchen with island

(Above) Alex and Jennifer’s beach house kitchen island features a cooktop, wine fridge, and seating

Cost considerations

The cost of adding a kitchen island or peninsula is highly variable. Since countertop materials tend to be expensive, Sweeten general contractor Claud said that homeowners need to think about whether they want the island or peninsula to have enough countertop overhang to serve as an eating area. :

Concerning costs, Claud says that where you live is as important as what you’re building. “A detached single-family home will be different from a condo or townhouse, where costs can skyrocket.” He noted that HOAs often require that remodel plans be drawn up by an architect, even in the case of islands and peninsulas.

Claud estimated that a 5-foot long, 36-inch high peninsula or island using semi-custom cabinets and quartz or solid surface countertops and with no amenities will cost $2,500 to $3,000. Amenities such as a sink or dishwasher add significantly. 

As for the cost difference between islands and peninsulas? They’re close, he said, with islands usually costing slightly less. Peninsulas often demand more patching and wall work than islands.

Design professionals rarely consider either an island or a peninsula to be inherently better than the other. Instead, it is a matter of your home, the available space within the kitchen, and your taste and desires. Either way, you’ll be gaining the kitchen’s most efficient workhorse in workspace and storage.

Ready to start a kitchen renovation? Sweeten can match you to local, vetted, insured contractors—for free.

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What is a kitchen peninsula?

A kitchen peninsula is an extended countertop area that offers valuable seating and storage space in the kitchen. Peninsulas are secured to the floor for functionality and safety, with one end attached either to the wall or to existing counters and cabinets. Because kitchen peninsulas protrude from cabinets, they provide space to tuck chairs or stools. In most cases, a kitchen peninsula stylistically matches the main counters/cabinets to which they are attached.

What is a kitchen island?

A kitchen island is a standalone structure made of cabinets and a countertop, detached from the main section of counters and cabinets in the kitchen. Sometimes, homeowners use mobile kitchen islands or carts, while more avid at-home chefs opt for kitchen islands that are permanently secured to the floor. Kitchen islands provide a social gathering space, offer flexible styling, and have slightly more spacing options than peninsulas.

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