Ask most homeowners and they’ll tell you that there’s not enough counterspace in the kitchen, no matter how much or how little they have.

Whether you need a second work station, a space from which to serve an informal buffet, or just a place to toss the day’s mail, kitchen islands are a popular solution to the lack of kitchen space. According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association, over 50 percent of kitchens created include islands.

With the wide range of in-stock, ready-to-install cabinets, accessories and trim moldings available today, it’s possible to create an island that will be just right for your kitchen, at less cost than if you turned to a custom cabinetmaker.

If you are planning a kitchen remodel that will include an island, consider these tips:

  • Most importantly, there should be sufficient space between the island and other work surfaces to allow for opening cabinet and appliance doors, and for two people to work without jostling one another.
  • Depending on your specific needs, the island can be located so it functions as an integral part of the work area. It can also serve as a divider between the kitchen and the family room.
  • Adding an island permits a reconfiguration of the classic “work triangle” of refrigerator, cooktop and sink, because it is an ideal place to relocate either the cooktop or the main sink, or to install a second sink as the focal point of a second work triangle.
  • If the cooktop will be located in the island, with a wall oven elsewhere, consider pull-out trays or drawers below the cooktop to store pots and pans. If the island will be a second work station with a prep sink for cleaning veggies and the like, NKBA suggests including a pull-out wastebasket in the cabinet below.
  • Be sure to plan for the mechanicals necessary for locating the cooktop or sink in the center of the room. For the sink you’ll need supply and drain lines, and for the cooktop, a ventilation system-either an overhead unit or a downdraft model. Both the plumbing and downdraft unit will require breaking through the floor. That’s fine if you have a basement or a crawl space beneath, but could present problems if the room is on a slab.
  • If your island will separate the kitchen and family room, it can become a multi-purpose unit that shows a different face to the family room. The use of shallow, glass-fronted doors can be used as display space, while the kitchen side uses standard-depth base cabinets for no-nonsense storage. The generous countertop is ideal for staging a buffet.
  • And finally, don’t forget about adequate lighting. Without it, the island will lose much of its functional appeal.