Kitchen Islands? What About A Kitchen Peninsula?

Kitchen layout ideas are many in the 21st century, when technology and style is evolving. For many years, the kitchen island has ruled supreme as  a high-profile kitchen design element. But, ever so quietly, the kitchen peninsula has also served. But, how does it fit in with a 21st century kitchen? And what unique benefits does it deliver to overall design?

Guest writer Sally Anthony is here to expand on the possibilities of kitchen peninsula …


Often described as the heart of the home, the kitchen is a space which requires careful planning to get right. Used as not just a place to prepare food, but also to eat, chat and generally hang out, there are lots of different factors to consider when deciding on the layout.

Contemporary Kitchen design by San Francisco Architect Rossington Architecture

Kitchen islands are usually high on most people’s wish list, but there’s a new kid in town which is threatening to take over; the peninsula. If you aren’t sure what the difference is, or how to decide which one is right for you, here’s the low-down and what you need to know.

Kitchen peninsula and kitchen island: understanding the difference

The two terms may sound confusing but they are both named after geographical features which make it easier to remember which is which. Put simply, an island is a free-standing space usually located in the centre of a kitchen and can be used either as additional workspace or a place for friends to sit and chat, without getting under the chef’s feet!

A peninsula serves the same purpose but is fixed to at least one wall, with access to only three sides rather than all four like an island (i.e./the same as the difference between an island and peninsula in geographical terms!) Peninsulas are often seen to be an extension of the rest of the kitchen whilst islands are a distinct unit separate from the other cupboards and worktops.

Contemporary Kitchen design by Portland Maine Architect Kaplan Thompson Architects

A kitchen peninsula can provide more space in a narrow kitchen and create a natural room division.

Kitchen spaces, islands, and peninsulas

One of the deciding factors between a peninsula and an island is the layout and size of the kitchen.

As a peninsula is fixed to one wall, it is much easier to incorporate into a small kitchen. For example, a galley kitchen which is not wide enough for an island could comfortably accommodate a small peninsula.

Both peninsulas and islands can be as small or as big as you decide, but the idea is that they complement the kitchen layout and are not a hindrance. L-shaped kitchens work particularly well with peninsulas as do open plan layouts; the peninsula can act as the perfect natural divider to separate the kitchen from the eating space.

Contemporary Kitchen design by New York Architect Incorporated

It can be hard to visualise whether an island will fit into a kitchen without making it feel cramped or crowded. However, there are some general rules which can help you decide if you have enough room.

Roughly speaking, an island requires at least 120cm of clear space around it. This allow sufficient room for cupboard doors to be opened and people to reach inside. If you are planning on using the island as a table, make sure you factor in enough space for chairs and for people to get up and down without being too squeezed. This usually means allowing an extra metre around the island on all sides.

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Kitchen layout planning

If you think your kitchen is large enough for an island, you also need to stop and think about the layout. In the kitchen, a lot of emphasis is placed on ‘the triangle’. This term refers to the space between the fridge, cooker and sink, the three places which cooks constantly rotate between. Experts advise avoiding placing an island which interrupts the space between the sides of the triangle; either forget the island or reconfigure your kitchen layout.

The smallest size island is usually a minimum of 80 cms wide which is only suitable if being utilised as a snack bar. If you plan on installing a hob or electrical equipment, the island will need to be between 100-122cm wide. This means that your kitchen needs to have a sizeable amount of empty space in order to be able to comfortably accommodate an island, without the room looking and feeling cramped.

Contemporary Kitchen design by Other Metro Random House

If the measurements don’t come up to scratch, a peninsula is a great alternative. As peninsulas are simply extensions of existing counter space, you can make them as small as you want and they are actually a wonderful way to divide up a long and narrow kitchen.

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Other considerations for kitchen layout

But space is not the only factor which will determine whether a kitchen peninsula or an island would be best for your kitchen.

What you plan on using the space for also needs to be carefully considered as it could substantially increase both the cost and the amount of work required.

Using an island as a place for friends and family to sit and chat, or perhaps somewhere to grab a bit to eat is great but it can also be incorporated to be a more functional part of the kitchen. With not just cupboards around the base, but also a hob on top, islands can be an integral part of the kitchen equipment.

Modern Kitchen design by Vancouver Interior Designer The Sky is the Limit Design

But whilst you may like this idea, the practicalities of doing this could be a deterrent. Supplying gas, electricity or water to the island will mean running cables, pipes or wires underneath the flooring to reach the centre of the room which could be not only time-consuming and complex, but also a lot more expensive. Peninsulas do not have this problem as they are part of the main kitchen layout, making it much easier to reach.

Visually both islands and peninsulas look stunning and when done properly, add elegance to a kitchen. Islands are perfect for breaking up a large open space which you don’t want to section off, whilst peninsulas help to define an open plan room by creating a border between living, eating and cooking areas.

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However, peninsulas are generally slightly more restrictive as they need to match the rest of the kitchen, and their shape and dimensions have to fit the space. Islands provide a lot more freedom and are either designed to contrast or match and can also be made in any shape desired!

Kitchens with peninsulas check all the boxes

Whether you are looking for extra work surface, a space to eat or just a place for people to relax whilst chatting in the kitchen, both peninsulas and islands tick all the boxes. When you consider all of the above factors, one particular option may immediately seem to be more appropriate for your kitchen – but if you have the space, there’s nothing stopping you having both…dilemma solved!


Thanks, Sally!

Sally Anthony works for the kitchen designer Nicholas Anthony ( is a certified business analyst also interior design fanatic.


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