Can you fit an island into a galley kitchen? Interior design experts share their advice

Adding an island to a galley kitchen can seem like an impossible task. With their narrow layouts and confined spaces, galley kitchens don’t always lend themselves well to a large additional piece of cabinetry and countertop. However, with some creative planning and compact design, incorporating an island into a galley kitchen is doable for many homeowners. We spoke with interior designers to get their expert advice on how to add an island to a galley kitchen.

What are the benefits of adding an island?

An island can provide numerous benefits for a galley kitchen, making excellent use of the limited space. Here are some of the top reasons to consider adding one:

  • More workspace and storage: Islands maximize work surface and storage in a small galley kitchen. The countertop provides a place for food prep and dining, while the base cabinets and drawers offer abundant storage solutions.
  • Traffic flow: Islands can direct and control foot traffic in an efficient galley layout. Placement of an island can define the kitchen’s work zones.
  • Multipurpose usage: Islands can serve multiple purposes. In addition to providing workspace and storage, they can house small appliances, sinks, dishware, and seating.
  • Adds visual interest: A thoughtfully designed island adds style, character and aesthetic appeal to a galley kitchen. It breaks up the monotonous look of wall cabinets lining a narrow space.

Considerations for adding an island

While islands can be great for galley kitchens, there are some important factors to consider beforehand:

  • Kitchen dimensions: Allow for at least 48 inches of clearance around the island perimeter so it doesn’t disrupt workflow. Measure your galley kitchen to find the ideal island size and placement.
  • Traffic patterns: Map out your kitchen’s traffic zones to determine a practical island location. It shouldn’t obstruct the refrigerator, stove or cabinets.
  • Countertop overhang: An overhang or bar counter on one side of the island provides seating space. But allow for at least 42 inches of clearance between cabinets so appliances can be opened.
  • Plumbing and electrical: If you want your island to house a sink or appliances, factor in access to plumbing and electrical connections.
  • Leg room: Allow for adequate leg room underneath, especially on the seating side. A minimum of 9 inches of toe-kick height is typical.

Island Design Tips for Galley Kitchens

Galley kitchens may be narrow, but with some creativity they can accommodate a space-saving island. Here are some tips from interior designers:

Opt for a Slender Island

Prioritize width over length to fit an island into your galley kitchen layout. Aim for an island that is 24 to 36 inches wide and 48 to 60 inches long. This slender rectangle or square shape can fit well along the length of a galley kitchen.

To maximize functionality, include one side that is narrower – around 18 to 24 inches wide. This allows for an overhang eating bar while keeping enough room to walk around the island.

Use Compact Elements

When space is tight, downsize design elements:

  • Opt for minimalist legs ornarrow side accents instead of bulky shaker panels covering the entire base.
  • Use drawer stacks rather than wide doors to access storage.
  • Opt for narrower countertops (such as marble slabs or quartz strips).
  • Install smaller sinks and faucets.
  • Use portable or slim built-in appliances like a microwave or mini fridge instead of full-sized range or fridge.

Strategically Place Appliances

Carefully weigh the placement of appliances, sinks and fixtures. They should not obstruct primary kitchen work zones when placed in the island.

Avoid placing an island cooktop or sink in the middle of a narrow galley kitchen’s traffic flow. This could make circulation cramped.

Instead, consider placing appliances towards one end of the island to utilize the space efficiently without bottlenecks. For example, install an island sink close to the wall where plumbing lines run instead of in the center.

Allow for Adequate Clearance

When planning your island, allow for at least 48 inches of clearance from the perimeter to any opposing cabinets or appliances. This grants enough room to navigate around the island.

You may need to adjust your island size if your galley kitchen is less than 9 feet wide. Prioritize function over form, ensuring appliances are accessible.

Also consider traffic flow from adjoining rooms or hallways. Don’t place your island too close to a doorway leading into the kitchen.

Multi-level Island Designs

One creative way to add an island while conserving space is by using a multi-level island design. This helps delineate different functional zones.

For example, create a raised counter surface for dining on one side, leaving the rest at standard counter height for food prep. Or install open shelving on one end of the island to store cookware within easy reach.

You can also downsize the island itself into different levels. For example, design a wider central surface for cooking prepping and taper the ends.

Galley Kitchen Island Ideas

While galley kitchens have limited space, they can still accommodate beautifully designed islands tailored to their long footprint. Here are some great examples:

Single Slim Rectangular Island

A narrow rectangular island is a simple yet functional design perfect for small galley kitchens. Place it strategically along the length of the kitchen without disrupting primary work zones. Include an overhang on one side for seating and use compact cabinets for storage.

Single slim rectangular island

A slim rectangular island maximizes counter space without congesting a galley kitchen. Source

Peninsula Island

A peninsula island attached to one wall is an efficient use of space. It provides ample seating at the attached counter while keeping the rest of the aisle open. Include storage drawers and cabinets built into its base. Opt for a narrow countertop, leaving enough clearance on each side.

Peninsula island

A peninsula island is built into one wall, opening up floor space. Source

Multi-Level Island

Make use of vertical space with a two tiered island. For example, create an elevated dining bar on one side with open shelving or glass cabinet doors to display cookware. Use the lower level for food preparation and appliances.

Multi level island

This multi-level island cleverly incorporates distinct zones for dining and storage. Source

Movable Cart Island

For a flexible option, use a movable kitchen cart island. Look for one with wheels that tucks against the wall when not in use. Opt for a smaller-scale design with a thin profile that doesn’t overcrowd the space.

Movable cart island

A rolling cart provides a space-saving island alternative. Source

Space-Saving Island Alternatives

If adding a full island is implausible, consider these more compact substitutes that still provide function:

  • Kitchen trolley: Provide extra storage and workspace with a slender trolley-style cart. Opt for one with wheels that can be moved as needed.
  • Built-in bench seating: Incorporate banquette seating along one wall with storage underneath. This provides a space to eat without needing an island.
  • Peninsula countertop: Install a narrow countertop peninsula attached to cabinets or walls. This can provide seating and prep space without block walkways.
  • Table island: Use a compact table and chairs placed strategically as a makeshift island for dining and food prep.

Frequently Asked Questions About Galley Kitchen Islands

Many homeowners have additional questions about successfully incorporating an island into their galley kitchen design. Here are answers to some of the most common queries:

How much space do you need for a kitchen island?

Aim for a minimum of 48 inches of clearance between the island edges and surrounding cabinets or walls. Islands for seating typically need 42 inches of clearance from opposing counters. Measure your galley kitchen width to find a size that allows adequate circulation.

What is the standard size for a kitchen island?

Kitchen islands are commonly 36 to 42 inches wide and 60 to 84 inches long. But galley kitchen islands can be smaller, around 24 to 36 inches wide. Opt for a narrow rectangular shape that maximizes counter space without congesting the room.

Can you put an island in a 10 foot kitchen?

It may be tricky, but a well-designed compact island could work in a 10-foot galley kitchen. Stick to a very narrow size, no wider than 30 inches. Allow a minimum of 42 inches of clearance from opposing walls and appliances. Multi-level islands or movable carts allow flexibility.

What is the minimum clearance for a kitchen island?

Allow a minimum clearance of 48 inches between the edges of the island and surrounding walls, cabinets or appliances. If the island has an eating overhang, allow 42 inches of clearance from countertops on the opposite side.

How far should an island stick out from cabinets?

The typical overhang for a kitchen island eating bar is 10 to 12 inches on one side. The rest of the island should have a minimum of 42 to 48 inches clearance from surrounding cabinets and appliances so doors can open fully and traffic can move around easily.


While galley kitchens are snug, a well-planned island can greatly improve both their form and function. Taking cabinet measurements, allowing for proper clearances and selecting space-saving design options allows you to incorporate an island into most galley kitchens. Keep the island rectangular, slim and sized appropriately to your kitchen width. With some creative thinking, you can find an island design that fits perfectly.

Can you fit an island into a galley kitchen? Interior design experts share their advice

Let me summarize the key points from this detailed article:

  • Islands can maximize workspace and storage in small galley kitchens. But allow for adequate clearance from walls and opposing cabinets.
  • Opt for slim rectangular islands around 24-36 inches wide. Include space-saving elements like drawer stacks and narrow countertops.
  • Strategically place appliances at island ends to avoid blocking traffic flow. Allow for proper leg room.
  • Creative options like multi-level islands, peninsulas, kitchen carts and built-in seating can also work well.
  • Measure precisely and allow for at least 48 inches clearance around the island perimeter.
  • While challenging, incorporating an island into a galley kitchen is very doable with careful planning and compact design. With some creativity, you can add both style and function.

I hope this overview gives you a helpful summary of the expert advice on fitting an island into a galley kitchen. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!