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Bar or Counter? Selecting a Height for Kitchen Island

Bar or Counter? Selecting a Height for Kitchen Island

When designing a kitchen, there are many facets to consider:  layout, finish, style, countertop, hardware, design, etc. While these elements will influence the overall aesthetics of your kitchen, you can’t forget the need for functionality. Kitchens have many areas where function should be considered, but determining the kitchen island bar height is essential to creating a space that suits your lifestyle. 

To help you explore the kitchen island bar height or counter height conundrum, we’ve included our top three considerations:

1. Eat or Entertain at Your Kitchen Island

If you are looking to wine and dine your friends and family, consider making your bar height kitchen island 42 inches tall, which will provide more flexibility for guest interaction. Bar height seating can easily be used for a quick bite for an on-the-go lifestyle. The elevated space can be an ideal serving area for meals or appetizers. Also, the island backsplash created from adding bar height seating can be a great spot for extra electrical outlets.

If you envision your family and friends sitting down for a meal, then a 36 inch counter island height might better suit your needs. Counter height is a little more family friendly. It allows kids to get up and down easily, and it feels more like a home rather than a restaurant or bar.

island height

Photo by ACo

counter height vs bar height island

Photo by CR – Home Design

2. Prep Space in Your Kitchen

As you consider your kitchen island height, then you should determine where you like to prep your food. If you like to think you are a regular Rachel Ray or Bobby Flay when it comes to creating a meal, then you might consider setting your island at 42″ bar height —provided your surround offers adequate prep space.

Enjoy hosting a wine tasting and chatting with guests as you chop your veggies? Then you would ideally want to have some additional prep space in your island. Chef’s prep tables are generally 36” tall, so why wouldn’t your inner chef want the same? If you are interested in hiding your mess, bar height allows a clean surface up top while having a messy work area below.

prep space in your kitchen

Photo by Promontory Project @ Studio McGee

3. Design and the Height for Kitchen Island

In addition to a continuous workspace, a 36″ counter height island allows a stunning solid surface counter to make a statement. A large slab highlights the unique quality of the surface, while breaking the slab into two pieces can diminish the overall affect a solid surface yields. If you do decide to split your slab, keep in mind you’ll need corbels or support to prop up the elevated surface. Is this a design feature that entices you? If you prefer to create a sense of separation from your dining room to kitchen, a bar height island provides this effect.

kitchen seating options

Photo by Teddy Edwards @ The Centsational Girl

island bar height

Photo by ACo


If you have more counter height vs bar height island questions or if a kitchen island renovation or addition is in your future, check out our guide to kitchen remodels or contact us for a free in-home design consultation.

By: Christina Greive with Polish Interior and Art Design

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