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Kitchen Island Design in Two Levels

Two Tier Kitchen Island Counter Tops

What is the right height? Your first step is to know Table Top Height vs Standard Kitchen Cabinet Counter Top Height vs Bar Top Height

And Elevations Half Way Between Each of the Above!

The kitchen island can be a lot of things and many things but not everything. Your primary and secondary purposes are questions all our designers ask.

  • Do you expect to do a lot of food preparation? If so primarily baking or full meals?
  • Do you expect to eat at the counter top on a regular basis or just for a quick breakfast in the morning?
  • Do see yourself entertaining quite a lot and if so are you prone to sharing the space or do you want a clear, at least to you, line of demarcation i.e. my prep space everybody else’s space.
  • Are there short people in the house i.e. adolescent kids or are you at the point in life where almost everyone in your house is an adult?

The owner of this Dura Supreme Kitchen in Silver Spring MD we designed is an excellent cook. This is a clear example of most professional cooks attitudes “This is my space. The other side is your space. Stay out of my space” An aside notice the Lumicor panels with embedded bamboo slices.

Standard Kitchen Island Counter Top Heights

The answers to these questions and what we know about the associated cabinet heights will impact design.

  • Bar height is 42”.
  • Standard kitchen counter top height is 36”.
  • Table top height is 30”.
  • Bathroom vanity heightwashistorically 32” (now bath vanities are more often 36″).
  • Coffee table height is 18” to 24”.

Alternative heights “Elevated a Bit” from one of these standard cabinet heights are 33” and 39” if your family is unusually tall 45”. You may have noticed, especially if you are a baby boomer, that unlike when we grew up there are simply no more “right” answers.

Bethesda Md Kitchen Design with Elevated Top in what was a small kitchen. Imagine a wall where the kitchen island is. The elevated counter top hides the mess of the kitchen from the family room and tucks the bar stools out of the way when not in use.

Standard Seating Heights in Kitchen Design

Associated seating heights measured from the floor to the top of the cushioned seat can be helpful.

  • Dining room table or kitchen dinette standard table height chairs are 18″ to 19”.
  • Kitchen counter top stools are typically 24” to 26”.
  • Bar stools are usually 30”. Extra tall stools are available to 36”.

The recommended difference between the top of the seat and the bottom of the counter top is 10” to 12” depending on your height or girth. We have been a Holland bar stool dealer since we opened our doors in 2010. They are a great source of information on seating heights.

By the way custom kitchen banquette seating is usually 18” finished. Meaning a 4” cushion should top a 16” banquette storage cabinet.  Often we use Yi’s upholstery in Rockville MD for our kitchen banquette upholstered tops. Over the years experience with banquette seating has convinced us that the typical cabinet manufacturers standard banquette cabinet height is just to tall at 18″ and should be modified to 16″ if upholstery is involved.

Kitchen Island or Kitchen Peninsula with Attached Table Top Height Counter Top

Unless the island is all cabinet counter top height there is a portion that is either elevated or depressed. Instead of depressed let’s call it a lower elevation. No one wants a depressed kitchen island. A lower than standard counter top elevation is perfect for kids and adults using standard height chairs 18″. For example the outer perimeter of the island has a lower elevation of 30” for regular breakfast, lunch and dinner dining. If regular meals are going to happen regularly then this is a height that should be strongly considered.


Howard County MD Kitchen Remodel in Clarksville This couple waited a while to remodel their kitchen. Grandchildren had become a consideration so a table height elevation on the island perimeter addressed there needs.


This contemporary Bethesda Kitchen design with our exclusive Jay Rambo cabinetry also addressed the kids needs in the house and the adults at the same time. Standard Height was extended with 24″ stools and the perpendicular perimeter was raised with 30″ bar stools. Notice the beautiful wooden bar top.

Bar Stool Height… Mosey On Up

An elevated height can still accommodate regular meals but is typically a greater consideration when the activities are mixed a bit. Entertaining, breakfast, an occasional dinner, and a more adult focused household might lead you to an elevated counter top height. There are some hidden benefits to elevated counter tops. Hidden mess being one of them. If you like to entertain more than you like to clean than an elevated counter top can hide the dirty dishes and you can get to your glass of wine and the party quicker. This is especially true in today’s open floor plans where those at the family room gathering can easily see the kitchen island counter top. By the time you clean up an all standard height top the party may be over. An elevated kitchen island is often a line of demarcation for the cook or entertaining cook. It demarcates your work space from your guests… watch me cook, talk to me while I cook or prep, BUT stay out of my space.

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