Space and Design are Important : You need around 3 feet of walking space around the island unit, and you must be sure that the drawers and doors in the cabinets have room to open. If you keep to the 36 inches then you should be OK. The only dimension that must be stated is that of the counter height. Ideally it should be the same as the rest of your kitchen units. If not, then it is not a disaster, but can be disconcerting when you are working on the various surfaces at varying heights.
Another problem you might face if you buy your kitchen island as a separate unit, and not as part of the overall kitchen, is matching it to your existing cabinets. This might not be as easy as your think, but if you purchase a solid color, such as black, white or red, then you should get away with it.
Islands can "float" as well. Smaller islands used primarily as an aid in cooking or baking can be fitted with wheels and moved around the kitchen as needed to aid in cooking. Whether you consider a floating island will probably depend on what you have installed on the floor now, or plan to install (a soft wood will be nicked and scratched).
For example, young families need child-friendly furniture, while growing families need more modern appliances to cater to the teenagers' food choices. The kitchen island design is one that fits the needs of most families. It's a failsafe choice regardless of the style, such as country, contemporary, or futuristic, you want to employ for your kitchen.
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