Planning a kitchen island's overhang requires looking at kitchen activities. While an overhang can be used as an eating bar, it can also serve as a food prep counter. Whatever width you allow for the overhang, try to leave 4 feet between the overhang and the closest counter to the island. In other words, clearance around the island is ideally a minimum of 4 feet on all sides. Consider the whole kitchen layout before choosing the width of an island overhang.
Create Knee Room
Use the basic dimension of 12 inches as a typical bar overhang. This allows room for stools to rest under the counter. If you can spare 18 inches, however, this means you have knee room without pulling the stools too far into the aisle space. To work out the floor plan for the island and its dimensions, sketch everything on graph paper.
Design to Fit Larger Stools
Rules are just a starting point. You can bend the rules somewhat, depending on your kitchen and how the island affects the overall design. The 4-foot rule might not apply to your situation. For example, you could have only 3 feet of clearance around the end of an island bar, if that end has no drawers or doors to open. If your kitchen is very large, you might choose to construct a bar overhang 30 inches wide to accommodate bulkier upholstered bar stools with arms. Even an 18-inch wide overhang might look too skimpy with large stools.
Plan for Body Support
Use appropriate stools with a narrow overhang. While it's possible to include a 12-inch overhang, for example, create this narrow bar depth with specific stools in mind. For instance, a typical 30-inch high bar with a 1-foot overhang can work with short, basic stools. A higher bar with such a narrow overhang might work for assembling food. Eating at a narrow ledge can cause back problems, however, if you have to lean toward the counter space.
Design for Specific Needs
The overhang of an island can be for looks only. You can enclose the island with bead board paneling that exposes shelving underneath. The overhang can simply balance the look of the bar without serving any other purpose. The overhang creates a border to keep foot traffic away from the base of the island.
Change Each Side If Needed
A small overhang of 4 to 6 inches works on a solid side. You can install a 12-inch overhang on two sides of a central island with only a small lip on the other two sides. If the back of an island is covered with solid wood veneer, for example, you may not need any type of overhang on that side. Again, sketch the cabinetry and the proposed overhangs on graph paper to see how the overall look works with other kitchen fixtures.