In most cases a kitchen island is designed to serve more than a single purpose. In addition to adding counter work surface, most homeowners want to include a seating function into the island design. The simplest solution is to make the counter top surface larger than the cabinet base, and allowing the overhanging area to be used for seating.
Since the counter top height of 36 inches is higher than the standard table top height of 28-30 inches, standard chairs will not work. Counter top seating requires chairs or stools with a seat height of approximately 24 inches. Fortunately, due to the popularity of this seating configuration, a wide variety of stools are easily sourced. This type of seating requires slightly more legroom than bar seating, but less than table seating. I usually recommend 15-18″ overhang to provide adequate legroom.
Since a single surface serves both the work area and the eating area, this is usually the cheapest arrangement to construct. If you tend to prefer simple sleek lines and and are not worried about visually shielding the work area from view, then counter height seating is a good way to go. One often overlooked detail is to make sure you are providing adequate support for the cantilevered counter top. This can be accomplished with corbels attached to the cabinet base or by extending decorative wing walls under the counter top at either end.
A kitchen island can add a visually striking focal point to any kitchen remodel project. Just make sure you follow some basic guidelines to ensure the finish product functions as well as it looks.