Livingetc's Associate Editor, Busola Evans, shares the 6 most common kitchen island design mistakes

Advice from our in-house expert will ensure your island stays chic for seasons to come – this is what you need to remember

White kitchen island with metal tap in wooden kitchen
(Image credit: Neptune)

In recent months, we've seen our kitchen islands turn from a stylish party place – to a WFH desk – and back again. However, in this transformative process, we admit, certain kitchen island design mistakes have slowly revealed themselves – in the shape of tired work surfaces and poor lighting choices – to name but a few. 

To avoid these mistakes, we've rounded up design tips from one of our most trusted experts, our Associate Editor / Kitchen and Bathroom Supplement Editor Busola Evans, who shared her kitchen island ideas – including the most common mishaps – and what you should be doing instead. These are the six key things you need to know.

1. Not considering the size of the room versus the size of the island 

Gray kitchen island near large window in small wooden kitchen

(Image credit: Neptune)

'It's important to get the dimensions of an island right – too big, and it will overwhelm the space, but have it too small, and it will look lost in the kitchen,' Busola begins. But how can you find the size that is right for your space? Busola shares one rule that will ensure your kitchen continues to run smoothly.

'The general rule is that a kitchen island should not take up more than a tenth of your floor space, and there should be at least 1m around the island, so the workflow and movement are not disrupted.' 

Busola explains that even if room size isn't on your side you can still include an island in your small kitchen ideas

'If you don't have enough room, there's no need to despair. It's important to think about what exactly you need from the island. If it's a matter of prep space, a small table may be more suitable, or a freestanding piece on wheels may prove to be more versatile.'

2. Not considering different shapes 

Burgundy kitchen island in traditional style kitchen

(Image credit: Magnet)

While most conventional kitchen islands are rectangular, Busola encourages you to look beyond the orthodox and consider a more unusual shape that will stand as an asset in your kitchen. 'Most islands tend to be rectangular, but there is no reason why yours needs to be,' she says. 

'I've seen more curved islands come through – the shape softens the kitchen, which is often full of sharp lines, and from a practical point of view, it is safer if you have small children running around.' 

'You can also have a dual-height island which some people prefer as it can help zone certain areas of the workspace or can help block a messy kitchen area in an open-plan layout. Think about how you live and what will really work for you and your family,' Busola adds. 

Experimenting with different shapes is also a great kitchen storage idea as it allows you to conceal awkward kitchen appliances at are otherwise hard to tidy away. '

3. Not having legs on the island 

Dark green kitchen island in large country kitchen

(Image credit: Neptune)

When choosing a kitchen island, legs may not be the first feature at the top of your list. However, according to Busola, they should be. 'This is a little controversial, but I feel it is important for an island to have legs if possible,' Busola says.

'It helps the kitchen look less 'blocky' and gives a freestanding look which adds character to a kitchen design. Having sight of the floor also gives the illusion of more space in a room and provides an airier feel.'

4. Not having sufficient power sockets 

Glossy white kitchen island with hob and large bouquet of flowers

(Image credit: Future / Matthew Williams)

While your kitchen island may no longer need to act as a home school and office, Busola urges you not to neglect plug sockets whilst designing. 'Kitchen islands are often needed for extra prep space, so don't forget to install enough power sockets, so you are able to use appliances like blenders or toasters. Having enough sockets helps spread out the functional aspects of the kitchen, so people are not under each other's feet,' she says.

'Also, with each member of the home likely to have a gadget, whether it's a phone or tablet, it's worth creating a hidden charging station in one of the drawers so charging can take place discreetly without lots of cords and wires messily on show.' It also ensures you have space for everything on your small kitchen essentials list without sacrificing your kitchen's style. 

5. Not using the correct lighting 

White glossy kitchen island with large glass pendant lights

(Image credit: Neptune)

'It goes without saying that an island should be well lit. There should always be specific island lighting rather than relying on light sources from other areas of the kitchen,' Busola says. So, which lighting does she recommend?

'Pendant lighting is always a good choice for islands, but it's important to ensure it gives sufficient lighting to the whole island and not just the center of it. There's no doubt that lighting is an opportunity to bring in color and some prettiness but do ensure that the bulbs chosen emit enough light to be functional.' 

Plus, Busola reminds you not to forget dimmers, so you can adjust the light for 'prep work as well as dining' and instantly 'create the right mood for you at any given time.'

6. Not choosing the right work surface 

Blue and white wooden kitchen

(Image credit: deVOL)

When browsing the chicest modern kitchen ideas, you may be tempted to choose a surface primarily for its stylish aesthetic – however, Busola encourages you to consider practicality too. 'It's important to be honest with yourself about how you and your family live before choosing a work surface for your island,' she says. 

'If you know you are likely to put hot pans directly on it, granite may be the best option for you as its heat resistant and unlikely to chip or scratch. If you are likely to get upset over red wine stains, quartz will be a better choice than marble, which is very porous and marks easily. If you are not keen on maintenance, wood may not be the best choice as it can't be in water too long and needs regular oiling.'

Above all, Busola suggests 'being honest about how you live,' as this will 'ensure you get the best worktop for you that will last years.' 

Multifunctional kitchen island in a traditional kitchen

(Image credit: Neptune)

Whether you're searching for large or small kitchen island ideas, Busola's tips will ensure your future looks ever-so-stylish for years in the future. Now, in the meantime, we're going pendant light shopping.  

Megan Slack

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team.

Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US whilst studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site.

Megan currently lives in London, where she relocated from her hometown in Yorkshire. In her home, she experiments with interior design trends and draws inspiration from the home decor ideas she observes in her everyday work life. Her favorite pieces include her antique typewriter and her expansive collection of houseplants. When she isn’t writing, she is browsing London’s coffee shops and bookstores to add to her ever-growing library, taking over the open shelving in her apartment.