Alternative kitchen islands are trending for smaller spaces – these 5 kitchens sold me on the idea

These 5 examples of alternative kitchen islands take pieces of furniture and turn them into a luxurious hub for your home

An alternative kitchen island idea
(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors)

The kitchen island is the ultimate in kitchen big ticket items. A luxury home addition that can provide real wow-factor, this coveted piece of furniture comes in seemingly limitless styles and materials to pick from. 

But the island is so much more than its physical form, it's the mood it creates in your living spaces, it's the hub of the home and a destination for family and friends to cook and socialize, bringing the entertaining factor to the kitchen. 'People don’t realize what impact a kitchen island can have on their daily lives,' says Roland Spieth of the international kitchen brand bulthaup. 'A kitchen island changes the way families interact with each other. Preparing food changes from “work” to interaction; the morning coffee changes to a daily conversation at the bar.' 

Sometimes, smaller kitchens, or budgets, don't allow for this luxury and they're simply not attainable. But the kitchen island feel - the focal point of the room can be created in other ways. Limited space and budget aren't obstacles to your dream kitchen, it's time to get creative with design, like these five kitchen islands which have caught my eye that take a different approach to this piece of furniture. 

Oonagh Turner
Oonagh Turner

Oonagh is an interiors writer and editor, and expert at keeping up with trends from the world of interior design. For this story, she's spoken to the designers and architects who have worked on small-scale kitchens to find some practical tips for introducing a kitchen island when you are lacking the space.

1. This use of a smart dining table

A console table works as a kitchen island

(Image credit: Kensington Leverne. Design: Maison August; Atelier Ochre)

The clever use of a slimline dining table adds extra surface and dining space to a small kitchen. Coupled with a pair of bar stools, it fills the island void, functioning as a breakfast bar set-up for a quick coffee, or a surface to create a cozy kitchen aesthetic, setting the scene with a bouquet-filled vase.

'Our intention was to give our client the option to have a quick dinner in an appealing set up where functionality shouldn't be the only motive,' says Pauline Dellemotte of Atelier Ochre, the French design duo who reimagined this Maida Vale pied-a-terre. 'We also wanted to add a social corner to a practical space so that the owner could fully enjoy it.'

2. This farmhouse style butcher's block

A kitchen island with butcher's block

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors)

Houstan-based interior designer, Marie Flanigan opted for a reclaimed butcher's block to unite the kitchen and provide a focal point in the center of the room. A butcher's block is typically a wooden slab top that can be used as a chopping board. It's constructed from pieces of wood that are glued together to create a sturdy surface, while its hardwood look and feel makes it a tactile piece that brings a touch of modern farmhouse kitchen.

'This space is a guest house, so it didn’t need a full island, nor did it have the space to support one,' explains Marie. 'I chose the butcher's block because it was incredibly practical and beautiful. While this antique butcher block allows for added function, it also aligns perfectly with the cottage-like aesthetic.'

3. This breakfast bar

A breakfast bar made from wood with a counterpart that slots underneath

(Image credit: Space Factory)

This clever design from Parisian designers, Space Factory uses the raised floor height as an excuse to bridge the two floors with an extra surface that doubles up as a kitchen island-style breakfast bar

When not in use, the smaller of the two bars slots neatly underneath the woodchip bar to maximize space. 'In small spaces, the secret is to multiply the functions by furniture,' explains Ophélie Doria of Space Factory.

'So the idea here was to create an additional kitchen countertop that can also be transformed into a dining room table. We played with the level difference between the kitchen and the living room to have a bar high on the living room side, and a countertop high on the kitchen side.'

4. This scullery-style sideboard

devol kitchen island on wheels

(Image credit: deVOL)

Take a sideboard into the kitchen where it can take on a new lease of life in the role of a small kitchen island. Drawers and more surface space make it more than another console table, and it can fulfill the role of an island, providing that extra storage space that's useful even the smallest of kitchens, as seen in this deVOL kitchen.

This portable kitchen island is easy to roll in and out with its caster wheels, giving it that added element of flexibility. 

Sideboard buffet table in wood, Target
Editor's pick

Sideboard buffet table in wood, Target

This wooden sideboard is designed with two drawers and two cabinets, which provide you with ample storage space.

5. This slender console table used as an island

a small kitchen with a table on wheels

(Image credit: One Crown Place. Design: Studio Ashby)

A console table is often found in the entryway. A narrow, typically rectangular piece of furniture that provides an extra surface, ideal for storing keys and creating a nice aesthetic place. 

They mostly sit flush to the wall but floated in the center of a small kitchen, as seen here in this kitchen design from Studio Ashby, can give a small kitchen that extra work station and coveted countertop space that you might be lacking in the absence of an island. The console table lacks storage space, but with creative thinking, the designers have added a couple of pretty wicker baskets as a quick-fix storage solution.

Fern entryway console table
Get the look

Fern entryway console table

This extra surface would work in any room of the home, sitting flush against the wall, but moved into the kitchen slightly away from the wall and with seating, it can be turned into a social space or breakfast bar. This beautiful piece is made from ash wood with a marble top.

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.