The right kitchen island ideas not only increase the functionality of your cook space, but add oodles of style, too. The kitchen island has been a popular addition to kitchen spaces for many years now and has become an indispensable focal point of many homes.
'A kitchen island allows your friends and family to pivot around a central location throughout the day,' says Luki Anderson, principal architect at Studio Officina Architecture PLLC.
'Kids can do homework while their dad cooks dinner on the same surface; platters and large bowls of food can be spread out and guests and family can help themselves. Alternatively, it can become another extension of the home office, something which is still very much in demand as we switch to a hybrid worklife.'
If you're looking for more creative ideas for kitchen islands, we've got 20 of the best around for you, ranging from finishes and styles to try, to how to make this space one of the most practical and hardworking elements of your home.
21 kitchen island ideas that'll transform your space
When considering kitchen ideas for your island, the first thing to take note of is the orientation within the space. This includes factors such as access routes, window locations, and, most importantly, the shape and size of the room. In a rectangular room, for instance, a rectangular island would be ideal.
The standard size for most solid stone islands is about 10 by 4½ feet, although it can be sized to about 10½ by 3¾ feet. If your island is bigger than this, you may have to join two slabs together.
On your island, you could include a sink, stovetop, oven, microwave, dishwasher, or mini-fridge. If you want more surface area, a platform made of another material (say wood) could be added below for extra space.
'Try using plain-sawn white oak on your kitchen island,' says Luki. 'This will create a kitchen element that says furniture rather than the kitchen counter.'
1. Choose natural tones for the island to open up the kitchen
Kitchen islands, while offering plenty of functionality, can be those big, bulky pieces sitting right in the center of your kitchen. The task at hand, design-wise is to keep its visual weight low. Especially when it comes to large kitchen islands, you want to make sure the addition does not overwhelm.
'Given everything that's going on in the world currently, we are still looking to our homes to provide both a sense of security and a place to enjoy ourselves and have some fun,' says Luki. 'This means that homeowners are gravitating towards natural tones and textures.'
'Natural tones help create a calm and serene environment, and generally mean materials like light woods, warm off-white paint colors, and brass or bronze metal finishes.'
2. Add unexpected details to the island
When it comes to kitchen islands, most of us crave custom design. This could be fancy crown moldings or ingenious storage solutions, a custom height, ornate island legs, or special kitchen pendant lighting... it's all about the details. Adding a personal touch goes a long way in designing the heart of your home.
'Consider adding a beveled edge pull that has a stripe of color behind it,' says Luki. 'Or switch out just one of your cabinet pulls to something surprising, like a bright pink or neon yellow handle. This will bring a smile to your face every time you walk into your kitchen.'
3. Ensure you have the sizing right of the island
When you're deciding how to plan, design and install a new kitchen island, the size and shape are the first things to consider. If you want the space to work ergonomically, you should be able to move around it easily and it should function as a key part of your kitchen.
'Although a practical choice for kitchens an island should be considered carefully before the final design is chosen,' says Ben Burbidge, managing director at Kitchen Makers.
The average kitchen island is 40 inches wide by 80 inches deep. You'll need to leave at least 30 inches space around it – at the bare minimum – in order to be able to open cupboards.
4. Use an island to zone an open plan kitchen
'The benefit of an island layout is that it is great for zoning in an open plan kitchen, which is what most people opt for today,' says Allison Lynch, senior design consultant at Roundhouse. 'It’s a good piece of social furniture and effectively creates two different spaces, one for cooking and one for prep, with one person on the island and the other at the worktop. Another big benefit in an open-plan space is that an island can be made to look more like a piece of furniture.'
'An island allows free movement all the way around, people can enter the space from different directions,' says Allison. 'It can feel less monolithic and seem like a much lighter piece of furniture than a peninsular. With judicious use of plinth lighting, it can be made to look like it’s floating.'
5. For durability, choose a Butcher's block
A butcher block is an island fixture and a great kitchen countertop idea that contributes to the character of the food that is prepared there. Wood is durable and can withstand any sharp knife, and can be refinished countless times. A butcher's block is so useful in a kitchen, that it can even become an heirloom piece passed down by many.
'For this project, we used a butcher block for the kitchen island, which is durable, cleans easily, and is great for food prep,' say Alice Arterberry and Barrett Cooke, interior designers, Arterberry Cooke. 'When working with butcher block, we try to go with a non-functional kitchen island (e.g., without a sink or stove) to maximize storage space in the island as well as usable space for food prep and entertaining.'
'Having an island in the kitchen extends the multi-purpose use of the space. Whether you want to use the island for serving food or as a place to gather around, an island is always a valuable asset to any kitchen,' say Alice and Barrett.
6. Go symmetrical with your kitchen island
How beautiful is this kitchen island idea? The inspiration for the look came from French bakeries, with tall glass fronted wall cabinets and a compact island sat in the center.
If space only allows you to consider small kitchen ideas then it's best to keep it simple. Symmetry is also a useful tool - place the island in the middle of the space with the same amount of room on either side and match the design to the style of your cabinets.
'I had a tiny kitchen I didn't think I could get an island into,' says Livingetc's editor Pip Rich. 'But by pushing all the units to the side and opening up the space I found I didn't need as much room as I thought. They're more achievable than you might imagine.'
7. Mix finishes for a textured look
A kitchen island is a lovely way to introduce a second finish to your kitchen, adding texture and depth to the space. You can go bolder with your kitchen island materials, and even choose something more luxurious and expensive that wouldn't be an option for all your kitchen cabinetry.
When it comes to kitchen tile ideas, the brass mixes richly with the wooden cabinetry and the white marble island.
'Make a kitchen island stand out with the addition of a brass metal sheet on the underside,' say Jen & Marr, founders of Interior Fox. 'Metallic finishes are a great way to add a wow factor while warming up the overall palette. They work especially well against dark tones such as blue or green and elevate the scheme to feel more luxurious. To complement the brass tones and tie the look together, add in upholstered stools in plush velvets.'
8. Be daring in your island color choice
As the popularity in two tone kitchens shows, not everything has to be matchy-matchy. Islands, in fact, are the perfect opportunity to play with kitchen color ideas and make a bold central focus to the space.
'As this kitchen gets all its natural light from the adjoining rooms, it made sense to go for a pale paint color on the main units,' says Vlad Putjatins, the designer at Harvey Jones who created this space. 'The island’s color choice, Railings by Farrow & Ball, is far braver. Topped in glorious Stromboli granite, it makes a real statement and ensures this compact kitchen holds its own within the larger living space.'
9. Make the most of an island with plenty of storage
While we all love the look of a kitchen island, they are designed for functionality over form – an extra surface space to cook and eat at and prime real estate for adding lots of extra kitchen storage.
Make use of both sides of the island, and ensure you add either deep drawers or, as can be seen here, plenty of shelving that can be used for cookbooks, crockery, and any other general kitchen clutter.
'A hard-working kitchen needs plenty of work surface space, especially if you entertain a lot,' says the award winning recipe writer and journalist Diana Henry. 'And enough storage room, otherwise you are down on your hands and knees trying to find a particular size of tart tin. Everything needs a place and has to be accessible. Drawers instead of shelves are great as you can pull them out and look for stuff rather than losing everything at the back of your cupboards.'
10. Plan your lighting carefully
Getting your kitchen island lighting right is key to it being a practical part of your kitchen. You'll want to make sure you have enough task lighting so you can use your island to prep, cook, and work at if you need to.
'A kitchen should ideally have at least five sources of light,' says the interior designer Rebecca Wakefield. 'Wall, ceiling, under the cabinets, and two more. Illuminating the island, where you'll do a lot of food prep, is particularly key.'
Pendant lighting is a good option for an island as not only do they make the island even more of a focal point, they provide a strong overhead light. However, if you can add a dimmer switch so you can change the mood of the area from practical and bright (perfect for prepping or working) to softer and more ambient (perfect for eating or entertaining).
11. Go large and add lots of seating
Kitchen island seating ideas are the key to a successful space. Islands have taken over from breakfast bars as the place to perch, eat, read, and relax. You do need to factor these into the design, however, as a stool simply placed next to the island means nowhere to put your knees.
'It's convivial to have seating on two sides of the island if you have the space,' says Livingetc's editor Pip Rich. 'So that you're not all sat in a row. You need a lip of at least 19 inches of countertop to get your legs comfortably under.'
12. Use a kitchen island to add a pop of color
Just because you're going neutral, focussing on grey kitchen ideas, why should that extend to the island?
This handcrafted tambour kitchen is the work of Danish design studio and cabinetmakers Københavns Møbelsnedkeri, who created a buttercup yellow curved island to take center stage in this uplifting space.
‘The cabinetry is painted in a warm and welcoming honey-mustard shade, which was created especially for the kitchen,’ say its designers, who collaborated with stone experts Made A Mano on the glossy yellow lava stone countertop and tiles.
13. Use a kitchen island to zone an open plan space
When it comes to open plan kitchen ideas, islands are the easiest way to zone the space. This kitchen takes it even further by building open shelving from the ceiling above the island to create even more of that zoning effect, adding plants to soften the hardness of the functional space.
'Sofas, rugs, curtains and other soft furnishings will help to absorb sound and create a layered and soft look,' says the interior designer Rebecca Wakefield. 'Generally kitchens tend to have a more hard, architectural look as they need to be practical, so things like cafe style curtains, wall lights with fabric shades, plants or upholstered bar stools can help to feel less sterile and work more harmoniously with an adjacent living area.'
14. Pick a luxurious material for a stand out island
As we've mentioned an island is the perfect opportunity to go really bold with your choice of materials. The green kitchen ideas at work here play off the gold tones of the island inlays.
'Metallics are an easy way to elevate the aesthetic of a kitchen,' says Livingetc's editorial director Sarah Spiteri. 'Here, they also work as strips to break up the blockiness of the island, which can often feel like an imposingly bulky shape in the room.'
15. Add the hob to your kitchen island
We've all heard of the kitchen triangle theory – the basic concept that the kitchen main workstations in the kitchen should form a triangle. It's hardly groundbreaking but it does make sense, being able to move quickly and easily from the fridge to the sink to the stove, and adding a hob to an island makes that triangle a whole lot easier to create in your kitchen. Plus, it's more sociable if you use your kitchen as a space to entertain as you can cook while facing into the room rather than with your back to your guests.
'If you're planning a kitchen makeover, and want to include appliances or sinks make sure you can accommodate the required plumbing or electrics,' warns Ben Burbidge of Kitchen Makers. A timely reminder about the practicalities behind aesthetics.
And do consider where the extractor fan will go. You can get some lovely designs that come down over the hob, or worktop extractors are becoming more of a thing now, or you could do as in this kitchen and mount an extractor flush to the ceiling.
16. Choose the right island countertop
'Large format materials work really well on an island – such as granite and quartz.' explains Graeme Smith of Life Kitchens 'Subject to size they can be used in their entirety to give a seamless piece of natural beauty. Larger island may require a joint so consideration might be to change the material, color or thickness. Adding in timber elements such as chopping blocks or timber breakfast bars, can be a good way to subtly zone an island whilst also disguising the joints.'
Julia Brown, designer at Mowlem & Co agrees, 'It's great to add an integral wooden chopping block to your island, perhaps across the whole width as this will not only mean two people can work at once, it can mean using exactly the stone you want in two pieces instead of with a seam running down the island. It's also a great idea to have your island in a different tone of the same overall kitchen colour to add subtle extra visual dimensions and aesthetic interest.'
17. Incorporate a breakfast bar
'An island or a peninsula with seating is the perfect solution for those who host dinners or entertain regularly,' says Graeme. 'This also helps to zone the space so that the chef can socialize with guests whilst also having a designated area for preparing dinner without being disturbed. An island can also work as a bar space as well as a sociable dining area if you don’t have space to house a dining table.'
If you do plan on adding a seating area to your modern kitchen, consider how the seats will fit into the island when they aren't in use. You don't want them to be awkwardly sticking out into the space while you are trying to prep and cook.
The best option is to add a space where you can tuck the seats totally out of the way by extending the island slightly, this also just makes it comfier to sit at, especially if you add in a bar at foot level to perch your feet.
18. Make it moveable
'With home cooking and entertaining guests on the rise, homeowners will seek high-performance open-plan kitchens with design at the forefront,' says Hayley Robson, creative director at Day True. 'Layout and functionality will have to work more efficiently than ever before, to ensure hosts can cook and entertain seamlessly.'
'Space will be key to maintaining distance, with room needed to serve food and drink to guests,' says Hayley. 'Breakfast bars, large dining tables and even portable solutions should be considered to ensure functional seating and serving solutions.'
Portable kitchen island ideas can ideal if you have a smaller space, or want the option to move the island to clear more floor space. They also allow you to add an island without having to remodel and re-configure your layout.
There are plenty of designs to choose from, from quirky vintage designs to a rustic butcher's block. Freestanding options do work best if they are on wheels so you can easily maneuver it around the space as you need.
19. Reflect the materials and style of your home
Before deciding on a design for your kitchen island, look at the space it will stand in and be inspired by any original features of your home. An exposed brick wall, a marble fireplace, herringbone flooring, or, as is the case in this kitchen, an all-black decor.
If it's an open plan kitchen, ensure that the island fits seamlessly into the aesthetics of the kitchen and the living room. If possible, let a common color theme flow across the space, as in this modern black kitchen idea.
20. Refresh a kitchen by painting the island
Re-painting kitchen cabinets is a surprisingly easy DIY job but it does take some commitment however, giving an island a fresh lick of paint could be done in just a weekend and give a kitchen a whole new feel.
'Give a new lease of life to your kitchen island with a fresh lick of paint. Instead of taking on the large task of painting the whole kitchen, find smaller areas to inject a new seasonal color. Choose a warming color that complements the existing cabinets such as a dark navy or deep green.' suggests Al Bruce, Founder of Olive & Barr.
Create and on trend two tone kitchen by choosing a different shade to your kitchen cabinet color. We seen a lot of navy blue kitchen islands paired with crisp white cabinetry for a classic look, but this lovely muted yellow is definitely making a case to look to the other, warmer end of color spectrum for inspiration.
'A peninsula with seating is the perfect solution for those who host dinners or entertain regularly, says Graeme Smith. 'This also helps to zone the space so that the chef can socialise with guests whilst also having a designated area for preparing dinner without being disturbed. An island can also work as a bar space as well as a sociable dining area if you don’t have space to house a dining table.'
'A simple prep island can be bijou in size but offer a focal point and act as a social hub for the kitchen. A lot of people suffer from architectural dysmorphia, and think they can fit an island in a space, when in reality it will compromise the functionality of the space. It can be many peoples dream layout but fear not the peninsular can be a good alternative to the full island, as it gives that illusion whilst offering more storage, prep space and functionality all without requiring that extra space to walk around.'
21. Add extra texture with ribbed wood
Ribbed, corrugated, fluted kitchen islands are a huge interior design trend, adding lovely texture and shape to a space that's so often filled with straight clean lines. And it's a versatile look that can be created with a myriad of materials from marble to wood. In this sleek grey kitchen the wooden island works perfect too warm the space and balance out those cooler, more contemporary tones with a rustic touch.
As Daniel Bowler, Director for Eggersmann says, 'Ribbed wood is a simple vertical repeat pattern that adds another layer of sophistication and texture to the modern kitchen. This is especially true of the kitchen island, already a focal point of the room, that when clad in ribbed wood creates a very striking visual feature that is also wonderfully tactile. It’s the tactile nature of the ribbed pattern that adds depth and interest to kitchens that are otherwise quite minimal without creating fuss, making this a very popular look. Combine ribbed surfaces with smooth finishes elsewhere for a mix and match look that is really unique and highly contemporary.'
What's on trend for kitchen islands?
'Fluted islands are super on-trend at the moment and we anticipate that this will continue for some time.' says Oana Sandu, Lead Designer Blakes London. 'At Blakes we like to take a mix and match approach to the styles of cabinetry and colours we use. We find that using a contrasting material or colour on the island units adds an extra element of interest and depth to a kitchen scheme. We love to add raw timbers to a central kitchen island and use painted cabinetry in the rest of the kitchen which provides a visual break as well as a sense of warmth and texture to the kitchen.'
Mary Maydan, Principal of Maydan Architects adds that 'minimalistic islands are not a new trend but they are becoming even more sleek. New technologies and hardware enable us to design islands that look exceptionally clean and sleek. With this new hardware, we can have large doors that conceal parts of the kitchen, such as counters, appliances, and even kitchen island seats. On the outside the look is continuous and homogeneous and only upon opening the concealing doors, are these elements exposed.'
What is the best size for a kitchen island?
'An island narrower than 900mm is unlikely to work well, especially if you’re hoping to place stools at the counter,' says Michele Meldrum of Blakes London. 'Standard units are 600mm deep, and while here at Blakes we don’t work to a template so can make our units any size, if you plan to put appliances like fridges or freezers on your island, you will be constrained by those standard dimensions.'
'For comfortable leg room when you’re sitting at an island, you’d ideally be looking at about 400mm of depth but if you’re fighting for space you might chose to compromise a bit of space and comfort and get away with 300mm. You may be able to work around this issue by creating an overhang on one end of the island to place counter stools under the island.'
Also, think about the size of your room – 'there should be at least one meter gap between the island and the wall or run to allow freedom of movement. If space is limited, a peninsula where one end is attached to the wall could be a better option,' explains Chris Spink from Hush Kitchens, so again let this guide you when it comes to choosing the best size kitchen island for you.
What is the average cost of a kitchen island?
So how much does a kitchen island cost? We have a whole guide to help you with pricing but the numbers range from as little as $350 (you could get a second-hand butcher's block for this or an Ikea offering) to over $30,000 if you are after something large and in a really luxurious material. The average price however is around $4,000 for a good quality kitchen company to build and install a kitchen island.
Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
IKEA baby nursery ideas – 12 inspirational whimsical tricks that also make the space work hard
These IKEA baby nursery ideas offer clever ways to utilize and upgrade basic pieces to create pretty and practical
By Ruth Doherty • Published
Coffee bar ideas – 7 brilliant designs that'll convince you your kitchen needs a dedicated brewing station
Get your caffeine fix with these coffee bar ideas that showcase how you can bring the coffee shop experience to your own kitchen
By Hugh Metcalf • Published