Our kitchen island ideas will help you choose the perfect central unit. With the move towards larger, open-plan kitchen extensions, the kitchen island has become an essential feature. It can be long and slim, running parallel to the work area; neat and round in a compact room; or big and broad, housing a sink and appliances.
An island unit has lots to bring to a kitchen design. It can provide extra prep space and form a boundary between the cooking zone and the living/dining area. A shaped island unit can also help direct the flow of traffic away from busy hotspots.
Almost all kitchen islands incorporate seating – even the smallest space can usually accommodate an overhang of worktop and a pair of bar stools, although more of us are opting for long kitchen islands with integrated low-level, table-style seating at one end.
Functions aside, the change of pace offered by a kitchen island often encourages a variation in material. You can afford to be braver here with a bolder finish or colour, or perhaps a more expensive material that would be prohibitive across an entire room. An island will define a kitchen, forming a division between dining and living spaces. For this reason, at least the facing part of the island should be in warm and welcoming materials to make a transition from efficient kitchen surfaces.
For a show-stopping centrepiece look to luxury materials, from deeply veined marble and mottled granites to exotic timber veneers and gleaming mirrored glass or burnished metal. There’s a trend towards more textured materials, think raw or rough-sawn wood, honed or flamed stone tops, as well as a contrast of colour or finish between the island and the rest of the kitchen. And don’t forget kitchen island lighting – it can turn a good-looking unit into a showstopper of a kitchen centrepiece.
Place an island ingeniously and it’s possible to separate the food preparation zone from an intimate dining area, whilst also preserving that all important open-plan feel. In this fabulously modern space, the creamy cabinetry and luxe hi-gloss textures bring a sense of cohesion to a wonderfully spacious, light and airy kitchen-diner, with colour and design leading the eye past the confines of the interior to the outdoor space beyond.
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Buy now: Louis Ghost Armchair, £213, Kartell at Heal’s
Look closely at this classy, understated kitchen island and you’ll discover it serves a multitude of purposes – a place to wash, prep food, with a neat breakfast bar to eat at with tucked-under stools. It has integrated power points so you can plug in any kitchen appliances you need and even sports matching-wood alcove shelving for displaying pottery and books.
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Buy now: Curved Top Oak Stool, £175, Cox & Cox
Keep the feel relaxed with a large, sleek and glossy island unit. This prime example sits serenely at the centre of its light and bright surroundings, complementing the modern kitchen scheme beautifully. The island provides a welcoming place to sit, eat and talk, with its extended bar and matching dark-chocolate seating. Keep your island worktop clean and uncluttered and add a pop of colour with bright lampshades suspended above.
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Buy now: British Spun-steel Yellow Factory Pendant, £125, Amara
If you’ve got the space, why be afraid to use it? At the heart of this spacious open-plan kitchen is an immense island with a glossy white worktop and dramatic dark grey Shaker-style cabinetry. This multifunctional unit has everything, including the kitchen sink! There’s infinite space to prep food, abundant storage and even an integrated dining area. If you have a generous kitchen that craves a show-stopping centre piece like this, think big, useful and above all, striking.
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Buy now: Davey Lighting Triangular Diner Box Ceiling Light, £845, John Lewis
Go for a charming, bright blue kitchen island for a splash of stand-out colour in a neutral kitchen scheme. Compact and freestanding, this neat kitchen island sits comfortably in a smaller room and creates a graceful flow of movement around its space. With its fine black granite worktop and deep drawers with striking tan leather handles, there’s extra space for food preparation and room to store cutlery and other knick-knacks.
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Buy now: Rust-oleum Blue Silk Flat Matt Furniture Paint, £14.25 for 750ml, B&Q
Use your island to house a hob and a breakfast bar overhang for a truly sociable kitchen feature. This gorgeous example lets you be chef and entertainer all at once. There’s ample space on the hi-gloss worksurface for laying out tasting dishes and drinks and the addition of white stools and pendant lights makes this multi-purpose kitchen island super stylish too.
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Buy now: Berlin Height Adjustable Swivel Bar Stool, £75.22, Wayfair
Make a statement and place your kitchen island on a platform. The clever use of multilevel flooring in this kitchen-diner helps separate the two areas with the Shaker-style kitchen units creating a functional food prep area. The island comes complete with additional preparation space, cupboards and a display shelf for pretty bowls and recipe books. Match it to your units for a super-streamlined feel.
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Buy now: Neve White Ceramic Ceiling Light, £30, Habitat
Echo the homely feel of a country kitchen with a pastel blue centrepiece island. In an otherwise neutral scheme, this island adds a subtle injection of colour and draws the eye to its charming display of drawers and white knobs. An island isn’t just about the worksurface: this one is deep enough to house cupboards on the kitchen side and drawers on the entertaining side.
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Buy now: Clayton Bar Stool, £99, John Lewis
Mix cream and brown units and bring in different textures to add an understated elegance to a kitchen. The sculptural copper pendants that hang above this smooth cocoa-coloured island with its sleek dark veneer doors and trio of cream leather breakfast bar stools, create a beautiful focal point. It goes to show that mix-and-match kitchen units can create a harmonious effect.
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Buy now: Tom Dixon Ceiling Light, £440, John Lewis
For an easy and affordable way to create a pretty and practical feature in a kitchen, upcycle a vintage table and use it as an island. Choose any paint colour you wish to transform your centrepiece, then add fresh flowers in glass bottle vases and an upcycled breakfast stool in contrasting colours to complete the look.
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Buy now: Hoxton Red Stacking Stool, £41.99, Worldstores
Make your kitchen island stand out by going for an unusual colour and hanging a feature light above. This lilac and copper scheme brings colour and glamour to a room not readily associated with either. Colour-matched curtains in the dining area continue the theme with a second pendant light to match the first.
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Buy now: Octo Beads Pendant, £1,700, Holloways of Ludlow
Choose a Shaker-style island in on-trend navy blue and create a country kitchen with a very modern twist. This design features a built-in sink, cupboard storage, a marble top, staging-style shelving and one side dedicated to breakfast bar seating. Combine with neutral wall units and a range cooker for the perfect mix of classic and contemporary.
In an open-plan kitchen/living/dining area, an island unit can be an easy way of defining a zone. In this light-filled space, the island serves to mark the transition from dining area (with cosy woodburner) and kitchen at the opposite end of the space. The island can be used to serve both spaces, with a rail for tea towels at one end and a display space on top.
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Buy now: Marseille Distressed Dining Set, £999, Cotswold Company
A rustic, butcher’s block-style mini island can turn a plain kitchen into a country-style one. The chopping board counter, stripped wood shelving and open wine rack of this part painted design all combine to change the feel of the kitchen in an instant. Accessories throughout are in a fun, retro style and help to bring the room together.
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Buy now: Padstow Butcher’s Block, £599, Marks & Spencer
If you have the space, fill it with a kitchen island. This produces a very modern kitchen design with an expansive countertop that serves as a casual eating spot as well as a practical worksurface for food prep. Emphasise its importance with a run of low-slung industrial-style pendants on high and leather-upholstered stools below.
Match a kitchen island to general kitchen cabinetry for a co-ordinated look that is perfectly streamlined. Then make it special by choosing vintage-style bar stools with oodles of personality. These industrial-style designs in iron and leather stand out against the country cream cabinets, turning the island into the focal point of the room.
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Buy now: Leather Top Adjustable Stool, £120, Rockett st George
Keep a space super-efficient by giving storage over to bar stools in the centre of a kitchen island. This design assigns corners and three sides to cupboards and creates a breakfast bar in the middle with seating that tucks under the countertop. Make this compact eating space special by hanging feature lighting above.
Dark stained wood can make an enormously impressive worktop for an island unit. Use it to contrast with worktops in the rest of the kitchen, such as the black granite shown here, but keep the paint finish on base units the same. This space switches to white for wall cabinets and dark wood for open shelves and freestanding storage. A winning combination.
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Buy now: Aluminium Ash Bar Stool, £38.49, Amazon
Extend the worktop on a kitchen island to give yourself an extra bit of dining or work space. The island in this pretty country kitchen can be used as a homework station, as somewhere to perch with the laptop or as an extra spot to sit down and grab a sandwich. The worktop overhang provides the space for a high-backed bar stool to be tucked under and out of the way when not in use.
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Buy now: Montague High Back Bar Stool, £255, Neptune
In this spectacular but accessible design, Maurizio Pellizzoni has artfully layered luxury details to create a classic scheme full of stylish touches with an impressive island unit at its heart. This kitchen costs around £150,000, including utility room and appliances.
Recessed cabinetry stops this Mandarin island from feeling too imposing and is great if you don’t need the whole area of the unit for storage. White quartz worktops allow dark flooring to be used without the room looking heavy. This Crystal kitchen has glass doors to reflect light.
Soft rounded columns and bookmatched walnut veneer give this island extra impact. An adjoining breakfast bar has been made from the same composite as the island top, creating a multifunctional unit for food preparation and informal dining, complete with a wine fridge.
Mowlem & Co
Curves add drama to a kitchen. This undulating island not only reflects the concave line of cabinetry behind it but also integrates open shelving. Made from Parapan, the cabinetry has been thermoformed to create its sleek rounded look.
Mixing materials on an island adds interest and helps to highlight one particular area. Here, a drum cupboard made from cat’s paw character oak with a walnut chopping block stands out from the rest of the painted kitchen and is the perfect place for preparing food.
A slim breakfast bar lends an extra function to this violet laminate island. Finished in a different colour to the rest of the worktops for contrast, it sets itself apart from the working areas of the kitchen. The surface also extends from the unit and continues down to the floor for a sleek look.
Some of the best kitchen designs are built around a single stand-out feature and the same principle can be applied to an island. This fabulous induction table makes a statement all by itself, but you can also add a sleek custom-made surround, shown here in walnut.
A stunning slab of stone can be showcased by bookmatching, where slices of stone reflect their neighbours, or slip-matching, which uses slices to produce a continuous effect. Alternatively, a seamless piece, such as this Nero Marquina marble, is awe-inspiring.
Reclaimed materials bring a sense of heritage, helping an island fit comfortably in a period property. Update it with modern details, such as handleless doors and deep worktops. This bespoke island in antique Belgian oak floorboards has a fossilised Belgian Bluestone worktop.
Holloways of Ludlow
A chunky stone worktop has a wonderfully solid feel, but porous marble can be prone to stains and stone often comes with weight issues. Here, Calacatta Nuovo stone composite replicates the delicate veining of marble, as well as offering the option of an integrated sink.
This stainless-steel central kitchen station includes a prep sink and two burners for a practical work table with industrial style. The crossed-leg design is eye-catching and different and opens up the kitchen space in a way that a more usual solid design never would.
A striking combination of granite and walnut creates a slinky, s-shaped kitchen island. Mix and match surface materials to create zones – the most obvious addition is a grain-end chopping board for prep.
The island unit in this glamorous kitchen has been painted in a striking purple shade so that it stands out against the pale-grey background and oak flooring.
Martin Moore & Company
Calcutta stone and hardwood surfaces provide a stark contrast and clearly separate the prep and dining areas in this imposing kitchen. Deep, dark walls help to foreground storage.
This futuristic-style island has been wrapped in Glacier White Corian. Modern materials, such as composites, allow for more fluid shapes such as curves. A panel of Hot Red and designer lighting add extra impact.
Yes it’s a fire… a firebox in fact and it makes a huge impact at the end of this kitchen island. It needs no vent and comes in a range of sizes and finishes. Use it to bring a real designer touch to a kitchen.
Smart Fire UK
Streamlined and ultra contemporary, this Okite Crema kitchen worksurface contrasts with the bar overhang. A big island is about sociability, interaction and communication and it helps bridge a gap between other areas in the kitchen.
Rather than go for wall and base units in the kitchen, consider one large island block that can incorporate all the appliances and plenty of storage, too.
Michael Court Interiors
Remember those railway sleepers everyone used to put in their gardens? Well now they’re creeping into kitchen design. The chunky proportions make them ideal for craggy, rugged shelving and their solidity works well for a breakfast bar too.
Similar bar stools
Clad entirely in Corian, a simple and sleek kitchen island with integral upstand creates a perfect workstation.
This flowing walnut design has storage on one side, with a breakfast bar on the other. An upstand separates the food prep and dining zones.
Smallbone of Devizes
If you don’t need to include appliances in your island, opt for a design that’s as pretty as it is practical. This charming painted Shaker-style island has different-sized drawers for storage, along with an open shelf at each end for display purposes.
John Lewis of Hungerford
The distinctive shape and angular lines of this futuristic scheme are ideal if you’re looking for an ergonomic style. There’s plenty of drawer space at the front with wall cupboards behind kept to a minimum so that the island is centre stage.
For a seamless look, choose an island that’s entirely clad in Corian, which can be shaped and curved to order. Here, the solid surface in Glacier White forms a sleek prep area, which extends into an integral dining table.
This island features a worktop that overhangs substantially at one end to provide a breakfast bar. Free space below the worktop has been turned into a display shelf.
Perfect for traditional or country-style schemes, this made-to-measure island is hand-painted in a Farrow & Ball Green Blue shade to blend with the rest of the kitchen units. Work space is maximised by the lack of a sink, while a plug socket means small appliances can be powered when needed.
You don’t have to stick to a square design – instead, opt for an island that embraces your room’s dimensions. This island provides the majority of worktop space within the kitchen and is the focal point of the room. The breakfast-bar area is finished in a metallic shade that works well with the industrial style of the cabinetry.
Keeping part of your island open, instead of enclosing it with doors, enables you to display crockery and recipe books, and keep them close to hand in both the kitchen or dining zone. This classic Shaker-style design has a timeless simplicity that means it blends in with rather than overshadows the kitchen.
A generous island topped in marble is an absolute classic for a painted kitchen. You can add a prep sink or a hob, but many choose keep the island just as it is, giving total flexibility for prepping, cooking and serving. It can be a sociable spot for drinks parties too. Make sure the overhang for seating areas is generous enough for leg room and, if you are choosing marble, try to view the actual piece you are buying and remember, there are size restrictions with this kind of natural material.
In an open-plan space, an island provides an important boundary between the working area and dining area, and it can help prevent both guests and children from getting under your feet. In a large space, curves are particularly good at guiding traffic around the kitchen with the bonus that there are no sharp corners to bump into. Curves look so dramatic too.
Setting an island at an angle is a clever design trick that works especially well in a large space or a square-ish kitchen. It breaks up the rigid lines and brings part of the kitchen out into the room, but it is also great for the flow of traffic. See how there is a clear route from the entrance to the French doors in this kitchen that keeps traffic away from the range cooker. Mixed materials and elegant curves make for a striking focal point – this island has a winning combination of walnut and a painted finished in a shade of stone.
Baker & Baker
One issue that can arise when knocking down walls or extending is that you can end up with a supporting pillar or joist in the most inconvenient place. A good designer can turn a problem into a solution – and all the easier if you are planning a bespoke kitchen. This wrap around island fulfils several functions, providing a comfortable spot to entertain guests away from the hardest working elements of the kitchen. It’s a great use of space.
Not just for prep, modern-day islands benefit from a mix of heights and materials. Why not add in work stations to really get the most out of the space? Here, there is hob cooking, a sink, and a comfortable seating area, with worktop materials suited to each task. Bringing functionality out into the centre of the kitchen gives plenty of workspace, leaving the back wall free for a run of tall cupboards providing plenty of storage space that is neatly hidden from view.
Mixing materials on an island creates a striking design feature that breaks up the space. It can have a practical application, too. Here, a tough glass worktop gives a totally splashproof work area around the sink, while warm wood is a much softer option for dining. Alternatively, think about choosing a contrasting colour for the island to make it pop against the rest of the kitchen cabinetry.
In super-sized kitchens, a pair of islands makes the best use of space, putting extra work surface and storage just where you need it, whilst keeping everything in reach. This set-up works really well for larger households or for those who love to entertain. It’s a good idea to assign the islands distinct roles. One can be all about prep and cooking, while the other can be a more sociable hub for homework, casual drinks and serving meals.
Bar stools are fine for breakfast or evening drinks but, when it comes to dining, you really do want to be comfortable. A dual height island offers the best of both worlds, with a tall island at the right height for prep and a lower level table attached. Mix and match shapes or materials or use a composite worktop for a seamless transition as seen in this stylish kitchen.
Confident in your cooking and showmanship? Invite guests to pull up a chair and watch you in action. This island has added functionality with a sink and hob, while a well-planned lighting scheme creates mood in the kitchen and keeps the spotlight on the cooking. Always plan your lighting scheme right at the beginning of your kitchen project as it can influence the surface finishes you choose.
Classic designs never go out of style. Try opting for a generous-sized island ensuring there is good overhang for comfortable seating. Painting cabinetry in a soft hue and adding industrial elements such as metal bar stools and pendant lighting keeps the look bang up-to-date.
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If you live in a loft-style apartment or a new-build, there’s plenty of scope to install a contemporary kitchen with a softly industrial edge. In this case, a striking stainless-steel island takes centre stage, complementing the room’s bare brick walls.
Similar kitchen island
Contrasting textures are the key to creating a luxurious kitchen scheme. Think outside the box by adding texture in unusual places such as walls and flooring. Combining metals and stone also works well. Here, a bespoke island features a stone top while colour is picked out via seating and cabinetry.
A painted island is the perfect way to add colour to your kitchen. Add a vibrant pop to an otherwise neutral scheme by choosing a bold hue that will anchor the look. Complement the look with similarly coloured accessories dotted throughout.
Similar paint colour
Bamiyan Blue, Fired Earth
Natural wood can work beautifully to introduce a serene note of simplicity to kitchen schemes and can be the perfect antidote to hi-tech options. Introduce a farmhouse note to your kitchen with a sturdy oak island that combines function with easy style and complement it with an overhead rack for hanging copper pots and pans.
A monochrome look is a smart option in every kitchen setting. To keep it light, opt for cabinet-free walls and a crisp white worktop. To soften the contrast slightly, try painting cabinetry in an off-black hue.
Similar paint colour
Off-Black, Farrow & Ball
From modern to traditional, and from marble to wood, there are kitchen island ideas to suit every taste. Which style will you opt for?