8 brilliant IKEA kitchen island hacks to personalise your cooking space

Find out how to create a standout centre point in your kitchen without paying big bucks

yellow kitchen with wood detail
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Whether you’re short on counter space, need more storage or want a central spot to cook or wash-up, a kitchen island comes with tons of benefits. That’s why these IKEA kitchen island hacks are so incredibly clever, these IKEA hacks turn a relatively affordable buy into something customised and infinitely stylish. 

Kitchen island ideas can be the grounding point in a large room or the feature that separates your kitchen from the dining area in an open-plan kitchen. Islands can be the place where families come together in the morning for breakfast, or in the evening while dinner is cooking. They’re a spot for drinks when entertaining and take the place of a desk for homework or home-working. In short, they’re a multifunctional home feature that can bring your kitchen together.

IKEA kitchen island hacks

If you don’t want to shell out on a new kitchen island but want to elevate your room and aren’t scared of a little DIY project, then take inspiration from our round-up of the best IKEA kitchen island hacks. Not only will they help you decide what type of island would be best for you, but they might just show you a few clever IKEA kitchen hacks to get you started.  

1. Make it fluted

kitchen island with fluted wood front

(Image credit: @michoneharris)

Giving your kitchen island a standout look can be achieved in many ways, from painting it a different colour to your cabinets or topping it with a different work surface, but if you want something similar to this beautiful design, look to Michelle from @michoneharris for inspiration. 

The kitchen is all from IKEA, but while the cabinets have been clad in tongue-and-groove and sprayed in Farrow & Ball's Inchyra Blue, the island has been covered in striking on-trend fluted panels from The Surface Studio. 'It's my favourite IKEA hack!' admits Michelle.

2. Pick a front

At first glance, this modern wood island from @wesellourfurniture looks part of a high-end, bespoke design, but in actual fact the base has been made out of IKEA’s Metod cabinets. Having been wrapped in an oak veneer coat by @frontsbyyta it's also had custom elements added to it – we’re sure you’ll agree this super sleek design has been well and truly elevated.

3. Customise bar stools

painted bar stools at an island in kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Including bar stools at your island unit means you can comfortably sit there to cook, chat, work or eat, so why not customise some affordable IKEA bar stools and add a hit of colour or pattern?

Here, the plain wood Nilsolle stools have been given a new look by painting them in white, with the legs dipped in grey. 

4. Add wallpaper

Love playing with colour and pattern? Then use your island as an excuse to team your favourite paint and paper, as shown here on this flamboyant pink design, with the panels papered in a smart crane pattern. 

‘I recently painted and wallpapered our simple Tornviken IKEA kitchen island,’ says Renske Janse from @interikleur. ‘I love giving boring furniture a new look. In our next house we’ll probably make the kitchen fronts entirely ourselves, but for now I’m completely happy with the kitchen island.’ 

5. Include a kitchen accessories rail

Island units are ideal for kitchen storage ideas and not just inside the cabinets and drawers either – add a rail to the side and you have the perfect spot for tea towels, pans and other kitchen accessories.

'When it comes to decorating my home, I’m all about the little details,' says Courtney from @goldenboysandme. 'I enjoy having places to display affordable items, like dish towels and this little basket of tulips – things that I can easily switch up often. This towel bar from IKEA is perfect for that.'

6. Match it to your cabinetry

yellow kitchen with wood detail

(Image credit: Plykea Kitchens / Studio Fabbri / Chris Snook Photography)

Already have your kitchen cabinetry in place, but want to incorporate an island that goes with your scheme? Then look to a company like Plykea, who make fronts for IKEA kitchens and can give your island a whole new look for a good price.

Here, the main body of the island is made from IKEA units, with Plykea's Formica Sol fronts and side panels, while the island back has been given a custom feel with oak veneer cladding, to complement the wall units. 

7. Use a shelving unit

kitchen with White Island unit on castors

(Image credit: Jen Lou Meredith)

If including a kitchen island unit is going to stretch your budget, then take a leaf out of Jen Lou Meredith's book and try a DIY kitchen island idea using a budget IKEA Kallax unit instead. 'For Christmas my partner and I received an IKEA voucher and we decided to use it to purchase a kitchen island,' says Jen. 'As we've only got a small kitchen, storage and counter space is like gold dust – so a kitchen island would make our lives so much easier.

'After browsing the website, I found a few islands and kitchen trolleys that I liked the look of,' she continues, 'however, they were over our budget, so I decided to get creative. I saw the Kallax, a simple, square shelving unit which had oodles of potential, and decided that this would be our starting point.'

Now on castors with display space, a hanging rail and a sturdy wood worktop, this compact island makes a very handy addition. You can find out more about how Jen made it on her website.

8. Make it farmhouse

mint coloured kitchen island on wheels

(Image credit: apieceofrainbow.com)

Think of a farmhouse kitchen and you’ll likely have sprawling rooms complete with range cookers and copious amounts of cabinetry spring to mind. However, if your kitchen is less than on the large size, you’ll be pleased to know you can still fit in an island and get that beautiful country style. 

Ananda at apieceofrainbow.com used an IKEA deep base cabinet case, with a deep drawer and doors, along with a thick maple butcher-block countertop to create this attractive island. Castors were added underneath to make it easy to roll to where needed and it was painted in an attractive mint-green colour. 

‘We added custom details to the back panel using plywood cut to size because Ikea kitchen cabinets have an unfinished back,' says says Ananda. 'We added gold cabinet hardware, a brushed gold towel bar and brass S hooks – we love them!’

What are some shortcuts to customise an IKEA kitchen Island?

If you're just dipping your toe into the world of DIY there are a few quick tricks you can use to personalise your IKEA kitchen island. One of our favourite tips would be to try updating the worktop with sticky back vinyl, there is a huge range available these days from marble and concrete effect, to faux tile. B&Q has a great range, including a lovely terrazzo effect vinyl for £24.50.

Another easy update is painting IKEA furniture. If you do choose to do this make sure you use hardwearing furniture paint like Frenchic, alternatively if you opt for a metal frame kitchen island you can still update the colour with a Rust-Oleum spray paint. 

However, if that is all still too time-consuming, consider swapping out any handles or adding a rail for hanging kitchen accessories, plank hardware has a lovely range. 

Can you make an island with IKEA kitchen cabinets?

The flexibility of most IKEA products means with a bit of creativity they can be turned into basically anything. IKEA kitchen cabinets can very easily be turned into a kitchen island. IKEA even has a guide for how to turn its Metod cabinets into a large baker's island on its website

However, as our ideas demonstrate you don't need to stick to kitchen cabinets, you can turn the famous KALLAX unit into a kitchen island with a wooden top and some castors. If you are turning a kitchen cabinet into an island consider what you will be using it for so you can ensure it will be sturdy enough for cooking, eating and leaning on. 

Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at lauriedavidson.co.uk