Island units are such a popular choice in the kitchen, offering extra work surface, a place to serve food, to sit and eat, along with lots of storage beneath. It's no wonder they've become a must-have addition. However, you do need the space to put one and if you're thinking of including a kitchen island on a budget, you'll need to decide what you can and can't afford.
If you're thinking of including a sink or hob in your island, then you'll also need to factor in water, electricity or gas, which will obviously add to the cost. Smaller islands can work well in both large kitchens and more compact spaces. If your room is a tricky shape, you could consider having a free-standing, butcher’s block style that can be any size – these often have wheels so they can be moved around to where they are needed.
There are some fabulous kitchen island ideas around, but if money is tight and you're wondering how much a kitchen island costs it’s best to avoid expensive natural stone, such as marble or granite. Think about cheaper materials instead, like quartz, wood or laminate, which are all budget-friendly choices. Technology has meant that new laminate finishes can look just like natural stone or wood, or you could choose a simple, plain white design for a timeless choice.
Kitchen island ideas on a budget
To install any island you will need to do some planning to make sure it fits. An open-plan kitchen is fairly straightforward, but if space is limited then measure up to ensure your island will fit comfortably and allow you space to move around it.
‘Kitchen islands are hugely popular and deservedly so,' says Dave Young, founder of Husk kitchens. 'They provide a central social hub in the room and can double your kitchen counter space, leaving more room for wall cupboards, so you can maximise your storage even in the smallest of kitchens.
‘Kitchen islands that have non-standard sized units can also be refurbished with custom-made fronts and the overall cost will still be much lower than replacing the whole island,' he continues. 'The great thing about this approach is that homeowners can really personalise their space, creating a unique design with the quality and look of a high-end kitchen island but at a fraction of the price.’
1. Choose a freestanding island
The most affordable kitchen island ideas on a budget are usually freestanding pieces that can be added in easily to your existing kitchen. Decide whether you want one that is a similar material and colour to your existing cabinetry, or that provides a contrast instead.
Opting for one in a compact size means not only will it fit into tight spaces, but the price is likely to be less too. And, if you go for one with a rack above it, like this option, you'll benefit from plenty of storage space. Plus, the great thing is you can take it with you if you move, so it’s a perfect portable kitchen island idea for renters.
‘This Vadholma piece can be an inexpensive alternative to a kitchen island,’ says Grant Robertson, interior design leader at Ikea UK and IE. ‘It’s truly multifunctional. Whether sitting, standing, working, dining, or crafting, the space-saving counter height surface serves your needs from morning meetings to evening meals.'
2. Create a working triangle
If you need extra preparation space, a freestanding island is ideal and doesn't have to cost the earth. You can buy a neat unit like this one and create the all-important ‘working triangle’ kitchen layout of oven, sink and prep area.
This layout also has storage space on the working side for pots, pans or serving dishes, and space for stools on the other side, plus it can also be moved out of the way if you are entertaining making it a flexible option at a low cost.
3. Save money and buy a pre-owned kitchen island
'Really, you can do that?' we hear you ask? The answer is yes – buying pre-owned or ex-display models, either a full secondhand kitchen or just an island, can help you get the design you want at a much more affordable price.
‘If you don’t have any furniture you can repurpose, such as a table, and would like a kitchen island idea on a budget, you can buy a pre-owned or ex-display one,’ says Looeeze Grossman, founder of The Used Kitchen Company. ‘We sell ex-display and used kitchens for a fraction of their original price, which can save you a fortune on this much-desired kitchen addition.’
4. Make your own kitchen island
If you've inherited a kitchen but want to add in an island, why not try your hand at making one? Not only is it an affordable option, but the fact it's your own design means it will be unique to you.
Here, the island has been made with recycled wood to give an industrial look that suits this kitchen style with its exposed brick walls – and it also ticks the eco-friendly box, too. Old scaffolding boards like these are a low-cost option, but you could use any reclaimed wood.
If your DIY skills aren’t up to it, ask a carpenter to do it for you – and the beauty is, that your island can be made to any size you like ensuring it will fit your space perfectly.
Of course, if you want to create a statement kitchen island on a budget, think about how you can use the trend for mixed materials to your advantage. ‘Add interest and texture by choosing a contrasting but less expensive worktop for the island, such as zinc or steel,' says Josie Medved, design manager at the Symphony Group.
'Consider incorporating a built-in chopping block, which is both a practical and clever way to add a lower-cost material into the scheme. Designing the island as a breakfast bar and opting for open shelving for recipe books or storing cookware rather than cabinetry with cupboards or drawers will also reduce costs.’
5. Keep it compact and bijou
In a small, open-plan kitchen it’s possible to have a kitchen island, but make it the right size to fit the space – especially if it’s in front of doors leading out into the garden like this one. If it’s too big, it can create an obstruction and spoil the flow in the space, plus it's likely to cost a lot more than a smaller design.
This island matches the rest of the kitchen when it comes to both its colour and handles, although the worktop is wood to set it apart. Notice how the light is set high above the island, so it doesn’t obscure the view out to the garden.
6. Upcycle an old piece of furniture
A kitchen island doesn’t need to match the rest of your kitchen, in fact, it adds personality to have it in a different colour. Upcycling an old piece of furniture will give it a new lease of life and save money – and all you need is some paint.
‘Thinking ahead to the new year, it’s a great time to look into creative ways to spruce up your kitchen island on a budget,’ says Ryan Smith, kitchens category manager for B&Q. ‘As a quick-fix we suggest doing a paint job on an existing piece of furniture to give it the transformative look you’re after. Our renovation paint is ideal for use on wooden surfaces, cabinets and shelves, and you can make the island stand out with a pop of contrasting colour.’
7. Extend your island with a clever DIY solution
If you already have an island but could do with some extra preparation space or a seating area, why not widen your existing model with a wooden bench-style addition? Wood is cheaper than stone or quartz, provides a good contrast and this simple shape is easy to achieve – plus it's a great way to update your current design on a budget.
8. Consider a butcher's table
Rather than a more expensive permanent fixture, you could consider a stand-alone butcher's table to create more preparation space. You can pick them up from places like Wayfair or John Lewis, or you may find one in a vintage shop or on Facebook Marketplace. Add castors to the legs and you'll be able to wheel it around to wherever it’s needed.
To tie it in with your existing kitchen, why not paint the frame in the same colour (or similar) as your cabinetry?
‘Harvest or butchers' tables are great options for those who are tight on space, as they can easily be positioned in different places around the kitchen to suit the task in hand,’ says Al Bruce, founder of Olive & Barr. ‘Perfect for small kitchen island ideas, butchers' tables come with a range of creative storage solutions, such as slat shelves, easy-access drawers, metal rails for utensils or tea towels, as well as wooden worktops for that extra counter space.’
9. Cut down kitchen cabinets to fit
DIY kitchen ideas are usually a much more cost-effective option for a budget kitchen island and it gives you the chance to get truly creative.
In a tight space, like this galley kitchen, create a neat kitchen island by cutting down kitchen cabinets to make them smaller. Then create a top using recycled wooden flooring and lay it in a herringbone pattern. Finish by framing the top with a wooden edge for a beautifully unique design.
10. Add a peninsula
If you don't have room for a full island, why not extend your units to embrace a peninsula kitchen idea, which gives you many of the same benefits, including extra worktop space and a seating solution.
If you're a dab hand at DIY, you could build the frame from MDF, then tile it for a stunning finish. It’s practical, easy to clean and will add a hit of colour and design to the kitchen. And, if your DIY skills aren’t up to scratch, tiles will hide a multitude of sins!
How can I get a cheap kitchen island?
‘In the current difficult economic climate, buying a new kitchen can seem like a luxury,’ says Dave from Husk Kitchens. 'currently we are seeing more and more homeowners opting to revamp just their existing kitchen islands with new doors and drawers. By reusing rather than replacing the island, it reduces waste, making it a more sustainable and eco-friendly choice.'
'If you have a standard kitchen island from one of the main suppliers, such as Ikea or Howdens, and want to give it a new look, then replacing doors and drawer fronts on your island is straightforward and very cost-effective.'
Another clever option is to keep an eye on home furnishing discount codes to see when your favourite brands have offers and sales on.
‘In the current difficult economic climate, buying a new kitchen can seem like a luxury,’ says Dave Young, founder of Husk Kitchens, ‘so currently we are seeing more and more homeowners opting to revamp just their existing kitchen islands with new doors and drawers. By reusing rather than replacing the island, it reduces waste, making it a more sustainable and eco-friendly choice.
'If you have a standard kitchen island from one of the main suppliers, such as Ikea or Howdens, and want to give it a new look, then replacing doors and drawer fronts on your island is straightforward and very cost-effective,' he continues. 'We supply doors, drawers, plinths and cupboards in more than 30 different finishes, all handmade in our workshop so you can be creative and budget-conscious without compromising on quality.’
What can I use instead of a kitchen island?
In the past, people used a kitchen table for everything, from preparing food to eating, so a table is a good idea, especially if you have one already. Butchers' blocks are also popular, and come in lots of different designs, from contemporary to antique options with the patina and history of years of use.
Alternatively, making your own is another good budget option, even if it’s as simple as a solid frame with a top, which could be wood or metal.
What is a good size island for a small kitchen?
‘If you’re desperate for a kitchen island, but think there isn’t enough space, you’d be surprised with how easy it is to squeeze pie in,’ says Al from Olive & Barr.
‘For a standard island, the gap between cabinets and the island is usually one metre, however you can go as small as 880cm and it will still be practical.’
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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
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