Bringing fresh energy and enviable style, the latest kitchen island trends are guaranteed to create an impressive focal point. Have you ever seen inspirational kitchen ideas without a stunning kitchen island centre-stage?
‘More than ever, we are seeing customers being increasingly daring with requests for kitchen islands that make a serious style statement,’ says Melissa Klink, creative director, Harvey Jones. ‘Colour choices are becoming braver, and there’s more call for split levels, unusual shapes and eye-catching materials.
Like all kitchen trends, these new design approaches aren’t just about looks. There are also a few functional moves that are set to make kitchen islands even more desirable this year. Whether you decide to try out a more practical design trend or go all-out with a sensational style makeover, one thing is for sure; 2024 is the humble kitchen island’s time to shine.
Kitchen island trends
While kitchen island ideas reflect the latest design trends, they still need to be timeless. Like any kitchen trend, your kitchen island has to last, and retain their appeal, for many years. That’s why our experts have highlighted liveable trends that will boost the impact of your next kitchen island, without falling for fast-fashion or blowing the budget!
1. Different levels
A split-level island unit can prove a game-changer if you don’t have space for a separate table in your kitchen-diner. This popular trend is also a great way to add another layer of visual interest to an island, breaking up the blocky shape of a larger unit. Switch worktop materials to bring another finish into the mix.
‘A lower dining height provides a more comfortable seat position for evening meals, and is more accessible than bar stools, for both young and old,’ adds Melissa Klink, creative director, Harvey Jones.
Melissa Klink has a graduate degree in Interior Design and a master's degree in Interior Architecture. She joined Harvey Jones in 2017 and was made Creative Director in 2021. Alongside the design direction of the company, Melissa is responsible for every aspect of the Harvey Jones brand and products, and also designs kitchens that consistently exceed expectations.
2. Tiled fronts
Tiling the front of your island, or the elevation that is immediately visible as you walk into the room or sit at the dining table, is an easy way to bring pattern and colour into your kitchen. If it’s under a breakfast bar idea with stools, it’s also a great way to protect the cabinets from swinging feet.
‘Tiling the vertical elevations of a kitchen island is very practical as they’re simple to wipe clean and strong,’ encourages Lee Thornley, founder, Bert & May, who used Hexagonal Split tiles on this island in his own kitchen. ‘We went for tiles that are eye-catching in design and shape but soft in colour, so they draw attention but don’t overwhelm,’ he explains.
Lee started his career as a barrister in London before leaving to set open a boutique hotel in Cadiz, where he fell in love with and began importing reclaimed tiles. The design entrepreneur then joined forces with a family-run artisan tile manufacturer in Andalucía and started selling his own handmade encaustic tiles, officially launching Bert and May in 2013. The rest is history.
3. Fancy fluting
Fluted surfaces are set to stay a strong kitchen island trend in 2024, and the benefits are bountiful – especially when pitched on a striking island unit, like this one by Sheraton Interiors. ‘On an island, artfully executed fluting can produce the most beautiful curves, creating a soft contrast against the hard surfaces of a kitchen,’ says Shehryar Khan, owner of Sheraton Interiors. ‘An island with curved ends is also safer to navigate around, without knocking hips or young heads on sharp corners.’
The width and spacing of fluting can provide very different results. Go for tight fluting for a more masculine, ribbed effect that looks like pinstripes from afar, or opt for wider, lozenge-like flutes like these for a softer aesthetic that emphasises the curves.
Another spin on this look is the kitchen panelling trend using thin strips of wood. It doesn't have the same curved look, but still delivers a lovely textured finish that will lift everything from white kitchen ideas to dark kitchen ideas.
Shehryar Khan has been designing and selling kitchens for more than 20 years. He is the proud owner of the award-winning independent kitchen and bedroom retailer Sheraton Interiors, based in Twickenham, London.
4. Raised on legs
Elevating an island on legs is a smart move for anyone looking to boost the sense of light in the kitchen or make the most of fancy flooring.
Interior designer Andrew Griffiths nails the look with this slimline, steel-framed island. ‘We wanted it to feel more like a piece of furniture than a monolithic island, yet it’s still full of storage and provides useful counter space. The reeded glass sliding doors adds to the sense of lightness, which was important as the kitchen lacked natural light,’ he explains.
Andrew Jonathan Griffiths is founder of London-based interior design studio, A New Day. The practice is known for creating thoughtful spaces that improve how you live and bring a smile to the face. Andrew oversees residential projects across London and the UK.
5. Flexible displays
A mix of open shelving and glass cabinets will offer flexible kitchen storage ideas on the front of your island. It is easier to access items on shallow shelves than closed cupboards when reaching under a breakfast bar – recipe books can make for a colourful display.
Where access is easier, solid or glazed doors are more practical for keeping the dust out. ‘Reeded glass doors add a beautiful design element and will diffuse the contents inside, so you won’t need to be militant about keeping everything tidy,’ says William Durrant, owner, Herringbone Kitchens.
6. Style-led sinks
Installing a kitchen island sink idea is a sociable option that allows you to look out into the room – and garden beyond - while you cook and wash up. As it will be in the spotlight, centre-stage, the emphasis is increasingly on style-led installations.
An undermounted sink is the sleek way to execute this trend and will provide an easy-clean seamless surface around the sink area. Add a boiling water tap for speedy brews and quick pasta. ‘Complement your tap finish with other metal tones in your kitchen for a considered aesthetic,’ suggests Stefan Gesing, CEO of Dornbracht.
7. Two tops
Sticking to just one kitchen worktop idea is old news; the modern way to top your island involves at least two! 'We welcome islands with a mixed choice of worktops, like this design featuring a combination of marble and hand-aged copper, as they can help with budget and enhance creativity,’ agrees Helen Parker, creative director, deVOL Kitchens.
Take on this trend with functionality in mind by installing a hard-wearing, stain-resistant option where you plan to prep and cook and save the less durable choice of your breakfast bar. Think about acoustics and comfort – a chunky timber breakfast bar is kinder on crockery and your elbows. Not that we’re suggesting anyone puts their elbows on the table when eating!
Joining as a kitchen designer in 2004, Helen Parker is now responsible for deVOL's style, creating one-of-a-kind showrooms, sourcing antiques and gifts and designing new pieces of furniture and accessories. She also has a starring role in deVOL's Emmy nominated TV series.
8. Double advantage
If you have the luxury of space, doubling up on islands is the new way to achieve a flexible, ergonomically superior kitchen layout. ‘Two islands can actually create better traffic flow in a bigger kitchen. With two separate work areas, multiple people can work together in the kitchen without getting under each other’s feet,’ explains interior designer, Kate Marker.
To maintain order, it’s best to designate specific roles for each island. One could be purely for cooking – aka the working island – and the other could be more about eating and socialising. Twin islands are not suitable for small kitchen ideas; you’ll need to ensure each island has at least 90cm of free walking space around the perimeter.
9. Striking finishes
The true joy of an island unit is the potential to be a little more out-there with your choice of finishes, without overwhelming the space. Warm metallic finishes are particularly hot on islands right now and show no sign of falling out of favour in the kitchen. In fact, 2024 is set to be the year we really embrace this expressive finish in all its warming beauty, and a statement island like this one by Roundhouse is exactly where it’s at.
Drenching an island in aged brass like this, whether using sheet metal or Roundhouse’s specialist hand-applied liquid metal, will bring colour, texture and movement into the heart of your kitchen.
Here, Roundhouse has used a plain matt finish on the surrounding cabinets to really emphasise and show off the material contrasts. ‘The brass has a wonderful hand-applied aged patina that makes the island stand proud against the dark, moody backdrop of cabinetry,’ explains senior design consultant, Sam Hart.
Senior designer at bespoke furnituremakers Roundhouse, Sam Hart has been curating beautiful kitchens and living spaces for more than 14 years. Her creative vision, spatial design skills and product knowledge result in exceptional interiors that push design boundaries and exceed expectations.
10. Waterfall worktops
The No. 1 fashion-forward way to elevate the luxury levels in your kitchen is to install an island unit with a stylish waterfall edge. This simple technique sees the horizontal worktop carried seamlessly down to the floor, like water flowing down a waterfall, and it’s a brilliant way to show-off a statement stone.
‘Maximise the impact by choosing a surface with veining, which can be carefully aligned where the horizontal and vertical slabs meet to enhance the flowing effect,’ advises kitchen designer, Jasper Middleton, of Middleton.
You can fit a waterfall edge on both sides of an island, creating a striking modular effect, but it’s only a smart investment if they can both be appreciated. As the island here faces a wall at one end, Middleton focused on the waterfall moment where it would be most visible; and it’s the first thing guests appreciate when entering the room.
Are kitchen islands still trending?
Kitchen islands are absolutely still trending and continue to top the wish-lists of home renovators, especially those planning large extensions with open-plan living. It is unlikely they will ever fall our of favour. Islands are just so sociable but also provide a zoning role, that helps to define and separate the kitchen in a bigger space.
However, you don’t need a big kitchen to accommodate an island unit. With so many designs, shapes and sizes to choose from, it’s now possible to incorporate an island into most kitchens and, given the chance, most homeowners will leap at the opportunity.
Should kitchen islands be lighter or darker?
If you are planning a two-tone kitchen, it is generally considered best to go for a darker colour on the island, and lighter on surrounding cabinetry. This will allow the island to stand in stronger contrast against the pale backdrop, establishing it as the clear focal point.
‘It’s also wise to keep darker shades below eye-level, on an island rather than tall cabinets, if you’re colour shy. You’re much less likely to tire of the colour and the darker shade won’t overpower the space,’ adds Sam Hart, from Roundhouse.
Which kitchen island trend will you be embracing this year?
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Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in product design, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. Linda has written for a wide range of publications, from the Daily Telegraph and Guardian to Homes & Gardens and Livingetc. She has been freelancing for Ideal Home Magazine since 2008, covering design trends, home makeovers, product reviews and much more.
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