The 6 rules for styling a kitchen island – straight from a professional interior stylist

This functional feature can look beautiful, too

kitchen island with glass pendant lights and wood stools
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Kitchens can be a one of the most satisfying rooms to style, with homey touches and chic decor balancing with the practicalites of the space and its requirements. And when it comes to styling a kitchen island, your space is full of potential with its large working surface and often some pretty handy storage, too.

Before you start loading your kitchen island with decorative objects, however, it's good to think about how you use it. Does it work as a breakfast bar, for example, where people need space to eat, and how much of it do you use when you're preparing food? Ask yourself if you need to be able to have a clear view from one side to the other, with nothing obstructing it, and do you have low-hanging pendant lights overhead that might need to be taken into account if you're picking tall flowers or stems for a vase?

Once you've answered these questions and got some kitchen island ideas, it can help you determine what type of styling is right for you.

Rules for styling a kitchen island

I've been an interior stylist for over a decade, styling everything from top brands to magazine and video shoots, so when it comes to making even the everyday look incredible, I've put in the hours. These are the six most important things I've learnt about styling a kitchen island as a professional interior stylist…

1. Height is key

tall vase with flowers on an island

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Adding height to your island means you'll draw the eye up, giving the feeling of space within a room, even on a small kitchen island, so use tall sculpted vases and stems to help achieve this. The trick is to not overfill your island – instead, use one statement piece to really make an impact and place to one end so they don't block any views

2. You can tie in materials

kitchen island with glass pendant lights and wood stools

(Image credit: Future PLC)

To keep your island feeling part of the kitchen surrounding it, use similar materials for accessories. For example, wood chopping boards tie in with the wooden bar stools in this kitchen, while neutral ceramics echo the accessories used elsewhere in the room. You don't want to clutter your island, but at the same time, a few key pieces can help your island styling feel cohesive.

3. Fruit and veg work as accessories

kitchen island with bar stools and herbs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Yes, that's right… fruit and vegetables all make great styling accessories, whether it's a big platter of leafy greens, a row of potted herbs or a bowl of lemons. The beauty is that not only do they work to add colour to your island, but it also means they're close to hand for when you need them.

4. Displays can be made from the simplest objects

kitchen island with cake stand

(Image credit: Future PLC)

A cake stand may be something you'd reserve for afternoon tea, but there's nothing to say you can't have it out all the time, and on an island it works well to bring height and interest. Use it to store fruit, as shown here, or even seasonal objects like pine cones in winter.

5. Don't forget your bar stools

kitchen island with black metal bar chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Styling an island isn't only about the top surface, but also means paying attention to the surrounding area, such as bar stools or chairs. Pick your material carefully and use them to add colour or interest – for example, if you have a wooden kitchen island top, go for a bar stool in a different material, such as metal or leather to break up the run.

6. The overall look is important

kitchen island with herbs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Whether you have an island with some corner shelves, or an open butcher's block, use these display points to create nice styling vignettes rather than having untidy areas. If clutter is a problem, try using some baskets to keep it contained, then stack cookery books and show off your favourite crockery and cookware.

So when you're elevating the look of your island, keep these rules in mind and you're bound to create a stylish and functional display before you know it.

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