Kitchen island ideas that create a focal point for family life

Many of us dream of a statement island at the centre of our kitchen, where everyone can gather during the day to cook, eat, socialise and even work
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  • Looking for kitchen island ideas? With the move towards larger, open-plan kitchen extensions, the kitchen island has become an essential feature. And it’s not hard to see why, given an island unit has lots to bring to a kitchen design.

    For a start, 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. 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.

    Want more design inspiration? Take a look at these showstopping kitchen ideas 

    When it comes to picking the size of your island, measure your floor to make sure it will fit. ‘When planning your kitchen be careful not to be over ambitious with freestanding elements,’ advises Ben Burbidge, managing director at Kitchen Makers. ‘Ensure you precisely measure your floor so that an island will fit comfortably within your space.

    ‘When place in the centre it should leave enough floor for you to manoeuvre around and access the rest of the kitchen. The area under the island’s worktop is also essential as it offers amply space for storage and kitchen essentials such as low fridges and deep drawers.’

    Almost all kitchen islands incorporate seating – even the smallest space can usually accommodate an overhang of worktop and a pair of bar stools. Alternatively, you could pick a long kitchen island 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. 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 also a trend towards more textured materials – think raw or rough-sawn wood – 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.

    Read on for more fabulous kitchen island ideas…

    Kitchen island ideas

    1. Create multi-functional storage with seagrass baskets

    Kitchen island ideas 4

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Deep shelves in an island can be tricky, however with the help of some seagrass baskets they can be transformed into picture-perfect storage. To recreate this glamorous vintage theme, alternate the shelves with storage baskets and your favourite vintage-style crockery.

    2. Add in a shelf for cookery books

    kitchen island ideas 5

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    The best place to store cookery books? In the kitchen of course! Adding a few book shelves into your island will ensure all your favourite cookbooks are easy to hand. This is an easy hack for adding personality and colour into a neutral kitchen.


    3. Add in a kitchen sink

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Ti-Media

    A large sink in a kitchen island might be a little controversial, but is a great solution if you’re struggling for space in a a smaller kitchen. In this kitchen, the space that the sink would have taken up against a wall worktop has been transformed into much needed storage leaving the sink in the easily accessible island.

    4. Position an island opposite a window wall

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Alasdair Macintosh

    Floor to ceilings sliding windows in a kitchen extension look gorgeous but can cut down on the space available for storage. An easy solution is to introduce a slick island with space for drawers and cupboards just in front of the window. Not only does this double the work surface and storage space, but you can also hide breakfast bar stools behind it to keep the space looking slick.

    5. Install a fridge in your kitchen island

    Kitchen island ideas

    A small undercounter fridge is a great addition in a large workstation. It can hold fresh food to be prepped on the island or be filled with drinks for guests to help themselves to, without disturbing the chef.

    An extra fridge in a central island is perfect for keeping fruit, vegetable and salads cool and close at hand for prepping. Lunch and breakfast time ingredients – jams, butter and cheeses – are best kept in this fridge for quick and easy meal preparation.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar Ideal Home Bailey Pendant Lightshade, £24.99, Very

    6. Go for a modern classic combo of navy and grey

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Richard Gadsby

    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 grey wall units and a range cooker for the perfect mix of classic and contemporary.

    Get the look
    Buy now: HAY Oak Stool, £189, Amara

    7. Make a statement with bright bar stools

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Richard Gadsby

    New cabinetry is a big investment. So it’s understandable that you might not want to be too experimental with colour. If that’s the case, why not introduce a brighter shade through accessories that are easier to switch out if you get bored – like these statement bar stools? For something even less permanent, a vase of flowers will do the job!

    8. Power up your island

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Richard Gadsby

    It’s vital you include ample plug sockets on your island. They’re not only useful for powering small appliances like stand mixers and food processors, they’ll also be handy for charging phones and laptops. The timber stools have bags of character, and work beautifully with the pale blue island, giving the overall scheme a subtle coastal feel.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar pair of Bumble stools in Smoked Oak, £320, Loaf

    9. Have fun with task lighting

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: David Giles

    While the rest of this simple but stunning kitchen is understated in grey, the owners have had a bit of fun with the coordinated pendant lights. We love the switch in colour between shade and flex – and the matching tulips! A stone worktop and wooden stools and bookcases also add warmth to the otherwise cool scheme.

    Inspired? Kitchen lighting – everything you need to know

    10. Make it as multifunctional as possible

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Darren Chung

    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. There would be plenty of space to add a hob if you wanted, too. 

    Love these kitchen island ideas but want more kitchen advice? READ: Small kitchen ideas – to turn your compact room into a smart, super-organised space

    11. Keep it tidy with drawers

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Brett Charles

    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.

    Fill them with everything you need to lay the table, but leave a few empty so that you have somewhere to hide clutter when unexpected visitors arrive.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar Ideal Home Florence Crystal Diner Ceiling Pendant, £199.99, Very

    12. Squeeze in a slimline island

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: David Giles

    You don’t need a vast kitchen to fit in an island, as this skinny design proves. It even doubles as a breakfast bar, courtesy of a simple overhanging work surface. Tongue and groove panelling integrates the piece with the rest of the Shaker-style scheme.

    13. Upcycle your own mini island

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Jamie Mason

    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 – this sunny yellow is a particularly cheery choice – and add a stool in a contrasting colour to complete the look.

    14. Go large

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Nicholas Yarsley

    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.

    15. Upcycle reclaimed railway sleepers

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Matthew Williams

    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.

    16. Supersize an island to make a big impression

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez

    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.

    17. Update an existing kitchen with a traditional butcher’s block

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Polly Eltes


    This simple way to add more prep space and storage is also extremely elegant. A chunky end-grain surface will take a lot of culinary punishment and the open shelf at the bottom provides easy access to cookware. What’s more the design would work just as well with slab-style units.

    18. Curve the ends for better flow

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    More food for thought: Kitchen cabinets – what to look for when buying your units

    If you’re trying to fit an island into a smaller kitchen, it’s a good idea to choose a design with rounded edges. This will inevitably cost more, but there will be no sharp corners to catch against as you and your family manoeuvre around the space.

    19. Hide the clutter

    Kitchen island ideas

    Image credit: Holly Joliffe

    A taller, or ‘flying’ breakfast bar like this one serves two purposes. Firstly, its height is great for more casual eating and drinking. And second, if you do make a mess in the kitchen, it’s obscured from view of guests by the bar. Genius, no?!

    Loved these kitchen island ideas? Check out our kitchen channel for more advice and inspiration

    Will you be adding a kitchen island to your cooking space using these kitchen island ideas?

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