With the move towards larger, open-plan kitchen extensions we’re always looking for thoughtful kitchen island ideas. A smart island has become an essential feature in any modern kitchen, and it’s not hard to see why given the potential to add useable value to a kitchen design.
The first you need to think about when considering a kitchen island is the main purpose. Are you looking for extra prep space, or to form a boundary between the cooking zone and the living/dining area? Once you have an idea of how you’ll use the island you can start exploring different designs to suit your needs.
Kitchen island ideas
A shaped island unit can also help direct the flow of traffic away from busy hotspots. An island 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.
Almost all kitchen ideas about island units incorporate seating – even the smallest space can usually accommodate an overhang of worktop and a set 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 ideas to turn a good-looking unit into a showstopper of a kitchen centrepiece.
Read on for more fabulous kitchen island ideas…
1. Drop in a dedicated dining solution
Design a kitchen island that feels inviting for dining by dropping a lower height worktop, meaning you can use standard dining chair rather than high bar stools – a great idea for family kitchens. Use the same colour cabinetry for the dining portion of the kitchen island but drop the height by just enough to make it useable as a dining table. Using an a contrasting worktop to the remainder of the island helps to make its purpose standout even further.
2. Incorporate stylish storage
Look to use one side of a large island as a display area for storage, with enough concealed drawers to hide the majority for kitchen accessories but leaving a sideboard-style surface to stack cookbooks and display colourful chinaware.
This idea is especially effective for open-plan living spaces, where you are directly looking at one side of the kitchen island. The broken design helps to make the block kitchen unit feel less imposing on the rest of the space.
3. Maximise the use
This thoughtfully designed kitchen island offers a dining table and island hybrid. More than a breakfast bar this design extends the wooden worktop down onto a fully-fitted dining table. The wooden worktop is ideal for use on an island where the purpose is primarily entertaining thanks to the softer qualities.
‘A wooden worktop is a soft material which can become scratched or scorched during wood preparation. Confine the use of wood to soft-use areas such as breakfast bars for eating or entertaining’ advises Melissa Klink at Harvey Jones. ‘Use a harder surface which is easy to clean, such as granite or quartz composite, for food prep areas.’
4. Balance practical purposes
Where you have the space, as is the case in this open-plan kitchen extension idea, use a kitchen island to bridge the gap between functional kitchen space and social dining elements. Do this by ‘dividing’ the island in half in terms of usage, with purposeful kitchen elements such as integrated fridges and induction hobs one side and a breakfast bar with stools on the other.
A multifunctional design helps to unify the different uses within the space, while still clearly zoning each purpose.
5. Go for scale
Choosing the right size to scale is key when it comes to planning a kitchen island, because while you want it to be the focal point you don’t want it to be overbearing on the layout as a whole. Matt Baker, kitchen designer at Harvey Jones offers his advice, ‘The most important element has to be the walkways around the island. As a rule of thumb they need to be 1000mm wide in order to be safe and practical in a kitchen.’
‘Many seem to think the bigger the better. Wide islands are sure to make an impact, however they’re not the most practical solution because you have to be able to reach the middle when cooking. Try to keep it no deeper than 1400mm front to back.’
6. Thoughtfully position appliances
If you’re putting an island into an open-plan kitchen you’re most likely looking to create an engaging and inviting space for entertaining. It therefore might not make sense to position cooking appliances on the outside facing walls of the space, meaning you’d have your back to guests for the majority of the time while you cook. Incorporating the oven and hob into the island facing towards to the social space will help create a more engaging environment while hosting.
7. Shine a spotlight on the centre
As far as kitchen lighting ideas go the island is one of the most important focal points – some would say the star of the show. While you want the entire kitchen to be lit for your needs it’s imperative to make sure the island fits perfectly within the lighting plan. As it often serves as the main food prep station and the hub of entertaining it needs to be well-lit, most likely by multiple lighting options. Whether that’s overhead spotlights or lanterns, which you can dim for intimacy or brighten for practical task lighting, ensure the main focus for good lighting is the centre of the island.
8. Contrast with on-trend colour
Personalise the space by welcoming an injection of sophisticated colour to highlight a kitchen island. Use this multifunctional kitchen design to invite a warming splash of on-trend colour to uplift an otherwise neutral colour scheme.
9. Balance the layout
Whether large or small the key to getting a kitchen island scheme right is balance. This sophisticated grey kitchen demonstrates how to do the job perfectly, with a harmonious balance of grey cabinetry throughout with white walls and worktops to soften the look. There’s a symmetry with the seating along the island breakfast bar which adds further balance making one end entirely dedicated to entertaining.
10. Blend in a breakfast bar
Multifunctional is all-important when it comes to kitchen design, to make the space as efficient as possible – large or small. An ideal multifunctional kitchen island is one that functions as a food prep space with a sink, a storage space and a social space with a breakfast bar.
11. Make a kitchen island work for your lifestyle
‘As the heart of the home, plenty more goes on in a kitchen space than simply cooking and eating’ explains Andy Briggs, interior designer for Optiplan Kitchens.
‘A kitchen island enables you to perhaps work or have children close by whilst preparing meals. It also offers a popular ‘standing workspace’ for those working from home or doing hobbies – this is meant to be better for your posture than continuously sitting.’
‘The height of an island is also ideal for families with small children, as a high chair can be pulled up and little ones can enjoy meal times at the same level as their family.’
12. Curve the edges for better flow
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.
13. Add an alternative worktop
Create a hybrid of styles within your kitchen scheme by adding an alternative worktop to your kitchen island. Use a different material to indicate a change of function for that portion of the kitchen island.
In this stylish kitchen space a hearty wooden worktop is extended out – over the granite worktop covering the remainder of the island – to form a dedicated dining area. Simple placement with bar stools helps to enhance the signals for its dining function.
14. Inject a bold accent colour on the island
A kitchen island is the perfect place to welcome a brave colour choice in a kitchen colour scheme. While the colour is permanent it’s not as daring as choosing a whole kitchen with coloured cabinets. You could always repaint the island at some point down the line, should you have a change of heart with the bold hue.
15. Power up your island
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 – as working from home continues to be a way of life. The timber stools have bags of character, and work beautifully with the pale blue island, giving the overall scheme a subtle coastal feel.
16. Make smart choices when it comes to power supply
More than just ensuring the island is connected to the power supply – think about the right kind of power. Harvey Jones kitchen designer Matt Baker advises, ‘If you need power points in an island cabling will need to laid before screed is put down. Sockets can then be fitted before the worktops are installed.’
He goes on to add, ‘I would personally urge every customer to go with sockets that have USB slots in them these days, as most of our tech uses these to charge.’
17. Raise the bar
Adding an elevated shelf to one side of the kitchen island transforms the space into a functional dining area. Lifting the bar to a higher level than the island helps to define it’s purpose as a dedicated dining space. Equally the higher height might suit as a working from home space, if standing is preferred.
18. Go with the flow in open-plan kitchens
Open-plan living spaces often benefit from identifying dedicated spaces within the layout, for different purposes. Floating a kitchen island doesn’t interrupt the flow of the floor plan, but it does clearly define the kitchen functionality within the space. Same as a dining table sets the scene for dining.
19. Choose compact for a small kitchen layout
Even the smallest of kitchen spaces can welcome an island. Ensure the design is compact enough to fit but sizeable enough to fulfil its purpose. Just ensure you have enough area to accommodate space between any hot kitchen apparatus and guests enjoying the breakfast bar.
Read more: Small kitchen ideas – to turn your compact room into a smart, super-organised space.
20. Balance a layout
Welcome an island into a kitchen to enhance the form and function of the space. The extra unit provides more work surface for food prep and dining when paired with barstools.
Continue a colour scheme in an all-white space by choosing the same design for the kitchen island as that of the main kitchen design. The splash of central colour in the room helps to cement the look further.
21. Compliment colour throughout
Create a cohesive colour scheme throughout by using the same colour for every detail in a kitchen space. From the island to the wall cabinets, from lighting to the accessories make it match to uniform a space.
22. Add in a shelf for cookery books
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.
23. Drop in a kitchen sink
A large sink in a kitchen island might be a little controversial, but is a great solution if you’re struggling for space and looking for smaller kitchen ideas. 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.
24. Dazzle diners with gold
Make a freestanding island stand out all the more with the addition of a luxe finish. A touch of gold on the underside helps to make the island take on a role of function and fabulous form.
25. Strike a balance with storage and seating
Work with a smart design that provides optimum storage space for all your kitchen needs on one side, while providing a bar of seating along the other side.
26. Create multi-functional storage with seagrass baskets
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.
27. Position an island opposite a window wall
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 kitchen storage ideas, but you can also hide breakfast bar stools behind it to keep the space looking slick.
28. Install a fridge in your kitchen island
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.
29. Go for a classic colour combo
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.
30. Make a statement with bright bar stools
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!
31. Fashion bespoke bookends
Create your own book ends with a bespoke design. Either side of your seating, allow enough space to fashion shelving that can act as mini bookcases. The wooden stools in the same material as the bookcases helps to add warmth to the otherwise cool scheme.
32. Make it as multifunctional as possible
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.
33. Keep it tidy with drawers
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.
34. Squeeze in a slimline island
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.
35. Upcycle your own mini island
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.
36. Go large
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.
37. Upcycle reclaimed wood
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. Consider a Second hand kitchen to give a new lease of life to used kitchen units and worktops that are big on quality, low on costs.
38. Supersize an island to make a big impression
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.
39. Update an existing kitchen with a traditional butcher’s block
This simple way to add more prep space and storage into U-shaped kitchen ideas 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.
Kitchen cabinets – what to look for when buying your units.
40. Hide the clutter
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?!
41. Keep the design slimline
Incorporate a slimline kitchen island to mirror the surrounding work surfaces, in order for the island to feel like merely a detached counter. This idea is ideal for smaller kitchens to prevent surfaces from feeling imposing on the compact space. Use white worktops and materials to retain a light and airy feel. Add seating under one end of a slim kitchen island to save further space, allowing stools to be tucked away when not in use.
42. Make a statement with mosaics
Make the island shine bright with a generous helping of iridescent tiles. Not only will they add decoration, they provide an easy to clean surface, ideal for a kitchen.
43. Pick out an alternative finish
A freestanding kitchen piece of furniture allows you not only the freedom to incorporate an accent colour, it also allows you to add a different material and surface finish. If your kitchen units are classic Shaker-style you could introduce a panelled island to add further rustic charm. Painting the wooden island in a shade of fresh mint green adds another design element of classic country style.
44. Disguise the design
There’s no saying a kitchen island has to always be a block that stands out, as this example proves. This smart kitchen island feels more like a wooden dining table, where the worktop has been seamlessly continued over to form an extended dining area. This clever idea eradicates the need for a separate dining table in the kitchen, yet it doesn’t feel like you’re sat at the kitchen worktop for fine dining.
45. Double the size for dedicated dining
Go all out on a bespoke design to allow for ample dining space. There’s nothing worse than a kitchen island that doesn’t cater to your needs. If the heart of your home is a space for entertaining, ensure the island design is tailored to accommodate this.
46. Make the most of space with oversized drawers
Allow just enough room for a breakfast bar at one end, to tuck bar stools under – utilising the rest of the island as valuable kitchen storage. Choose oversized pull out drawers to store all your kitchen pans and crockery to keep everything central and within reach for any kitchen task. ask your kitchen design for ideas about in drawer separators and racks to make the storage work even harder.
47. Set tasks to one side
Allow the use of your kitchen island to be a totally separate area from your everyday cooking area. Set it up as a Bake Off-style bench where you keep all your large kitchen appliances like stand mixers to one area. Use the storage space within teh island to house all your baking tools, away from the everyday utensils draw. A great idea to avoid the ‘now, where did I put that balloon whisk attachment?’
48. Think outside the box for the shape
Think outside the box when it comes to kitchen island shapes . Make it your own with a total bespoke design. If you want to create a space that intrigues and breaks confirming kitchen design trends, go freestyle with your finished kitchen design. Working with your chosen kitchen designer, work up a creative shape that suits your style tastes and fulfils the needs of your kitchen.
49. Float an island when wall space is limited
Kitchen islands are the ideal solution when the space is limited on walls to utilise. A kitchen island can float in the middle of a space, meaning it doesn’t need to be anchored to a wall. It allows for storage and more all without interrupting the flow of the open-plan space.
Another benefit of a kitchen island is the design will automatically enhance your kitchen decor, with no need to go on the hunt for a complementary table and chairs to fit into the space.
50. Put an extra sink in place
Putting in a extra, small sink is a great idea for a kitchen that loves to entertain. Consider this the ‘bar’ area, where the sink is used additional to the main sink. Or the hand washing station, to save garden dirt or germs from being anywhere near the sink you wash groceries in. This can also be a great idea for safety measure, in kitchen that features a hot tap for instance, allowing the children to use the separate sink– safe in the knowledge they can’t accidentally use the wrong tap.
51. Take a stand with an imaginative design
Tulip-style dining tables are a popular choice for retro interior design choices. To make your kitchen island fashionably unique and imaginative why not base your kitchen island design on the same style principles. Only instead of the Tulip base supporting a round table top, it will instead form the foundation for a quirky kitchen island.
52. Break up the layout with an accent colour
Where the rest of the kitchen is safe in neutral shades the island is where you can afford to have fun with an accent colour. Especially if you have a design that can be painted with ease, should you change your mind on the chosen accent colour. Wood panelling is the ideal design choice, if repainting for future makeovers.
Contrasting the worktop choice with the surrounding kitchen surfaces will help to signal the island as a standalone piece – one that is not made to match.
53. Create curves within the space
Add interest to your kitchen space with a curved kitchen island design. Enhance the quirkiness further by mixing materials and finishes, to highlight the curvature.
54. Allow for a change of purpose
Incorporating open elements to the kitchen island design will give freedom to change how the storage space is used. Whether you buy new appliances or new cook books, the way you choose to style the kitchen may evolve – so best to keep space free to suit.
55. Position with a practical path in mind
Position a kitchen island thoughtfully, making the most of an outside space. Thinking how handy the extra space will become when the doors are thrown open, proving plentiful surface space to aid alfresco entertaining. Even during the colder months, when the doors stay closed, the freestanding piece can welcome a break from the wall of glass doors.
What is the best size for a kitchen island?
What is the best size for a kitchen island will depend on the size of the kitchen. But even the smallest of kitchens can allow for a kitchen island, it will just be more compact. Once your determine the size of floorspace free to allocate for a kitchen island you can begin to plan the size based on needs.
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 placed in the centre it should leave enough floor for you to manoeuvre around and access the rest of the kitchen. The area under the islands worktop is also essential as it offers amply space for storage and kitchen essentials such as low fridges and deep drawers.’
If you require storage from the island design you will need to factor in the dimensions – because this will determine whether there’s enough space to allow legroom underneath, so the island can double up as a breakfast bar.
How do you make an inexpensive kitchen island?
How do you make an inexpensive kitchen island if on a budget? A great budget kitchen idea for creating an island is to buy an inexpensive freestanding piece of furniture, such as a butchers block. IKEA is the ideal place to head, with the retailer offering a whole variety of affordable freestanding furniture pieces. This cheap option also gives you the freedom to move things around, as the pieces are moveable – most commonly designs feature castor wheels on one side for easy movement.
Buy now: Vadholma Kitchen Island, £299. IKEA
How do you style a kitchen island?
How you style a kitchen island will be determined by the proposed use. If the island is focused on function it’s best to style with storage, from compact cupboards to open units filled with woven baskets. If the island is more about creating a dining area style the space with inviting elements, such as comfortable seating complete with cushions.
Will you be adding a kitchen island to your cooking space using these kitchen island ideas?