Portable kitchen island ideas – moveable trolleys and freestanding islands for flexible storage

Get extra prep space and handy storage underneath with one of these portable kitchen island ideas

Portable kitchen islands are a more versatile option for extra prep space and storage, as opposed to fixed island units. While both offer extra worktop space and supplementary storage underneath, portable kitchen islands are less-limiting when it comes to kitchen layout as they are easy to move around.

Getting the size and positioning right is key when installing a static kitchen island as it will stay fixed in this position, so these factors will need to be worked out in the initial planning stages. A portable kitchen island however, is smaller, lighter and with no electrics or plumbing to consider, offers a more flexible option. A moveable unit can be moved around as and when required.

Portable kitchen island ideas

Whether you are embracing freestanding kitchen ideas or are looking to add to your fitted garden design. 

'Surface space is high on everyone’s wish lists at the moment, says Claire Birkbeck, kitchen designer at Neptune Bath. ‘More customers are asking for islands to be incorporated into their kitchen design – somewhere they can cook, eat, work and gather.’

‘A freestanding island is perfect for a small kitchen when you have less room to play with. And also for creating a more practical and versatile space, as they can be moved into your desired position,’ Claire adds.

1. Add colour with a painted kitchen island

a green kitchen island with a wooden top, wooden kitchen cabinets with a black top and black sink and tap, wooden shelves on the walls

(Image credit: La Redoute)

Rather than trying to match your island unit to your kitchen cabinets, opt for a contrasting colour to give a more relaxed look. A wood-block worktop will complement timber cabinets - just add a couple of wooden bar stools to give a rustic, country look.

Don’t go too wide when choosing a square-shaped kitchen island idea like this. You need to be able to reach the middle, so make it no deeper than 1400mm front to back.

Buy now: Carlos pine kitchen island, £625, La Redoute 

2. Make it a moveable feast

Portable black kitchen island with 6 grey draws and open shelves, set against a wall with dark grey paint at the top and light grey at the bottom

(Image credit: Not on the High Street)

For small or medium-sized kitchens, a portable kitchen island on wheels or castors offers a more compact option and is super-easy to move around. It can be pulled out into action for extra worktop prep space when cooking or baking and can be tucked away against a wall or counter when not in use.

Use a portable kitchen island as a serving buffet and fill with tableware, serving kit and condiments so everything is close to hand at mealtimes. This industrial-style trolley has handy drawers and baskets for cutlery and linens, with open shelves for bulky items.

Buy now: Black metal kitchen storage trolley/island, £1650, Notonthehighstreet.com

3. Combine storage with seating space

semi-portable wooden kitchen island with black top and glass cupboard, with stool and seating area, in a kitchen with black floor slabs

(Image credit: Maisons du Monde)

Semi-portable kitchen island units have legs rather than castors and tend to be heavier than mobile islands, so aren’t designed for frequent moving. However, if you do decide on a change of layout, a semi-portable island can easily be shifted into a new position.

Combine seating and storage space with this rustic, recycled pine kitchen island. It has a closed cupboard on one side and a glazed cupboard for displaying crockery on the other. There’s also space for stools at one end, so you can sit and enjoy breakfast.

Buy now: Greta grey recycled pine kitchen island, £1482, Maisons du Monde

4. Use an island as a room divider

a grey freestanding kitchen island with draws and shelves and a wooden top, in the middle of a kitchen with grey cabinets and green door

(Image credit: Cotswold Company)

In a large kitchen or open-plan space, a freestanding island can be used as a room divider, helping to break up the space. It can be positioned centrally or set to one side, similar to a peninsular island.

‘A freestanding kitchen island is a lovely way to add character to a kitchen, whilst also expanding valuable surface space,’ says Paul Deckland, Buying Director at The Cotswold Company. ‘You can move it too, so that the kitchen can be opened up, with the island easily configurable against a wall to act as a buffet table. When entertaining and catering to a host of family and friends, additional surface space is invaluable.’

Buy now: Chester dove grey kitchen island, £945, Cotswold Company

5. Go mobile with a wheel-out island

compact black kitchen trolley on castors in a kitchen with wooden floorboards, pot plants and a black and wooden display unit

(Image credit: Dunelm)

If space is super-tight, choose a compact kitchen island unit on castors. Keep it stationary or move it where you need it. Having an extra prep area will stretch the available work surface space - ideal if you’re short on worktops or there’s more than one person working in the kitchen at the same time.

This neat black metal unit has legs one side and castors on the other, plus a grab handle so it’s easy to manoeuvre. With one shelf underneath and a deeper stowing tray at the bottom, it’s perfect for a small kitchen or would make a great mobile cocktail trolley too.

Buy now: Fulton kitchen trolley, £99, Dunelm

6. Go for a multi-tasking island

a kitchen with black cabinets along the wall with black panelling halfway up the wall, marble grey floor tiles, a black freestanding kitchen island with white marble top and a full length glass window with black frame letting in light

(Image credit: Neptune)

A work-bench style island unit gives lots of extra space for kitchen prep, but with a couple of high stools tucked in on one side there’s plenty of landing space for a laptop on days when you’re WFH. Hanging a dedicated kitchen island lighting idea over the unit to provide more directional task lighting.

Consider the worktop material when you’re choosing a kitchen island. Wood is hardwearing and a good option if you’re on a budget. Stainless steel is hygienic and easy to keep clean, while marble stays cool, so is great for pastry-making.

Buy now: Suffolk kitchen, from £8000, Neptune 

7. Double-up to create a longline island

two freestanding kitchen units side by side, both white with wooden shelving and tops, on a dark wooden floor

(Image credit: Ikea)

Position two smaller island units side-by-side to create one large central island. These units have space for stools on one side plus built-in shelves for storing cookery books and decorative kitchenware on the other.

In an open-plan space, position an island with the shelf side outward-facing so it looks neater when viewed from the living area. Keep any dishes, pans and clutter out of sight on the kitchen-facing side.

Buy now: Tornviken kitchen island, £250, IKEA

8. Roll a kitchen trolley into action

kitchen with black walls and green splashback, with wooden cupboards and table, and a black portable kitchen trolley

(Image credit: Ikea)

‘A robust trolley in the kitchen or a mobile server in the dining area can be super helpful,’ say the design team at Ikea. ‘A kitchen trolley gives you extra storage for fresh herbs, serving bowls and platters, or with a server-style trolley in the dining area, you'll have everything, from bottles to napkins, within easy reach, so you won't have to run to and from the kitchen.’

Buy now: Rashult trolley, £28, IKEA

9. Layer storage with a two-tier island

industrial black and wood open shelf kitchen island, matching shelves on wall, black oven and cooker in a large kitchen with grey flooring

(Image credit: Neptune)

In smaller kitchens, large islands can be too hefty and tend to dominate the space. Opting for an open-sided island will help create a feeling of spaciousness, with no doors or drawers to interrupt the flow of the kitchen.

This steel-framed and oak island works brilliantly as a baking station in an open-plan kitchen. With two layers of shelving, there’s space for supplies, cookware or kitchen mixer underneath with a spacious prep area on top.

Buy now: Carter kitchen island, £2635, Neptune

10. Set up an island in a larder

a black and grey kitchen with a black and wooden portable kitchen trolley inside a larder area, with wooden crates and jars of produce

(Image credit: Ikea)

Use a portable island to create extra surface space and storage in a larder area or pantry idea. Open shelves underneath are great for storing jars and bottles or crates and baskets filled with food stuffs and loose items. Add a row of hooks above to hang dried herbs or utensils, with extra shelves above to store additonal supplies.

Buy now: Vadholma kitchen island, £229, IKEA

11. Make a statement with a quirky piece

a portable kitchen island with wooden top and black wire shelf and baskets, filled with an assostment of vegetables and books, with a mirror leaning on top which has black square lined pattern

(Image credit: Graham & Green)

Choose a vintage style piece to add character to a kitchen-diner. Positioned against one wall, a portable kitchen console can double-up as extra storage or a buffet-style serving bench. And when extra worktop space is called for, castors mean it can be wheeled out into action.

This industrial-style portable island is made of iron and brass with four mesh pull-out cubbies, one deep storage tray underneath and four sturdy castors.

Buy now: Industrial storage console, £895, Graham & Green

12. Make space for the family dog

a kitchen with white walls, floor and cupboards, with a white freestanding kitchen unit in the middle, with a drawer and cupboard and dog bed underneath

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

Pet beds can be a trip hazard if they’re not tucked out of the way, so if your dog (or cat) likes to stay close, why not create a dedicated spot for them. This multi-tasking island breakfast bar features a pet bed area underneath with plump cushion for sleeping on and a cupboard to the side for storing pet essentials.

Buy now: Pet bed kitchen island, £1375, Cox & Cox

Can you have a moveable kitchen island?

Fixed kitchen island units are usually anchored to the floor with screws and brackets, so once in position they can’t be moved. A kitchen island with a sink, hob or integrated sockets will also have plumbing and electrics installed, which means it will have to stay in a set position.

Portable or movable kitchen islands are a better option for smaller kitchens as they tend to be smaller, narrower and lighter than standard kitchen islands, so can be shifted into a different position if needed. An island on castors gives even greater flexibility as it can be wheeled into place as needed - and then tucked away when it’s not.

What can I use for a kitchen island?

While off-the-peg kitchen islands are a good option and less costly than a fully-fitted kitchen island, it’s possible to re-purpose all manner of items to create a bespoke kitchen island.

A farmhouse style kitchen table, butcher’s block or sturdy bench unit can all double up as a kitchen island. These too can all be shifted out of the way when not in use. For an island with extra storage, consider re-purposing a set of shelves, sideboard or a couple of kitchen base units.

Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.