Once a modern status symbol, the farmhouse kitchen island unit is now widely regarded as one of the most useful features you can have in any kitchen. In farmhouse kitchens, they are fast replacing the traditional cook’s table; still providing a similar social role, but with surfaces at a more comfortable height for prepping.
Make kitchen island ideas a part of your farmhouse kitchen planning from the start. The best farmhouse kitchen islands are carefully located to ease traffic flow through the space, rather than creating a barrier, and, with seating included, will help secure the kitchen as the natural hub of your country home.
Farmhouse kitchen island ideas
Farmhouse kitchen island ideas can come in many shapes and forms, but all have an easy informality and characterful look that's imprinted into the DNA of farmhouse style.
‘To maintain an authentic farmhouse style, we like to design kitchen islands that look like freestanding pieces of furniture, topped with natural surfaces such as solid stone or a chunky butcher’s block,’ says Richard Davonport, managing director of bespoke luxury kitchen maker, Davonport.
We've asked the experts to share their farmhouse kitchen island ideas and tips for designing a kitchen island so you can integrate them into your own farmhouse decor ideas and create the perfect rustic cookspace.
1. Be inventive with repurposed furniture
A farmhouse kitchen island doesn't actually need to be, well, a farmhouse kitchen island. In the farmhouse style, there's an authenticity and charm that comes from rescuing and upcycling vintage furniture and giving it new life and purpose, perfect for anyone who loves freestanding kitchen ideas.
'Something old/something new is definitely my formula for kitchens. Whether vintage lanterns, an antique cupboard, or in this case, a repurposed woodshop workbench,' says Stephanie Sabbe, founder of Boston-based Sabbe Interior Design.
'This piece gives the space so much life and history that this kitchen can not be duplicated, which is also one of my main goals in design.'
This is a great approach for country kitchen island ideas, too.
2. Be inspired by traditional shopfittings
Traditional Mom and Pop stores and shop cabinets inspire the handcrafted oak Haberdashery kitchen from deVOL.
This takes farmhouse kitchen island ideas away from conventional block-style units, with a basin or integrated appliances. Instead, the island becomes about organizing a kitchen and displaying chinaware and kitchen accessories. The island has a more open design, which brings a lightness to the kitchen overall, while offering plenty of kitchen island storage ideas.
You can replicate the look by repurposing a vintage display piece or shelving unit, adding a countertop to create a bespoke farmhouse kitchen island idea.
When you're buying a freestanding piece to introduce your kitchen, consider how it will deliver on your kitchen island storage ideas and be sure it has the necessary compartments and cabinet space you need.
3. Add task lighting with pendants
When you're planning your kitchen lighting ideas, a duo or trio of pendant lights along the length will be a great addition to your farmhouse kitchen island ideas, creating both a focal point and essential illumination. You could match the finish of the shade to your hardware for a seamlessly coordinated look, or create standout with a contrast material or color.
'Look at the areas of your kitchen and think about the activities that will happen in each space. Some spaces, such as food preparation zones, the kitchen sink and above the hob, will require task lighting, while others, such as the dining area, call for mood and accent lighting,' she says.
'Hanging pendant lights above an island is a great way to create a statement in your kitchen. Not only are pendant lights attractive, but they also provide functionality for tasks such as reading recipes and food preparation.'
4. Consider the scale of your farmhouse island
The size of your farmhouse kitchen island should fit the scale of your kitchen. Choosing the right size kitchen island isn't just about practicality, although you'll need clearance all around the island in order to move around your kitchen and open drawers, cabinets and appliance doors. It's also about the look of the space.
A kitchen island can be a substantial piece that creates the centerpiece of your kitchen, but it should still connect visually with the room around it. In this kitchen from John Lewis of Hungerford, the size and shape of the kitchen island echoes that of the Aga range cooker behind it, giving the overall kitchen design a sense of balance.
'While this is a large island, it works perfectly in the space and is really well zoned within the room,' explains Rebecca Nokes, Head of Design & Brand Creative, John Lewis of Hungerford. 'There’s lots of the room between the Aga and the other cabinetry; an island such as this offers an excellent touch point which isn’t too big or too small.'
5. Make it an island of two halves
This half-and-half island from John Lewis of Hungerford combines a working side with integrated sink and appliances, with a side designed for sitting, eating and conversation.
It's the ideal combination when you want a social kitchen space that doesn't leave the cook isolated. And it also means the more attractive side, with open shelves for display, faces outwards to the room.
'The island is a spin between both classic and contemporary,' says Rebecca Nokes, Head of Design & Brand Creative. 'The pot ends are a very traditional style for kitchen islands but we’ve matched them with the simple, contemporary handles and a sleek tap, and it’s been topped with honed granite.
'Honed granite is more a contemporary look than traditional polished granite. It gives the best of both worlds for someone who likes the classic look Shaker kitchen ideas, with some contemporary touches.'
6. Use a farmhouse island to color block
Make your farmhouse kitchen island stand out from the rest of the space by giving it a different color. Island paint color ideas are a lovely way of injecting bolder shades if you prefer to stick to more neutral tones on the remainder of your kitchen cabinetry.
If you don't want to mess with your painted kitchen ideas color scheme too much, another great way to dip your toe in the trend is to paint your farmhouse kitchen island a lighter shade for brightness, or a darker one for intensity.
7. Make a curved bar space
If you love to entertain guests, then a curved kitchen island could be a feature you didn't know you needed.
'The rounded nature isn't typically like the other kitchen islands found in homes, so this instantly makes it more interesting – plus it's super practical for dishing up dinner or serving drinks to those seated around it,' says Editor of Homes &Gardens, Lucy Searle.
We love this alternative take on traditional breakfast bar ideas.
8. Add a statement sink
When it comes to kitchen sink ideas, a butler or Belfast sink is a popular choice for adding to that countryside aesthetic, and some people choose their kitchen island as the spot to house this rustic feature.
This design means you can face anyone who might be sitting or standing at your island, making it a sociable design tactic.
9. Shine a light on it
Coming up with strong farmhouse kitchen lighting ideas is just as important as the feature itself. After all, what's the point of investing time and money in a kitchen island if you're not going to show it off in all its glory?
There are so many options to choose from, too, from linear varieties and modern statement pieces to spotlight lamps and industrial-style hanging bulbs.
'All too often with a kitchen, the lighting is an afterthought but it should be considered and research carried out at the initial planning stage,' says Marketa Rypacek from Industville. 'Don’t wait until after cabinetry and appliances are place as the position of the lights may affect where sockets and cables are placed and it’s much harder to alter these things further down the line.'
10. House the hob
In many ways, a kitchen island is the social hub of the room, where everybody tends to congregate.
This means it's great for housing a hob, as hosts can face their guests whilst entertaining. It also offers enough worktop space for food to be prepped pre and post-cooking.
From ovens and wine fridges to warming drawers and hobs, installing appliances into your kitchen island is a great way to make the most of your kitchen space and allows you to use the rest of your kitchen for cabinetry to keep your space functional and neat and tidy.
11. Stand out with stone
Island countertop ideas can be adventurous, even in a farmhouse kitchen. Seriously striking stone doesn’t need to cover every surface to make a statement – allowing you to invest a little more on something truly special, like this Terra Bianca Satinato Marble by Cullifords.
In fact, many designers recommend switching up the worktop on an island as a way to help it stand out as a freestanding piece of furniture, lending farmhouse-style kitchens a relaxed ‘unfitted’ feel.
If marble isn't the look you want, you could consider, stone, wood or a composite material for your kitchen countertop ideas.
12. Split levels
Kitchen island seating ideas that allows for dining at table height is undoubtedly more comfortable than when perched on bar stools, so if you don’t have a separate dining table consider a split-level island. This clever design uses a change in worktop to clearly mark the cooking and eating zones.
Providing ample leg room is an important comfort factor when sitting for prolonged periods – aim for an overhang of at least 30cm.
13. Create a cook's table
Styled on the traditional chef's kitchen, the kitchen table typically found at the heart of farmhouse kitchens makes for a wonderful long-legged portable kitchen island. This one from Plain English is perfect for baking and food prep. In island form, the drawers are deeper than an actual cook’s table, so there’s no need to compromise on storage.
Lifting the island off the floor is also a well-recognized design technique for making a kitchen feel more spacious. Table style islands aren’t usually suitable for sink installations but the electrics for a hob can be hidden inside a leg if required.
14. Find a flow
‘Planning a curved island unit within a rectangle or square room is a real joy. Curves not only introduce a safety aspect with fewer sharp corners, but a softer design aesthetic, too,’ says Darren Taylor, managing director, Searle & Taylor.
‘This kitchen features a lot of straight lines, especially because of the stunning beams, so we added curves to provide contrast. Seating around a circular table allows for a more sociable dining experience and we designed the breakfast bar as a raised area so that three people could sit round it comfortably.'
'This was also designed at a height where they can look directly out through the windows to the lovely countryside beyond.’
15. Start small
An island doesn’t have to be huge to prove a valuable asset. If space is tight, you’re not ready to commit or you just want flexibility, a freestanding unit could be the answer. It's a good move to keep your island compact when you're working with small cottage kitchen ideas.
This vintage-style piece in the home of fashion writer Louise Roe was made from the same reclaimed floorboards as the flooring below to achieve design cohesion with an element of relaxed imperfection.
16. Design around an obstacle
If you’re for an open-plan kitchen and have unavoidable structural joists to navigate around, an island unit can play a big role in maintaining easy traffic flow through the space.
‘The island in this kitchen has been designed around the large pillar in the centre of the room, creating additional space for food preparation and storage, whilst allowing the Aga range oven to remain the focal point.'
'Without the island, the pillar would have been far more obstructive and visually dominating,’ explains Richard Davonport, managing director, Davonport. The above design is the Tillingham kitchen by the brand.
17. Zone the surfaces
Switching up the surfaces can prevent a long island from appearing bland and monolithic. It’s also a popular way to zone different uses, in this case copper defines the breakfast bar/social end, while marble demarks cooking and cleaning.
When connecting two materials it is essential to get a neat joint to avoid creating a dirt trap – request a line of silicone if there’s a water source close by. Alternatively, make a feature of the divide by going chunkier with one surface to create a purposeful step.
18. Include a corner bar
Positioning bar stools at right angles aids better eye-contact for conversation compared to a lining stools up in rows – a trick the pros use when creating kitchens for entertaining.
This chunky timber corner bar puts the chef center of attention for a sociable cooking space with ample room for four guests. Raising the breakfast bar is a great safety feature when including a hob within an island, especially for children.
19. Create a display
A mix of open and glazed shelving lends lightness to this impressive 4m-long island. ‘It’s important to consider how an island looks from all angles, especially if it’s taking up a large footprint,’ says Pierce Coyne, design manager, Kitchen Architecture.
‘In this 18th century farmhouse, the front of the island is the first thing you see when entering from the garden. The owners wanted shelving to create attractive displays. Using bleached oak inside also links nicely with the exposed oak beams.’
If this handy clutter-free solution has caught your attention, our kitchen storage ideas should be right up your street.
20. Mimic traditional furniture
Modelling your island on a more traditional piece of furniture can feel more in keeping in a farmhouse setting. The balanced design of this island unit mimics the symmetry of a robust sideboard, complete with pot rack style centre shelf – perfect for rustic baskets and recipe books.
A clever faux door on the left allows bar stools to be tucked out of the way, without ruining the illusion.
How much does a farmhouse kitchen island cost?
The price can range from $350/£250 to around $3,500/£2,700 for a high-quality kitchen furniture brand to build and install an island. But, if you want something a little more bespoke, costs can reach upwards of $28,000/£20,000.
Can I have an island in a small farmhouse kitchen?
The most important thing to remember is that a kitchen island is going to take up precious floor space in a square kitchen.
Generally, it's recommended that an island is no less than 40 by 40 inches (1 meter x 1 meter) for a small kitchen. If you're going for something narrower and longer, it's important to give yourself enough work space and plenty of room to move around it.
Does a farmhouse kitchen island add value?
A kitchen island can add value to a property, due to its functionality and aesthetic. It's also a less expensive option compared to other kitchen renovation projects, so it's usually a safe bet for a high return on investment.
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Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.
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