Should kitchen islands have a sink? Experts agree on this definitive answer

An island has become the last word in luxury, an expansive addition for when space is no object, but should kitchen islands have a sink?

Should kitchen islands have a sink?
(Image credit: Officine Gullo / Elicyon)

There can't be many kitchen wishlists that don't include a kitchen island. Not only do they have the potential to look great, but they are hugely practical, but if your space is limited you may be wondering whether your kitchen island needs a sink. 

When it comes to interior design features these days, the choice has become almost overwhelming. While we want plenty of options and chances to tailor our homes to our unique needs, it can mean that decision-making is nigh on impossible. Kitchen islands are no different. Size, shape, color, configuration, height – all these factors need to be taken into consideration, along with the sink and stove. But before you give up completely on the idea, rest assured, there are ways to simplify the selection process.

When designing a kitchen island, it is worth considering how you can incorporate amenities into the space, and a kitchen sink is such a worthwhile addition. Despite the fact that the sink is no longer the workhorse that it once was, it is still a stalwart of your kitchen, so it should be given thoughtful consideration when planning a kitchen with, or without, a sink.

Should kitchen islands have a sink? 

Even though most modern kitchens come with a dishwasher to handle the bulk of the washing up, the kitchen sink is still a vital feature of every culinary zone. 'The island sink will be the most used component of your kitchen, so take the time to find one that meets your needs and that you’ll enjoy using,' says Andy Hampson, director of operations at Shaws of Darwen.

Tom Howley, design director at the eponymous kitchen company agrees: ‘Adding a sink or hob into the mix will boost the functionality of your kitchen island ideas. This will make cooking and cleaning tasks a breeze whilst still allowing you to be part of the conversation.'

Assessing how you use your current sink on a day-to-day basis is a sensible starting point if deciding whether to invest in an island sink. If you don’t cook a lot and rely on your dishwasher for most clean-up operations, it may be that a single bowl offers the perfect level of functionality. At the other end of the scale, busy family kitchens or those that belong to keen cooks might benefit from a more versatile setup that incorporates an additional bowl, waste disposal function, and hot water tap on the kitchen island. Materials, maintenance, and installation are all key considerations, too.

Why are sinks on islands?

If you have space, you should certainly consider including a sink on your island. The reason why many people cite sinks on islands is because of their usage and proximity to the stove and prep area.  

Think of how to lay out a kitchen, and the ‘working triangle’ – with the hob, sink and fridge positioned around the cook – springs to mind. While this is quite an old-fashioned concept, it serves as a useful reminder that the key elements should be thoughtfully cited for convenience while cooking. 

These days, kitchens are designed to be sociable spaces where the whole family gathers, and kitchen diners are taking the place of dedicated dining rooms. If you have room for a central island or peninsula, then not only are these perfect informal eating areas but can become the hub of the space, allowing the cook to chat with others during food prep. They also help to break up the room’s layout, allowing for separate ‘zones’. Islands can be fitted with hobs or sinks, for the ultimate social cooking experience.

Is it better to have a sink or stove on an island?

When it comes to if it is better to have a sink or stove on an island, you would be wise to consider both, if space allows. 

Creating an appliance ‘nerve center’ or even including just one or two appliances within your kitchen island requires some extra planning. An integrated hob or cooker means you will need to consider an electricity or gas supply as well as extraction while including a sink or dishwasher means thinking about water supply and waste. None of this will typically be a problem as long as you make your requirements known to your electrician, plumber, and kitchen supplier early on in the design stages before work starts on site. 

If you plan on installing your kitchen sink within your island, consider how you will conceal the washing-up mess from the dining side of the island. Many people choose to fit a higher level plinth to create separation between food prep and eating areas – and to hide dirty dishes from view

Kitchen island with sinks 

Kitchen island ideas boost the room’s preparation and storage space plus they often add seating, but they have a huge aesthetic impact on the room, too. Here are a curated selection of some of our favorite kitchen island sink ideas. 

1. Build one into your island design 

Chef's kitchen ideas with stainless steel counter

(Image credit: Roundhouse)

‘When planning your kitchen island sink, avoid materials that can scratch or stain easily,’ says Allison Lynch, senior design consultant at Roundhouse, which has made domestic kitchens for several chefs including Yotam Ottolenghi and Peter Gordon. 

‘We’d recommend man-made composite stone, like quartz or sintered stone, or stainless steel surfaces that are industrial in style and very hygienic as well as easy to use. This eliminates the stress of staining, and hot pans can go directly on them, too.’

If having a sink built into the design, ensure the design is deep and wide enough to accommodate your pots and pans. This would be an expensive kitchen island mistake to make otherwise. 

2. Invest in a deep Butler sink 

butler sink in kitchen with grey cabinetry

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

A Belfast or butler sink cited on a kitchen island is the classic choice for a period home, and restored reclaimed versions, in particular, are highly prized. If you want to make more of a statement, opt for a rustic copper sink. There is a wide choice when it comes to taps. Swan-neck designs are practical and lend classic elegance. Bridge taps are more ornate and work in characterful schemes. Bib or pillar taps are less practical than mixer taps, but lend a simple, retro look. Don’t be afraid to add a modern twist to the kitchen with a striking contemporary design, perhaps a sleek shape in a warm rose gold finish.

3. Incorporate both sink and stove

Chef's kitchen ideas with luxury appliances

(Image credit: Franke)

There is no need to compromise when it comes to kitchen designs for islands. When designing a chef's kitchen, Eggersmann Design’s creative director Gary Singer often includes both stoves and sinks on his kitchen islands for the ultimate chef kitchen experience.

‘Kitchen islands must be flexible and accommodate appliances. A combination of gas burners, steel plates, and induction hobs will cover all bases, while a large kitchen sink is essential to complete the pro-chef-style culinary theatre,’ says Camille Syren, chef de projects, La Cornue

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.