Kitchen island seating ideas – ways to use bar stools and dining chairs

Create your ideal island seating with these stylish solutions

Kitchen island seating ideas
(Image credit: Smallbone)

A kitchen island with good seating is at the top of many a homeowner’s wish list. Whether it’s an all-singing, all-dancing workstation packed with appliances or just a place to sit to eat breakfast, an island that’s thoughtfully conceived can be an invaluable centrepiece in a new kitchen.

Early planning on kitchen ideas is key to a functional and beautiful design. Consider how you would like to use the island and what functions you need it to perform most. If you have plenty of room, perhaps that means attaching a table to include different levels for relaxed dining or doing homework.

Bar stools that allow people to sit at an island will always increase its versatility. Getting the seating right isn’t just about finding the right stools to coordinate with a scheme either, it’s also worth considering the size, shape and configuration of the island itself so everything works together.

Kitchen island seating ideas

From fitted kitchen island seating to dining options and simple bar stool arrangements, these are the best ways to take the weight off.

1. Create a lower level for seating

Kitchen island seating ideas. Harvey Jones Original

(Image credit: Photography/Harvey Jones)

Create levels on an island to accommodate slightly more formal dining that can also double as a home office or homework station. This works well if you're not a fan of bar stools, too.

'When planning kitchen island seating, it’s important to have an idea of how many people it should accommodate and for how long,' advises Melissa Klink, Head of Design at Harvey Jones.

'If the island provides the only eating area in the room, make sure to leave as much space as possible and invest in seating designed for comfort.'

2. Use a curve to create sociable island seating

Kitchen island seating ideas. Martin Moore

(Image credit: Photography/Martin Moore)

The curved profile of this island countertop allows for plenty of seating in the shape of several bar stools.

The soft sweep of the stone overhang provides plenty of space for guests’ legs and allows slightly more engagement between people than a simple straight line might.

The traditional style of this bespoke Martin Moore family kitchen design is echoed in the elegant upholstered stools with their patterned backs.

See more kitchen island lighting ideas like the ones above in our dedicated gallery. 

3. Create a seating niche with room for storage space

Kitchen island seating ideas. Mowlem kitchen

(Image credit: Photography/Mowlem/Jake Fitzjones)

This long slim prep island by Mowlem, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Railings, features two areas for bar stool seating.

Rather than including an overhang on one side, a niche under the deep countertop has been created to give plenty of room for knees to sit comfortably, while at the end, where there’s more room, the countertop continues into a deep overhang to accommodate the stools.

'Always remember when choosing kitchen bar stools to keep the size and scale proportionate with the island – if the chairs are too big, with arms, it throws that visual balance out,' says Jane Stewart, design director at Mowlem.

Discover more about how to choose the right sized kitchen island in our expert feature. 

4. Position kitchen island seating to enjoy a view

Kitchen island seating ideas. Naked Kitchens

(Image credit: Photography/Naked Kitchens)

When faced with a bank of cabinets along one wall, many designers will choose to run an island parallel to it and place any seating at the back, facing into the cooking area.

The designer who created this Naked Kitchens scheme employed a slightly different logic and has sited the island so that any seating faces the view through the window instead.

5. Make space for smart stools

Kitchen island seating ideas. DSL Penthouse

(Image credit: Photography/DSL)

A sleek modern design calls for a slick kitchen island seating solution. Strictly a peninsula rather than an island, the seating area here has been formed using a table with an open-frame attached to the far end away from the wall.

'There are two key ways to incorporate seating. Either discreetly with an overhang, or more dramatically by creating a visually distinctive table area,' explains Richard Atkins, Design Director, DesignSpace London. This can be connected physically but possibly introducing contrasting materials and/or a different level.'

6. Build in a banquette for comfort

Kitchen island seating ideas. Simon Taylor Furniture

(Image credit: Photography/Simon Taylor Furniture/Darren Chung)

This classic yet elegant scheme incorporates banquette seating on one side of an island.

'Integrating bench seating with a kitchen island can be a space-saving solution in the kitchen as this type of seating takes up far less space than having separate chairs around the table,' says Simon Taylor, managing director, Simon Taylor Furniture.

'If it is configured in an L-shape, you can enjoy informal family gatherings, or use the space to work from home. As a further way to optimise space, we add lift-up hinged tops on to handmade bench seats so that they double up as storage boxes so that clutter can be kept to a minimum.'

7. Add a footrail for comfort and stability

Kitchen island seating ideas. Day True

(Image credit: Photography/Day True)

Large islands in bold block colors can be broken up with the addition of bar stools.

In this kitchen design by Day True, the emerald green island features plenty of storage and space for guests to perch in the shape of on-trend wicker style seating. The pub bar-style rail around the base of the island helps to give additional foot support.

8. Choose complementary seating options

Kitchen island seating ideas. Roundhouse

(Image credit: Photography/Roundhouse)

If there’s space, a large island can be the solution to a lot of problems. However, if there’s lots of seating, you can end up with a view that’s all chair backs and not much else.

Add interest by mixing it up a little with substantial stools with supportive backs to one side and traditional round bar-style stools at the front where they won’t block the view through to the kitchen.

'If you plan your island with a worktop overhang, you’ll find it’s helpful for tucking bar stools underneath,' says Roundhouse designer Oli Moss.

9. Create a curved design to be space-efficient

Kitchen island seating ideas. Searle & Taylor

(Image credit: Photography/Searle & Taylor/Paul Craig)

The designers at Searle & Taylor have used a variety of levels, shapes and materials to create a bespoke feel to this hardworking kitchen island.

'The shape and style of the island is subject to personal preference, and while a linear rectangular version is always popular, we also like to design islands with curves, or with curved additions to soften the look,” says Darren Taylor, managing director at Searle & Taylor.

The cantilevered circular walnut breakfast bar creates the perfect place to sit and chat, away from the prep areas on the rest of the island.

10. Add warmth with wood

Kitchen island seating ideas. Rotpunkt

(Image credit: Photography/Rotpunkt)

This two-level modern island in You Snow Matt finish from Rotpunkt features pale oak additions. This gives its linear form a softer, more Scandi appeal.

The City Nature oak bench table creates another level of seating. Elegant round-backed dining chairs sit neatly at the table when not in use. Clever open shelving with timber inlay means everything is to hand for laying the table.

See more modern kitchen island ideas like this in our dedicated gallery.

What kitchen island seating is on trend for 2021?

Timber is still very much an option, but in slender styles of very dark walnut or even black, as well as white oak. Bentwood, bistro styles are back in fashion, and so are wicker styles supported by contrasting dark legs of wood or metal. Suede and leather remain popular upholstery options.